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CAIR's vision is to be a leading advocate for justice and mutual understanding.

CAIR's mission is to enhance understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.
Ibrahim Hooper

NY Post distorted my comments condemning terrorism

After a recent interview with a New York Post reporter, I wondered aloud to colleagues about how my remarks would be distorted, given the obvious Islamophobic slant of the questions asked. ("'Who Cares' If US Terrorists in Kenya Mall Siege," NY Post, 9/24/13) Well, now I know.

My clear repudiation of all forms of terrorism and religious extremism was turned on its head to falsely imply that I do not care if Americans took part in the horrific terror attack on the shopping mall in Kenya. In fact, the article itself quotes me stating that "terrorism is terrorism" and should be condemned no matter the national origin of the perpetrators.

As I stated clearly -- clearly that is to anyone without a pre-determined anti-Muslim agenda -- "The American Muslim community has repeatedly and consistently condemned all acts of terrorism, in whatever form they take and wherever they occur."

Agenda-driven distortions by biased journalists are unworthy of any media outlet that wishes to be viewed as credible, especially when reporting on such an important subject.

Ibrahim Hooper is the national communications director for CAIR.

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Zainab Chaudry

A Necessary Conversation on Racism

If any question remained about whether racism and bigotry are alive and well in America, the Rush Limbaughs and Paula Deens of our time have laid it to rest.

Last Monday -- hot on the heels of the furious uproar that swept the nation after the jury reached its verdict in the Trayvon Martin case -- Rush Limbaugh, in true form, pounced on an opportunity to exploit racial tensions in America by dropping the derogatory N-word on the airwaves.

In a recent civil lawsuit, Food Network's ex-darling and America's embattled celebrity chef Paula Deen admitted under oath to uttering racial slurs.

Open admissions of bigotry like these don't simply rub salt on festering wounds; they ignite a centuries-old pain that lies buried deep in the hearts of members of the black community.

To make matters worse, legislation like "stand your ground" and stop-and-frisk policies disproportionately undermine minorities and subject them to unfair, humiliating treatment. The stark racial divide within our society is made all the more apparent by laws like these that are not applied equally to everyone regardless of their skin color. This serves only to widen the gaping chasm that exists between Americans of different races and ethnicities.

Justice cannot be selectively applied to only a specific subset of the population. It must be equally upheld for all Americans.

We cannot afford to turn a blind eye to the broader implications of the Trayvon Martin shooting. This tragedy provides an opportunity for all of us to recognize and confront inner prejudices that cannot be ignored, or we are doomed to leave a legacy tainted with pain, shame, and guilt for generations to come.

Dr. King dreamed that one day his four children would be judged not based on the color of their skin, but the content of their character. Today, decades later our country has a black president in the White House, but we are far still from realizing Dr. King's dream. And unless we can challenge ourselves to navigate outside of our comfort zones and engage in frank, candid conversations about this polarizing, emotionally charged subject, we will continue to drift further away.

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Robert McCaw

CAIR celebrates Independence Day by standing up for the Fourth Amendment

On July 4, CAIR will mark Independence Day by joining fellow Americans at the "Restore the Fourth" rally in Washington, D.C. in support of the U.S. Constitution's Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable searches.

This rally comes at a time when the country's national security and law enforcement agencies are accused of engaging in several domestic spying programs that allowed them to obtain the daily phone, email and online records of American citizens and foreigners alike, without any probable cause or suspicion of wrongdoing.

The Fourth of July honors that triumphant day in 1776 when the Continental Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence, asserting that America's thirteen colonies were free and independent from the tyrannical British rule. That our nation would establish a new Government under the principles that "all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."

Our nation's founders rejected the British Crown's "absolute despotism" and its "long train of abuses and usurpations" of Americans rights and state laws. Among the colonies' grievances against King George III were that he "obstructed the administration of justice, by refusing his assent to laws for establishing judiciary powers," "depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of trial by jury" and abolished "our most valuable laws ... altering fundamentally the forms of our governments."

Prior to the Deceleration of Independence, in 1761, Boston lawyer James Otis spoke against overly-broad warrants issued by the British government. These Writs of Assistance allowed the crown's agents to search any house or ship they wished, without any specific reason. John Adams -- signer of the Declaration of Independence and our nation's second president -- said of Otis's speech, "Then and there, the child Independence was born."

Twelve years after the signing of the Declaration of Independence the U.S. Constitution was formally adopted, shortly followed by the ratification of the first ten amendments to that Constitution, the Bill of Rights. Those fundamental principles of liberty guided the American Revolution were enshrined in the Bill of Rights, preserving the personal freedoms of all American against any future tyrannies, abuses and usurpations of law.

Today, recent leaks have revealed that the National Security Agency, in cooperation with the FBI, is covertly carrying out at least two nationwide surveillance programs that collect information on the private calls and online activities of U.S. citizens and non-permanent residents alike. These programs are being carried out in secret partnership with some of the nation's top telecommunications and internet and technology companies.

That is why organizations like CAIR are celebrating Independence Day this year by rallying in support of the Bill of Rights and the Fourth Amendment. We rally under disheartening reports that our nation's national security or law enforcement agencies are engaged in domestic and international spying programs that undermine the core constitutional protections of privacy and prohibition against unreasonable search and seizure.

Through secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court orders, the federal government is obtaining -- without any probable cause or suspicion of wrongdoing -- data from millions of American Verizon Business Network Services customers and user account information from Google, Yahoo!, Facebook, Microsoft (Hotmail, etc.), Apple, PalTalk, YouTube, Skype and AOL. It is strongly suspected that the federal government is also collecting call data from all other major phone carriers.

While some in Congress and the White House say that these spying programs are lawful under the Patriot Act and Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, CAIR and the civil rights community believe that the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution is clear: "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause. ..."

Again, CAIR urges the president and Congress to establish clear criteria for how such communication records are collected and for how long they can be stored. Congress should amend of section 215 of the Patriot Act to enact better safeguards that protect Americans from such abuses, and commit to full public disclosure and transparency by declassifying aspects of the spying programs.

Legislative initiatives like these are necessary to protect the fourth amendment rights of all Americans, including members of the American Muslim community, which has been subject to unwarranted and discriminatory acts of surveillance for more than a decade. Furthermore, without additional information about the criteria that determine "foreignness," CAIR remains concerned that these programs could discriminate on the basis of religion and national origin.

CAIR is proud to be a part of that long tradition established by our nation's founding fathers in asserting the rights and liberties of our fellow citizens against the tyranny of government abuses and usurpations of law.

In celebration of the Fourth of July, we encourage you to read copies of the U.S. Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights, and take action by contacting the president and Congress to demand an immediate end to these abusive and unconstitutional government spying programs.

Robert McCaw is the government affairs manager at CAIR's national headquarters on Capitol Hill.

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Robert McCaw

It’s Time to Tell Our Nation’s Leaders to Stop Spying on Calls

Recent reports have revealed that the FBI and National Security Agency are “tapped” directly into the servers of the nation’s top Internet providers and collecting the phone records of millions of Verizon customers. It is strongly suspected that the federal government is also collecting call data from all other major phone carriers.

I was told earlier today by a colleague from another civil rights organization “there is a good chance that the feds are intercepting my phone calls and emails, but I am sure that everyone in your organization and the Muslim community are under surveillance.”

My response was,“We are all under surveillance.”

I am a policy advocate for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, CAIR, the nation’s largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization.

As a nation we sat idly by while Congress passed and the president signed into law the USA PATRIOT Act and expanded the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) – the primary sources of authority for these expansive domestic spying programs.

While Americans were told that these programs would be used primarily to target violent extremist groups like al-Qaeda, federal law enforcement and national security agencies quickly used their new found powers to spy on American citizens.

At present, the FBI and NSA have obtained direct access, under FISA secret court orders, to the servers of Google, Yahoo!, Facebook, Microsoft (Hotmail, etc.), Apple, PalTalk, YouTube, Skype, and AOL. Under a surveillance program, code-named PRISM, they are collecting data on personal emails, chats, videos, photos, stored data, VoIP, file transfers, video conferences, logins, and details on online social networking.

It has also been reported that FBI and the NSA are using the USA PATRIOT Act to obtain FISA secret court orders instructing Verizon Business Network Services to turn over millions of customer phone records. Under this secret court order, Verizon must provide the FBI and NSA with phone records “between the United States and abroad” and “wholly within the United States, including local telephone calls.”

This includes the phone numbers for both parties on a call, as well as data on time, location, duration, and other unique identifiers — but not  the names of persons participating in the calls (although such information is easily attainable) and the content of  their conversations.

Earlier today President Obama said at a press conference that we as a nation “Can’t have 100 percent safety and 100 percent security and 0 percent inconvenience.”

In response to the president, I would quote one of our nation’s founding fathers Benjamin Franklin, who said, People willing to trade their freedom for temporary security deserve neither and will lose both.

This all-encompassing domestic spying program that collects and deciphers metadata aggregated from our phone calls, emails, and online footprints does not only affect the civil rights of American Muslims, it coercively dismantles the privacy and free speech rights of all Americans.

Such domestic spying programs can easily be dismantled, however, if all Americans who value the constitutional protections of privacy and prohibition of unreasonable search and seizure take action by contacting their elected representatives.

In 2011, Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR), a member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, warned that “when the American people find out how their government has secretly interpreted the Patriot Act, they will be stunned and they will be angry.”

I believe that it is entirely appropriate in light of these recent revelations that Americans join together in expressing their shock and anger over such abusive and unconstitutional government spying programs.

Some in Congress and the White House say that these spying programs are lawful under the USA PATRIOT Act and Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. During a recent conference call joined by some of the nation’s leading rights organizations that work on surveillance issues it was agreed that the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution is clear:

“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause…”

Robert McCaw is the government affairs manager at CAIR’s national headquarters on Capitol Hill.
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Guest

In Burma, let's call it what it is: genocide

Burma's ongoing persecution of its Muslim minority may not be dominating the world's attention like other conflicts, but it should be. If the world was to look closer, it would find an ongoing genocide that only international pressure and intervention can stop.

Review recent history: Burma/Myanmar recently emerged from under the boot of a ruthless and erratic military junta. However, as representative government is taking hold, vicious ethnic and religious hatred is resurfacing. Burma is about 90% Buddhist, but the western state of Arakan has a significant population of Muslims known as Rohingya.

Although they have lived in Burma for centuries, the Rohingya have never been accepted as Burmese citizens by the former military government or by the current "democratic" one. Various media reports describe them as "stateless" or "refugees." They are despised by the majority, who often revile them as murderers, rapists and terrorists. They are prohibited from owning land or even from marrying without government permission. Most Burmese politicians are unwilling to defend this beleaguered minority. Even the nearly-sainted Aung San Suu Kyi finds it difficult to admit that the Rohingya are actually citizens of Burma.

Deprived of legal protection, Rohingya villages have been attacked by mobs that are often backed by the police. These mobs have pillaged Muslim villages, forcing the survivors to flee to squalid refugee camps along the Bangladeshi border. Human Rights Watch has called this a campaign of ethnic cleansing.

But the persecution of this vulnerable minority population has not stopped there. Last week news hit of a new Arakan policy, which was approved by the central government, that makes it illegal for Muslim families to have more than two children. Buddhists living in the same area are exempt from this restriction. The penalties for violating the policy are fines and jail time. Muslim women have reportedly resorted to unsafe, illegal abortions to avoid punishment.

Any time birth restrictions are imposed on a minority group you know something has gone very, very wrong. From the biblical King Herod's massacre of Bethlehem's innocents to the Australian campaign of stealing Aboriginal babies, history is littered with shameful examples of attempts to destroy a people by taking away their children. But it's shocking to realize that it is still happening in 2013, especially in a country that is being widely feted as a democratic success story.

Article II Section D of the UN Treaty to Prevent Genocide clearly identifies limiting births of a targeted people as a genocidal act. Stopping this ongoing catastrophe in Burma won't be easy, but the first step is to describe it accurately. We must call Burma's actions what they are: genocide.

Saqib Ali is government relations director for the Maryland chapter of CAIR.

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