The slogan for last weekend’s Council for American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) Philadelphia banquet, “Defending our freedom, living our faith,” sounds like an innocuous promotion of all-American values. Conference graphics flanked by the Statue of Liberty and a minaret, the event claimed to promote the peaceful intersection of the American and Islamic identities, featuring a former Obama advisor and a comedian for the adults, and Mad Science and story time for the kids. However, behind the event’s playful, unassuming façade, lay a more sinister truth—that CAIR and its banquet represent Islamist apologists.
The keynote speaker, Dalia Mogahed, is a former member of President Obama’s Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships and is now the Director of Research at the Washington, D.C- based Institute for Social Policy and Understanding (ISPU). ISPU claims it conducts “objective, solution-seeking research that empowers American Muslims to develop their community and fully contribute to democracy and pluralism in the United States.”
Despite her organization’s ostensible commitment to western values, we’re not sure Mogahed is the best choice example for American Muslims seeking to “fully contribute to democracy.” For instance, Mogahed once granted a friendly interview on a radio show hosted by a member of the Islamist movement Hizb ut Tahrir, which advocates the “eradication” of the "entity of Jews." In her interview, Mogahed insisted that Sharia law promotes “gender justice”.
Yet, Mogahed appears downright moderate in comparison to the CAIR banquet’s Master of Ceremonies, Zahra Billoo.
Billoo, at first glance, appears very relatable and likeable, portraying herself as the average American who also happens to be Muslim. She describes herself on her twitter account as a “Lawyer. [CAIR San Francisco Bay Area] Director. Cat owner. Ice cream eater. Cupcake baker.” Her tweets document her fight for justice and equality, humanitarian activism, and Muslim pride. But this sweet and sassy progressive poster girl is actually a reflection of CAIR’s own duplicity and subversive Islamism.
Last year, Billoo questioned whether U.S. soldiers should be honoured or remembered on Memorial Day, saying the holiday is a “struggle” for her. When faced with opposition, she took a step further and called the U.S. military murderers and occupiers, and compared U.S. military operations to Taliban terrorism. Indeed, Billoo once tweeted that she “feels more responsible for and outraged by US military terrorism in Pakistan than Taliban terrorism there.”
Despite the patriotic Statue of Liberty on its flier, the conference MC’s anti-American sentiment runs far deeper than her opposition to Memorial Day. In 2011, Billoo’s CAIR chapter was condemned for discouraging Muslims from cooperating with the FBI on matters related to terror. Billoo had also accused the Bureau of “creating terror plots that don’t exist” and suggested that the FBI itself might have planned the foiled terrorist activities. And, at the 2017 Islamic Society of North America conference, Billoo warned that the US Government aims to persecute Muslims: “We [know they have done this] with other communities, that they’re going to send us to concentration camps.”
As Billoo is quick to dismiss accusations of terrorist connections levelled against American Muslims, whether warranted or not, it follows that she seems to have no problem befriending known terrorists. In November 2014, her chapter of CAIR honoured convicted Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) member Sami Al-Arian with the “Promoting Justice Award,” despite the fact that he pleaded guilty to funnelling money to PIJ. She has continued to tweet in defence of Al-Arian (even once saying that she “finds inspiration” from him).
CAIR may appear to be nothing more than another Muslim advocacy organization, but its ties to Islamist terror run more than skin deep. It is listed as a Muslim Brotherhood organization in a secret 1991 U.S. Muslim Brotherhood memo uncovered by federal prosecutors. The U.S. Justice Department has confirmed that CAIR is a “Muslim Brotherhood entity,” labelling it as an unindicted co-conspirator in the prosecution of a charity named the Holy Land Foundation, the largest terrorism-financing trial in U.S. history. The Justice Department also cited CAIR’s involvement with Hamas in a 2013 report.
CAIR has even been under fire by Muslim countries and activists; The UAE recently designated it as a terrorist group. And the Minnesotan Somali community protested CAIR after the group insinuated that Muslims shouldn’t cooperate with the FBI in fighting local recruitment by Somali Al-Qaeda affiliate, Al-Shabaab.
As Philadelphia Muslims gathered in sparkly gowns at the Springfield Country Club, for an event that claimed to promote pride in the dual American-Muslim identity, we wonder if they knew that the Master of Ceremonies, Billoo, believes that Saddam Hussein, Osama Bin Laden, and Muammar Gaddafi were all part of an American-funded conspiracy. In typical CAIR double-speak, Billoo forgot to mention that CAIR leaders grovelled to Gaddafi, while asking him for money in 2009. Does this really sound like an event, or for that matter, an organization dedicated to “defending our freedom”?
Alexandra Markus is a writer for Islamist Watch, a project of the Middle East Forum.