In the past few years we have noticed and documented on social media a distinct and disturbing pattern of behavior from the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) regarding its response to terrorist attacks across the globe. The latest terrorist attacks carried out by ISIS in Paris, coming just one day after a similar attack in Beirut, stood out as a clear reminder of CAIR’s consistent hypocrisy and selective moral outrage.
After the same terror group targeted a market and mosque in Beirut killing over 40 people, there was no reaction from CAIR, no statement condemning the slaughter, no press conference, and none of those meaningless “interfaith vigils.” One day later as news of the attacks in Paris broke, and before the extent of the carnage became known, CAIR quickly issued a press release condemning the attack and immediately commenced a well-advertised, public campaign of moral outrage. The self-described Muslim civil rights group did eventually condemn the attacks in Beirut in the name of the U.S. Muslim Community it appointed itself to represent, but only in the context of condemning the terror attacks in Paris at a press conference that would not have been called had a western city not been targeted. (It should be noted there is other very problematic and counter-productive behavior regarding CAIR’s response to terrorism and mass violence, including its support for all US wars, but here we are focusing on only one aspect of it).
To understand what explains such a stark contrast in CAIR’s response to various acts of terrorism, one has to take a closer look at its pattern of responses to specific acts of terrorism. CAIR has swiftly condemned every act of terrorism carried out by Muslims in a western city or against a western target in a non-western country. CAIR has almost always ignored acts of terrorism carried out by Muslims targeting residents in Arab and Muslim-majority countries. The most glaring examples of this omission have been the almost daily carnage in Iraq since the criminal, Anglo-American invasion of 2003 and the foreign-backed campaign of terror in Syrian cities the last almost five years, each of which in just one day far eclipse in scope and magnitude, the death and destruction of all acts of terror against western targets combined. When it comes to terrorist attacks carried out by non-Muslims against non-western targets and cities, CAIR does not appear remotely aware of them.
It goes without saying that CAIR has adopted and internalized the racist double standards of the west. But in addition to underscoring the glaring double standard beneath CAIR’s supposed concern for human life, it is also clear such condemnations are little more than political posturing by an establishment organization on the defensive despite its decades of pandering to Washington officialdom. To be clear, an act of terrorism is, by definition, a political act that encompasses the targeting and murder of innocent human beings. However, that is precisely why any condemnation of terrorism must be based, not on any political exigencies, but on clear and consistent universal moral principles.
That CAIR’s approach to terrorism is marred by a Washington political agenda is further evidenced in its repeated labeling and condemnation as terrorism of acts that do not fall under the definition of terrorism. Here, the resistance to Israeli occupation of Lebanon and Palestine comes immediately to mind.
Another troubling aspect of CAIR’s approach to global terrorism is its incompetent and counter-productive response to professional Islamophobes and their systematic campaign to link Islam as a religion to terrorism. The Islamist, religious-right, which CAIR represents, is generally incapable of addressing this issue effectively. A full discussion of this topic is necessary but beyond the scope of this blog post. We intend to return to it in the future, but for now, suffice it to say condemnations of mass murder and senseless violence such as we witnessed in Beirut and Paris should not be offered in the collective name of adherents of a common faith group, but rather as members of a common humanity. Muslims should also not preface their rejection of these acts with an announcement of their own religious affiliation or be placed on the defensive by acts committed by their coreligionists. Whenever the political illiterates at CAIR address this topic they serve only to reinforce the never-ending cycle of negative self-identification and political weakness of the American Muslim community.
Terrorism should and must always be condemned by everyone based on universal human values and principles. Selective condemnations based on the religion, nationality or race of the perpetrators and/or their victims does not constitute a clear rejection of terrorism as a moral imperative, but rather a political statement that not only rings hollow, but also raises many questions, the answers to which we believe are obvious to everyone including CAIR leaders themselves.