If you look on their websites, you will find that the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) and the Muslim American Society (MAS) describe themselves in the most general and warm-and-fuzzy ways. Do these descriptions mirror the groups accurately? Have a look:
CAIR: Tagline on their webpage is “Making democracy work for everyone.”
Their vision is to be “a leading advocate for justice and mutual understanding.”
Their Mission is to “enhance understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.”
MAS: Describes itself as “a dynamic charitable, religious, social, cultural, and educational, organization.”
Their Mission is “to move people to strive for God consciousness, liberty, and justice, and to convey Islam with utmost clarity.”
Their vision is “a virtuous and just American society.”
“Now who can argue with that?” (to quote from Mel Brooks’ comedy masterpiece Blazing Saddles).
Well, this is no laughing matter — and apparently their fellow Arab Muslims in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) can and do argue with it, and they apparently take great exception to these benign self-descriptions by CAIR and MAS.
As of two days ago, UAE’s President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan has approved, and his Cabinet has issued, the kingdom’s list of 85 “designated [international] terrorist organisations and groups” — published, they said, in order “to raise awareness in society about these organisations.”
Raise awareness, indeed. Hackles may have been raised as well in some quarters, because nestled in the list in and among the usual suspects (al-Qaeda and its various affiliates in Pakistan, Syria, Yemen and North Africa; ISIL/Dae’sh; Hezbollah; the Muslim Brotherhood and several of its European affiliates; and various Iranian-backed radical Shi’ite groups) sit — you guessed it — CAIR and MAS.
There are many who believe these groups appear on the list of Terrorist Organizations for good reason. The Reston, Virginia-based Media Research Center (MRC) has provided a reminder of how CAIR was in American headlines in the past. “CAIR was named by the Justice Department in 2007 as ‘unindicted co-conspirators’ in its case against the Holy Land Foundation in Texas, whose leaders were convicted the following year of raising money for Hamas. One of the convicted men, Ghassan Elashi, was founder of CAIR’s Texas chapter. He was sentenced to 65 years’ imprisonment.”
Then there’s the case of the documentary film Honor Diaries, which profiles “nine Muslim women and their horrific experiences in Islamic societies living with practices such as female genital mutilation, honor violence, honor killings, and forced marriage at young ages.” The film’s creators describe it as “more than a movie, it is a movement to save women and girls from human rights abuses — around the world and here in America.” Earlier this year, a screening of the film planned for the University of Michigan, Dearborn, was cancelled based on shrill cries of “Islamophobia!” by, you guessed it, CAIR.
(I urge you to watch the trailer for Honor Diaries at the bottom of this essay, to decide for yourself.)
As for MAS, the MRC notes that the organization “was founded by Muslim Brotherhood [MB] members in the early 1990s.” Remember the Muslim Brotherhood? The dashed hopes for the Arab Spring? Egypt? Islamic supremacists? Torture, rape, and killings in the street? “Although [MAS] states that it ‘has no affiliation with’ the MB or any other international organization, [it] does not deny those origins, and also acknowledges the important place of the MB’s foundational texts.”
By very sharp contrast to CAIR and MAS, consider the organization called the American Islamic Forum for Democracy (AIFD) — decidedly not listed by the UAE’s as a terrorist organization. AIFD’s president Zuhdi Jasser is an outspoken critic of CAIR, and he has been repeatedly targeted by that group. According to AIFD, the inclusion of CAIR and MAS on the UAE terror list should cause Muslims and the “broader American society at large to see these organizations for what they really are: purveyors of Islamist apologetics and the malignancy of supremacism.”
However much they would like to see that message about CAIR become widespread, AIFD predicts it will not happen, pointing out that inclusion on the UAE Terrorist List “places CAIR in exactly the position they most enjoy: that of the victim.”
(You may find the difference between AIFD and the other two American Islamic groups referenced to be interesting, enlightening, and perhaps even refreshing. AIFD’s Mission “is to advocate for the preservation of the founding principles of the United States Constitution, liberty and freedom, through the separation of mosque and state.” It explicitly aims to counter “the common belief that the Muslim faith is inextricably rooted to the concept of the Islamic State (Islamism)” and wants to “build the future of Islam through the concepts of liberty and freedom.”)
Finally, then, are CAIR and MAS terrorist organizations? I have no first hand knowledge, and I don’t pretend to be qualified to tell you what to think. I can only report to you the research I have done over the years, and that is what I will continue to do.
You’ve read the Missions and Visions of these two groups, and you’ve read what their detractors say. Given everything, though, I confess to being quite taken by the fact that the United Arab Emirates did their due diligence, and they decided (with nothing to gain for their country by doing so) that these groups were, in fact, terrorist organizations. Political (or politically correct) pressure may ultimately be brought to bear on the UAE, and they may even back down and remove CAIR and MAS from the list. But it can never change the fact that the Arab Muslims in the UAE felt totally justified in having called this two groups terrorists in the first place.
Spokesmen for Both CAIR and MAS have described themselves as “shocked” at being named terrorists by their fellow Arab Muslims, and are “seeking clarification.”