Council on American-Islamic Relations: A Clear Lack of Integrity
About a month ago, CAIR (Council on American-Islamic Relations) announced an important campaign to improve the image of Islam in America, as reported by Arab News, "US Muslims to challenge anti-Islam bias in children's books" (March 17, 2010), the books in question being a series called "The World of Islam":
On Wednesday, the Pennsylvania chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-PA) will hold a news conference in Philadelphia to announce the launch of a nationwide campaign to challenge anti-Islam bias in a series of children's books that the Washington-based Muslim civil rights group says promote "hostility toward Islam and suspicion of Muslims."The Foreign Policy Research Institute (FPRI), which CAIR is partly attacking for its complicity in the publication of these books, has as one of its leaders my old UC Berkeley professor, Walter McDougall, so I thought that I ought to check out this controversy. At the FPRI site, I found the "FPRI Response to CAIR Allegations" (March 17, 2010), apparently written by Alan Luxenberg, Director of FPRI's Wachman Center, who says in part concerning "The World of Islam" series:
"The overall theme of the books is that Muslims are inherently violent, that Islam is a second-rate religion and that one should be wary of Muslims in any society," said CAIR-PA Civil Rights Director Moein Khawaja. "Any young person reading these books would inevitably develop hostility toward Islam and suspicion of Muslims."
He cited one book in the series that claims "Muslims began immigrating to the United States in order to transform American society, sometimes through the use of terrorism." Another book shows an image of two 7-year-old girls wearing Islamic head scarves under the heading "Security Threats."
Khawaja noted the publisher's questionable sources, including Daniel Pipes, widely regarded by Muslims as one of the nation's leading Islamophobes. (Pipes is a former director of the Foreign Policy Research Institute.) The books also cite anti-Islam activists such as Ayaan Hirsi Ali.
CAIR is America's largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization. Its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.
The books have been attacked as "anti-Islamic" by the Council for American-Islamic Relations (CAIR). This assertion is without basis, and there is no better way to ascertain the truth than to read the books . . . . [W]e provide below some quotations from the books that negate the view that the books have some kind of anti-Islamic agenda.These quotes certainly appear to undermine Mr. Moein Khawaja's assertion that the "overall theme of the books is that Muslims are inherently violent, that Islam is a second-rate religion and that one should be wary of Muslims in any society." Mr. Luxenberg next goes on to address CAIR's specific 'evidence' of "hostility toward Islam and suspicion of Muslims":
"It is the mark of a great world religion to accommodate different outlooks and sensibilities . . . Islam is no exception to this rule." -- Divisions within Islam, p. 6
". . . the Western world must ally itself with the Muslim world in the war on radical Islam." -- Radical Islam, p. 53
"Muslims make up only a small percentage of the U.S. population, but they are an integral part of the American mosaic." -- Islam in America, p. 6
". . . the great majority [of Muslims] reject the Islamist interpretation of their religion and are horrified by the idea of living under an extremist Muslim society." -- The History of Islam, p. 56
To make their case, CAIR's press release cites two items (out of 640 pages of text) but in both cases distort the intended meaning. In one case, CAIR cites this quote from the volume Islam in America:Mr. Luxenberg then turns to CAIR's point about Daniel Pipes:"Muslims began immigrating to the United States in order to transform American society, sometimes through the use of terrorism."But the full quote reads . . . :"Another trend began in the 1980s, corresponding with a rise in Islamism (an ideology that calls for the state's implementation of Islamic law). For the first time, some Muslims began immigration to the United States in order to transform American society, sometimes through the use of terrorism." (p. 14)This quote follows five pages of description of the history of Muslim immigration to the United States.
In the second case, the CAIR press release says "Another book shows an image of two 7-year old girls wearing Islamic head scarves under the heading 'Security Threats.'"
What CAIR omits is that the caption under the picture is about demography. It reads: "The average age of European Muslims is considerably lower than the average of the general population . . ." The subhead "Security Threats" is a heading for the text on that page but it is clear in looking at the page that the subhead has nothing to do with the picture. (Islam in Europe, p. 39)
Finally, the CAIR press release reads "Khawaja [the director of Pennsylvania CAIR] noted the publisher's questionable sources, including Daniel Pipes," whom Khawaja describes as an Islamophobe.Mr. Luxenberg is surely right -- CAIR has misconstrued the meaning of the books. In fact, CAIR's misconstrual is so egregious that I can only infer that Mr. Moein Khawaja, the director of CAIR, has deliberately distorted the meaning since he could not possibly be so hermeneutically incompetent as to inadvertently misread the "Islam in America" books in such a fashion.
It is true the volume on Islam in America contains a bibliography that cites one of Pipes’s books but it also includes citations of books by authors with opposite points of view.
The press release also describes Pipes as a former director of the Foreign Policy Research Institute. It is true: he was director of FPRI -- 17 years ago.
It appears that CAIR has misconstrued the intended meaning of the books. It is our hope that people will read the books and judge for themselves.
I strongly suspect that CAIR itself is an Islamist organization that would be happy to see sharia as the law of the United States, and in a convoluted fashion, another CAIR spokesman, Mr. Ibrahim Hooper, seems to suggest as much:
I wouldn't want to create the impression that I wouldn't like the government of the United States to be Islamic sometime in the future. (Remark of Ibrahim Hooper, in "Reader says use of 'fundamentalist' hurting Muslims," by Lou Gelfand, Minneapolis Star Tribune, April 4, 1993)Rather convoluted, as I said, and no smoking gun, I suppose, but the Islamic government that Hooper wants would surely imply the supremacy of sharia. At any rate, CAIR's obviously deliberate misconstrual of the "Islam in America" books reveals a clear lack of integrity.