In “Editorial notebook: The CAIR takeaway” in the Sacramento Bee (thanks to Davida), Ginger Rutland puts her finger on why so many Americans are resistant to the facts about the Council on American Islamic Relations and about Islamic jihadism in general: she says that if she stopped attending CAIR events, “I would fear for my country, for its cherished traditions of religious tolerance, open debate and fair play.” Intolerance and bigotry are national traumas, to be avoided above all things. She immediately assumes that suspicion of CAIR is equivalent to the other false accusations of disloyalty, directed at Japanese Americans and German Americans during World War II and Vietnam war protestors later.
There are several considerations here. Hugh Fitzgerald reminded us yesterday of Fritz Kuhn’s Bund and William Pelley’s Silver Shirts — evidence that not every German American was loyal to the U.S. during the World War II era. And the same, of course, is true of the other groups Rutland mentions. Law enforcement officials would have been naive to assume that every member of such groups was loyal, and Rutland today is naive to assume, as she apparently does, that anyone accused of disloyalty must be falsely accused.
Above all, she characterizes criticism of CAIR as consisting solely of a failure to condemn Osama bin Laden, which is hardly the point. As Joe Kaufman, whom she mentions derisively as a “right-wing blogger,” and others have exhaustively documented — see the evidence at Anti-CAIR — CAIR has a long history of questionable actions, questionable associations, and questionable statements. There are CAIR officials in jail for terrorist activity. CAIR’s line on that is that they weren’t CAIR employees when they were arrested. That is false, but even if it were true, what of it? The point is that nowhere in the hiring process did anyone at CAIR apparently notice that these people were not the moderate pluralists that CAIR professes to be. There is an enormous crisis engulfing the Islamic world, and evidently CAIR does not see fit to question its applicants as to where they stand on it.
And then there are the statements by Omar Ahmad and Ibrahim Hooper about seeing Islamic law in the United States, albeit by peaceful means. That their means are peaceful should not be comforting to anyone, for the system they wish to impose will deny the freedom of conscience and equality of rights for women and religious minorities.
Finally, Rutland says nothing about the allegations concerning Elkarra himself. Here is what Kaufman’s initial press release on this matter actually says about him:
As Executive Director, Basim Elkarra has defended someone who trained for jihad in a Pakistani terrorist camp; he has defended an imam who urged a Pakistani crowd to wage attacks on America; and he has defended an imam who was attempting to build an Islamic school for the purpose of teaching children how to commit violent acts against Americans. Also, Elkarra has described Israel as a “racist” and “apartheid” state, and he has moderated an event that featured a Hamas operative who spent five years in an Israeli prison and who is currently on trial in the U.S.
None of that apparently matters to Rutland. As far as she is concerned, if someone is charging religious bigotry, she’s on the other side. Very well. Now I am charging the same thing. In defending someone with associations like Elkarra’s and CAIR itself, Rutland is falling into the very trap she is trying to avoid: she is abetting a much more serious challenge to our “cherished traditions of religious tolerance, open debate and fair play” than the one represented by Joe Kaufman and his allies. She is abetting those who wish someday to see the U.S. as a Sharia state, with institutionalized discrimination against all but Muslim males. That is the real bigotry.
Here is Rutland’s editorial:
Am I a terrorist? I asked myself this question after reading that U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer of California had rescinded an award she gave to Basim Elkarra, executive director of the Sacramento Valley Chapter of the Council on American Islamic Relations. Boxer said she “made a bad mistake” — that her staff presented the award without her knowledge. (That admission, in itself, speaks volumes about the sincerity of any Boxer endorsement.)
The initial source of Boxer’s concern was the blogosphere, that sometimes subterranean sewer of suspect journalism, where reputation-besmirching rumor runs rampant. Joe Kaufman, a right-wing blogger, criticized Boxer for honoring a CAIR leader.
Boxer said she hasn’t heard anything negative about Elkarra himself but has “concerns” about CAIR, which she claimed has been unwilling to condemn Osama bin Laden.
Really? CAIR leaders strongly deny that and have produced news releases they’ve issued denouncing the al-Qaida leader. Did Boxer check with CAIR before rescinding her award?
I know Elkarra. I don’t believe he supports terrorism. The personable young University of California, Berkeley, graduate assumed the helm of the local CAIR chapter at a perilous time for Muslims in this country. He has gone to extraordinary lengths to reassure his fellow Americans while defending fellow Muslims.
I am also familiar with CAIR, at least as it operates locally. I have attended CAIR banquets, spoken to their youth groups and joined CAIR-sponsored Iftars, the feast and prayer services that follow the daily fasts observant Muslims practice during Ramadan.
For me, CAIR’s efforts to reach out are reminiscent of the efforts of other Americans falsely accused of disloyalty: Japanese, German and Italian Americans during World War II, civil rights activists and Vietnam War opponents casually smeared as communists in the 1950s and ’60s. I wonder; was Boxer’s loyalty ever questioned when she opposed the Vietnam War? If so, she must understand what her casual withdrawal of a casually awarded tribute means to a Muslim American at this moment in American history. Shame on her.
At the last Ramadan celebration I attended, CAIR presented Sacramento Assemblyman Dave Jones with a beautiful Quran. Should Jones follow Boxer’s lead and and return it? Should I stop attending CAIR-sponsored events?
I pray not. Should either of us feel compelled to do so, I would fear for my country, for its cherished traditions of religious tolerance, open debate and fair play.