After a mayoral hopeful in Hamilton, New Jersey, was the subject of widespread media criticism for social posts mocking Muslims, he decided contrition was the best course of action. David Henderson, who is challenging incumbent Mayor Kelly Yaede for the GOP nomination, made an emotional, teary statement in which he begged forgiveness. He decided to meet with local Muslim leaders to make amends.
But leadership in Muslim communities is an interesting and difficult question, for reasons we have explained in the past. Often, those self-proclaimed Islamic leaders with the loudest voice have won that title in the eyes of media and politicians, even if their ideological underpinnings do not represent most American Muslims – or indeed, most Americans.
And so to win back some favor, David Henderson turned to the New Jersey chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), requesting "sensitivity training" and explaining that he was "not cognizant of the fact that I was offending a whole section of Muslims who are peaceful."
As vulgar as Henderson's social media posts were, CAIR is not a group from which anyone should seek advice, and certainly not "sensitivity training." From its blacklisting by the FBI and its designation as a terrorist group in the United Arab Emirates, to the vile bigotry of its staff and its weekly promotion of some of America's most extreme clerics, CAIR is not an ordinary Muslim body; it is a dangerous Islamist organization – and a leading component of a dangerous Islamist network.
Some critics argue that CAIR's sins lie with sporadic bad apples, and that much of the organization is dedicated to good. But even the New Jersey chapter from which Mr Henderson seeks redemption has a clear history of extremism.
In June 2018, CAIR-New Jersey felt forced to deny that it had condemned anti-Semitism. It expressed support for a partner organization, American Muslims for Palestine (AMP), after the head of the AMP New Jersey chapter offered a number of anti-Semitic tropes about secret Zionist agendas and Jewish genetics.
CAIR-New Jersey Director Jim Sues initially criticized such anti-Semitism, before quickly withdrawing his claim in the wake of anger from CAIR supporters. "CAIR did not," a hurriedly-published Facebook post explained, "condemn American Muslims for Palestine (AMP) or its leaders as anti-Semitic."
Similar anti-Jewish sentiment is also found in CAIR's own offices. CAIR-New Jersey Communications Director Abdul-Alim Mubarak-Rowe offers plainly-bigoted hatreds on his own Facebook account. He has posted text referring to ISIS as the "new Israel," and claiming that Jews and Christians are "kuffar" [a derogatory term for non-believers] who are "active in fighting against Muslims and causing mischief."
He has also republished tracts by far-Left anti-Jewish activists, that claim accusations of anti-Semitism in the UK are in fact part of a Zionist conspiracy, led by the Zionist-controlled media and politicians.
Meanwhile, events run by CAIR New Jersey have prominent extremist preachers such as Hassan Shibly, who, in 2017, pointedly endorsed an international Islamist network that calls for the murder of Ahmadiyya Muslims; as well as Yasir Qadhi, a prominent Salafi cleric who has called for the killing of homosexuals and adulterers.
Politicians should certainly meet with American Muslims, especially to understand Americans Muslims and Islam better. But bigoted Islamists do not offer a reasonable education on the question of Islam; they only offer an agenda of theocracy and hate. Mr Henderson, it seems, has gone from one extreme to the other. As with most things in life, moderation lies somewhere in the middle.