In April 2017, the San Diego Unified School District (SDUSD) School Board approved a plan to address anti-Muslim bullying in schools. Beginning this fall, students will "learn more about [Islam] in social studies....Schools...will review and vet materials related to Muslim culture and history...and provide resources and material for teachers...and...promote a more positive image of Islam." The driving force behind the plan, however, is the Council on American-Islamic Relations – San Diego (CAIR-SD), which has a history of ties to radical Islamists.
CAIR-SD and the SDUSD School Board have a long-standing relationship. In November 2015, the Board commended CAIR-SD for "ten years of teaching students to accept and honor religious and cultural differences," as well as its partnership with "the District's Office of Race/Human Relations and Advocacy," and its involvement "in mediating situations...that involve discrimination."
In July 2016, Hanif Mohebi, CAIR-SD's Executive Director, lobbied the School Board to adopt an official anti-Muslim bullying plan. Over the past six months, Mohebi has lectured students and teachers on "Islamophobia" at more than a dozen District schools. At these sessions, Mohebi has distributed a pamphlet offering to help Muslim students "file a complaint" against school administrators and to provide students with "resources about your faith...(to)... share with administrators and teachers." But should Mohebi and CAIR-SD be teaching students their particular brand of Islam?
On social media, Mohebi has encouraged his Facebook followers to support the "cause" of Khalifah al-Akili, a prominent Taliban sympathizer imprisoned for felony possession of a firearm. To "FBI snitches" who "frame our community members unjustly," he warns, "KNOW that we are watching you."
In addition, he has circulated videos attacking homosexuality, written an article comparing ISIS to Israel, and published a number of posts attacking "Jewish colonial settlers."
Other CAIR-SD leaders have posted inflammatory rhetoric on social media. CAIR-SD official Lallia Allali has lamented the deportation of Sami Al-Araian, a leader of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad in North America.
CAIR-SD has a history of promulgating Islamist ideology and giving platforms to extremist clerics, including Yasir Qadhi, who has said "...this is a part of our religion to stone the adulterer and to chop the head off of the sorcerer and so many other things, and to kill, by the way, the homosexual – this is also our religion."
CAIR-SD's tireless lobbying against "Islamophobia" has facilitated its inroads into SDUSD schools. CAIR officials, particularly Mohebi, whose ties to the Board date back at least seven years, appear to enjoy excellent working relationships with Board members and school officials. SDUSD School Board members Kevin Beiser and Sharon Whitehurst-Payne have spearheaded efforts to create a District-wide anti-Muslim bullying plan. Beiser has endorsed the Forum on Religious Freedom, a CAIR-SD organization designed "to support the Muslim Community against Bigotry and Islamophobia." At a 2016 SDUSD-sponsored diversity event, Nawabi published photos of him with Beiser, SDUSD Superintendent Cindy Marten, and School Board members Whitehurst-Payne and Michael McQuarry.
Beyond its ties with the School Board, CAIR-SD has relationships with at least two other District employees. Kamal Boulazreg, an SDUSD psychologist, and Agin Shaheed, SDUSD's Race/Human Relations Manager, spoke at a 2014 "Stop Bullying" event sponsored by CAIR-SD and the Islamic Center of San Diego, a mosque with ties to two 9/11 hijackers. In fact, CAIR-SD and Shaheed have an official working relationship, and CAIR-SD's website features a lengthy, hagiographic profile of him.
In light of CAIR's extremism, in May, the Freedom of Conscience Defense Fund, on behalf of a group of District parents, filed a federal lawsuit to halt the implementation of CAIR's program. The lawsuit itself may not cool the warm relationship between SDUSD and CAIR-SD, an organization that is not the benign, tolerant, civil rights group it claims to be.
After all, SDUSD does not seem to fazed by CAIR's notorious designation by federal prosecutors as an unindicted co-conspirator during the Holy Land Foundation federal terrorism case, nor CAIR-SD's history of promoting hate speech. As such, and barring a court ruling against the School District, CAIR-SD's agenda has become the District's.
Susan Ouellette is a contributor to Islamist Watch, a project of the Middle East Forum.