Commentary Magazine


Topic: CAIR

Difference Between Prudence and Prejudice

In the aftermath of the conclusion of the traumatic week of terror in Boston, the inevitable questions about the religious motivations of the two Chechen immigrants who were the perpetrators are being asked. Unfortunately, many of them are certain to be obfuscated. While everyone needs to be careful not to associate the millions of honest, hard-working and loyal Americans who are Muslims with the crimes of the Tsarnaev brothers, the politically correct impulse to ignore what appears to be the latest instance of homegrown Islamist terrorism could lead to a repeat of the same mistakes that were made after the Fort Hood shooting, when the government went out of its way to ignore the implications of the murderer’s reasons for committing the crime.

As former U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey wrote this past weekend in the Wall Street Journal, there is good reason to worry that the FBI interrogators of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev have been infected with the same determination to refuse to think clearly about jihadist ideology that has characterized much of the way the mainstream media thinks about terrorism.

As Mukasey writes:

At the behest of such Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated groups as the Council on American Islamic Relations [CAIR] and the Islamic Society of North America, and other self-proclaimed spokesmen for American Muslims, the FBI has bowdlerized its training materials to exclude references to militant Islamism. Does this delicacy infect the FBI’s interrogation group as well?

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In the aftermath of the conclusion of the traumatic week of terror in Boston, the inevitable questions about the religious motivations of the two Chechen immigrants who were the perpetrators are being asked. Unfortunately, many of them are certain to be obfuscated. While everyone needs to be careful not to associate the millions of honest, hard-working and loyal Americans who are Muslims with the crimes of the Tsarnaev brothers, the politically correct impulse to ignore what appears to be the latest instance of homegrown Islamist terrorism could lead to a repeat of the same mistakes that were made after the Fort Hood shooting, when the government went out of its way to ignore the implications of the murderer’s reasons for committing the crime.

As former U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey wrote this past weekend in the Wall Street Journal, there is good reason to worry that the FBI interrogators of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev have been infected with the same determination to refuse to think clearly about jihadist ideology that has characterized much of the way the mainstream media thinks about terrorism.

As Mukasey writes:

At the behest of such Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated groups as the Council on American Islamic Relations [CAIR] and the Islamic Society of North America, and other self-proclaimed spokesmen for American Muslims, the FBI has bowdlerized its training materials to exclude references to militant Islamism. Does this delicacy infect the FBI’s interrogation group as well?

The real issue right now is not so much the legal question of whether Tsarnaev is designated as an enemy combatant or just a garden-variety domestic terrorist—though that is an important issue—so much as whether Americans understand that pro-jihad Islamist adherents are a source of such fearful crimes. The most important thing for Americans to realize right now is that there is a difference between prudent monitoring of sources of Islamist propaganda and prejudice against Muslims who deserve the full protection of the law.

The stories being reported about the behavior of the Tsarnaevs make it all the more important that police forces not be deterred from intelligence work because of efforts by groups like CAIR to silence efforts to discuss Islamism. If Tamerlan Tsarnaev was, as the Boston Globe reports, disrupting events at his local mosque when moderate speakers appeared, it bears asking whether greater vigilance might have connected the dots between this behavior and this man’s trips to Russia that had already triggered interest on the part of Moscow’s intelligence agencies and the FBI.

Aggressive surveillance and investigations of possible meeting places for potential homegrown Islamist terrorists by New York City police have been bitterly criticized in the past. But as much as we must be careful about second-guessing law enforcement agencies for having missed any potential warnings about the Tsarnaevs, what happened in Boston last week should reinforce the need for the NYPD to keep thinking about terrorism, and for other departments to emulate their practices.

Above all, it is vital for this case to be discussed frankly without the knee-jerk impulse to ignore the role of religion in this atrocity. Being able to do so should not be considered prejudicial by definition, as those groups like CAIR have tried hard to establish. Our problem is not just the terrorist threat these Islamists clearly constitute to the safety of the United States—as Boston has again demonstrated—but that too many in our government seem unwilling to face up to the implications of the growth of a hateful ideology with Muslim Brotherhood origins and connections to al-Qaeda and other terror groups. That has occurred because of the influence of CAIR as well as the predilection of some in the foreign policy establishment to embrace the Brotherhood elsewhere. Until we address these problems, we will find ourselves asking the same questions after the next Islamist terror attack on our soil.

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Holder Takes Latest Cheap Shot at NYPD

Attorney General Eric Holder doubled down on his threats of a federal investigation of the New York City Police Department’s Counter-Terrorism Unit yesterday at a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing. Asked to comment on the brouhaha about NYPD personnel performing surveillance on Muslims in the Greater New York region, including those in New Jersey by Sen. Frank Lautenberg, Politico reports that Holder repeated his previous pledge that the Justice Department is reviewing these activities, clearly with an eye toward hamstringing the department’s work.

The NYPD’s post 9/11 attack surveillance program was both prudent and lawful. To his credit, Mayor Michael Bloomberg has slammed the attacks by Holder, the New York Times editorial page (here and here), as well as politicians like Lautenberg and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie as an attempt to turn the issue into a “political football.” Sadly, the campaign to restrain law enforcement agencies from taking a close look at groups and mosques where Islamists gather is taking its cue from those groups that purport to represent American Muslims but whose real agenda is to promote the myth there has been a wave of discrimination against this group when there is no evidence to back up their claims. The upshot of this grandstanding will be a blow to the effort to root out homegrown terrorists.

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Attorney General Eric Holder doubled down on his threats of a federal investigation of the New York City Police Department’s Counter-Terrorism Unit yesterday at a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing. Asked to comment on the brouhaha about NYPD personnel performing surveillance on Muslims in the Greater New York region, including those in New Jersey by Sen. Frank Lautenberg, Politico reports that Holder repeated his previous pledge that the Justice Department is reviewing these activities, clearly with an eye toward hamstringing the department’s work.

The NYPD’s post 9/11 attack surveillance program was both prudent and lawful. To his credit, Mayor Michael Bloomberg has slammed the attacks by Holder, the New York Times editorial page (here and here), as well as politicians like Lautenberg and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie as an attempt to turn the issue into a “political football.” Sadly, the campaign to restrain law enforcement agencies from taking a close look at groups and mosques where Islamists gather is taking its cue from those groups that purport to represent American Muslims but whose real agenda is to promote the myth there has been a wave of discrimination against this group when there is no evidence to back up their claims. The upshot of this grandstanding will be a blow to the effort to root out homegrown terrorists.

At the bottom of all the outrage generated by a series of articles by the Associated Press about the NYPD’s surveillance efforts is the assertion by groups like the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) that American Muslims are somehow being deterred from attending religious services or gatherings because of this. Critics of the program believe there is no correlation between any information the NYPD might obtain from legally monitoring communities whose members have expressed support for foreign terrorist groups such as Hamas (CAIR was founded as a political front group for the Holy Land Foundation, that terrorist organization’s fundraising outlet in this country.) Given that the NYPD has foiled a number of terror attacks in recent years, the idea that it should cut back on its intelligence efforts aimed at seeking to stop terrorists and their sympathizers before they strike is the sort of politically-motivated mischief that could potentially cost lives.

It is also important to note that the claim, repeated by the New York Times in its latest editorial on the subject, that Muslims “are now wary of praying in public, joining faith-based groups or patronizing some restaurants and shops” is put forward without a shred of proof. If there has been a decline in attendance at mosques, particularly those led by figures such as Christie’s friend Imam Mohammed Qatanani, who have expressed support for Hamas, we have yet to hear of it. The Times believes “the real life consequences” of the surveillance has been to impede the government’s law enforcement activities because they undermine American Muslims’ trust in their fairness. But this is an absurd distortion of the truth.

The NYPD’s counter-terrorism record is exemplary. The mere fact that its members sought to keep tabs on those communities where Islamists might be found did nothing to harm law-abiding Muslims. Rather, like everyone else, they were protected from potential killers.

Groups like CAIR who promote the myth of the post-9/11 backlash do so to advance their own political agenda. The same can be said of outlets like the Times and liberals like Holder who seem determined to return to the mentality of September 10 when concern about Islamist terror was marginalized. Should they prevail the consequences for all Americans, no matter what their faith or ethnic background, will be serious.

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The Roots of the Christie-King Border War

Why exactly did New Jersey Governor Chris Christie join the mob bashing New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly last week over the force’s surveillance policies? Christie’s shot across the Hudson prompted Rep. Peter King to fire back at the governor for “trying to score cheap political points” at Kelly’s expense. That led the notoriously thin-skinned Christie to describe King’s riposte as “ridiculous” and to pull rank as a former prosecutor. All this could be dismissed as just a meaningless exchange between two politicians who love to run their mouths and are intolerant of criticism. It could also be put down as merely the natural instinct of New Jersey politicians to take umbrage at any instance of New York encroachment onto Garden State territory.

However, those who have followed Christie’s attempts to ingratiate himself with the Muslim community, sometimes at the expense of law enforcement imperatives, may recognize a familiar pattern in his willingness to bash Kelly’s decision to order the NYPD to gather intelligence across the river in Jersey. Christie and King found themselves lining up with two competing Muslim factions: Christie with extremist groups like the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), who oppose all efforts to investigate homegrown Islamist terror and King with those Muslims like Dr. M. Zuhdi Jasser, who have taken the position that American Muslims have a responsibility to root out radicals.

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Why exactly did New Jersey Governor Chris Christie join the mob bashing New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly last week over the force’s surveillance policies? Christie’s shot across the Hudson prompted Rep. Peter King to fire back at the governor for “trying to score cheap political points” at Kelly’s expense. That led the notoriously thin-skinned Christie to describe King’s riposte as “ridiculous” and to pull rank as a former prosecutor. All this could be dismissed as just a meaningless exchange between two politicians who love to run their mouths and are intolerant of criticism. It could also be put down as merely the natural instinct of New Jersey politicians to take umbrage at any instance of New York encroachment onto Garden State territory.

However, those who have followed Christie’s attempts to ingratiate himself with the Muslim community, sometimes at the expense of law enforcement imperatives, may recognize a familiar pattern in his willingness to bash Kelly’s decision to order the NYPD to gather intelligence across the river in Jersey. Christie and King found themselves lining up with two competing Muslim factions: Christie with extremist groups like the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), who oppose all efforts to investigate homegrown Islamist terror and King with those Muslims like Dr. M. Zuhdi Jasser, who have taken the position that American Muslims have a responsibility to root out radicals.

Christie’s complaint that NYPD personnel should ask permission of the Joint Terrorism Task Force before merely gathering routine intelligence on Muslims in parts of New Jersey which most in the area would consider part of the New York metropolitan area, seems innocuous. In joining the gang tackle on Kelly and then backing it up by claiming he was neutral about whether the matter ought to be made the subject of an investigation by New Jersey’s attorney general, the governor is pandering to groups like CAIR and the American Muslim Union–and not for the first time.

Though, as Christie was quick to point out, he was involved in prosecutions of terror cases while serving as a U.S. attorney, he intervened on behalf of Mohammed Qatanani, the imam of the Islamic Center of Passaic County, in his deportation case. Qatanani, a Palestinian, is a supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood and admitted to being a member of Hamas when he was arrested by Israeli authorities in 1993 before coming to the United States. Christie not only sought to prevent the deportation but spoke at the imam’s mosque which had previously been the site of a $2 million fundraiser for Hamas by the now banned Holy Land Foundation.

It is difficult to view his involvement in the Qatanani case as anything but a cynical pander for votes on the part of a man who was about to run for governor. Christie subsequently appointed Qatanani’s lawyer to a judgeship.

King, who took a great deal of unfair criticism last year for the congressional hearings that he held about homegrown Islamist terror, clearly saw Christie’s attack on Kelly as similar to the bashing he received.

Kelly is also under fire for allowing a movie about the topic titled “The Third Jihad” narrated by Jasser to be shown as part of an NYPD training program. The mainstream media has taken its cues about the film from CAIR but, as Jeff Jacoby noted in a brilliant dissection of the controversy, the film merely attempted to draw a distinction between the law-abiding Muslim majority in this country and extremist groups like CAIR that seek to obstruct law enforcement investigations and often rationalize terror.

King, who led a demonstration yesterday with Jasser in support of the embattled Kelly, understands that politicians cannot play ball with Islamists while at the same time pretending to be tough on terror. While Christie’s record as governor has been admirable, especially with regard to his courage in taking on out-of-control state and municipal worker unions, it does not render him invulnerable to criticism on other matters. If Chris Christie eventually seeks national office, as his many fans in the Republican Party expect, this issue will be raised again.

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RE: Another Jab at Campbell

Tom Campbell must be sensing a growing storm of controversy over his anti-Israel record. Campbell tells the Daily Caller that he can’t figure out why his opponent Carly Fiorina is attacking his anti-Israel record. He sends a statement, declaring, “Carly Fiorina’s latest attack suggesting that I am anti-Israel and pro-jihadist is desperate and irresponsible.” He insists, “In Congress, I always voted in favor of providing military aid to Israel, and have always supported Israel’s right to defend itself — including taking military action against Iran to prevent its development of nuclear arms.” Well, except for the times he wrote “Campbell Amendments” to cut aid to Israel. He also gets caught fudging the record:

Campbell’s office provided a letter from former Rep. Tom Lantos, California Democrat and Holocaust survivor, to Campbell in 1999, which they said demonstrated his bona fides on the issue of support for Israel.

“Since we first met, I have known of your strong support for the State of Israel and its people. You and I have spoken many times of the need to assure the survival of Israel, as well as to fight against hatred and bias around the world, including here in our own country,” Lantos wrote.

However, Lantos’s words were a preface to concerns he expressed about Campbell’s vote in 1999 against $30 million in economic aid to Israel.

Oops. A top official with a pro-Israel organization in Washington tells me, “During his time in the House, Tom Campbell distinguished himself as no friend of Israel or the pro-Israel community. To suggest otherwise would be dishonest.”

Part of the reason his opponents are having a field day is that Campbell has taken money ($2,000 in his Senate race in 2000, for example) from some very extreme characters, like Nihad Awad, the co-founder of CAIR, who has said things like “I’m in support of the Hamas movement” and (while speaking to the 1999 Islamic Association of Palestine convention) “Fighting for freedom, fighting for Islam, that is not suicide. They kill themselves for Islam.” Most mainstream politicians professing support for Israel wouldn’t take money from such a person or go to the CAIR-headquarters opening.

Voters can decide for themselves whether Campbell’s record matches his rhetoric. But free advice: don’t quote the revered, deceased Tom Lantos for supporting a voting record that was anathema to that true and great friend of Israel.

Tom Campbell must be sensing a growing storm of controversy over his anti-Israel record. Campbell tells the Daily Caller that he can’t figure out why his opponent Carly Fiorina is attacking his anti-Israel record. He sends a statement, declaring, “Carly Fiorina’s latest attack suggesting that I am anti-Israel and pro-jihadist is desperate and irresponsible.” He insists, “In Congress, I always voted in favor of providing military aid to Israel, and have always supported Israel’s right to defend itself — including taking military action against Iran to prevent its development of nuclear arms.” Well, except for the times he wrote “Campbell Amendments” to cut aid to Israel. He also gets caught fudging the record:

Campbell’s office provided a letter from former Rep. Tom Lantos, California Democrat and Holocaust survivor, to Campbell in 1999, which they said demonstrated his bona fides on the issue of support for Israel.

“Since we first met, I have known of your strong support for the State of Israel and its people. You and I have spoken many times of the need to assure the survival of Israel, as well as to fight against hatred and bias around the world, including here in our own country,” Lantos wrote.

However, Lantos’s words were a preface to concerns he expressed about Campbell’s vote in 1999 against $30 million in economic aid to Israel.

Oops. A top official with a pro-Israel organization in Washington tells me, “During his time in the House, Tom Campbell distinguished himself as no friend of Israel or the pro-Israel community. To suggest otherwise would be dishonest.”

Part of the reason his opponents are having a field day is that Campbell has taken money ($2,000 in his Senate race in 2000, for example) from some very extreme characters, like Nihad Awad, the co-founder of CAIR, who has said things like “I’m in support of the Hamas movement” and (while speaking to the 1999 Islamic Association of Palestine convention) “Fighting for freedom, fighting for Islam, that is not suicide. They kill themselves for Islam.” Most mainstream politicians professing support for Israel wouldn’t take money from such a person or go to the CAIR-headquarters opening.

Voters can decide for themselves whether Campbell’s record matches his rhetoric. But free advice: don’t quote the revered, deceased Tom Lantos for supporting a voting record that was anathema to that true and great friend of Israel.

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