The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), a Washington, D.C.-based non-profit organization with offices around the country, defines its mission as "to enhance understanding of Islam, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding." Since its founding in 1994, CAIR has sought, with some success, to position itself as a prominent community organization facilitating government outreach to Muslim Americans. It has received some support from elected public officials.
CAIR's credibility as a community relations agency promoting "justice and mutual understanding," however, is tainted. Founded by leaders of the Islamic Association for Palestine (IAP), a Hamas affiliated anti-Semitic propaganda organization, CAIR refused for many years to unequivocally condemn by name Hezbollah and Palestinian terror organizations, which the U.S. and international community have condemned and isolated.
On the fifth anniversary of the Madrid bombings in March 2009, CAIR condemned acts of terrorism bygroups designated by the U.S. Department of State as a Foreign Terrorist Organizations, acknowledging that Hamas is on that list. The statement, however, did not represent a genuine break from CAIR's past because it did not address its own historical links to Hamas.
The statement also followed the Holy Land Foundation (HLF) trial, during which evidence was produced by the Federal prosecutors demonstrating that CAIR and its founders were part of a group set up by the Muslim Brotherhood to support Hamas. The trial ended with guilty verdicts on all charges against HLF and five of its officers. In May 2009, they were sentenced to between 15 and 65 years in prison, including 65 years for Ghassan Elashi, the founder of CAIR's Dallas chapter
Not surprisingly, the Federal Bureau of Investigation has limited its contact with CAIR. In a letter to the Subcommittee on Terrorism, Technology, and Homeland Security, the FBI explained that it suspended contacts with CAIR because of evidence introduced during the HLF trial. "Until we resolve whether there continues to be a connection between CAIR or its executives and Hamas, the FBI does not view CAIR as an appropriate liaison partner," the letter read.
In addition, four members of Congress - Sue Myrick (R-NC), John Shadegg (R-AZ), Trent Franks (R-AZ) and Paul Broun (R-GA) - held a press conferenceon October 14 calling on “federal officials to investigate the actions and non-profit status” of CAIR.
CAIR also continuesto offer a platform to conspiratorial Israel-bashers and outright anti-Semites. For example, CAIR's Florida chapter operates a Web site that makes anti-Semitic material available for visitors interested in learning about Islam. CAIR also organizes anti-Israel rallies during which protestors and speakers engage in anti-Semitic rhetoric, use offensive Holocaust imagery likening Jews and Israelis to Nazis, and express support for terror groups.
A version of this report was originally published in December 2006.