Just over 24 hours before a scheduled speech it hosted by commentator Robert Spencer, Young America’s Foundation found something unexpected sitting in the fax machine: A thinly veiled threat of a lawsuit if the group allowed the talk to happen as planned.
Near the end of the one-page missive is the rather unsubtle sentence: “Our clients have instructed us to pursue every available and appropriate legal remedy to redress any false and defamatory statements that are made at the session.”
Although YAF, which is the nation’s largest conservative group catering to high school and college students, is used to campus leftists attempting to silence the right-wing speakers it helps sponsor, the apparent lawsuit threat likely came as a shock.
The attempted bullying, however, comes as little surprise to anyone familiar with the organization behind the move: CAIR, the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
For years, CAIR has attempted to stifle debate and prevent inquiry into the domestic spread of radical Islam. Conservative columnist Cal Thomas was the latest target, when CAIR attempted to drum him out of his role as an official commentator at WTOP radio in Washington, D.C. The group was emboldened by its success in the same city two years earlier, when it got then-Disney-owned WMAL to can talk host Michael Graham. Similar such smear campaigns are legion.
If only CAIR could muster the same contempt—or any contempt, for that matter—for Islamic terrorists.
Contrary to the letter’s claim that the group “has consistently taken a principled position against terrorism and extremism,” CAIR simply has not done so. Never has CAIR condemned by name Islamic terrorist organizations Hamas and Hezbollah. Given the opportunity to condemn Hamas by Newsweek last December, CAIR executive director and co-founder Nihad Awad refused, claiming that the question was “the game of the pro-Israel lobby.”
While CAIR incessantly hypes its 2005 fatwa against terrorism and extremism, the document intentionally avoided defining the two terms. Fundamentalist Muslims who wish harm upon the U.S. and Israel do not consider themselves “extreme.” Nor do Hezbollah and Hamas believe that they are terrorists.
This is CAIR’s modus operandi: appearing to oppose terrorism, while simultaneously leading the charge against those who actually seek to thwart it.
Its approach to the lecture circuit is no different.
Spencer, who has courted controversy with his JihadWatch.org web site and his best-selling book, The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam, is a genuinely provocative figure with whom reasonable people can disagree. There’s little doubt, however, that he is a legitimate contributor to the public debate.
The threatening letter states that Spencer “has a history of false and defamatory statements.” Interestingly, CAIR couldn’t cite even one “false and defamatory statement.”
But no matter what statements Spencer critics might dig up, none could put him in the league of some of the characters who have headlined CAIR conferences.
CAIR’s primary objection in its attempted legal blackmail was that Spencer is “a well-known purveyor of hatred and bigotry.” But if the group objects to “purveyors of hatred and bigotry,” why would it feature a neo-Nazi at several of its conferences?
Speaking at various CAIR functions in New York, New Jersey, and Florida was Bill Baker, whom CAIR-NY billed as a “renowned Christian scholar.” This “renowned Christian scholar” is someone with a history of vicious anti-Semitism who for a time in the 1980’s ran the Populist Party, an organization populated by neo-Nazis and Klansmen.
But a neo-Nazi is not out of place in the CAIR universe. At a CAIR co-sponsored event in 1998 at Brooklyn College in New York, speaker Wagdy Ghuniem roused the crowd with a stirring ditty that contained the lyrics: “No to the Jews, descendants of the apes.” (Transcript provided by the Investigative Project.)
Also on the menu at CAIR functions are 9/11 conspiracy theories, not surprising since it appears that the group’s leader doesn’t believe that Osama bin Laden was behind the attacks.
British journalist Yvonne Ridley, who suffered Stockholm Syndrome after being kidnapped by the Taliban and subsequently converted to Islam, asked at a 2003 CAIR-NY event, “Why would the Bush administration allow 9/11 to happen?” Her answer? “Because to use the war on terrorism became a useful bogus cover for achieving wider strategic geo-political objectives.” (Transcript provided by the Investigative Project.)
Stepping to the podium after Ridley's remarks was Awad, CAIR’s co-founder and executive director. Rather than chastise Ridley for her claim that it was Bush, and not bin Laden, behind 9/11, Awad indulged her delusions: “Also, having listened to sister Yvonne, there are many theories of course about 9/11. And there are many unanswered questions, and we always ask for answers.”
Given CAIR’s track record, YAF had no qualms ignoring CAIR’s threats. The speech happened Thursday, just as scheduled. But even with the possibility of a lawsuit, YAF would never censor a legitimate speaker; freedom of speech goes to the core of the group’s values. “CAIR picked the wrong group to bully and intimidate,” notes YAF spokesman Jason Mattera.
Plenty of reasonable people can take substantive issue with Spencer—and plenty do—but shouldn’t CAIR be more troubled by neo-Nazis, 9/11 conspiracy theorists, and Islamic terrorists?
Joel Mowbray, who got his start with Townhall.com, 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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