CAIR Puts 2016 Presidential Hopefuls Under Its ‘Islamophobia’ Microscope

By Patrick Goodenough | June 26, 2015 | 4:11am EDT
Then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton hosts a Ramadan iftar meal at the State Department in Sept. 2010 (Photo: State Department/Michael Gross)

( – The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) has launched a website tracking the 2016 presidential candidates’ positions on Islam, and so far it seems to have the fewest problems with Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican hopefuls New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.)

But for many of the other GOP candidates, CAIR highlights associations with individuals who, in its opinion, are “Islamophobes.”

For instance, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Penn.), and pediatric neurosurgeon Ben Carson are all implicitly criticized for speaking at events hosted by David Horowitz Freedom Center between 2007 and 2014.

The David Horowitz Freedom Center, CAIR informs prospective voters, “is part of the inner core of the U.S. Islamophobia network.”

CAIR adds that Horowitz himself has been labeled “the godfather of the modern anti-Muslim movement” – by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

(The Southern Poverty Law Center lists dozens of “hate” groups across the nation, with categories ranging from “anti-Muslim” to “white nationalist” to “anti-LGBT” – a category which includes the Family Research Council, Traditional Values Coalition, and Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute.)

In a disclaimer on the site, CAIR -- which describes itself as “America’s largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization” -- states that it “neither opposes nor supports any candidate for public office.”

‘Shari’a scare tactics’

Along with Horowitz, CAIR also regards the Center for Security Policy (CSP) and Robert Spencer of Jihad Watch as “part of the inner core of the U.S. Islamophobia network.”

Thus it accuses Cruz of having “displayed a growing comfort with Islamophobic groups,” pointing to speeches he gave at the CSP and at a Young America’s Foundation conference where other speakers included Spencer.

CAIR cites former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush for appointing as a senior advisor of his political action committee American Center for Law and Justice director Jordan Sekulow. CAIR and others were unhappy about the appointment because they claimed Sekulow had a “history of supporting anti-Muslim legislation and Islamophobic causes.”

A recurring theme in statements by GOP presidential candidates highlighted on the CAIR site is criticism of shari’a (Islamic law):

--Santorum said in a 2011 speech that shari’a “is incompatible with American jurisprudence and our Constitution.”

--Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal said in a speech in Britain last January that “non-assimilationist Muslims establish enclaves and carry out as much of shari’a law as they can without regard for the laws of the democratic countries which provided them a new home.”

--Cruz said at a 2012 Senate campaign event, “Shari’a law is an enormous problem.”

--Carson in a 2014 op-ed wrote that the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) “and the other advocates of shari’a law are growing rapidly, along with their zeal to eradicate or convert all ‘infidels.’”

For CAIR, Carson was using “shari’a scare tactics,” and seemed unaware, it said, that Islamic law “influences the lives of all Muslims, the overwhelming majority of whom reject the interpretations put forth by violent extremist groups like IS.”

On the other hand, Christie gets an implicit thumbs-up for mocking those who charged that his 2011 nomination of a Muslim judge would advance shari’a. CAIR quoted Christie as saying, “This shari’a law business is just crap. It’s just crazy, and I’m tired of dealing with the crazies.”

Clinton is cited favorably for hosting an Eid celebration at the White House in 1996, since when Ramadan celebrations have become an annual White House tradition.

Then-Texas Gov. Rick Perry takes part in a prayer rally in Houston, Texas on Aug. 6, 2011. CAIR officials complained at the time that the rally should have been more inclusive. (AP Photo/Melissa Phillip/Houston Chronicle)

She is also quoted as having said in 2011, “I am proud that this year we are recognizing the contributions of the millions of American Muslims who do so much to make this country strong.”

Also getting a CAIR nod is Rubio, who the group said declined to attend a 2011 Tea Party convention featuring “Islamophobes” Pamela Geller (blogger and leader of the American Freedom Defense Initiative) and Bill Warner (founder and director of the Center for the Study of Political Islam).

Perry is referred to favorably for having participated in a mosque groundbreaking ceremony, but unfavorably for using his office’s resources to promote a Christian mass prayer rally in 2011. (At the time CAIR officials complained that the rally in Houston, which Perry also addressed, should have been more inclusive.)

‘I didn’t see Swedish people knocking down the World Trade Center’

Among others points raised by CAIR:

--Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) is cited for saying in a radio interview that he associates the phrase Allahu Akbar with a “war chant.”

“Muslims all over the world use this phrase multiple times per day, in their calls to prayer and in their peaceful daily lives,” CAIR states.

--Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) is cited for saying in a radio interview, following the Charlie Hebdo terror attack in Paris, “I think also you got to secure your country. That means maybe that every Muslim immigrant that wishes to come to France shouldn't have an open door to come.”

--Donald Trump is cited for a 2011 interview in which he said, “Bill O'Reilly asked me is there a Muslim problem? And I said absolutely, yes. In fact I went a step further. I said I didn’t see Swedish people knocking down the World Trade Center.” (In the same interview – not related by CAIR – Trump said, “most Muslims are wonderful people.”)

CAIR did also note that Trump had been critical of the Mohammed cartoon contest in Texas, hosted by Geller last May. Two gunmen targeted the event in a shooting attack that cost them their lives and for which ISIS claimed responsibility.

Declared GOP presidential candidates Carly Fiorina, Mike Huckabee and George Pataki, and Democrats Martin O’Malley, Lincoln Chafee and Bernie Sanders, do not yet feature in the CAIR examination.

CAIR has long campaigned against a group of critics, including scholars and activists, who focus on radical Islam.

Along with Horowitz, Spencer, Geller, Warner and Frank Gaffney of the CSP they include Daniel Pipes of the Middle East Forum and Steven Emerson of the Investigative Project on Terrorism.

CAIR in turn is a common target of these groups and individuals, who investigate the role that it and other U.S.-based Islamic organizations play in promoting an ideology they view as running counter to U.S. interests.

In 2007 federal prosecutors included CAIR on a list of “unindicted co-conspirators” in a criminal conspiracy by the Holy Land Foundation to finance terrorism. Five former Holy Land organizers were subsequently convicted in Dallas on charges of providing support to Hamas.

CAIR maintains that the “unindicted co-conspirators” label holds no legal weight “since it does not require the Justice Department to prove anything in a court of law.”

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