The Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) has grown accustomed to promoting overt anti-Semitism to push its radical Islamist agenda. This week, CAIR chapters defended freshman Congresswoman Ilhan Omar after she came under fire for anti-Semitic tweets. And, on Nov. 25, Hussam Ayloush, executive director of CAIR's Los Angeles chapter, wrote that the Middle East would be "better off" if Israel were "terminated." Days later, CAIR-San Francisco director Zahra Billoo echoed her colleague's genocidal zeal by plainly stating, "I am not going to legitimize a country that I don't believe has a right to exist."
And yet, in boilerplate letters endorsing CAIR's 24th annual banquet and fundraiser, nationally prominent lawmakers like Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) praised the nonprofit's "fight against discrimination of all forms," and Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) lauded CAIR for welcoming "people of goodwill from all faiths and nationalities into our neighborhoods and our schools ... "
Despite these glowing endorsements, in Senate testimony CAIR has been called a "radical Islamic fundamentalist front group for [the Palestinian terrorist entity] Hamas." The FBI cut ties with the group in 2009, and the United Arab Emirates designated CAIR as a terrorist entity in 2014.
Nevertheless, 101 congressional lawmakers sent letters glorifying the Islamist organization ahead of its 2018 national banquet.
Thanks in part to this ignorance and indifference, CAIR has completed another successful year of fundraising. Donations collected from sold-out events at many of CAIR's 30 local chapters are used to fund its lawfare projects, political grooming campaigns and anti-Israel activism throughout the succeeding fiscal year. But if CAIR's controversial past doesn't betray its Islamist-leanings, the keynote speakers invited to more than a dozen fundraising ventures this past fall and winter are a dead giveaway.
CAIR's national branch is no exception. Using the motto "Faith led, justice driven," the headquarters' 24th annual banquet on Oct. 20 featured presentations from some of the most radical names from America's most hardline Islamist activists, including acute anti-Semites like Dr. Yasir Qadhi.
During a 2008 lecture, Qadhi recommended that his audience read The Hoax of the Holocaust and argued that "Hitler never intended to mass-destroy the Jews," and he has taught that Christians and other non-Muslims are "filthy, impure [and] dirty," insisting that their lives hold "no value."
Qadhi was joined behind the podium by other prominent Islamists, such as University of California, Berkeley professor Hatem Bazian and Salafi cleric Omar Suleiman. Like Qadhi, Suleiman is an instructor at the fundamentalist AlMaghrib Institute, where more than a half-dozen convicted terrorists have been educated since 2001, and he teaches that homosexuality is a "disease" and a "repugnant shameless sin."
As the co-founder of the anti-Israel Students for Justice in Palestine, Bazian called for an intifada, or armed uprising, in the United States in 2004, and he has used social media to advance anti-Semitic conspiracy theories and share offensive Jewish caricatures.
Concurrent with its national fundraiser, CAIR held a Leadership and Policy Conference dubbed "We the People, Organizing for Justice: Vision 2020." This training seminar was the culmination of a nationwide political grooming campaign designed to empower 200 Muslims to run for office in 2020.
Failed Michigan gubernatorial candidate Abdul El-Sayed and former Cambridge City Councilor Nadeem Mazen lectured conference participants enrolled in the "How to run for public office" forum.
El-Sayed was the vice president of the University of Michigan's Muslim Students' Association (MSA), an Islamist campus club known to share political and theological views with revolutionary Islamist groups like the Muslim Brotherhood. A dual Egyptian-American citizen, El-Sayed signed a 2012 letter supporting the "revolutionary decisions" taken by Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi and calling for a "purging of the media and the police" in the aftermath of the Arab Spring.
Mazen was similarly groomed at the MSA before moving on to become a founding member of CAIR-Massachusetts and a Cambridge city counselor. Even in the aftermath of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, Mazen opposed the "militarization" of Boston police and called for disbanding their SWAT unit.
With CAIR's national conference complete, a cast of Islamist luminaries appeared at banquets across the country in the waning days of 2018. Regulars on the CAIR speaking-circuit included Imam Johari Abdul-Malik, who was honored as a keynote speaker at successive CAIR banquets in South Florida and Tampa Bay in early November before appearing at a CAIR-Columbus gala on Feb. 2.
During a 2004 sermon at the extremist Dar Al Hijrah mosque in Church Falls, Va., Abdul-Malik predicted that Islam would come to dominate American society. In addition, the imam has called for attacks on Israeli infrastructure and declared his sympathy for radical Al-Qaeda cleric Anwar al-Awlaki.
Al Jazeera English contributor Mehdi Hasan was invited to wax lyrical at New York's 20th-annual banquet at the LaGuardia Marriott. Hasan has described non-believers as suffering from an "infirmity" or a "disease of the human mind," and has called atheists "cattle" in accordance with his interpretation of the Quran.
CAIR-Alabama's third-annual benefit featured former CAIR-Houston executive director Mustafaa Carroll, who has openly defended Hamas, a U.S.-designated Foreign Terrorist Organization. "I think you can only blame Hamas for so long," Carroll said in 2009, after Hamas fighters fired more than 6,000 rockets at civilian targets in Israel. "It takes two to tango," he added.
Carroll's Houston chapter held its 17th annual banquet on Dec. 9 and featured keynote speeches from Women's March Leader Linda Sarsour, who was recently asked to step down as a co-chair of the national Women's March movement after she refused to condemn an antisemitic speech by Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan. The feminist organization has been hemorrhaging donors since a recent Tablet investigation revealed that Sarsour was employing Nation of Islam bodyguards as her personal security.
CAIR declared its 2018 fundraising campaign "faith-led" and "justice-driven." But CAIR's dogmatic defenders espouse a stunted, deformed interpretation of the Islamic faith and endorse a seventh-century version of justice. Corporate and private donors would be better served contributing their time and resources to moderate Muslim institutions that don't share an antiquated worldview with terrorists and hate groups.
Benjamin Baird is a writer for Islamist Watch, a project of the Middle East Forum.