Jihad? Fatwa? Wahhabism? Islamist terrorism? All terms distorted or created by the U.S. government and media to stigmatize the Muslim religion and scare the public -- or so CAIR officials would have you believe.
But their protestations ignore much evidence to the contrary available in radical Islamist writings, as well as statements by CAIR officials themselves intended for internal consumption.
IPT's detailed examination of CAIR focuses today on its leaders' reassuring words, and places them in the context of reality.
- CAIR Executive Director Nihad Awad sought to define away Islamic fundamentalism in an August 1998 interview on NPR's "Weekend Sunday." Said Awad, "You know, holy war is like fatwa, it's become a buzz word. And I think they're severely misunderstood. I don't see holy war as a concept in Islam, it is not, it does not exist …. Jihad means legitimate struggle." He listed what he termed "noble meanings" of jihad in Islam: A mother's effort to raise her children, a struggle against injustice, "an honest person who wants to get good life."
- Hussam Ayloush, director of CAIR-Southern California, agreed in an April 2005 lecture at Chaffey College. "Jihad is the Arabic word for strive. Any struggle in a person's life, not just a Muslim's, is a jihad," Ayloush said. "Being a student is a jihad because you are striving to learn."
But those, and other, reassuring definitions appeared to be aimed for public consumption. In contrast, when CAIR Chairman Omar Ahmad spoke at the 1999 IAP convention, he defined "jihad" as, in part, "to fight in the Way of Allah. To make war."
- CAIR rejected negative meanings ascribed to a broader range of words when teams taking part in a Muslim football tournament in California in 2004 chose names such as "Intifada," "Mujahedeen" and "Soldiers of Allah." As an article in The Washington Post described the teams' uniforms: "Intifada featured a man wearing a military helmet, his face -- save his eyes -- covered by a bandana. The Soldiers of Allah emblem showed a masked man in the act of firing a slingshot, and Mujahedeen's depicted a horse-borne figure in flowing robes, bearing a weapon on his shoulder."
Responding to community protests, Sabiha Khan, communications director of CAIR's Southern California chapter, asserted: "These terms are basically very positive terms within the Muslim community and historically speaking…The popular definitions . . . are twisted. They're no longer what they mean, Islamically speaking."
- What of the term "Islamist terrorism"? CAIR spokesman Ibrahim Hooper argued after release of the 9/11 Commission Report: "‘Islamist' is one of those hot-button terms that are ill-defined or not defined at all…They're basically saying this is a label for Muslims we don't like or agree with." And CAIR Legal Director Arsalan Iftikhar wrote in the Dallas Morning News, "the term ‘Islamist terrorism' is nothing more than an oversimplification of our complex and kaleidoscopic national security paradigm."
- As for Wahhabism, Hooper in 2003 described it as "one of those terms which is invented to scare people about Muslim bogeymen," adding, "It's just all part of the extremely powerful right wing and their agenda right now to demonize Saudi Arabia and demonize anything associated with Saudi Arabia."
Even as they created their own lexicon of meanings, CAIR officials downplayed reports that Saudi hate literature was being disseminated in U.S. mosques and a Saudi school in Virginia. Many of the documents cited in a 2005 Freedom House report on the subject advocated jihad, taught hatred of Jews and Shiite Muslims, or condemned democratic societies.
- Hooper told The Christian Science Monitor that most American Muslims could not read the documents because they do not understand Arabic, but that, in any event, "we can rely on the good judgment and common sense of Muslims to reject such thinking if they come across it."
- Reacting to discovery in the Dallas Central Mosque of a document stating, "We consider ourselves to be in a continuous war against the Zionist enemy in every way until we achieve the hopes of the Arab nation driving the occupier out," CAIR board member Nabil Sadoun condemned the researchers' methodology. He complained in a Dallas Morning News op-ed that the Freedom House report "fails to rise to the level of an objective, unbiased and academically worthy study."
- When U.S. Undersecretary of State for Public Diplomacy Karen Hughes expressed concern about the Freedom House findings during a visit to Saudi Arabia later in 2005, CAIR charged that her remarks were based on a faulty study with an "inherent bias." Hooper said, "We don't agree that there is widespread literature of that kind in mosques in America."
- CAIR had similarly downplayed the July 2004 revelation that textbooks at the Islamic Saudi Academy in Virginia were teaching first graders that Judaism and Christianity were false religions. Hooper told the Associated Press, "The fact that one sentence in one book, out of an entire curriculum, needs to be changed or clarified hardly justifies sweeping charges of extremism."
- Again, in May 2007, Hooper sought to minimize the importance of a new Pew Research Center survey showing that 26 percent of American Muslims under age 30 justified suicide bombings in defense of Islam and that 60 percent of respondents did not believe Muslims carried out the 9/11 attacks.
Appearing on MSNBC, he accused interviewer Tucker Carlson of "cherry picking" a handful of negative responses from among many in the survey. Muslim American attitudes, he insisted, broadly "mirrored the views of people of all faiths in America.…Work hard to get ahead, send your kids to school."
To read today's full CAIR dossier installment, click here: http://www.investigativeproject.org/documents/misc/118.pdf