In a recent article for the Jewish Journal, John Robbins denounces the Ahavath Torah Congregation and its Rabbi, Jonathan Hausman, for hosting an event in Stoughton with several prominent critics of Islam.
Robbins is the director of the Massachusetts branch of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR). He describes the Stoughton speakers as “hateful” and claims Rabbi Hausman fails to acknowledge the “shame” expressed by the Boston Jewish community.
Mr. Robbins and CAIR are welcome to protest. Their right to do so mirrors Ahavath Torah’s right to hold such an event in the first place. There was nothing “hateful” or shameful, however, about the event in Stoughton. It is true that the speakers are critics of the Islamic religion. But this country’s founders understood that religion should be freely subject to criticism – and political manifestations of religion, such as Islamism, even more so.
Prominent Muslim academics acknowledge this: The Bridge Institute, at Georgetown University’s Prince Alwaleed bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding, states: “Rational criticism of Islam or Muslims based on factual evidence is not intrinsically Islamophobia, just as criticism of the tenets or followers of other religions or ethnic groups does not necessarily indicate bigotry or prejudice.” The Centre is led by John Esposito, who regularly addresses CAIR events.
Most importantly, however, it is duplicitous of Mr. Robbins to condemn the rhetoric of the Stoughton speakers, while denying the tangible extremism of his own organization. Mr. Robbins’ group, CAIR, is today one of the most notorious Islamist groups active in the United States. And in contrast with the speakers in Stoughton, CAIR is linked to violent extremism. CAIR does not serve to defend American Muslims; it works to advocate Islamist ideology.
Don’t just take our word for it. CAIR was named by federal prosecutors as an unindicted co-conspirator during the infamous 2008 Holy Land Foundation terrorism financing trial. Because of their links to terror, the Obama administration’s Justice Department urged a ban on working with CAIR, in place since 2009. Other American anti-racism organizations such as the ADL, meanwhile, believe CAIR is a key promoter of anti-Jewish sentiment. And in 2014, the United Arab Emirates – a pious Muslim country – even designated CAIR a terrorist organization.
In Massachusetts, Mr. Robbins’ colleagues at CAIR’s Massachusetts branch include Tahirah Amatul Wadud, who has circulated articles on social media, written by the Sheikh of another group for which she works, that declare Hitler was not an enemy of the United States and that 9/11 was an inside job.
This is the real rhetoric of extremism. This is what “hateful” sounds like. And it is CAIR’s duplicity that should leave those Jewish leaders who joined CAIR’s protest at Rabbi Hausman’s synagogue feeling “shame” about the ease with which they have been duped.
A number of liberal Jewish rabbis, along with the head of the Massachusetts Board of Rabbis, David Lerner, agreed to sign CAIR’s protest statement. How could these rabbis not know what CAIR is? A 2011 Gallup poll showed that a mere 12% of American Muslims think CAIR represents their views. By befriending Islamist groups like CAIR, these Jewish leaders are not just sanitizing anti-Semitism, they are also betraying moderate Muslims everywhere by legitimizing extremist groups like CAIR as representative of the historically moderate American Muslim community.
Mr. Robbins does not address the plethora of evidence against CAIR because he knows there is no defence. Any conversation about the facts risks confounding his and CAIR’s media-savvy claim to be liberal voices committed to interfaith dialogue. Instead, Mr. Robbins chose to condemn accusations about CAIR’s terrorist and extremist links as a sinister “conspiracy.”
If it were a conspiracy, it would be a remarkably well-coordinated one: federal prosecutors, the ADL, the Justice Department, and the United Arab Emirates have all reached the same conclusion about the danger posed by CAIR.
Mr. Robbins’ casuistry informs us that the Ahavath Torah Congregation has a “moral responsibility to spread genuine peace and tolerance.” Rabbi Hausman organized an event with some outspoken critics of a religion. But, unlike CAIR’s officials, the Rabbi did not give money to a terrorist group; he did not claim that 9/11 was an inside job, and he did not spend the last few decades promoting strident anti-Semitism. He simply organized a discussion. Certain Jewish community “leaders” may want to give CAIR and its anti-Jewish cohorts a voice. But Jews outside the community “leadership” bubble know better.
Samuel Westrop is a Senior Fellow at the Gatestone Institute. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.