Faith and Freedom Redefined at CAIR Banquet

The slogan for last weekend's Council for American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) Philadelphia banquet, "Defending our freedom, living our faith," sounds like an innocuous promotion of all-American values.  Conference graphics were flanked by the Statue of Liberty and a minaret, while the event claimed to promote the peaceful intersection of the American and Islamic identities, featuring a former Obama adviser and a comedian for the adults and Mad Science and story time for the kids.  However, behind the event's playful, unassuming façade lay a sinister truth: that CAIR and its banquet represent Islamist apologists.

The keynote speaker, Dalia Mogahed, is a former member of President Obama's Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships and is now the director of research at the Washington, D.C.-based Institute for Social Policy and Understanding (ISPU).  ISPU claims that it conducts "objective, solution-seeking research that empowers American Muslims to develop their community and fully contribute to democracy and pluralism in the United States."

Despite her organization's ostensible commitment to Western values, we're not sure Mogahed is the best choice for an example for American Muslims seeking to "fully contribute to democracy."  For instance, Mogahed once granted a friendly interview on a radio show hosted by a member of the Islamist movement Hizb ut Tahrir, which advocates the "eradication" of Jews.  In her interview, Mogahed insisted that sharia law promotes "gender justice."

Yet Mogahed appears downright moderate in comparison to the CAIR banquet's master of ceremonies, Zahra Billoo.

Billoo, at first glance, appears relatable and likeable, portraying herself as the average American who also happens to be Muslim.  She describes herself on her Twitter account as a "Lawyer. [CAIR San Francisco Bay Area] Director. Cat owner. Ice cream eater. Cupcake baker."  Her tweets document her fight for justice and equality, humanitarian activism, and Muslim pride.  But this sweet and sassy progressive poster girl is actually a reflection of CAIR's own duplicity and subversive Islamism.

Last year, Billoo questioned whether U.S. soldiers should be honored or remembered on Memorial Day, saying the holiday is a "struggle" for her.  When faced with opposition, she took a step farther and called the U.S. military murderers and occupiers and compared U.S. military operations to Taliban terrorism.  Indeed, Billoo once tweeted that she "feels more responsible for and outraged by US military terrorism in Pakistan than Taliban terrorism there."

Despite the patriotic Statue of Liberty on its flier, the conference M.C.'s anti-American sentiment runs far deeper than her opposition to Memorial Day.  In 2011, Billoo's CAIR chapter was condemned for discouraging Muslims from cooperating with the FBI on matters related to terror.  Billoo had also accused the bureau of "creating terror plots that don't exist" and suggested that the FBI itself might have planned the foiled terrorist activities.  And at the 2017 Islamic Society of North America conference, Billoo warned that the U.S. government aims to persecute Muslims: "We [know they have done this] with other communities, that they're going to send us to concentration camps."

As Billoo is quick to dismiss accusations of terrorist connections leveled against American Muslims, whether warranted or not, it follows that she seems to have no problem befriending known terrorists.  In November 2014, her chapter of CAIR honored convicted Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) member Sami Al-Arian with the "Promoting Justice Award," despite the fact that he had pleaded guilty to funneling money to PIJ.  She has continued to tweet in defense of Al-Arian (even once saying she "finds inspiration" from him).

CAIR may appear to be nothing more than another Muslim advocacy organization, but its ties to Islamist terror run more than skin-deep. The U.S. Justice Department has confirmed that CAIR is a "Muslim Brotherhood entity," labeling it an unindicted co-conspirator in the prosecution of a charity named the Holy Land Foundation, the largest terrorism-financing trial in U.S. history.  The Justice Department also cited CAIR's involvement with Hamas in a 2013 report.

CAIR has even come under fire from Muslim countries and activists.  The UAE recently designated it a terrorist group.  And the Minnesotan Somali community protested CAIR after the group insinuated that Muslims shouldn't cooperate with the FBI in fighting local recruitment by Somali al-Qaeda affiliate Al-Shabaab.

As Philadelphia Muslims gathered in sparkly gowns at the Springfield Country Club, for an event that claimed to promote pride in the dual American-Muslim identity, we wonder if they knew that the master of ceremonies, Billoo, believes that Saddam Hussein, Osama bin Laden, and Moammar Gaddafi were all part of an American-funded conspiracy.  In typical CAIR double-speak, Billoo forgot to mention that CAIR leaders groveled to Gaddafi while asking him for money in 2009.

Does this really sound like an event, or, for that matter, an organization, dedicated to "defending our freedom"?

Alexandra Markus is a writer for Islamist Watch, a project of the Middle East Forum.

The slogan for last weekend's Council for American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) Philadelphia banquet, "Defending our freedom, living our faith," sounds like an innocuous promotion of all-American values.  Conference graphics were flanked by the Statue of Liberty and a minaret, while the event claimed to promote the peaceful intersection of the American and Islamic identities, featuring a former Obama adviser and a comedian for the adults and Mad Science and story time for the kids.  However, behind the event's playful, unassuming façade lay a sinister truth: that CAIR and its banquet represent Islamist apologists.

The keynote speaker, Dalia Mogahed, is a former member of President Obama's Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships and is now the director of research at the Washington, D.C.-based Institute for Social Policy and Understanding (ISPU).  ISPU claims that it conducts "objective, solution-seeking research that empowers American Muslims to develop their community and fully contribute to democracy and pluralism in the United States."

Despite her organization's ostensible commitment to Western values, we're not sure Mogahed is the best choice for an example for American Muslims seeking to "fully contribute to democracy."  For instance, Mogahed once granted a friendly interview on a radio show hosted by a member of the Islamist movement Hizb ut Tahrir, which advocates the "eradication" of Jews.  In her interview, Mogahed insisted that sharia law promotes "gender justice."

Yet Mogahed appears downright moderate in comparison to the CAIR banquet's master of ceremonies, Zahra Billoo.

Billoo, at first glance, appears relatable and likeable, portraying herself as the average American who also happens to be Muslim.  She describes herself on her Twitter account as a "Lawyer. [CAIR San Francisco Bay Area] Director. Cat owner. Ice cream eater. Cupcake baker."  Her tweets document her fight for justice and equality, humanitarian activism, and Muslim pride.  But this sweet and sassy progressive poster girl is actually a reflection of CAIR's own duplicity and subversive Islamism.

Last year, Billoo questioned whether U.S. soldiers should be honored or remembered on Memorial Day, saying the holiday is a "struggle" for her.  When faced with opposition, she took a step farther and called the U.S. military murderers and occupiers and compared U.S. military operations to Taliban terrorism.  Indeed, Billoo once tweeted that she "feels more responsible for and outraged by US military terrorism in Pakistan than Taliban terrorism there."

Despite the patriotic Statue of Liberty on its flier, the conference M.C.'s anti-American sentiment runs far deeper than her opposition to Memorial Day.  In 2011, Billoo's CAIR chapter was condemned for discouraging Muslims from cooperating with the FBI on matters related to terror.  Billoo had also accused the bureau of "creating terror plots that don't exist" and suggested that the FBI itself might have planned the foiled terrorist activities.  And at the 2017 Islamic Society of North America conference, Billoo warned that the U.S. government aims to persecute Muslims: "We [know they have done this] with other communities, that they're going to send us to concentration camps."

As Billoo is quick to dismiss accusations of terrorist connections leveled against American Muslims, whether warranted or not, it follows that she seems to have no problem befriending known terrorists.  In November 2014, her chapter of CAIR honored convicted Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) member Sami Al-Arian with the "Promoting Justice Award," despite the fact that he had pleaded guilty to funneling money to PIJ.  She has continued to tweet in defense of Al-Arian (even once saying she "finds inspiration" from him).

CAIR may appear to be nothing more than another Muslim advocacy organization, but its ties to Islamist terror run more than skin-deep. The U.S. Justice Department has confirmed that CAIR is a "Muslim Brotherhood entity," labeling it an unindicted co-conspirator in the prosecution of a charity named the Holy Land Foundation, the largest terrorism-financing trial in U.S. history.  The Justice Department also cited CAIR's involvement with Hamas in a 2013 report.

CAIR has even come under fire from Muslim countries and activists.  The UAE recently designated it a terrorist group.  And the Minnesotan Somali community protested CAIR after the group insinuated that Muslims shouldn't cooperate with the FBI in fighting local recruitment by Somali al-Qaeda affiliate Al-Shabaab.

As Philadelphia Muslims gathered in sparkly gowns at the Springfield Country Club, for an event that claimed to promote pride in the dual American-Muslim identity, we wonder if they knew that the master of ceremonies, Billoo, believes that Saddam Hussein, Osama bin Laden, and Moammar Gaddafi were all part of an American-funded conspiracy.  In typical CAIR double-speak, Billoo forgot to mention that CAIR leaders groveled to Gaddafi while asking him for money in 2009.

Does this really sound like an event, or, for that matter, an organization, dedicated to "defending our freedom"?

Alexandra Markus is a writer for Islamist Watch, a project of the Middle East Forum.