On October 30, Islamist lobbyists with the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) failed to garner mainstream political support from the Pennsylvania General Assembly.
Despite the best efforts of CAIR-Pennsylvania and Emgage USA to generate bipartisan and interfaith backing for their fourth annual Muslim Capitol Day at the Pennsylvania Statehouse, their collective lobbying effort was a noticeable failure. Hailing almost exclusively from Pennsylvania's Legislative Black Caucus, only a handful of politicians were present to attend a rally and press conference that was diminished by lower than anticipated turnout from uninspired participants.
"Several legislators said they were already aware of CAIR's background, in part thanks to a boycott campaign organized by the Middle East Forum's Islamism in Politics [IIP] project," wrote Counter Islamist Grid Associate Leonard Getz, who joined IIP at the statehouse to warn lawmakers about CAIR's malignant past.
With a few notable exceptions, however, most lawmakers who spoke to the Middle East Forum were not aware of CAIR's ties to foreign terrorist organizations, and its history of hosting and promoting extremist hate preachers. IIP briefed assembly members and distributed factsheets explaining CAIR's troubling origins.
Answering IIP's call to action, Pennsylvania citizens followed suit by sending over 130 letters before the event, asking representatives to blacklist CAIR and its advocacy day, and work with moderate Muslim groups instead. IIP warned that CAIR, a self-styled civil rights and advocacy organization, is known for extensive ties to the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas – the latter a U.S.-designated terrorist organization.
The rally and press conference in the statehouse rotunda, which CAIR called "the high point of this day of legislative advocacy," was a classic example of political astroturfing. The majority of participants were seemingly indifferent teenagers taking a day off from school in exchange for holding professionally designed placards (which they were subsequently asked to return). One speaker repeatedly implored the attendees to show more enthusiasm for his speech.
To be certain, this was not the inclusive group that CAIR and Emgage envisioned ahead of their lobbying day. There was noticeably fewer than the 100 participants CAIR promised would attend, and the "non-Muslim allies" from the state's "Jewish and Christian communities" never materialized.
Instead, CAIR's audience was treated to speakers such as State Senator Sharif Street, who remains indebted to donors associated with the Muslim Alliance of North America, a national network of mosques founded by Islamist cop killer Jamil Al-Amin, and currently led by Siraj Wahhaj, who was listed as a potential unindicted co-conspirator in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. Addressing the sparse audience, Street called Islam "the second or first largest religion in the world depending on who's counting" — a statement at odds with virtually everyone keeping count.
Movita Johnson-Harrell, the first Muslim congresswoman elected to the Pennsylvania General Assembly, gave the rally's keynote speech. Earlier this year, speaking at a Muslim Ummah of North America (MUNA) conference in Philadelphia, Johnson-Harrell called on her fellow Muslims to "occupy every space of this world."
Given the setting, there was no mistaking the congresswoman's meaning; MUNA is closely linked to the Bangladeshi branch of Jamaat-e-Islami, a violent South Asian Islamist movement with a militant wing previously ranked as one of the deadliest non-state armed groups in the world.
CAIR-Pennsylvania's underachievement follows closely on the heels of a complete failure in Ohio, where IIP organized a similar anti-CAIR campaign. The Ohio Statehouse was seemingly abandoned on September 26, when CAIR's Ohio branches planned to hold more than 30 legislative meetings during its own Muslim lobby day.
So long as local citizens continue to voice their opposition to Islamist lobby days at state legislatures around the country, CAIR will operate on the political fringes of society. However, when good people fail to take action, Islamists are granted the legitimacy they so strongly desire to shape the political future of all citizens.
Read more about Muslim Capitol Day in Pennsylvania from Counter-Islamist Grid Associate Len Getz in "CAIR's Victimhood Rally in Harrisburg Falls Flat."
Benjamin Baird is the Coordinator of Islamism in Politics, a project of the Middle East Forum.