Aaron Proctor, a Philadelphia-based libertarian writer, can count himself the latest victim of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), an organization that ironically claims to work for civil rights.
Proctor, a colorful commentator for the Philadelphia version of Examiner.com, had the temerity to investigate CAIR's dubious background in connection with its Philadelphia branch's planned fundraising dinner on March 12 at a municipal facility, the Springfield Country Club. CAIR-PA invited Johari Abdul-Malik to deliver one of the evening's main addresses. Abdul-Malik works at the Dar al-Hijrah Islamic Center, which has the distinction of being the former base for an unindicted co-conspirator in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and for Anwar al-Awlaki, mentor to Fort Hood murderer Nidal Malik Hasan and underwear bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab.
In keeping with these associations, Abdul-Malik declared in 2001:
I am gonna teach you now. You can blow up bridges, but you cannot kill people who are innocent on their way to work. You can blow up power supplies … the water supply; you can do all forms of sabotage and let the world know that we are doing it like this because they have a respect for the lives of innocent people.
When Islamist Watch notified various local citizens' groups of the Springfield Country Club event, Proctor picked up the topic. He titled his first posting on the subject "CAIR, an Islamic terrorism group, coming to Delaware County next month" and then challenged Congressman Pat Meehan, in whose district Springfield Township lies, to speak out about the banquet. Meehan responded cautiously, supporting CAIR's "right to peacefully assemble" while addressing its questionable history:
CAIR has recently made a series of statements accusing the FBI of falsely entrapping Muslim-Americans and advocating that Muslims not cooperate with law enforcement and the FBI. … As a former U.S. attorney, I am extremely concerned about the message that this kind of rhetoric sends to the community.
CAIR-PA then attacked both Proctor and Meehan and strong-armed the Examiner with accusations of defamation and publishing "hate speech." Brazenly lying about CAIR's status as an unindicted co-conspirator in the Holy Land Foundation (HLF) trial, it claimed that there was "zero court-admissible evidence to suggest that they are in anyway [sic] related to terrorism." In fact, CAIR practically admitted it was a "terrorist-supporting front organization" when it backed off a 2004 defamation lawsuit it had initiated, for fear of the discovery process. Further, as recently as July 2009, U.S. District Judge Jorge Solis found "ample evidence to establish the associations of CAIR … with Hamas."
Setting its sights on the weaker adversary, CAIR-PA sent the local police Proctor's photograph and accused him of being a potential "security threat." In a letter to a senior staffer at the Examiner, CAIR-PA charged Proctor with "hate speech," "bigotry," and "slander" and issued a strongly worded request for the writer's dismissal.
The letter also fudged the truth about the Philadelphia chapter's link to the terrorism-tied national group, stating: "Although CAIR-Philadelphia licenses the use of the name CAIR, we are legally distinct entities." The claim of a wall separating the national organization from its local branch is ludicrous; CAIR-PA employs the same logo as the national organization, carries the same news alerts as the national organization, and responded to Meehan by citing the national organization's alleged crime-fighting credentials.
Frightened by CAIR's threats of libel proceedings and references to "hate speech," the Examiner folded. On February 11, management suspended Proctor from work while it reviewed the legalities of his anti-CAIR articles.
In an email sent on February 14, Proctor wrote about his tangling with this supposed champion of civil liberties:
To say that I wasn't scared not only for my life but for my loved ones due to the threats from CAIR would be a gross understatement. It's scary when you read someone has emailed the police about you when you haven't even made a threat to them and wouldn't do anything more than write about them.
Proctor disclosed that although he had won back his job at the Examiner, the experience left him shaken:
I have been reinstated on Examiner.com today. … As a precaution (and of my own free will, not suggested to be [sic] by anyone), I've taken down my CAIR articles … and will no longer focus on any further stories about Islam or CAIR. I guess that's the end game of terrorism: scaring people into [not] speaking out and keeping people away from seeking out their livelihood.
Did CAIR win? It would certainly seem that way, for there is now one less individual willing to question its behavior. The story, however, need not end there:
Pat Meehan serves as chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security's Subcommittee on Counterterrorism and Intelligence and should hear from citizens who oppose those who use the liberties afforded by the Constitution to muzzle criticism and stifle debate.
Citizens of Springfield Township should ask their elected officials why a facility they own continues to be used by a group that admires someone who has recommended sabotage.
Examiner.com, "the fastest-growing local content network in the U.S.," should be true to its name and examine, closely and objectively, the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
Proctor may not always have chosen his words about CAIR wisely or well, but he left an eloquent appeal before descending into his self-imposed silence:
Please stand with me and stand with free speech and don't let these people twist the arms of America any more. Those of you who have dedicated much of your lives and free time to fighting the lies and propaganda and "lawfare" that CAIR seeks to implement in the U.S., please do not stop fighting.
Aaron Proctor has become yet another victim of the dangerous trend of CAIR stifling public discussion of Islamism. Who will be next?
Hillel Zaremba is associate director of Islamist Watch, a project of the Middle East Forum.