FIRST ON THE DAILY SIGNAL—A nonpartisan group dedicated to applying equal standards of tolerance sent a letter to President Joe Biden on Wednesday, demanding answers as to why the White House touted the involvement of the Council on American-Islamic Relations in the implementation of its National Strategy to Counter Antisemitism.
“That a recognized antisemitic organization could be welcomed by the White House to help implement the ‘National Strategy to Combat Antisemitism’ is breathtaking,” Gregory T. Angelo, president of The New Tolerance Campaign, told The Daily Signal.
“Worse still is knowing that, in doing so, the White House was either completely oblivious to CAIR’s documented history of misogyny, sexual harassment, and religious discrimination, or willfully ignored it,” he said. “Either way, the public deserves answers,”
Angelo’s letter to Biden, provided exclusively to The Daily Signal, presses the White House on why it decided to engage with CAIR in the rollout of the national strategy, which the White House released last month, hours before a festival requiring religiously observant Jews to unplug for 48 hours.
Sources, including CAIR, told The Daily Signal that the Islamic group was not involved in the meetings that produced the strategy, but only in the rollout after the completion of the strategy document. Even so, the White House’s “fact sheet” on the antisemitism strategy mentions CAIR, but does not mention a single Orthodox Jewish group.
“Who invited CAIR to be an official coalition partner?” Angelo asked in comments to The Daily Signal. “Was CAIR’s past as a recognized antisemitic organization considered in the vetting process, as well as the other controversies highlighted in our letter? Was CAIR vetted at all?”
Angelo, who served as press secretary for the Executive Office of the President from June 2020 to January 2021, in the Trump administration, cited his experience in raising questions on the issue.
“As someone who used to work in the White House, I know that no third-party organization gets added to coalitions like this casually—and several people need to sign off before everything is cleared for publication or posting,” he said. “It’s spin to say CAIR’s involvement here is limited. They shouldn’t have been involved at all.”
Angelo’s letter “respectfully asks that the White House elucidate the internal process that engaged CAIR in the rollout of the National Strategy to Counter Antisemitism; who was tasked with vetting the organization in advance of the rollout; whether the controversies described herein were considered during such vetting; and, if they were, why they were dismissed.”
The letter raises numerous concerns regarding CAIR, beginning with accusations of antisemitism. It cites the left-leaning Anti-Defamation League, which notes that antipathy to Israel “has been a CAIR staple since the group was founded in 1994.” The ADL notes that CAIR Executive Director Nihad Awad appeared at a rally “next to antisemitic Imam Abdul Alim Musa,” who reportedly called the Jews the enemy of humanity and claimed they ran the slave trade. The Southern Poverty Law Center, an organization that claims to track “hate groups,” once branded Musa’s As-Sabiqun a “hate group,” but appears to have removed the organization from its list between 2017 and 2021.
CAIR Deputy Executive Director Edward Ahmed Mitchell pushed back against claims of antisemitism in a statement to The Daily Signal last month.
“As our nation’s largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization, we always have and, God willing, always will condemn antisemitic hate against our Jewish neighbors, regardless of the political, ideological, or religious identity of those responsible,” Mitchell said.
Yet Angelo’s letter raises concerns beyond alleged antisemitism.
“CAIR has been embroiled in a litany of controversies that call into question the character of its leadership and genuine commitment to ending anti-religious bigotry,” the New Tolerance Campaign president writes.
Angelo cites a 2021 story, in which NPR reported on “sexual harassment and bullying” at the hands of then-CAIR Florida leader Hassan Shibly. Angelo claims that Awad “ignored warnings from victims of sexual harassment in his organization and turned a blind eye for years.” (CAIR’s national office wrote at the time that it takes “any allegations of misconduct against our staff or volunteers seriously” and noted that chapters operate independently.)
Angelo also cites legal documents in which a female former staffer accuses Awad of engaging in sexual harassment against her.
He also cites a 2018 case in which Latina theologian and interfaith activist Karen Leslie Hernandez was reportedly terminated from CAIR leadership under the guise that she was “not Muslim.” Citing court documents, Angelo claims that Award ordered her firing because he “was upset that the new Dallas employee spoke openly about being a survivor of domestic violence.” According to Angelo, CAIR National’s attorney proposed an “alternate” story of the events and told the local chapter to offer the woman a payoff using a non-disclosure agreement in exchange for her silence.
The New Tolerance Campaign letter likewise cites a letter from Tannaz Haddadi, a former CAIR staffer who wrote a 2001 complaint claiming that CAIR discriminated against her because her background as a Shia Muslim.
“At the very least, an organization engaged to promote anti-religious hate should not have a record of anti-religious discrimination within its own ranks,” Angelo writes, noting that Haddadi claims she was demoted over her religious background and that Awad refused to intervene.
“Each of these controversies alone should be cause for concern. Together they reveal a pattern of odious actions at CAIR that would appear to make their involvement with the National Strategy to Counter Antisemitism less of a strength and more of a liability,” Angelo concludes.
The New Tolerance Campaign president begins and concludes the letter by thanking Biden for his “efforts to quash antisemitism in the United States.”
Editor’s Note: The wife of the author of this article serves on New Tolerance Campaign’s board of directors.
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