Here is a major reexamination of the circumstances surrounding CAIR founder Omar Ahmad's infamous statement (which he still denies making): "Islam isn't in America to be equal to any other faith, but to become dominant. The Koran, the Muslim book of scripture, should be the highest authority in America, and Islam the only accepted religion on Earth." He denies saying those words, but the original reporter still stands by her story.
"Did CAIR founder say Islam to rule America? Muslims confront Omar Ahmad as newspaper insists report of controversial remarks accurate," by Art Moore for WorldNetDaily.com, :
It's a citation used frequently by critics to argue the highly influential Council on American-Islamic Relations is an extremist organization – founder Omar Ahmad's alleged 1998 assertion that Islam must one day dominate the U.S. – but now Muslim leaders have confronted Ahmad, expressing concern that someone from their community could voice such radical sentiments.
Ahmad told the Muslim leaders – and WND in an interview – the attribution is a "total fabrication" and assured them the newspaper, the Fremont Argus in California, issued a "clarification" after he "challenged" reporter Lisa Gardiner.
That seemed to satisfy the Muslim leaders, but Gardiner told WND she continues to stand by the story, and Editor Steve Waterhouse said he's confident she got it right. After hearing that news Thursday, one of the Muslim leaders immediately resurrected the issue with his colleagues, declaring Ahmad and CAIR need to find a way "to extinguish this fire."
"She was a good, solid reporter," Waterhouse said of Gardiner. "She was absolutely certain about what she said and what she reported."
Gardiner, who now works for a non-profit group, told WND last week she's 100-percent sure Ahmad was the speaker and that he made those statements, pointing out nobody challenged the story at the time it was published eight years ago.
"She's lying," Ahmad said upon hearing Gardiner's defense of the story. "Absolutely, she's lying. How could you remember something from so long ago? I don't even remember her in the audience."
What a ridiculous defense. I speak to crowds all the time, and you know something? I have spoken to people even when I don't even know their names. I have spoken to groups without having names and resumes for everyone in the audience. I suppose Omar Ahmad makes sure he knows everyone in the audience before he begins speaking.
CAIR, which has enjoyed access to the White House as the country's largest Islamic advocacy group, recently defended the six imams removed from a US Airways flight because they were deemed a potential security threat.
Ahmad, who stepped down as CAIR chairman last year, maintained to WND he "never uttered those words."
"It is not my stance, it is not what I believe in," said Ahmad, CEO of SiliconExpert Technologies in Santa Clara, Calif. "The year before (the 1998 event) I was a commissioner for my city and took an oath on the constitution and never had a problem. It doesn't make sense for me to think that way. I was shocked to hear somebody reported that."
It was WND's 2003 story about Ahmad's alleged remarks that prompted the Muslim leaders to query the CAIR founder two months ago. In a string of e-mail correspondence copied to WND, the leaders first debated among themselves, then asked Ahmad to tell them whether the report is true and, if so, to repudiate the remarks.
Mike Ghouse, president of a Dallas-based group called World Muslim Congress, told colleagues in the e-mails that Ahmad allegedly has made a "dangerously militant statement."
"The harsh reality is, we do not want to hear and acknowledge that no Muslim in America or anywhere else in the world wants to live in an Islamic nation," Ghouse wrote.
The 1998 Argus article, also published in the sister San Ramon Valley Herald, paraphrased Ahmad saying: "Islam isn't in America to be equal to any other faith, but to become dominant," and, "The Koran, the Muslim book of scripture, should be the highest authority in America, and Islam the only accepted religion on Earth."
In one of his replies to the Muslim leaders, Ahmad wrote: "These statements are total fabrication and I never said them at all. Actually there (sic) were not direct quote and I challenged the reporter and the newspaper and they published a clarification 3 years ago."
The Muslim leaders, at the time, seemed satisfied with the denial, including Ghouse.
Ghouse told WND he understood Ahmad to be saying the newspaper and the reporter had backed off on their claim that the story is true, perhaps, at least, expressing some doubt about it.
But Waterhouse said flatly, "We did not publish a clarification."
''This is not going to die'
The editor explained that after hearing from Ahmad in the wake of WND's May 1, 2003, article, his paper published a story of its own one month later referencing Ahmad's denial but also clearly stating the newspaper was not backing down.
Upon hearing that information Thursday from WND, Ghouse sent out an e-mail to colleagues on his World Muslim Congress list with a copy of the June 2003 story by Waterhouse's newspaper chain and stated: "We had discussed this a few months ago, it appears that it still has some fire in it, this is not going to die."
"I think Mr. Omar Ahmad and CAIR need to think hard and figure out a way to extinguish this fire," Ghouse wrote. "The above statement is one of the most anti-Islamic, most arrogant, bullying statement[s] made in behalf of Islam. Let's strip this for good."
Ghouse acknowledged in the e-mail, "Most of us do not want to deal with this. However, that statement is dangerous, it is indeed frightening to the average American, given the false propaganda that Islam spread through sword is still in currency and I see that non-sense (sic) once a week on the net. The neo-cons live and thrive on propogating (sic) fear, their survival is dependent on hating and denigrating some one or the other. This is going to be a relentless battle."
Another Muslim leader who participated in the string of e-mails in October, Iftekhar A. Hai, told WND that as a Sufi from India, he has a different view of Islam than Ahmad, an Arab, but he respects CAIR as the leading Islamic human rights organization in the U.S.
"If he said it, I say that he's wrong, but if he said he has not said it, I want to give him the benefit of the doubt," said Hai, co-founder and director of interfaith relations for United Muslims of America in Sunnyvale, Calif.
But Hai, who noted he was educated at a Catholic school in India, says his main job "is to work among religions for peace," and he is a part of CAIR only to the extent that once a year he buys a ticket for a local fund-raiser.
Ghouse also is a native of India.
'How Should We As Muslims Live in America?'
WND tried to get comment from others reported to be at the 1998 event in Fremont, Calif., a session organized by the local Islamic Study School titled, "How Should We As Muslims Live in America?"
Gardiner's article mentions two other speakers – Sheik Hamza Yusuf, a prominent American convert who directs the Islamic Study School's parent group, the Zaytuna Institute; and Hatem Bazian, an adjunct professor at the University of California, Berkeley. Bazian drew national attention during a 2004 anti-war protest in San Francisco when he asked why there is not an "intifada," or uprising, in the U.S. as there is in the Holy Land. Later, in an "O'Reilly Factor" interview, he explained he was referring to a non-violent, "political intifada."
Bazian did not respond to messages from WND, and an assistant to Hamza said the sheik was on sabbatical and was too busy to reply.
Hamza's aide, however, referred WND to Feraidoon Mojadedi, the director in 1998 of the Islamic Study School.
Mojadedi said in an e-mail he had no record – audio or visual – of Ahmad's presentation.
"I don't know if the article is accurate or not, because it's been about 10 years since that event," he wrote.
Mojadedi did not reply to a follow-up e-mail asking specifically if he heard Ahmad's speech, and, if so, what the CAIR founder said.
Gardiner's 1998 article, which quotes Mojadedi, said in part:
Omar M. Ahmad, chairman of the board of the Council on American-Islamic relations, spoke before a packed crowd at the Flamingo Palace banquet hall on Peralta Boulevard, urging Muslims not to shirk their duty of sharing the Islamic faith with those who are "on the wrong side."
Muslim institutions, schools and economic power should be strengthened in America, he said. Those who stay in America should be "open to society without melting (into it)," keeping mosques open so anyone can come and learn about Islam, he said.
"If you choose to live here (in America) ... you have a responsibility to deliver the message of Islam," he said.
Islam isn't in America to be equal to any other faith, but to become dominant, he said. The Koran, the Muslim book of scripture, should be the highest authority in America, and Islam the only accepted religion on Earth, he said.
'We have to respect others and be respected'
Ahmad told WND he had no recollection of what he said at the 1998 event. Asked what he would say about the subject of the role of Muslims in America, he replied: "We're here as a minority, and we live in a pluralistic society, and we have to respect others and be respected."
Ahmad said it was only in 2003 that he learned of Gardiner's story, and by then it was too late to press any legal action.
"I would have gone there and sued them if I had known about it," he said.
In April 2003, CAIR national spokesman Ibrahim Hooper told WND his group had demanded a retraction from the California newspaper. But he amended his statement after being informed by WND the editors and reporter had not been contacted with any such demand.
Ahmad told WND he has tried to find some way of verifying the contents of his speech and even "offered $1,000 to someone" to find a tape of it, if any existed.
"I know I didn't say that," he said. "How could anybody believe that when I say Muslims enjoy freedom here to worship, and it's better for them than anyplace in the world.
"If people know me personally, they will say it's nonsense," he continued. "Look at the whole of my life, what I've said."
Read it all.