In his Boston Globe piece, ‘Don’t let hatred divide us,’ Dr John Robbins, the executive director of the Massachusetts chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), argued that American Muslims suffer from widespread bigotry and threats.
To some extent, Dr Robbins is right. From Donald Trump’s recent proposal to ban all Muslims from entering the United States, to the vandalism of mosques and even occasional physical assaults, life can undoubtedly be tough for some American Muslims.
Where we and our moderate Muslim allies have concerns, however, is that groups such as CAIR are exploiting the rise in anti-Muslim sentiment and the recent onslaught of Islamist terror to portray themselves as the voice of American Islam. In truth, they are no more representative than we are.
Very few American Muslims believe that CAIR is a legitimate voice of American Islam. According to a 2011 Gallup poll, around 88% of American Muslims said that CAIR does not best represent their interests.
American Islam is extremely diverse, and no single group can claim to represent our country’s Muslims. However, Islamist bodies, as inherently political movements, have successfully imposed their leadership on American Muslims because traditional religious groups, lacking media savvy and political know-how, have been unable to compete. When politicians at the State House or the editors at the Globe ask to speak to the “Muslim community,” groups such as CAIR step forward.
CAIR has long been accused of extremist links. According to the Anti-Defamation League, CAIR’s “public statements cast Jews and Israelis as corrupt agents who control both foreign and domestic U.S. policy and are responsible for the persecution of Muslims in the U.S.”
During the 2008 terrorism financing trial of the Holy Land Foundation, federal prosecutors designated CAIR as an “unindicted coconspirator,” with U.S. District Court Judge Jorge Solis concluding that, “The government has produced ample evidence to establish the associations of CAIR…with Hamas.”
By giving a CAIR a platform, we risk legitimizing its claim to be a representative voice of American Muslims. Given its history, this would be a terrible mistake.
Well-intentioned newspaper editors and public officials are, laudably, keen to give a voiceless minority a means to express their concerns. But CAIR does not represent the voiceless. It is a seasoned operator that only speaks for itself. Meanwhile, ordinary American Muslims are left unheard.
Just because radical Islamist bodies learn to speak the language of liberalism and democracy, don’t believe for a second that they are liberal, democratic groups.
We urge the Globe to give a platform to ordinary Massachusetts Muslims, and to report comprehensively the bigotry from which some American Muslims often do suffer. The intolerance is real, but do not allow groups such as CAIR to hijack the plight of its victims.