Joel Mowbray

In what could be either a major turning point or just an aberration, Sen. Barbara Boxer recently rescinded an award given to a California resident because of his position with the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR).

Despite being founded by two self-identified supporters of Islamic terrorism and continually refusing to condemn Islamic terrorism, CAIR has not only survived, but thrived. In the five years since 9/11, CAIR has grown exponentially in both resources and influence, becoming the defacto voice of American Muslims in the mainstream media. It has been embraced by many sectors of the federal government, including the FBI. But politically, CAIR’s success primarily has been limited to forging alliances with leftist organizations, most notably the ACLU.

Though the long-term implications are still far from certain, Sen. Boxer’s very public disavowal of CAIR might encourage real media investigation by changing the perception that criticism of CAIR is a right-wing affair, and it could even inspire other Democrats and liberals to follow her lead.

Shortly after Sen. Boxer’s office last month presented Sacramento activist Basim Elkarra a “certificate of accomplishment,” he was notified that the award was being withdrawn because he heads the local chapter of CAIR. For Mr. Elkarra, it probably means little whether he is the recipient of the certificate or not. For CAIR, however, the move must feel like a stunning rebuke considering that the group that has masterfully courted the left by positioning itself as “America’s largest Muslim civil liberties group.”

While Sen. Boxer cited, among other things, quotes from fellow Democratic Sens. Charles Schumer of New York and Richard Durbin of Illinois that were critical of CAIR, both statements were made over three years ago—and no other prominent Democrats have said anything similar since. Although no prominent elected Republicans have joined the chorus criticizing CAIR, a fair reading of grassroots Internet activity shows that concern over the organization is largely found on the right.

CAIR claims that Boxer succumbed to the “pro-Israel lobby,” who are “anti-Muslim extremists.” The reality is that Sen. Boxer, as politically safe as any member of Congress’ upper chamber, received little flack for issuing a relatively minor certificate to Mr. Elkarra. She had little to gain, and much to lose. A savvy pol, Sen. Boxer likely realized that she would be subjected to CAIR’s well-oiled attack machine.

Joel Mowbray

Joel Mowbray, who got his start with, is an award-winning investigative journalist, nationally-syndicated columnist and author of Dangerous Diplomacy: How the State Department Threatens America's Security.

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