Senate Witnesses Disagree On FBI Outreach To CAIR


A Congressional Quarterly website reported on July Senate hearings in which various experts disagreed on the wisdom of FBI outreach efforts to the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR). According to the report, Hudson Senior Fellow and Muslim-American Zeyno Baran strongly argued against the program:

The FBI’s outreach efforts to the Council on American-Islamic Relations have been counterproductive, according to an expert at a Senate hearing on countering violent Islamism who called the group an extension of the extremist Muslim Brotherhood. Although other witnesses told the Senate Homeland Security panel that communication with CAIR is beneficial, Zeyno Baran, senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, a conservative think tank, said its relationship with the FBI leaves agents ill-prepared to work with the American Muslim community. “For months now, FBI agents have been trained by CAIR to be sensitive to Muslims,” she said. “This is completely self-defeating.” Baran said she believes CAIR was founded by the Muslim Brotherhood to influence U. S. officials, and works not as a faith group but as one with a political agenda of Islamism, a philosophy that treats Islam as a political ideology. Furthermore, she said, the group was among those named as unindicted co-conspirators in a recent federal case that charged the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development with providing millions of dollars and logistical support to the militant group Hamas. Baran questioned how CAIR is defining proper respect for Muslims when it advises the FBI. “The agents are going to be misinformed and they will be overly sensitive and they will not ask certain questions,” she said. Later in the hearing, she said CAIR “does not reflect the Muslim community as a faith community, but as a political group.” Senate Homeland ranking Republican Susan Collins of Maine said Baran’s comments conflicted with the committee’s understanding of the FBI’s outreach activities. “In previous hearings, witnesses have generally pointed to the FBI effort as the model of outreach to the Muslim community,” she said. When Collins asked who the FBI could work with, Baran suggested women’s groups and those “not organized based on an Islamist political issue.” But, she said, such groups have only recently emerged in Europe after “home-grown” terrorism attacks there. “We don’t have that in America at this point,” she said. Other Viewpoints Support for Baran’s position came from Steven Emerson, executive director of the Investigative Project on Terrorism, whom the committee considered as a potential witness, although he ultimately did not appear. In a written statement he had prepared, Emerson called the federal government’s relationship with CAIR “an almost comical situation,” considering the Department of Justice’s dealings with it in the Holy Land Foundation case.

The report indicates that other witnesses disagreed with Baran’s analysis:

Other radicalization experts who testified at the hearing took issue with Baran’s characterization of CAIR. Peter P. Mandaville, associate professor of government and politics at George Mason University, said he is not familiar with the specifics of the FBI program, but the picture Baran painted of CAIR did not sound right. “I don’t share the view that CAIR as an organization is best understood primarily as a front for the Muslim Brotherhood,” he said. “I do believe there are individuals associated with that movement who hold those views, but I think it wrong to characterize the organization in its entirety” in relation to the Muslim Brotherhood.

However, documents released in the Holy Land Trial have revealed that the founders and current leaders of CAIR were part of the Palestine Committee of the Muslim Brotherhood as well as identifying the organization itself as being part of the U.S. Brotherhood. A recent post discussed an interview with the Deputy leader of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood in which he confirms a relationship between his organization and CAIR. Investigative research had determined that CAIR had it origins in the U.S. Hamas infrastructure and is an integral part of the U.S. Muslim Brotherhood with a long history of support for fundamentalism, anti-Semitism, and terrorism.

Employing the usual Brotherhood rhetoric, a CAIR spokesman asserted that CAIR was a “mainstream” organization and that Baran’s comments were part of a “smear campaign”:

In a phone interview, CAIR spokesman Ibrahim Hooper defended his organization’s record. “CAIR is one of the most respected mainstream organizations in the Muslim American community,” he said. “We build bridges between the Muslim community and the law enforcement community, public officials, elected officials.” Hooper called Baran’s comments part of a “politically motivated smear campaign” designed to hurt relations with the Muslim community and that “I have a feeling that [Baran] wouldn’t want the FBI talking to any Muslim group.” ‘

U.S Muslim Brotherhood groups have long claimed that criticism of their organizations is aimed at preventing Muslims from participating in American politics, often stating or implying that the U.S. Jewish community is largely responsible.

The report concludes by citing the the U.S. government official in charge of the outreach program on his view of the rationale for the program:

At a second panel in the hearing, Collins asked the person in charge of providing the situational awareness the FBI uses to do outreach, National Counterrorism Center Director Michael E. Leiter, for his opinion on the relationship with CAIR. “I think that both outreach by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Department of Homeland Security . .. is critical,” he responded. “Understanding that there are certain groups that might have individuals with whom the U. S. government might not want to associate does not and cannot stop this government from doing the outreach that it has to do.” Leiter pointed out that cutting back on outreach could lead to disenfranchisement of Muslims, something other witnesses had testified could actually stimulate radicalization. Federal agencies have to adapt a “full-spectrum” outreach strategy that engages with groups that disagree with U. S. policy, he said. However, he said, the hard line is “if a group espouses violence, it’s quite clear that the U. S. government should not be associated with it.”

An example of how CAIR sees its role in law enforcement training can be seen in a recent newspaper report which discussed CAIR’s objections to an alternative training program in Seattle:

…Arsalan Bukhari, president of the Washington state chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), said the program appears to be linking an entire religion to terrorism. “Most police officers don’t have a basic grounding in Islam, so before you teach them about Islam, how can you teach them about radical Islam?” he asked. “It just makes you nervous because when a law-enforcement person pulls someone over, when they see a Muslim person or someone who appears Muslim to them — all this information they just learned kicks in.” Bukhari believes the need for police training on issues of profiling and bias was highlighted by an incident last summer in which the FBI launched an international search for two men who took photos below deck on a Washington state ferry. The FBI announced earlier this month that the men were tourists, not terrorists.

Denying any association between Islam and terrorism has long been part of the global Muslim Brotherhood’s ideological strategy on terrorism. As already noted, CAIR has a long history of support for terrorism including such ideological justification, support for organizations thought to be fund-raising for Hamas,and public defense of persons associated with both Hamas and Palestinian Islamic JIhad as well as Al Qaeda. It should also be noted that a number of CAIR’s own employees have been convicted or accused of terrorism-related offenses.

Numerous previous posts have discussed examples of the FBI’s involvement with CAIR.

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