In April, the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) published its “2018 Civil Rights Report.” Accompanied by the subtitle “Targeted,” the report claims an alarming increase in Islamophobic incidents across America, which it partly blames on the Trump administration.
CAIR’s report was covered by media outlets around the world. Given the seriousness of the report’s findings — and CAIR’s proclaimed dedication to fighting bigotry — those unfamiliar with CAIR’s history may be surprised to discover that the lead author of CAIR’s report has a long history of promoting antisemitic conspiracy theories and supporting extremist causes.
Zainab Arain is CAIR’s Research and Advocacy Manager. Over the past eight years, she has worked for a number of Islamist organizations, including Helping Hand for Relief and Development and the Islamic Circle of North America, both outposts of the South Asian Islamist movement Jamaat-e-Islami. While a student at UCLA, Arain served as web editor for Al Talib, an Islamist student publication, which in 1999 celebrated Ayatollah Khomeini and Osama bin Laden’s “spirit of jihad.”
This was, of course, long before Arain’s time at the magazine. And nothing that she wrote for Al Talib appears particularly terrible. Her Twitter account, however, is another story.
Arain seems particularly fond of antisemitic conspiracy theories. Over the course of many years, she has circulated articles from fringe publications, claiming that Israel steals the organs of Palestinians (an invocation of the ancient antisemitic blood libel conspiracy) and has attempted to assassinate American and Pakistani officials. She states that the FBI is “manufacturing terror plots against Jewish-Americans” — ostensibly, her linked article suggests, to justify harsher counter-terrorism efforts. And she promoted a bizarre claim made by the Iranian regime’s Press TV that Israel was supporting the Taliban and Al Qaeda. Arain merely commented: “Is it surprising?”
Other articles circulated by Arain include claims of Israeli control over American leaders, published at the white nationalist anti-Jewish website Information Clearing House. A similar article promoted by Arain claiming that an Israel lobby runs America is authored by Jeff Gates, whom the left-leaning Southern Poverty Law Center includes on a list of antisemitic conspiracy theorists.
Arain also makes it clear that she has a soft spot for Islamist extremists. She praises the Muslim Brotherhood and writes that “The case of the Holy Foundation is sad. One of those convicted said it was an honor to be convicted for feeding palestinian women & children.” For those readers who might have forgotten, the Holy Land Foundation was the chief US financier of Hamas, a designated terrorist organization. It was shut down by Federal authorities and its officials were imprisoned, following the largest terror financing case in American history.
Those who are familiar with CAIR may not be so surprised that it would task a bigot with writing an in-depth report about bigotry. CAIR’s record is well-known. In 2008, federal prosecutors named CAIR as an unindicted co-conspirator during the very same Holy Land Foundation trial. In 2014, the United Arab Emirates designated CAIR as a terrorist organization. The Anti-Defamation League has claimed that CAIR promotes anti-Jewish sentiment.
While CAIR is keen to claim that anti-Muslim activity is skyrocketing, it neglects to mention the hatred of its own officials toward Muslim minorities.
Senior CAIR official Hassan Shibly has endorsed a Pakistani hate group named Khatme Nubuwwat (KN), which exists solely to incite hatred and violence against Muslims from the peaceful Ahmadiyyah sect, whom KN claims are apostates. Following KN’s recent conference in Virginia, in which it reaffirmed its hatred of Ahmadi Muslims, CAIR’s Shibly told American KN operatives: “May Allah reward you guys. You guys are doing very important work.”
In their report, some of the statistics that CAIR and Arain cite are indeed drawn from hateful and sometimes violent attacks on Muslims that have taken place across America. But CAIR’s figures are heavily inflated by what it calls “anti-Muslim bias,” which make up the vast majority of the “Islamophobic” incidents counted by the Islamist group. CAIR states there were 2,599 “anti-Muslim bias incidents” in 2017 and only 300 “hate crimes.”
Of its figures on “anti-Muslim bias,” CAIR claims that 35% were in fact “instigated” by “government agencies.” This particular “bias,” it turns out, mostly comprised interviews of Muslims conducted by the FBI and Customs and Border Protection officers in their attempts to identify and challenge terrorists. CAIR offers almost no examples in its report of how these interviews constituted “anti-Muslim bias,” despite claiming to have recorded over 700 incidents.
CAIR’s other examples of “anti-Muslim bias,” meanwhile, include legislative efforts in states across the country to prevent boycott efforts against Israel.
Hiring an antisemitic activist to warn the public about the horrors of intolerance tells us all we need to know about CAIR’s agenda. But it is important to note that moderate Muslims are also harmed by CAIR’s deceit. By treating efforts to fight terrorism and the Islamist ideology that underpins it as examples of “anti-Muslim bias,” the plight of Muslims who have suffered actual abuse at the hands of bigots is diminished.
Sam Westrop is Director of Islamist Watch, a project of the Middle East Forum.