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Politics & Culture

Is CAIR a Hamas front group?

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By
Norine Dworkin

Editor in Chief

Sunday, January 7, 2024

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Hamas fighters with the Hamas flag.

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The Council on American-Islamic Relations has long positioned itself as the "Muslim NAACP," the organization looking out for Muslim Americans' civil rights and liberties, ensuring accurate portrayals of Islam in American pop culture and encouraging Muslim political and civic engagement. 


And yet, rumors have persisted for years that the advocacy group, headquartered in Washington, DC, with satellite chapters throughout the country, including in Florida, is a front for the terrorist organization Hamas and/or its umbrella group, the Muslim Brotherhood. That's the basis for State Rep. Randy Fine's House Resolution 1209, filed Thursday, which calls for state and local governments to cut all ties with CAIR. 


[Local legislators respond to House Resolution to cut ties with CAIR]


Is this a case of guilt by association? Or is there any truth to the allegation?  


CAIR's national site contains a substantial section dedicated to “Dispelling rumors about CAIR," where the organization denies being “a front for Hamas,” “condemns all acts of violence against civilians by any individual, group or state,” “advocates dialogue between faith communities both in America and worldwide” and disavows individuals found to be supporting terrorism. 


And yet, an October 2023 report from George Washington University’s Program on Extremism,

The Hamas Network in America, draws on FBI wiretaps to pinpoint CAIR's formation to a 1993 meeting of some 20 Hamas activists in a Philadelphia hotel conference room. According to the report, CAIR was to be a “new organization with no evident ties to Hamas and operating in ways that would have made it appear as moderate in the eyes of Americans.”


The activists, according to the report, came from three American organizations: United Association for Studies and Research; Islamic Association for Palestine (IAP), considered the “brainchild of top Hamas leaders”; and Occupied Land Fund, which evolved into the Holy Land Foundation, which was shut down in 2001 for funneling $12.4 million to Hamas while masquerading as a charity. 


Leaders of those groups — Palestinian members of the Muslim Brotherhood in the U.S. — comprised the Palestine Committee. Established in 1988, a year after Hamas was formed, the Palestine Committee was headed by Musa Abu Marzook, who became a senior Hamas leader after he was deported in 1995. The Palestine Committee, according to the George Washington University report, was tasked with increasing “financial and moral support for Hamas,” educating against "surrendering to the issue of peace with Jews," and promoting the “savagery of the Jews.” 


But in Philadelphia, meeting participants were concerned about continuing to operate in the U.S. after the Oslo Accords and the federal government’s impending “terrorist” designation for Hamas. FBI wiretap information included in the report indicated the participants wanted a “front” ... “an official U.S. cover representing the Islamic community … “whose Islamic hue is not very conspicuous.”


On its formation, CAIR became the fourth organization member of the Palestine Committee, according to an internal memo cited by the George Washington University report. 


CAIR Executive Director Nihad Award maintains on the site that the organization was created to address "Muslim stereotyping and defamation on a national level” and that he reached out to “his friend Ibrahim Hooper, a professional journalist and communications genius and tried to persuade him to move to Washington and join the project.”


Even so, Awad and Hooper were both originally IAP members — as was Omar Ahmed, IAP's president who became CAIR's chairman emeritus. But Awad was IAP’s public relations director, and he had attended the Palestine Committee meeting in Philadelphia where he discussed media strategy and providing media training to surrogates who could then defend Hamas to the American public, using soft, nuanced language so as not to appear to endorse violence. 


VoxPopuli's email to CAIR's national communications director Ibrahim Hooper seeking comment did not receive a response. We are awaiting comment from CAIR-Florida's media and outreach director.

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