CAIR Should be Held Responsible for Inciting Antisemitic Violence

WHO IS CAIR?

The Council on American-Islamic Relations is a Muslim civil rights advocacy NGO. It has its headquarters in Washington DC, as well as 33 chapters across the United States.

CAIR was founded in June 1994 with the mission to “challenge stereotypes of Islam and Muslims.”

CAIR conducts research on American Muslims and publishes reports on public opinion, demographics, and hate crime statistics. It also practices litigation regarding Islamophobic discrimination.

CAIR has long been accused of harboring Islamist ties (a reminder that Islamism and Islam are not the same thing. See my post ISLAMISM & ANTISEMITISM for more). In particular, it’s been accused of ties to Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood. CAIR has rejected these accusations, calling them an Islamophobic smear campaign.

 

WHO IS AAFIA SIDDIQUI?

Aafia Siddiqui is a Pakistani neuroscientist who in 2010 was convicted of the attempted murder of American soldiers and officials in Afghanistan, after Islamist Khalid Sheikh Mohammed named her a courier of Al-Qaeda. She is currently serving an 86 year sentence in Fort Worth, Texas.

According to Siddiqui’s attorney, the evidence against her was planted. A US government terrorism expert denied the accusations. Pakistan has called for Siddiqui’s repatriation since the FBI extradited her to the United States in 2008. 

Regardless of whether she is guilty or not, Siddiqui has repeatedly demonstrated antisemitic beliefs. For example, during her trial, she told the judge that she didn’t want any Jews on the jury if they had a “Zionist or Israeli background.” She asked for DNA testing to prove that none of her jurors were Jewish.

After her conviction, she stated: “This is a verdict coming from Israel and not from America.”

 

 

ZAHRA BILLOO’S SPEECH

On November 27, 2021, Zahra Billoo, the director of the San Francisco chapter of CAIR, delivered a speech that caused outrage from Jewish groups for its blatant use of antisemitic tropes and conspiracies. Below are some excerpts:

“When we talk about Islamophobia, we think oftentimes about the vehement fascists…But I also want us to pay attention to the polite Zionists…We need to pay attention to the Zionist synagogues…the Hillel chapters on our campuses…”

“…the next thing I’m going to tell you is to know your enemies — and I’m not going to sugarcoat that — they are your enemies.”

“There are organizations and infrastructures out there who are working to harm you…I mean the Zionist organizations…I mean the foreign policy organizations who say they’re not Zionist but want a two-state solution…so know your enemies.”

Among these “enemies,” Billoo named Jewish Federations, Hillel, “Zionist synagogues,” and the Anti-Defamation League. Ironically, it was the ADL’s security training that taught the hostages how to escape to safety.

 

 

HOSTAGE CRISIS

On January 15, 2022, on Shabbat, the holiest day of the week, an armed British Pakistani man named Malik Faisal Akram took four Jews hostage at Congregation Beth Israel synagogue in Colleyville, Texas. He was welcomed into the synagogue by Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker, who thought he was a homeless man in need of shelter.

When the rabbi turned his back on the congregants (to pray facing Jerusalem, as Jews do), he heard Akram’s pistol click. Jeffrey Cohen, the vice president on the synagogue's board of trustees, secretly called 9-1-1. As the synagogue was steaming its services, all of this was caught on livestream.

Akram demanded Siddiqui’s freedom in exchange for the hostages. He claimed that he flew to the city of Siddiqui’s imprisonment and targeted a synagogue because “[the US] only cares about Jewish lives [and] Jews control the world. Jews control the media. Jews control the banks." Just after 12pm, Akram demanded that the rabbi call Rabbi Angela Buchdahl in New York City. He claimed to have a bomb and believed Buchadahl would have the connections, power, and political leverage to free Siddiqui. She immediately contacted the FBI. The survivors of the crisis recall him using antisemitic and anti-Israel language.

After 6 hours, Akram let one of the hostages go. After an 11 hour standoff with the FBI Hostage Rescue Team, the rabbi threw a chair at Akram, which allowed the remaining victims to escape. Akram was fatally shot by the FBI agents.

 

 

WHAT I THINK 

I am tired. In the midst of the hostage crisis, CAIR tweeted in “support” of the Jewish community. Yet it was likely their incitement less than two months ago that directly resulted in the Colleyville synagogue hostage crisis. Empty platitudes don’t make my community safer, but speeches inciting hatred of “Zionist synagogues” and “Hillels on campuses” certainly put my community in danger.

What I want is accountability. If the left can understand that Trump’s hate speech and incitement resulted in very real hate crimes and the January 6 insurrection, then they certainly can understand that CAIR’s incitement played a hand in the synagogue hostage crisis.

I am angry with the non-Jewish world at large. They either said nothing at all, blamed us for what happened, spoke of Islamophobia and white supremacy (both of which had nothing to do with this particular attack) before they even mentioned antisemitism, used this crisis to further their political agenda (why are you going on about QAnon or anti-vaxxers — which undoubtedly antisemitic — when it has nothing to do with this?), or shared empty platitudes like “listen to the Jewish community” or “I stand with Jews” when we know they will never stand up to their friends and followers when they spread antisemitic tropes and conspiracy theories disguised as “anti-Zionism” (or worse: they’ll spread these same conspiracy theories to themselves).

Frankly, I’m done playing nice. I’m done saying “thank you” when people do the bare minimum. I’m done bending backwards to prove I’m a good person so people should protect me from antisemitism, because even if I was the worst person, you should still protect me from antisemitism. Fighting antisemitism is not just sharing nice words. It’s about taking action. It’s about pissing people off, because guess what, they will be pissed. But for us, we don’t have the option to walk away from this when the conversation gets uncomfortable. We live this antisemitic violence every day. Jews form just 2% of the American population and yet are targeted in 60% of religiously-motivated hate crimes.