CAIR Mourns Charlie Hebdo, Yet Advocates Censorship
The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), a Hamas-derived “civil rights” group, “repeated its defense of freedom of speech” in a baffling January 7 press release that “condemned” the Paris jihadist Charlie Hebdo massacre. A trip down a bad memory lane, though, is necessary in order to evaluate critically CAIR’s commitment to free speech rights with proverbial grains of salt equivalent to the Dead Sea’s renowned salinity.
CAIR, an unindicted terrorism coconspirator, and “defense of freedom of speech” simply do not match. CAIR, for example, has unsuccessfully tried to stop critical commentary on Islam in an American public library and school. CAIR has also harassed a Michigan individual who opposed a mosque construction with frivolous subpoenas, ultimately quashed. One 2012 article on the CAIR-Chicago affiliate website discussed how the First Amendment has “been manipulated to make America the catalyst for unjust hate.”
Accordingly, CAIR executive director Nihad Awad sounded an uncertain free speech trumpet when presenting the press release that noted Charlie Hebdo’s “derogatory references to Islam and its Prophet Muhammad.” Awad equated “extremists of all backgrounds who seek to stifle freedom and to create or widen societal divisions,” placing thereby Charlie Hebdo’s victims on a level with their murderers. Similar analysis had appeared in a 2006 CAIR press release concerning the Danish cartoons, even as CAIR, the 2015 press release recalled, “rejected the sometimes violent response to Danish cartoons mocking the Prophet Muhammad.”
“We all value freedom of expression,” Awad had written to the Danish ambassador in 2006. “But we should also use good judgment and common sense to avoid actions” that are “intentionally insulting” or “promote hatred.” Awad proposed CAIR “as a bridge between the Muslim community worldwide and the government of Denmark” in “offering proactive educational measures.” CAIR could therefore exploit the affair to present Islam in a positive manner and effectively proselytize.
At the same time, Parvez Ahmed, CAIR’s then chairman and a Hamas/Hezbollah apologist who had also extended a speaking invitation to a neo-Nazi while leading CAIR’s Florida chapter, expressed support for blasphemy laws. Ahmed wrote on his website that a “connection between terrorism and a venerated religious figure such as Prophet Muhammad transgresses all bounds of decency.” “Free speech, like every other freedom, comes with responsibility,” Ahmed intoned, and the “affair was avoidable had all sides approached the issue wisely.” Ahmed demanded the “same zero tolerance for Islamophobia as… anti-Semitism” while painting dark scenarios of speech inciting violence. He feared “plunging the world into the abyss of a clash between civilizations.”
Ahmed Rehab, CAIR-Chicago’s director and a similar Hamas and Nazi apologist, also discussed “racism targeting Muslims” during a 2008 radio interview on republishing the Danish cartoons. “The majority of Muslims are both against the cartoons and, of course, against death threats,” was Rehab’s immoral equivalence. America does not have “absolute freedom of speech” allowing pornography on daytime television, for example, but a “responsible tradition of free speech.”
The Danish cartoons were a “red flag” for Rehab who, like Ahmed, falsely analogized criticizing Islam to anti-Semitic prejudice. “Long before there was any indication of gas chambers,” European Jews confronted bigoted “freedom of expression.” The “demonization of a particular faith community or race-based community,” Rehab hyperbolically warned, can incite “further violence against that group or… discrimination.” “Just because one has a right” to speak, Rehab added online in 2010, “does not make it the right thing to do” under a “standard of decency.”
The strategies of CAIR et al. to equate criticism of Islamic ideas with prejudice against individuals and warn of non-Muslim speech inciting Muslim violence have not been without effect. President Barack Obama condemned the Charlie Hebdo assault as an “attack on our free press,” but in 2012 an Obama spokesperson had doubted the magazine’s “judgment” in publishing Muhammad cartoons. Days later Obama infamously declared before the United Nations General Assembly that “future must not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam.”
The Organization of Islamic Cooperation’s fifty-seven member states, meanwhile, have advocated for years legal suppression of “Islamophobia” as a “crime against humanity” resembling anti-Semitism. Countries like Denmark have obliged with hate speech prosecutions against Islam’s critics, something not protested by CAIR. Private news organizations also often refrain from showing cartoons offensive to Muslims, while showing no such scruples towards Christians.
Under CAIR’s standards, individuals touching the third religious rail of Islam might escape with their lives, but not their liberty. If social ostracism does not suffice to silence those irreverent towards Islam, groups like CAIR will not refrain from seeking where possible legal instruments of censorship. While trying to talk a good talk on liberty, CAIR’s past shows all too clearly where it is heading.