Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, November 8, 2001
Author: Delinda C. Hanley
On Nov. 8, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) called for an end to what it says is an “Islamophobic smear campaign” against the American Muslim community and its leaders. CAIR also called on media professionals and elected officials not to allow themselves to be used as unwitting tools in this campaign or to undermine President Bush’s efforts to show that the war on terrorism is not a conflict with Islam.
“Since the terrorist attacks on our nation in September, American Muslims and groups that represent them have been the target of an unprecedented smear campaign. These smears have been distributed by fax, e-mail and direct communication with journalists and government officials in an attempt to create links between legitimate Muslim groups and terrorists,” CAIR spokesman Ibrahim Hooper told journalists. “On almost a daily basis, we have been forced to defend our organization to well-meaning reporters who have been given information that is false, misleading or ridiculously out of context.”
After the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, Hooper said, a number of groups and individuals who were alarmed at the growing prominence of Muslims began taking shameless advantage of those tragic events to push for their long-term goal of marginalizing and delegitimizing the American Muslim community and its leadership.
To support this assertion, CAIR cited a Nov. 3 article in the Los Angeles Times that, for the first time, laid direct responsibility for the smear campaign at the feet of specific organizations. Times reporter Solomon Moore wrote: “Pro-Israel or Jewish organizations such as the Anti-Defamation League, the Jewish Defense League and the Middle East Forum think tank have provided news organizations with reams of critical documentation on Muslim leaders in recent weeks.”
A number of other media professionals and officials told CAIR of similar behind-the-scenes slurs.
The Middle East Forum’s Daniel Pipes, one of the foremost sponsors of the current smear campaign, goes so far as to recommend “vigilant application of social and political pressure to ensure that Islam is not accorded special status of any kind in this country.” The “special status” Pipes refers to includes ordinary religious accommodations for Muslims in the workplace and “inclusion of Muslims in affirmative-action plans,” Hooper added. Employment discrimination is one of CAIR’s main focuses.
Recent media reports also indicate that groups such as the American Jewish Committee (AJC) have warned that “the increasingly visible American Muslim lobby posed a challenge to U.S.-Israel relations,” according to an Oct. 22 Associated Press report.
“This smear campaign is unfair, un-American and outrageous. It is based on distortions, fabrications, outdated and out of context information, and guilt by association,” Hooper said. “Every major American Muslim group and leader, without exception, has been the target of these unjustified and politically motivated smears.”
Hooper asked media professionals and elected officials to examine the agenda of those who are making these false allegations, and he asked people to refrain from assisting anyone who would seek to silence the voice of an entire American religious minority.
“The seven-million strong American Muslim community can serve as a bridge of understanding to the Islamic world during this time of national and international crisis,” Hooper said. “It goes against our nation’s interests to let vocal and politically influential special-interest groups dictate American domestic policy or to drag our country into partisan disputes that will impede efforts to form an international coalition against all forms of terrorism.”
Hooper concluded with an appeal: “We ask our fellow Americans for their support in resisting attempts to divide us as a people or to drag our nation into a wider conflict with the Muslim world.”