Ever since the Ohio headquarters of the Council on American–Islamic Relations (CAIR) went public in December with accusations that Steven Emerson's Investigative Project on Terrorism (IPT) was illegally surveilling the Ohio Muslim community, CAIR has driven the public narrative with the assistance of a gullible and ignorant media.
Like a fox demanding an investigation of the henhouse, CAIR sent a letter to the Department of Justice on January 31, calling for it to "launch an investigation to determine whether Steve Emerson or IPT broke any federal civil rights statutes or criminal laws by targeting the Muslim Community."
The letter, addressed to Attorney General Merrick Garland, Inspector General Michael Horowitz, and Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Kristen Clarke, expands on the original accusations of spying at CAIR's Ohio headquarters and the Dar Al-Hijrah Islamic Center in Northern Virginia. The new claim is that the IPT's "systematic campaign of spying touched nearly every prominent Muslim organization in the United States."
With its usual all-bluster, no-evidence style, CAIR calls the IPT and the Middle East Forum "hate groups."
With CAIR's usual all-bluster, no-evidence style, its letter calls the IPT a "hate group" three times and labels Emerson an "anti-Muslim extremist." The second paragraph refers to his think tank as "the so-called Investigative Project for [sic] Terrorism." In that spirit, perhaps we should call CAIR the Council on American–Islamist Relations, or the Council Against Islamic Relations.
CAIR officials must believe that their most damaging accusation is that Emerson is an agent for the government of Israel, for which they cited email evidence provided by a "whistleblower" of contact with Israeli intelligence.
I spoke with Steven Emerson recently about this charge, and he explained that his "cooperation with the government of Israel consisted of responding to requests for information by sending articles we published at the IPT website." Emerson's emails prove his claim, showing that he responded to the requests with links to the articles.
To promote its letter to the Department of Justice, CAIR convened an all-hands-on-deck Facebook meeting on February 1. The speakers at the meeting made even more accusations. Dalia Mogahed, director of research at the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding, announced that the IPT is only "part of a wider network called the Islamophobia industry." And Edward Ahmed Mitchell, a deputy director at CAIR, wants the DOJ to determine if the IPT "spied on the American Muslim community in collaboration with, on behalf of, or for the purpose of benefitting other anti-Muslim hate groups like the Middle East Forum, founded by the racist Daniel Pipes."
Now, that's personal. As a writing fellow at the Middle East Forum and a friend of Daniel Pipes, I challenge CAIR to produce evidence that Pipes is a racist or that the Middle East Forum is an anti-Muslim hate group. It would come as a shock to a Muslim I know named Tarek Fatah, a columnist for the Toronto Sun, author of The Jew Is Not My Enemy (2010), and founder of the Muslim Canadian Congress. He is also a writing fellow at the Middle East Forum. As a moderate, secular humanist, Fatah is anathema to CAIR. So too are other Muslim friends of the Middle East Forum, such as Zuhdi Jasser; Australia's Imam of Peace, Mohammed Tawhidi; and the recently deceased Khaleel Mohammed.
Pipes is known for the motto "Radical Islam is the problem; moderate Islam is the solution." As he put it in 2002, "It's a mistake to blame Islam (a religion fourteen centuries old) for the evil that should be ascribed to militant Islam."
Criticizing Islamism is no more anti-Muslim than criticizing Nazism is anti-German.
Criticizing "radical Islam" (or "militant Islam," "fundamentalist Islam," "political Islam," what Ibn Warraq calls "Islamofascism," or, more commonly, "Islamism") is no more anti-Muslim than criticizing Nazism is anti-German. We at the Middle East Forum are not anti-Islam. We are anti-Islamism, as our projects, Islamist Watch and Focus on Western Islamism, demonstrate.
Since CAIR can't acknowledge its deep ties to Hamas, its only real option is to go ad hominem with wild accusations and baseless charges of "racism," hoping to divert an uncritical and uncurious press from investigating and reporting. If the press ever gets curious and actually investigates CAIR, it might persuade the Department of Justice to do the same. Now that would be justice.
A.J. Caschetta is a Ginsberg-Milstein fellow at the Middle East Forum and a principal lecturer at the Rochester Institute of Technology.