A staffer at the Chicago Chapter of the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), an Islamist organization with roots in the Muslim Brotherhood, allegedly established a website that harassed critics of Muslim extremism between 2009 and 2018.
The website, known as "LoonWatch" allowed writers to make anonymous attacks on Muslim reformers and critics of Islamism and became what Asra Q. Nomani, a former Wall Street Journal reporter leveling the allegations, calls "a watering hole" for extremists.
Nomani highlighted the alleged ties between CAIR and the website, which appears not to have posted any new articles since 2018 — the year Nomani filed a defamation suit against it — in her newly published book, Woke Army: The Red-Green Alliance That Is Destroying America's Freedom. She summarized her allegations in an article published at Unherd on February 22.
In the piece, Nomani, a cofounder of the Muslim Reform Movement, claims that documents she obtained in response to subpoenas associated with an ongoing lawsuit reveal that LoonWatch's URL was obtained from webhosting company GoDaddy by Muhammad Tauseef Akbar, a staffer at CAIR's Chicago office who also used the pseudonym "Garibaldi" to post articles critical of her and others on the site. Nomani also claims that the fees associated with the website that Akbar set up were "paid by the credit card of Ahmed Rehab, a longtime official with CAIR's national headquarters and the executive director of CAIR Chicago."
"This GoDaddy account also bought other websites on which CAIR critics were anonymously attacked — including IslamophobiaToday.com and IslamophobiaSucks.com," Nomani alleged. In response to her lawsuit, Nomani received an email from Lena Masri, CAIR's National Litigation and Civil Rights Director at CAIR, she added.
The goal of the website and its supporters was to "utterly discredit Muslim reformers, in order to promote a system of beliefs that runs counter to democratic values," Nomani wrote.
"These cowards used a website, LoonWatch.com, and fake names to wage character assassinations against Muslim reformers and others, including Daniel Pipes and the Middle East Forum," Nomani told Focus on Western Islamism (FWI). "Disagree with others if you want, but to use Big Tech to wage an anonymous campaign is unethical. Anybody who opposes disinformation and character assassination should be outraged. CAIR must not only publicly apologize to all its targets but fire every employee who had knowledge of this insidious disinformation campaign. It's the height of hypocrisy for CAIR to tout itself as a 'civil rights' organization."
CAIR has not responded to numerous FWI inquiries about Nomani's allegations, which FWI cannot independently verify.
In 2010, a writer for LoonWatch who went by the name "Danios" received honorable mention for "best writer" from the Brass Crescent, a now defunct organization that highlighted the work of Muslim bloggers. The following year, Danios won the title from the organization, which was founded by Shahed Amanullah, who served as senior advisor for technology at the U.S. State Department during the Obama Administration.
"As the U.S. Supreme Court debates whether Big Tech supports extremists overseas, we have a very disturbing reality in the United States of America," Nomani told FWI. "Since 2009, the Council on American-Islamic Relations has weaponized Big Tech to anonymously create, fund and feed a disinformation campaign run by cowardly keyboard warriors in a diabolical network that I call the Woke Army," said Nomani, who embraced the cause of Muslim reform after Daniel Pearl, a colleague of hers at the Wall Street Journal was beheaded by jihadists in Pakistan in 2002.
"In the LoonWatch world, any criticism of Islam is a racist ploy to harm all Muslims," Nomani wrote in Unherd.
Dexter Van Zile is managing editor of the Middle East Forum publication Focus on Western Islamism.