Following the arrests of the six Virginians (counting the father) in Pakistan, American Islamist organizations with extensive records of radical advocacy affirmed their intense desire to assist the authorities in suppressing extremism. The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) proudly announced on December 9 that it had been told by parents of the five youths that they were missing, and that CAIR had then informed the FBI and assisted the bureau in its handling of the matter.
Haris Tarin, an official of the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC), another prominent radical group, stood on the podium at the Washington press conference where CAIR's national executive director, Nihad Awad, made this claim. Tarin added, "Any radicalization that exists is a major problem that we must [address] head on." Mahdi Bray of the Muslim American Society (MAS), also included in the press conference, was less ameliorative, declaring that Muslim young people "are not to be characterized as terrorist suspects. . . . They are indeed America's brightest prospects."
The CAIR and MPAC statements have been interpreted by some observers as a turning point for these groups. But don't hold your breath. None of these blandishments are new. If the rhetoric of CAIR and MPAC suddenly seems more determined, it is most likely because they are profoundly frightened. A wave of panic swept the American Muslim community after the Fort Hood attack. These same groups have spent decades creating a milieu sympathetic to jihadists among American Sunni Muslims. CAIR has served as a front for Hamas; MPAC's executive director, Salam Al-Marayati, took to the airwaves in Los Angeles on the afternoon of September 11, 2001, to argue that Israel was a logical target for suspicion. It is difficult to imagine that they will now turn around and break with the ideology to which they have dedicated so much energy.