Backgrounder: What Critics Say About CAIR

By Fred Lucas | July 7, 2008 | 8:06 PM EDT

( - Criticism leveled at the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) has focused primarily on its sources of funding and on terror-related convictions handed to some office-bearers in the organization.

The most controversial organization with a known affiliation to CAIR was the Texas-based Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development, shut down in 2001 when the U.S. Treasury Department froze its assets after alleging it provided funding to Hamas.

The foundation sent CAIR $5,000 in a wire transfer in 1994, the year CAIR -- which now has more than $5 million in assets -- was first established.

Tax records reveal that some of the largest gifts to CAIR, a non-profit organization, have come from abroad.

CAIR raised funds to build its $3.5 million national headquarters in Washington, D.C. According to the deed for the building, dated Sept. 12, 2002, the Al Maktoum Foundation in Dubai - a charity that funds the building of mosques and educational and medical programs - granted $978,031 to CAIR.

In August of 1999, the Islamic Development Bank, a consortium of 56 members of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), gave CAIR $250,000. OIC members include traditional U.S. allies like Egypt but also countries such as Libya, Syria and Iran.

In 2002, CAIR received $500,000 from Saudi Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal, chairman of the Kingdom Holdings Company, according to congressional testimony. One of the world's wealthiest men, bin Talal is also a key stockholder in News Corporation and Citicorp.

According to published reports in the Arab press, CAIR began recruiting money in the Middle East in the summer of 2006 for a $50 million, five-year, public relations campaign in the United States, and met with Dubai businessmen in the United Arab Emirates.

Steve Emerson, executive director of The Investigative Project, a data-gathering center on Islamist groups, said the fact that CAIR has accepted so much foreign money should raise alarms.

"Who is pulling the strings?" Emerson asked Cybercast News Service. "Should they register as a foreign agent?"

Emerson, a long-time CAIR critic, argued that the organization "should be forced to disclose how much money is coming from outside the country."

Terror ties?

Lawmakers and others critical of CAIR have often pointed to the controversies surrounding some of the organization's office-bearers. Among them, according to court records:

    Randall Royer, a civil rights coordinator for CAIR, pleaded guilty in January 2004 in U.S. District Court in Alexandria, Va., to possession of firearms and explosives after being indicted on terrorist conspiracy charges and helping four others gain entry to a terrorist training camp, and was sentenced to 20 years' imprisonment;Ghassan Elashi, founder of CAIR's Texas chapter, was reportedly convicted in July 2004 of sending computers to Libya and Syria and in April 2005 of doing business with Mousa Abu Marzook (a senior Hamas leader who has been on the U.S. government's list of "specially designated terrorists" since 1995 and remains on the most up-to-date list published last week.) Elashi is serving a six-year prison term and faces further charges;Bassem Khafagi, a former CAIR community relations director who was born in Egypt, pleaded guilty in September 2003 to lying on his visa application and passing bad checks. He was deported; andRabih Haddad, a CAIR fundraiser, was arrested and deported for his work with the Global Relief Foundation, designated by the U.S. Treasury Department to be a sponsor of terrorism.

CAIR spokesman Ibraham Hooper told Cybercast News Service that the convicted men and their activities were unrelated to the organization.

"Nothing these named individuals did or didn't do had anything to do with CAIR," he said. "They didn't do it in the name of CAIR, on CAIR's time or in association with CAIR. Fifty-thousand members are held responsible for actions we didn't take. That standard is not applied to any other group except a Muslim group."

Nine individuals associated with or defended by CAIR are named in a civil lawsuit brought by the estate of John P. O'Neil, the former counter-intelligence officer with the FBI who died in the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on New York's World Trade Center.

The civil racketeering suit identifies CAIR, among many co-defendants, as having loose ties with 9/11 and tries to establish a connection based on CAIR's various financial connections.

"It's not worth addressing," Hooper said of the lawsuit, which is pending. "It's nonsensical."

He said critics refuse to "look at what CAIR has done for the past 13 years, so they are reduced to guilt by association [accusations]."

See Related Story:
Feds Defend Partnership With Islamic Group Under Scrutiny (Jan. 16, 2007)

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