In September, the local Dallas-Fort Worth chapter of a global movement for compassion, Charter for Compassion Initiative, will be holding its annual conference. Presentations will range from making baby hats for premature infants and "Contemplative Painting" to more serious topics such as human trafficking and a presentation on "restorative justice" taught by a Richardson, Texas police sergeant.
The group, Compassionate DFW, is the local chapter of Charter for Compassion. The theme of the conference is "Compassion in Action: Applications in Today's Times." A flyer for the conference reads, "Download, Install and Run the Right Apps in Your Life."
The Charter for Compassion's unique "applications" for life might have something to do with its founder Karen Armstrong, a former nun who once identified herself as "a freelance monotheist." She also has said in interviews that "Accepting doctrine is not important." Her initiative is designed, she says, to create a "global spirituality."
Some have called Armstrong an Islamist apologist. And the global Charter for Compassion has a number of ties to known Islamists with troubling records,including Tariq Ramadan, a Swiss professor with Muslim Brotherhood ties currently on trial for rape and sexual assault.
Compassionate DFW, like its parent organization, likewise has some concerning relationships.
Compassionate DFW counts as partners the Dallas-Fort Worth chapter of the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR-DFW) and the Dallas Peace and Justice Center (DPJC).
As the government proved during the Holy Land Foundation terrorism trial,CAIR was founded in 1994 out of a meeting of the Palestine Committee of the U.S. Muslim Brotherhood as part of an effort to support Hamas. CAIR-Texas' founding board member Ghassan Elashi was sentenced to 65 years in prison on multiple terrorism charges.
DPJC's executive director is Hadi Jawad, a longtime anti-war protest organizer, and former co-founder of the Crawford Peace House, a house near then President George W. Bush' Texas ranch made famous by Cindy Sheehan.
Jawad was a speaker at the September 24, 2005 Iraq War protest organized by International A.N.S.W.E.R., a group that the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) had accused of anti-Semitism and support for terrorist groups Hamas and Hezb'allah.
In 2007, the Crawford Peace House faced accusations of serious financial mismanagement when former member Sarah Olivier alleged that hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations had seemingly disappeared, and the State Comptroller launched an investigation.
DPJC appears to be close to CAIR-DFW. Former CAIR-DFW executive directorAlia Salem sits on the board of DPJC. During her time as CAIR executive director, Salem raised eyebrows by urging Texas Muslims not to speak to the FBI during an investigation into ISIS.
DPJC also prominently displays on its homepage a video of Ilhan Omar at CAIR's 4th Annual Valley Banquet under the title "Trump's Islamophobia fuels attacks on Ilhan Omar."
In the video Omar warns: "We are not to be bullied. We are not to be threatened." Yet a short while later she also declares, "Raise hell. Make people uncomfortable."
This is a view that seems to be endorsed by current interim CAIR-DFW executive director Ekram Haque. On the CAIR DFW website, Haque poses the question, "How would Jesus react to hate and bigotry?" Haque presents Jesus as a kind-hearted refugee. As compassionate. But his purpose in doing so seems to be merely to urge us to take cheap rhetorical shots against a president who Haque says "normalizes hate."
In a 2015 piece titled "Confronting Insult to the Prophet" Haque compared drawing a cartoon to murder when he stated:
"For the European newspapers to reprint the offensive cartoons to show solidarity with their Danish counterpart seems akin to the plot the leaders of the Quraish had hatched to assassinate Prophet Muhammed."
Only a few months earlier, two Islamic State supporters with rifles and body armor launched an unsuccessful attack on a "Muhammed Cartoon Contest" being held in Garland, Texas. And even though in the article Haque does manage to criticize those using violence, he seems also to accept that a simple cartoon contest ought to provoke such a response.
Perhaps ultimately, this is what the Charter for Compassion shares with groups like CAIR and DPJC. Criticism of Muslims, of Mohammad, is bullying and not to be tolerated. But when bullying is done to make the right people "uncomfortable," that, they claim, is the very definition of compassion.
Is it true compassion? Or merely using compassion as a stick with which to beat those who disagree?
If Compassionate DFW genuinely believes in creating a more tolerant, more compassionate Dallas/Fort Worth, it needs to be more careful about its choice of partners. While groups like CAIR-DFW may work hard at appearing to be upstanding, progressive, concerned members of the community, even citing Jesus if needed to sell the image, it's important to consider their history, and not to be fooled. After all, Jesus once advised his disciples, "Be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves" (Matthew 10:16).