It is a Saturday night as I write this and I am unfortunately not where I intended originally to be, namely the Council on American-Muslim Relations’ (CAIR) Champions for Justice 21st Annual Fundraising Banquet. CAIR’s aversion to critical observation had foiled my plans to get up close and personal with this Hamas-derived radical group, demonstrating yet again this faux civil rights organization’s guardedness.
When a sponsor recently asked to attend and observe this dinner, I jumped at the chance, yet wondered whether CAIR would refuse me admittance, as my extensive writings have not put me on CAIR’s good side. Corey P. Saylor, now director of CAIR’s Department to Monitor and Combat Islamophobia, had previously emailed me to deny my attendance at a September 2013 CAIR press conference at its Capitol Hill headquarters. He claimed that one website where my material appears, Family Security Matters, is not a legitimate news outlet.
CAIR at the same press conference had ejected Daily Caller reporters, another outlet for which I have written that would be my downfall the second time I tried to enter a CAIR press conference earlier this year. At the conference registration desk outside the Zenger Room of Washington, DC’s National Press Club I announced my name to CAIR communications director Ibrahim Hooper and asked if I could attend. Hooper mused “why does that name ring a bell” and asked for the names of the outlets where I have written, whereupon my mention of the Daily Caller prompted him to call this an anti-Islamic “hate site” and refuse my admission.
Former CAIR leader Ahmed Bedier has personally expressed his distaste for me. At a May 2014 press conference in the Zenger room involving various Muslim organizations including CAIR, he unilaterally approached me and complained of my writing being unfair. A grim-looking Bedier also took a close-up photo of me at a June 2014 conference in downtown Washington, DC.
CAIR policies for its events like the Champions of Justice banquet confirm the organization’s secretive, suspicious nature. The banquet’s website announces that the dinner “is a private CAIR event and CAIR reserves the right to refuse admittance to anyone for any reason” and “to eject anyone from the private event for any reason.” Those ejected “will not receive a refund for their tickets or be compensated in any way. All audio, visual and audio/visual devices and photography, filming, recording and taping are strictly prohibited.”
CAIR’s tight control means that unsympathetic observers may only come into contact with CAIR officials when they on rare occasions participate in uncontrolled public events. Before I became so well-known to CAIR, I was able to interview briefly its director Nihad Awad at a January 2014 protest on the Washington, DC, Mall. I have also seen Awad appear on public panels in January 2015 and just this past week.
An October 6 CAIR refund of my $65 PayPal banquet ticket purchase indicated that I would not be seeing Awad again for dinner. Saylor responded to my email query that day by writing that “CAIR will not be able to honor your request to attend our banquet” and has “refunded the cost of your ticket to you and apologize for any inconvenience.” A friend considered me “lucky,” given CAIR’s proclaimed “right to reject people for any reason WITHOUT a REFUND” and to “take someone’s money and deliver nothing in return…Now I’m asking you, isn’t that called ‘stealing’??”
JihadWatch director Robert Spencer has “heard of it happening many times before…that CAIR works to seal its events from all critical eyes.” As Middle East Forum director Daniel Pipes has noted, CAIR closed its January “Stand with Prophet” event in Garland, Texas, to reporters from Fox News, the Washington Free Beacon, and other outlets. CAIR even threatened United West reporters who had purchased tickets in advance with arrest and imprisonment.
Pipes wonders about this “sudden shyness from a publicity hound” like CAIR. “CAIR, I suspect, shudders at a random Islamist wandering off the reservation” where “live events have unscripted moments.” CAIR’s “chairman did this in 1998, announcing in public that ‘Islam isn’t in America to be equal to any other faith, but to become dominant,’ a burst of bluntness that still today impedes CAIR.” While CAIR event policy “appears to be legal…it’s unheard of for an outfit claiming to be a human rights organization.” Such “blatant thought control reflects CAIR’s origins in Hamas, the totalitarian Palestinian movement, and points to how Islamists threaten a free society.”
My thoughts can only speculate on what might have been as I look from my building’s rooftop across to the Crystal City, Virginia, venue of the sold-out banquet a metro ride away from my residence. Of CAIR’s honorees, I could have conversed with Sheikh Omar Suleiman. While he has called homosexuality a “disease” and “repugnant shameless sin,” CAIR has opposed recent religious freedom measures protecting objecting businesses from involvement with such behavior.
Similarly I could have heard Dean Obeidallah, whom Spencer calls a “painfully unfunny ‘comedian.’” He has stated that Republican Senator Rick Santorum sounds like the Taliban and written that Nigeria’s Boko Haram jihadist group “has nothing to do with Islam.” I could have asked Nobel Peace Prize laureate Tawakkol Karman about her membership in a Yemeni political party affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood. A late entrant to CAIR’s program is also Ahmed Mohamad, the Garland, Texas, high school “clockmaker” whose suspicious encounter with “Islamophobia” provokes more than a few questions.
More than just a social snub, my definitive CAIR banning should also raise questions. What kind of civil rights or political group refuses to engage in critical debates and discussions? Whom does CAIR admit to its events and what boundaries does CAIR impose? If CAIR is not accessible to Americans across the political spectrum, should public authorities look to CAIR as an objective civil society partner? All this and more is food for thought from a disinvited dinner guest.