In the name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful
Council on American-Islamic Relations
453 New Jersey Avenue, SE
Washington, DC 20003-2604
September 9, 2003
The Honorable Senator John Kyl
Senate Subcommittee on Terrorism, Technology and Homeland Security
c/o Daniel Saterlee
325 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington D.C. 20510
Dear Senator Kyl and Subcommittee Members:
On behalf of our organization and the American Muslim
community, I would like to thank you for inviting me to testify at your subcommittee
hearing entitled “Two Years After 9/11: Connecting the Dots” on September
As you know, the hearing in question is one day before
the anniversary of the September 11 attacks on America. I will not be able
to personally attend the hearing on September 10 because CAIR is the organizing
sponsor for an interfaith memorial vigil to be held at the Capitol reflecting
pool the same day.
I would like to make it perfectly clear that CAIR is
a national civil rights organization and we do not claim to be experts on
terrorism. However, I realize the importance and timeliness of such a hearing
and because the American Muslim community has not been adequately represented
at congressional hearings in the past, I felt obligated to present written
testimony to be submitted for the record. For the record, I would also like
this letter submitted as part of my testimony for the hearing.
Looking at the witness list and theme for this hearing,
I can say with great confidence that this hearing will be used to vilify and
defame the American Muslim community. Because CAIR and the American Muslim
community have nothing to hide, we happily submit this testimony dealing with
many of the predictable fallacies that will be advanced by the Investigative
Project, headed by Steven Emerson.
Regardless, I would like to thank you for this opportunity
and please let me know if we can be of any assistance in the future.
Executive Director, CAIR
Written Testimony of
Senate Subcommittee on Terrorism, Technology and Homeland Security
“Terrorism: Two Years After 9/11, Connecting the Dots”
“American Muslim Community under Siege”
September 10, 2003
Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR)
453 New Jersey Avenue SE
Washington DC, 20003
Table of Contents
I. Biographical sketch of Nihad Awad…………………………………............................3
II. Executive Summary of Testimony…………………………...……………..................4
III. Purpose of CAIR and its Accomplishments……………………….……………….6
IV. American Muslim Community Under Siege…………………………….……...…..7
V. The Rise of Islamophobia: Steven Emerson and The Investigative Project…........11
VI. The Truth About CAIR…………………………………………………….……….18
Appendix A: Text from initial CAIR 9/11 Condemnation…………………………….22
Appendix B: CAIR 9/11 Full Page Ad in Washington Post................................................23
Appendix C: Samples from CAIR New York Times campaign….........……….........…24
Appendix D: Sample of CAIR publications……………………………………………25
Appendix E: Poster from CAIR Library Project.....................................................................26
A Biographical Sketch
Nihad Awad is the Executive Director of the Council on
American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), a Washington DC-based grassroots civil
rights and advocacy organization which seeks to empower the North American
Muslim community through political and social activism.
Mr. Awad and CAIR’s experts are frequently interviewed on national and international
media such as CNN, BBC World Service, PBS, C-SPAN, National Public Radio,
The New York Times, The Washington Post and Al-Jazeerah and its news releases
are disseminated to hundreds of thousands worldwide.
After the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995, Mr. Awad flew
to Oklahoma to aid in the relief effort. He personally met with Governor Frank
Keating and gave the governor a check for $21,000 for the relief effort and
victims’ fund on behalf of the American Muslim community.
In 1997, Mr. Awad was invited to join Vice President Al Gore’s Civil Rights
Advisory Panel to the White House Commission on Aviation Safety and Security.
Mr. Awad has also personally met with former Secretary
of State Madeline Albright and current Secretary of State Colin L. Powell
to discuss the needs of Muslim communities worldwide.
Mr. Awad has been invited by Fortune 500 companies, including
Nike and DKNY, to conduct sensitivity training for their employees.
Mr. Awad has welcomed dignitaries who are visiting the
President of the United States for official state visits through the sponsorship
of the Department of State’s International Visitors Program.
A few days after September 11, Mr. Awad was invited by
the White House to stand next to President Bush at the President’s press conference
at the Islamic Center of Washington, the oldest mosque in the metropolitan
area built in 1949.
As the global community attempts to regain its collective
equilibrium in the wake of the attacks on our country two years ago, all Americans
share in the responsibility of mending the wounds of our society. The Muslim
community in America has taken significant steps in ameliorating strained
relations both within our borders and abroad. With close to seven million
adherents of Islam in the United States today, American Muslims are a vibrant,
diverse and contributing segment of our society. Unfortunately, there are
forces seeking to unravel Islam’s integration into the fabric of American
society and working to silence the voice of American Muslims.
Since September 11, 2001, there has been a notable increase
in the number of hate crimes against those of Muslim, Arab and South Asian
descent. At a local level, incidents of mosque damage, employment discrimination
and physical assaults are frequent occurrences. At the national level, the
secret detention of 762 Muslim and Arab males without due process by
the Justice Department and unfortunate legislation like the USA PATRIOT Act,
have brought the debate on constitutional liberties and anti-terrorism enforcement
measures to a zenith. Like our neighbors, American Muslims desire our country
to be safe and to protect the interests of its citizens. In our national quest
to instill harmonious relations domestically and abroad, there are those
polemicists who promote Islamophobia and seek to divide our nation along
racial, religious and ethnic lines. In order to further their own political,
theological or special interest agendas, these voices of division have dedicated
their lives to slandering Muslim organizations and leaders in their attempt
to advance their own interests.
CAIR is a true American success story for its adherence
to true democratic principles, including life, liberty and property. Since
its incorporation in 1994, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR)
has been at the forefront of Muslim civil rights issues in America. CAIR makes
a difference in the lives of American Muslims on a daily basis by promoting
positive relations within our diverse nation. Headquartered in Washington
DC, CAIR has met with local, national and international leaders to discuss
issues of importance to Muslims in America. Although there are those who seek
to marginalize CAIR’s efforts, CAIR’s track record is evident in the advances
that the American Muslim community has seen politically and socially since
Because of its reputation within, and beyond, the Muslim community, CAIR
has also become the primary contact for most major national and international
media outlets seeking an American Muslim perspective for news stories.
Just as the number of interfaith dialogues have increased
since 9/11, there has also been an astonishing increase in the volume of anti-Muslim
rhetoric in the media and politics today. This new wave of Islamophobia is
being led by a camp of racially prejudiced pundits and special interest mercenaries
who advance their own political or theological schema by spreading lies about
Islam and American Muslims. These so-called “experts,” led by Steven Emerson
of the Investigative Project, use innuendo, conjecture and outright lies
to confuse Americans into believing that mainstream Muslims are somehow complicit
These Islamophobic “usual suspects” attack all Muslims by using recycled
and specious accusations and have been repeatedly discredited by respected
academics and media outlets, including The Los Angeles Times and The New York
Times. Using McCarthyist tactics and “guilt by association”, these Islamophobes
are trying to manipulate public policy. The national Islamophobic camp, led
by Emerson, director of The Investigative Project, whose group is represented
on the witness panel today, attribute quotes out of context and chronology
on a regular basis. As director of the Investigative Project, Emerson’s well-documented
history of recklessly false forgeries against CAIR and other Muslim organizations,
in the attempt to disenfranchise American Muslims, will be shown to be a concrete
example of how Islamophobes are attempting to turn the “war on terror” into
a war on Islam.
CAIR’s principled position on terrorism has always been evident and should
not allow Emerson’s use of “guilt by association” to mislead the respected
senators and the American public on where CAIR and the American Muslim community
stoically stands on these issues.
As the nation’s largest Muslim advocacy group, we would like to state, for
the record, that we are concerned that this hearing is being misused to further
the Islamophobes’ agenda. I would like to make it clear that the reason that
I am unable to testify in person for this hearing today is because CAIR is
the organizing sponsor of a multi-group interfaith September 11th memorial
taking place at the Capitol reflecting pool on this day and are committed
to this event; in the same way that we are fully committed to protecting and
strengthening our nation.
The Investigative Project officials, including Emerson, are juxtaposing
this hearing to coincide with the second anniversary of the attack on our
nation to advance their chronic personal vendettas with the American Muslim
community. As we honor the memory of those innocent souls who lost their
lives two Septembers ago, Islamophobes like Emerson are attempting to emotionally
exploit this anniversary in order to settle their personal vendettas. These
vendettas against CAIR and American Muslims date back to 1994, when American
Muslim organizations’ effectively exposed inaccuracies in Emerson’s documentary,
Jihad in America. Since that time, Emerson’s has become reckless in his obsession
with besmirching American Muslims and CAIR. Since Emerson has archived over
eight years of false accusations against CAIR, it would be impossible to mention
each one in this testimony. However, I have included some of Emerson’s favorite
and most predictable accusations against CAIR and other Muslim organizations.
In the event this testimony does not address all of the accusations brought
forth by the other panelists, CAIR will submit an amended testimony after
the hearing to address additional accusations not already discussed herein.
CAIR and the Muslim community are proud Americans who continue to stand
for justice in the face of intolerance and prejudice. Even though there are
those in the world that espouse hatred and try to divide our country, we
will continue to stand with our fellow Americans in solidarity, peace and
justice for all.
The Purpose of CAIR and its Accomplishments
History has shown that civil rights groups such as NAACP,
American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the Anti-Defamation League (ADL)
are absolutely necessary to protect the rights and interests of minority populations
in America. Since the American Muslim community has only started to become
more significantly involved in the political and social arena within the
last forty years, there was a clear need to form public service organizations
to aid the growing number of Muslims in America.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) is a nonprofit 501(c)(4),
grassroots civil rights and advocacy group founded in 1994. CAIR is America’s
largest mainstream Muslim civil liberties group, with its national headquarters
located in Washington D.C. Affiliated chapters of CAIR are located in more
than twenty major metropolitan areas throughout the United States. CAIR is
a non-sectarian and non-partisan group who protects the rights of all American
CAIR’s overall mission is to promote an accurate image
of Islam and Muslims to our fellow Americans. Through education, advocacy,
media relations and lobbying, CAIR puts forth an Islamic perspective to ensure
that the Muslim voice is represented in America. In offering this perspective,
we seek to empower the American Muslim community and encourage their participation
in American political, social and civic activities.
CAIR’s Communications Department works in conjunction
with local, national and international media outlets to ensure an accurate
portrayal of Islam and Muslims is presented to the public. CAIR monitors
local, national and international media in part, to challenge negative stereotypes,
but also to applaud and encourage accurate representations of Islam and Muslims.
Over the years, CAIR has become a respected and credible source for journalists
and other media professionals; CAIR representatives have made appearances
on CNN, BBC World Service, FOX News, Washington Post, The New York Times,
Los Angeles Times and hundreds of other print and broadcast outlets.
CAIR’s Civil Rights Department has worked tirelessly to aid Muslims claim
their legal rights in the workplace, schools and government. With regard to
employment claims, CAIR has helped in reaching favorable settlements with
dozens of powerful companies, including JC Penney, McDonald's, Sears and Office
Depot. CAIR’s Publications Department also distributes handbook guides, including
the "Employer's Guide to Islamic Religious Practices" and an "Educator's Guide
to Islamic Religious Practices," which are designed to inform educators and
employers as to the rights of Muslim students and workers both in educational
institutions and in the workplace.
In wake of the 9/11 attacks on America, CAIR has also organized town hall
meetings all around the country to help our friends and neighbors learn more
about our faith and cultures. CAIR works regularly with local and federal
law enforcement agencies on numerous issues and CAIR publishes a “Law Enforcement
Official’s Guide to the Muslim Community;” a handbook designed to inform law
enforcement officials as to Muslim religious practices and customs.
American Muslim Community Under Siege
Since the day two fateful Septembers ago when our country
was attacked, Muslims and Arabs have been assailed on almost every front.
The Muslim community in America has been besieged by those seeking to divide
our great nation along religious, racial and cultural lines. As Americans,
we are here to state categorically that we have always been, and always will
be, condemn all acts of terror and will remain contributing members of this
Many Americans are unaware of the strides the Muslim
community has taken in reaching out to our neighbors of other faiths, races
and cultures since the attacks on our country. American Muslim organizations
have loudly condemned the acts of September 11 in dozens of media outlets,
organized blood drives at mosques and community centers across the nation
and collected hundreds of thousands of dollars for the victims of September
11. For example, the Turkish American Muslim Cultural Association raised
$1,000 for the Red Cross 9-11 Fund. All Dulles Area Muslim Society in Sterling,
Virginia announced that the mosque had raised $6,000 for the American Red
Cross and organized a blood drive. Another Muslim charity, Mercy-USA
for Aid and Development, reported in its 2001 annual report the disbursement
of $65,000 in cash grants to six major relief organizations involved in the
provision of assistance to the victims of the attacks. The groups include
the American Red Cross and the Salvation Army, funds set up by New York Governor
George Pataki and New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, and two firefighter associations.
Condemnations of September 11 by the American Muslim Community
There are those Americans who have falsely claimed that
Muslims did not effectively condemn the acts of September 11. In fact, we
were one of the first demographic groups to issue a categorical condemnation
in a nationwide press release. CAIR has also regularly issued news releases
condemning suicide bombings in the Middle East , the murder of Daniel Pearl
, church bombings in Pakistan and acts of terrorism in Iraq, just to
name a few.
At 1:43 PM Eastern Standard Time on September 11, the
American Muslim Political Coordination Council (AMPCC), an umbrella
organization of the major American Muslim political and social services organizations,
issued a national press release which stated in categorical terms: “…American
Muslims utterly condemn what are apparently vicious and cowardly acts of terrorism
against innocent civilians. We join with all Americans in calling for
the swift apprehension and punishment of the perpetrators. No political
cause could ever be assisted by such immoral acts." (see Appendix A)
This initial condemnation was followed by dozens of subsequent
condemnations on behalf of the American Muslim community. In the first few
days where major national newspapers began to run opinion pieces again, CAIR
representatives again condemned the terrorist attacks in the same resounding
manner. In the September 14 edition of The New York Times, another condemnation
was published by a CAIR representative, stating that American Muslims “…utterly
condemn the vicious and cowardly acts that transpired Tuesday in our nation's
capital and in New York City.” In the first eight days following the
attacks, over 108 different statements of condemnation were carried by American
newspapers and wire services, including The Washington Post, USA Today, Associated
Press and Chicago Sun-Times.
In addition, CAIR took out a full-page advertisement
in the Washington Post (Appendix B) on September 16, 2001 which states, in
part: “…American Muslims unequivocally condemn these vicious and cowardly
acts of terrorism…”
Since then, CAIR has spent endless human and financial
resources to dispel stereotypes and myths about Islam. CAIR has sponsored
a yearlong “Islam in America” ad campaign in The New York Times which features
American Muslims from all ethnic backgrounds to show all Americans that there
is no such thing as a “standardized” Muslim.
The CAIR Library Project is designed to provide
local public libraries accurate and scholarly books on Islam. Over half of
the books in the set are written by non-Muslim academics and thanks to Americans
of all faiths; over 6,893 libraries have been sponsored.
Unfortunately, these numerous and resonant condemnations
were not enough for those seeking to marginalize the entire Muslim community
Anti-Muslim Rhetoric in Media and Politics
Although these are only a fraction of the statements made against Islam
and Muslims since 9/11, the documented list below gives a revealing assessment
into the hate-filled rhetoric of individuals with significant influence within
American politics and media outlets:
Ann Coulter, Syndicated Columnist
“…We should invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them
to Christianity.” (Town Hall, September 14, 2001)
Representative (now Senator) Saxby Chambliss (R-GA)
''Just turn [the sheriff] loose and let him arrest every Muslim that crosses
the state line…'' (Associated Press, November 20, 2001)
Representative John Cooksey (R-LA)
"..If I see someone come in and he's got a diaper on his head and a fan
belt around that diaper on his head, that guy needs to be pulled over and
checked…" (Houston Chronicle, September 20, 2001)
Reverend Jerry Falwell
"I think Mohammed was a terrorist…” (60 Minutes, October 6, 2002)
“…[Prophet Muhammad] was an absolute wild-eyed fanatic. He was a robber
and a brigand. And to say that these terrorists distort Islam, they're carrying
out Islam…” (Hannity & Colmes, September 18, 2002)
Reverend Franklin Graham
Reverend Graham called Islam, “"wicked, violent and not of the same god."
(NBC Nightly News, November 16, 2001)
Muslim Civil Rights in America
On July 15, 2003, CAIR issued its eighth annual civil
rights report entitled “The Status of Muslim Civil Rights in the United States
2003: Guilt by Association.” According to the report, in 2002, Muslim community
members in the United States reported 602 complaints of discrimination to
CAIR. According to past reports, this represents a fifteen (15) percent increase
over the previous year, and a sixty-four (64) percent increase from the year
preceding September 11, 2001. These incident reports include: hate crimes,
employment discrimination, unfair prejudice at schools, vandalism to mosques
and homes and racial profiling by local and federal authorities.
Post-September 11 law enforcement measures also had a
severely disparate impact on the lives of innocent Americans of Muslim, Arab
and South Asian descent. In the aftermath of 9/11, 762 men, predominantly
Muslim and Arab, were rounded up by the Justice Department as part of their
“war on terror.” In summarizing a Justice Department report on the treatment
of Muslim and Arab detainees, Glen A. Fine, Inspector General of the Department
of Justice, conceded that “…we found significant problems in the way the
detainees were handled…” These detentions, completely secret in many
cases, not only violated due process guarantees granted by the Constitution;
the mass round-up of Muslim and Arab men did not result in any charges of
“terrorism” against the detainees. Most of the detainees were being held
on minor immigration violations and many were subsequently deported to their
country of origin.
Many laws and directives proposed since September 11
slowly dissolve certain inalienable rights guaranteed to all Americans by
the Constitution. The most unfortunate legislation passed in recent history,
USA PATRIOT Act of 2001, has allowed law enforcement officials to circumvent
hallmark Fourth Amendment protections of due process and probable cause.
It took the efforts of both Republican and Democratic privacy advocates to
defeat the proposed Terrorism Information and Prevention System (TIPS), a
system which would create a citizen spy network.
Although our nation attempts to regain a sense of collective security, let
us remember that Benjamin Franklin said “…they who would give up an essential
liberty for temporary security, deserve neither liberty nor security.”
The Rise of Islamophobia
The Pluralism Project, an independent religious think
tank based at Harvard University, cites the 2000 World Almanac as saying that
there are approximately 5.5 Muslims living in America today. With the
recent influx of immigrants from Muslim countries constituting a significant
population of new Americans, the increased social and political importance
of the American Muslim community would be a natural correlation to make. In
the post-September 11 world that we live in today, Muslim political and social
activities have taken on heightened importance. However, there are those
who see the empowerment of the American Muslim community as a direct threat
to their political, theological and special interest agendas. The most exemplifying
of these polemicists, and sadly, a regular witness before Congress, The Investigative
Project and its executive director, Steven Emerson.
Whereas healthy and vigorous debate is an essential part
of any civilized democratic society, those who dedicate their lives to the
marginalization of an entire demographic group should be taken to task for
their actions. Revelations of their continuing frauds will only help to foster
honest debate within people of different faiths and cultures in the amelioration
of global wounds from which we all suffering.
The Investigative Project
The Investigative Project, headed by Islamophobe Steven Emerson, is probably
the best example of Islamophobia today. As a self-appointed “expert” on terrorism,
Mr. Emerson recently cited in his latest congressional testimony that he has
testified at more than sixteen (16) congressional hearings in the past.
Mr. Emerson’s history of innuendo and conjecture has effectively discredited
his veracity among many in media and law enforcement agencies in the United
States; and it is essential for the true pursuit of investigative endeavors
to prevent representatives from the Investigative Project, especially Mr.
Emerson, from testifying at future congressional proceedings. Unfortunately,
Mr. Emerson’s animosity towards Arabs and Muslims began as early as 1991 and
before he, his representatives or other Islamophobes are given the platform
to address a congressional hearing yet again, it is essential to offer documented
and mainstream refutations of Mr. Emerson’s self-proclaimed “expertise.” We
will also see that many of today’s Islamophobes simply regurgitate many of
Mr. Emerson’s claims.
Below is a chronological timeline of false assertions on significant international
acts and how mainstream media and political leaders have discredited Mr. Emerson
and why future congressional committees should take this into serious consideration
before extending any future invitations to The Investigative Project and
Reviews of Emerson’s Book Terrorist (1991)
In 1991, Mr. Emerson wrote a book entitled Terrorist, a chronicle of the
life of an Iraqi defector, Adnan Awad (no relation to the author of this testimony),
and of alleged Iraqi government ties to terrorist activity. An April 28,
1991 Los Angeles Times book review of Mr. Emerson’s book stated that, “…’Terrorist’
is a difficult book to assess because the authors are so coy about documenting
their claims….This lack of documentation reduces a potentially significant
critique of U.S. foreign policy to a potboiler that reads like a bad Robert
Adrienne Edgar, reviewing the book for the New York Times, wrote a scathing
review of Terrorist. In a letter to the editor to the New York Times on June
16, 1991, Mr. Emerson concedes that Ms. Edgar said in her review that his
book was marked by "a pervasive anti-Arab and anti-Palestinian bias."
He also concedes that she states that he has lost “all journalistic objectivity.”
This lack of journalistic integrity is something that is consistent throughout
Mr. Emerson’s notorious career and has no place testifying in sixteen congressional
PBS Documentary Jihad in America (1994)
In December 1994, Mr. Emerson produced a documentary
for PBS entitled Jihad in America. The one-hour long documentary included
scenes depicting Muslims meeting in Oklahoma City allegedly to “wage war”
on this country, as proof that Islamic terrorist groups were involved [in
the Oklahoma City bombing].”
In reviewing the film, investigative reporter Robert
Friedman notes that “…the film's fundamental deceit is that the speakers
are not referring to America but to [Soviet occupied] Afghanistan and Israel
[‘s pursuit of the Occupied Territories].” Friedman goes further and
examines the funding for the documentary and the special interest agenda
of Mr. Emerson in promoting this film.
According to Friedman, prior to its airing on PBS, Emerson
screened Jihad in America for officials at the New York headquarters of a
major national Jewish organization. He wanted their public endorsement of
the film to increase pressure on Clinton for tougher laws to combat Arab terror.
While the Jewish leaders weren't shy about using the film to press Clinton
for laws to increase federal police powers, they didn't want to be publicly
identified with the video, for fear of harming interfaith relations.
As Friedman continues, the Israeli government was less
concerned about stereotyping Arabs. Emerson also gave a sneak preview for
Israeli officials in Washington. Emerson's film not only helped them press
their case with the Administration--“that Islam is our common enemy”--but
it also helped to rehabilitate Emerson with the Labor government. Friedman
states that the Labor party was angry with Emerson for helping Likud undermine
the peace process under assassinated Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. Yigal Carmon
is a former high-ranking Likud government official, and a member of Israel’s
Mossad intelligence agency. Prime Minister Rabin had dubbed him as
part of the “Gang of Three,” after a Mossad trio started lobbying Capitol
Hill against the Israeli-P.L.O. accord, which Rabin was endorsing. Carmon
has frequently stayed in Emerson's Washington DC apartment on his frequent
visits to the United States. Carmon was also credited as an adviser on Jihad
In America and openly endorsed the use of torture as state practice
in a May 4, 1995 Washington Post article.
Writing in a June 14, 1990 opinion editorial in The Wall
Street Journal, noted commentator Alexander Cockburn writes about Mr. Emerson’s
agenda and that "Mr. Emerson's prime role is to whitewash Israeli governments
and revile their critics."
Oklahoma City Bombing (1995)
On April 19, 1995, around 9:03 a.m., just after parents dropped their children
off at day care at the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in downtown Oklahoma
City, the unthinkable happened.
A massive bomb inside a rental truck exploded, blowing half of the nine-story
building into oblivion. A stunned nation watched as the bodies of men, women,
and children were pulled from the rubble for nearly two weeks. When the smoke
cleared and the exhausted rescue workers packed up and left, 168 people were
dead in the worst terrorist attack on American soil. Mr. Emerson saw
an open opportunity to personally avail himself of this terrible tragedy.
This resulted in Mr. Emerson’s most notorious gaffe to date, which occurred
on April 19, 1995 at 11:15 AM on CNBC’s show Rivera Live. Less than two hours
after the attack, even though the FBI had no leads or evidence to assign culpability
to anyone, Mr. Emerson had no hesitation in using his “expertise” to surmise
who had committed the bombing. During the interview, Mr. Emerson claimed
that “it was Islamic extremists who mounted this attack.”
The next day, while speaking to co-host Harry Smith of CBS This Morning,
Emerson made the absurd statement that, “Oklahoma City, I can tell you, is
probably considered one of the largest centers of Islamic radical activity
outside the Middle East.” In the two days following the Oklahoma City
bombing, Mr. Emerson was interviewed for over 43 news outlets, each
and every time asserting that “Islamic extremists” had mounted the attack.
Even though Timothy McVeigh was subsequently arrested for the crime, the fact
that Emerson received so much airtime to discharge lies of which he had no
proof, many Americans began to search for Arab and Muslims as suspects.
In the first forty-eight hours after the Oklahoma City bombing, CAIR received
over 220 reports of hate crimes against American Muslims and Arabs. That total
includes 133 hate calls, 50 incidents of verbal threats, 15 bomb threats,
seven beatings, four shootings and the suspected destruction by arson of an
Islamic Center in North Carolina.
One of these stories is of a pregnant Iraqi refugee, Sahar al-Muwsawi.
Ms. Al-Muwsawi hid in her bathroom as a group of unknown attackers shattered
the windows and pounded on the doors of her home, screaming anti-Islamic epithets.
She felt a pain in her abdomen and began to bleed uncontrollably. Even though
federal authorities arrested Timothy McVeigh the next day, that knowledge
came too late for Sahar al-Muwsawi. She miscarried her near-term baby, who
was buried a few days later. This is only one of the hundreds of painful
scenarios that American Muslims went through, in part due, to Mr. Emerson’s
reckless disregard for the truth.
After it was revealed that Emerson was completely wrong in his claim, news
organizations appeared less interested in Emerson's pronouncements. A CBS
contract expired and was not renewed. Emerson had been a regular source
and occasional writer for The Washington Post; his name doesn't turn up once
in Post archives after January 1, 1996. USA Today mentioned Emerson a dozen
times before September 1996 and never after that. According to a Boston
Globe column by Jeff Jacoby, in 1998, National Public Radio (NPR) banned Mr.
Emerson from appearing on their network as a future guest on Islamic groups.
When asked about how Emerson is perceived by fellow journalists, noted investigative
author Seymour Hersh summed it up succinctly:
American Jihad: The Terrorists Live Among Us (2002)
In 2002, The Investigative Project’s executive director wrote a book entitled
American Jihad: The Terrorists Live Among Us. It outlined the “history” of
nine “terrorist support networks” based in America: Muslim Arab Youth Association,
the American Islamic Group, Islamic Cultural Workshop, the Council on American-Islamic
Relations (CAIR), the American Muslim Council (AMC), Islamic Circle of North
America (ICNA), the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC), the American Muslim
Alliance (AMA) and the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA). It is fascinating
that Mr. Emerson implicates every single major American Muslim umbrella organization
in the “list” in the book. By conveniently placing all the major Muslim organizations
on his “terrorist networks” list, he has effectively proclaimed that representatives
of the entire American Muslim community are complicit with terrorism. Even
though these groups operate transparently, have met with several U.S. Presidents
and have been featured on international media as voices of “moderate Islam,”
Mr. Emerson recklessly labels any organization that disagrees with his worldview
as “supporting terrorism.” Many other anti-Muslim commentators use false allegations
from this book in their commentaries, interviews and press releases in their
attempt to attack Islam.
A Los Angeles Times book review called Emerson’s book “suspicious.”
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette wrote a book review which stated that “…what he
[Emerson] has uncovered about the groups’ [including CAIR] role in terrorism
seems largely speculative.” The Post-Gazette reviewer continues to say
that “…these [American Muslim] groups [that Emerson has targeted] appeared
to be operating legally…[and]…he connected none of them to any direct role
in Osama bin Laden’s Sept. 11 attacks [or any other terrorist attack].” The
reviewer concludes by saying that overall the book was “… [a] frequently dull
The most significant rebuke came from a past executive of the Central Intelligence
Agency. When asked about Mr. Emerson’s theses on American Muslim organizations
fronting for international terrorist groups, especially pro-Palestinian groups,
Vincent Cannistraro, a former director of counterterrorism for the CIA, did
not mince his words in an interview with Eric Boehlert of Salon.com.
"It's total bulls--t," he says. "He's say[ing] people who move to this country
and set up charities and think tanks…are associated with Hamas and Islamic
Jihad and Hezbollah, that there's some kind of connection between them and
Sept. 11, that there's a liaison or support network. He doesn't know what
he's talking about." He continues by saying that, "…Neither Hamas [n]or
Islamic Jihad, which have an infrastructure in the U.S…has ever targeted Americans
here…It would be counterproductive to their cause. [T]heir focus is Israel
and occupied territories."
He is not alone in his disdain for Emerson’s self-righteous claims. Robin
Wright, chief diplomatic correspondent for the Los Angeles Times, agrees,
noting that Palestinian groups, "…don't target the American embassy or consulate
in Jerusalem. That's not what their goal is. Their focus is on Israel."
In his article for Salon.com, Eric Boehlert explained that although Mr.
Emerson considers himself an expert, “…[t]his sensationalistic, poorly reasoned
book will do nothing to enhance Emerson's stature among serious scholars…”
Finally, Boehlert states “…there [i]s nothing in ‘American Jihad’ to suggest
any American-based Muslim organization had anything to do with, or had any
advance knowledge of, the [9/11] attacks…”
Like other Islamophobes, Mr. Emerson tries to legitimize his hatred by claiming
that he only takes issue with “radical Muslims” and not those he personally
considers to be “moderate.” It is hard to imagine what Mr. Emerson’s definition
of “moderate” would be, since he has placed every single major Muslim organization
on his “terrorist support” list in American Jihad.
His duplicity is no better epitomized than his statement at a hearing of
the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks upon the United States on July
9, 2003. He states, on the record, “…it is critical to point out that militant
Islam does not equal Islam. Islam as a religion, like Christianity and Judaism,
does not endorse violence (emphasis added).”
His true feelings on Islam came out in the March 1995 issue of Jewish Monthly:
“…We don't want to accept it because to do so would be to acknowledge that
(Islam)...sanctions genocide, planned genocide, as part of its religious doctrine
Other notable figures’ thoughts on The Investigative Project’s executive
Leslie Gelb, President Emeritus and Board Senior Fellow, Council on Foreign
Mr. Gelb called Emerson a "grand inquisitor" for trying to censor a CFR
publication. (“Forward” Magazine, 5/10/96)
Center for National Security Studies:
“…Steven Emerson has asserted that the FBI is severely restricted in infiltrating
known extremist groups, that it has no terrorism data base like the CIA's,
and that it is powerless to stop extremist groups from masquerading as "religious"
groups. All of these claims are incorrect.”
Charles W. Hall and Robert O’Harrow, Jr. of the Washington Post, August
Called Mr. Emerson a “…pro-Israel researcher and author…”
The Jerusalem Post, September 17, 1994
Stated Mr. Emerson as having “close ties to Israeli intelligence.”
Former United States Congressman Paul Findley (R-IL, 1961-83)
“Because many Israelis see Islam as an enemy, Emerson seems constrained
to see Islam as his own enemy…
“…[And] deserts the truth in his zeal to misrepresent Islam as a barbaric,
The Truth About CAIR
Since CAIR was specifically invited to testify at this
hearing, we can only assume that the respected panelist from The Investigative
Project may level some of the same fabrications that have been declared by
their Executive Director. We feel as though it is necessary to document some
of the recurring and recycled smears by Mr. Emerson and his likes against
CAIR and American Muslims.
The following attacks are examples of the most common
and widely disseminated false attacks on American Muslims by Islamophobes.
For purposes of this hearing, CAIR has offered documented refutations of a
few of the recurring defamatory, false and bigoted statements made to date.
Since Islamophobes dedicate their careers to maligning Muslims, this is
not a comprehensive list of all the lies spread about the American Muslim
community; however, since we were not extended the courtesy of receiving
the other witnesses’ testimony prior to submitting our own for this hearing
today, we would be happy to submit an addendum to this testimony to address
those lies as well.
Most of the following false statements can be found directly in an August
5, 1996 Wall Street Journal commentary by The Investigative Project’s director
and noted Islamophobe, Steven Emerson.
MYTH: Mr. Emerson stated in the Wall Street Journal article that, “…A recent
CAIR report listed as a ‘hate crimes against Muslims’ the conviction of Mr.
[Omar] Abdul-Rahman [for 1993 World Trade Center bombing] and the arrest
of Mr. [Mousa Abu] Marzuk…”
FACT: In this commentary, Mr. Emerson is regurgitating the lies of his close
friend and fellow Islamophobe, Daniel Pipes. In an April 24, 2002 piece for
The Jerusalem Post, Pipes made virtually identical assertions as Emerson makes
here. The same Pipes’ piece also appeared in the April 22, 2002 edition
of the tabloid New York Post.
The only CAIR material that both Pipes and Emerson could
possibly be referring to is CAIR’s 1996 civil rights report entitled “The
Status of Muslim Civil Rights in America.” There one paragraph in the 1996
report mentioning both Sheikh Abdul-Rahman and Dr. Abu-Marzuk is the only
mention of the two in the entire annals of official CAIR released literature.
Regarding Dr. Abu-Marzuk’s trial, CAIR quoted his attorney, Stanley Cohen,
as saying that he thought “…the case against his client is political rather
than criminal.” The only mention of Sheikh Abdul-Rahman was that the
“…lawyers defending Shaykh Omar Abdel Rahman complain that his trial was far
from free and fair.”
Nowhere in the report does it refer to these cases either
as a “travesty of justice” or a “hate crime.” Mr. Emerson’s reliance on his
friend Daniel Pipes’ false statements show the veracity of his journalistic
To prove that this is an outright lie, CAIR would be
happy to provide a copy of the page in question from the 1996 CAIR civil
rights report to any interested parties.
MYTH: In a recent congressional hearing, Mr. Emerson proclaimed that, “…[CAIR]
received some of its initial seed money from the Holy Land Foundation for
Relief and Development (HLFRD)…”
FACT: This is an outright lie. Our organization did not receive any seed
money from HLFRD. CAIR raises its own funds and we challenge Mr. Emerson to
provide even a shred of evidence to support his ridiculous claim. In fact,
it is known that our DC headquarters was funded largely by a loaned grant
mortgage from the Islamic Development Bank (IDB), a multinational financial
institution similar in nature to the World Bank.
MYTH: “… [CAIR] has disseminated Hamas communiqués…”
FACT: This may be one of the most ridiculous charges ever made by Emerson.
This is a prima facie defamatory statement and since our incorporation in
1994, CAIR has never voiced support for Hamas, let alone “disseminate” its
CAIR’s communications director contacted James Taranto
of The Wall Street Journal editorial page to demand that the WSJ and Emerson
produce evidence of these absurd claims. Not surprisingly, no evidence or
explanation was ever provided
Although this is not a comprehensive documentation of all the fallacious
claims made by Islamophobes, it was meant to show that The Investigative Project,
led by Mr. Emerson, is part of a greater problem. The continuous slander
of American Muslim organizations by so-called “experts” will do nothing to
improve our country or the international political arena. There only goal
is to make certain that their myopic worldview is not challenged by anyone;
and anyone who does challenge their political beliefs will be dishonored by
any malicious means necessary.
By attacking the more established and respected civil rights organizations
within the American Muslim community, these political instigators’ hatred
and bigotry is, in effect, unraveling a portion of the social fabric of America.
As a community, we fully realize that every minority
group who has sought political and social empowerment in America has endured
difficult periods in their history in this country.
We, the American Muslim community do not seek any special treatment; all
that we ask of our government is that we are afforded the same rights and
privileges as any other lawful citizens. To be unjustly targeted and attacked
solely based on our religion or culture is against everything that this country
was founded upon. While we support legitimate efforts at law enforcement and
protecting America from future attack, the constitutional protections which
have been in place for centuries must remain stoically intact. The
forefathers of this country fled their native land because of religious persecution
and for a population to be maligned because of their faith in the United
States is completely antithetical to the principles for which America stands.
The American Muslim community is a thriving and contributing
portion of our society. A Zogby International poll conducted in November 2001
showed that 58 percent of Muslims in America are college graduates and 50
percent of Muslims earn in excess of $50,000 annually.
Even though we feel as though we are a community under
siege at this time, American Muslims would like to remind our fellow Americans
that in the great legacy of civil rights movements; those who seek to divide
our nation on racial, religious or cultural lines will fail miserably.
Let it be known that whether it is slander in the media, hate crimes, unjust
law enforcement measures or unfortunate legislation, Muslims in America will
persevere; and when this chapter of American history finally concludes, our
nation will be a better place because of it.
Looking back at the historic legacies of the women’s rights movement, the
tragic internment of 150,000 Japanese Americans during World War II, and culminating
with the African-American civil rights movement of the 1960s, we realize
that the reason that we have our freedoms today is because there were those
before us who were willing to endure great struggles to protect those rights.
We, the American Muslim community, would like all of our fellow Americans
to know that we hope to follow in the brave footsteps of these dignified
communities and make America a better place to live for all.
Text of initial September 11th condemnation by American Muslim community
Copyright 2001 PR Newswire Association, Inc.
September 11, 2001, Tuesday
SECTION: STATE AND REGIONAL NEWS
DISTRIBUTION: TO NATIONAL EDITOR
LENGTH: 231 words
HEADLINE: U.S. Muslims Condemn Terrorist Attacks
DATELINE: WASHINGTON, Sept. 11
The American Muslim Political Coordination Council (AMPCC)*, today condemned
the apparent terrorist attacks in New York and Washington and offered condolences
to the families of those who were killed or injured.
The AMPCC statement read in part:
"American Muslims utterly condemn what are apparently vicious and cowardly
acts of terrorism against innocent civilians. We join with all Americans
in calling for the swift apprehension and punishment of the perpetrators.
No political cause could ever be assisted by such immoral acts."
* The AMPCC consists of American Muslim Alliance, American Muslim Council,
Council on American-Islamic Relations, and Muslim Public Affairs Council.
CAIR Full Page Advertisement
Washington Post, September 16, 2001
Sample from CAIR “Islam in America” campaign in The New York Times
Available at http://www.americanmuslims.info/
Samples of CAIR publications
2003 Congressional Handbook
2003 Civil Rights Report
Muslim Community Safety Kit
2002 Civil Rights Report
Ad poster for CAIR Library Project