Sign at the building entrance to CAIR headquarters. Credit: DCStockPhotography/Shutterstock.
by Jonathan Tobin
(JNS) — In our increasingly woke world, the thing that mainstream institutions fear the most is to be labeled as insufficiently anti-racist. So when an organization that purports to be a civil-rights group issues a report putting charitable institutions on notice that they are funding hate against minorities, it’s no laughing matter. Indeed, the mere suggestion that this might be true is generally enough to scare those warned out of their wits, regardless of the truth of the allegations.
So when the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) published a report this week on “Islamophobia in the Mainstream” arguing that hate against Muslims is being backed by “some of the largest charitable institutions in the country” — to the tune of more than $105 million — it’s the sort of thing that makes high-minded liberal thinkers sit up and listen.
Of particular interest is the fact that among those institutions mentioned, which are supposedly shelling out big bucks to what CAIR calls “Islamophobia network groups,” are major Jewish family-based foundations. Even more significant is the singling out of donor-advised funds connected to Jewish Federations that serve some of the largest Jewish communities in the country: New York, Boston, Los Angeles and San Francisco.
The purpose here is not just to send a wake-up call to the largely liberal organized Jewish world about the issue. CAIR’s intent is to generate enough worry and/or outrage among Jewish groups, institutional bureaucrats and funders to create a surge of divestment from causes that the group is labeling as Islamophobic. Given the desire of the Jewish establishment to make it clear that they’re free of any taint of racism or prejudice, the chances that this will have some sort of impact are not to be discounted.
But before anyone — even those most concerned about burnishing their woke credentials — takes CAIR’s report and its advice seriously, they should think about the source of this study. Philanthropies, both Jewish and non-Jewish, need to ask themselves whether it makes sense to allow an organization that was not merely founded on anti-Semitic principles, but continues to this day to be a haven and a support group for Jew-hatred, to be the arbiter of what is or isn’t prejudice.
The conceit of the CAIR report is what it calls the “Islamophobia industry” is composed of any group that highlights the danger of Islamist terrorism, the connections between American Muslim groups, and advocacy for radical Islam and attacks on Israel and its existence.
The existence of radical right-wing extremist groups who advocate prejudice against Muslims as well as Jews, blacks and other ethnic-religious minorities is worrisome. Their activities and ability to influence those who might commit acts of violence against the objects of their hatred need to be monitored and subjected to prosecution when necessary.
But CAIR isn’t interested in actual hate groups, such as those whose members might attack mosques, synagogues or black churches. The aim of the report is to blur the line between actual extremism and those who express a legitimate concern about hate that emanates from the Muslim community.
That’s why the report focuses almost exclusively on entities that are not hate groups. What it is worried about are organizations whose actual purpose is what CAIR claims it is doing: monitoring hate and exposing it.
Perhaps it’s understandable that a group like CAIR, which traces its origins as a political front for the Holy Land Foundation, a group that was exposed by the FBI as seeking to raise funds for Hamas terrorists in the United States, that would be opposed to those who investigate and publicize such connections.
That’s why it thinks it’s awful that groups like those on its list of most prominent offenders exist. But why would anyone who cares about combating actual as opposed to mythical prejudice listen to them?
If CAIR had its way, the following organizations would essentially be shunned by all decent people:
CAMERA, which effectively monitors anti-Israel bias in the media, and mobilizes readers and listeners to hold outlets accountable for their mistakes and outright falsehoods; the Middle East Forum, which educates Americans about the Middle East and Islamism with expert scholarship; the Foundation for Defense of Democracies think tank that is a voice of sanity on national security issues like the Iranian nuclear threat; MEMRI, which performs the indispensable task of translating into English what is published and broadcast in the Arab and Muslim worlds; The Investigative Project on Terrorism, which has brought to light extremism and connections to terror in the Muslim community; The Clarion Project, which monitors online extremism (and whose advisory board is partially composed of leading moderate Muslims).
CAIR also opposes the existence of politically conservative organizations like the David Horowitz Freedom Center and the Christian Broadcasting Network because they are pro-Israel and speak out against those who target the Jewish state and its supporters.
The idea that those who seek to expose radical Islamists are fueling hate or prejudice has it backward. Those who provide information about their activities are whistleblowers, not engaging in acts of intimidation or bullying, one of the fallacious assertions in the CAIR report.
It bears remembering that just a few weeks ago one of the organizations most prominent leaders — Zahra Billoo, the executive director of CAIR’s San Francisco branch — gave a speech in which she warned Muslims to shun not just groups that it falsely labels as Islamophobic but mainstream liberal Jewish organizations like the Anti-Defamation League, Jewish federations and Hillel chapters on college campuses. Any Jew who expresses support for Israel should be regarded with suspicion if not as an enemy. In this way, she lumped together “polite Zionists” with “fascists.” Only anti-Zionist organizations like Jewish Voices for Peace and IfNotNow, which themselves support the anti-Semitic BDS movement and engage in advocacy that amounts to Jew-hatred are to be treated as good Jews.
To the shock and horror of the many liberal Jewish groups that have acquiesced in CAIR’s pose as a civil-rights group and regarded it as a useful partner for interfaith dialogue, the group refused to disavow Billoo and instead denounced those like the ADL, which called attention to her hatred.
Seen in that light, it’s clear that CAIR’s report, like the effort by Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), the leading anti-Semite in Congress, to promote awareness of Islamophobia is a ruse. It’s not just an effort to divert attention from the hatred that exists in the Muslim world but to ostracize and defund those who work to expose such behavior.
Yet despite its own documented record of hate, CAIR, like the Black Lives Matter movement and its connections to anti-Semitism, seems to benefit from the way intersectional ideology gives a pass to any group that claims to be the victim of “white privilege.”
At a time when individuals and groups fear being labeled as complicit in racism — and then “canceled” — there is good reason to fear that the philanthropic world won’t dismiss CAIR’s report out of hand as they should. A desire to appease woke sensibilities has caused too many otherwise decent liberals to discard common sense and their moral compass. The real “Islamophobia industry” is the effort by radicals like CAIR not just to speak for all American Muslims but to silence criticism of their own extremism. Rather than listening to CAIR’s call for federations and various foundations to shut down funding of important organizations that have shined a light on this problem, their stand should motivate decent people — whether Jewish or non-Jewish — to do more to help them.
Jonathan S. Tobin is the editor in chief of JNS (Jewish News Syndicate). Follow him on Twitter at: @jonathans_tobin.