(© Zubair Qamar 2014)
There has been much suspicion by many Americans about an organization called the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR). CAIR, one of the largest organizations in the US that claims to promote civil advocacy on behalf of American Muslims, would like to represent most or all American Muslims in the United States, just as any other American Muslim advocacy organization would.
Perhaps due to CAIR’s wide presence in the US with national and local chapters spread across the country, and its alleged links to extremist groups, CAIR often attracts the attention of the media. CAIR representatives, for example, have frequently appeared in Fox News, including in the Bill O’Reilly show. This is not surprising considering the words of CAIR Executive Director, Nihad Awad, who in his own words in 1994 said that he was
“in support of the Hamas movement more than the PLO.”
The above words of course do not necessarily mean Nihad Awad espouses the same view today as he did 20 years ago. Moreover, the posting of the video from Steve Emerson’s Investigative Project on Terrorism website should not be construed as an agreement of all that Emerson projects about Islam and Muslims.
Emerson’s credentials, shoddy reporting, and alliances with Islamophobic “experts” are well known. While he has some useful information on his website, he mixes this information with false allegations, such as his portrayal of Muslim moderates like Hamza Yusuf and Zaid Shakir as extremists, and even describing a moderate, non-Muslim author and professor, John Esposito, as an apologist of Islamism.
As a result of media attention, CAIR is projected on television screens of millions of viewers. This exposure has resulted in a mistaken image by many that CAIR is the representative of Muslims in the US, just as CAIR would like to be seen.
Any allegation, whether true or not, against CAIR for ties to extremism sheds a negative light on millions of Muslims. This causes many to erroneously paint CAIR and the Muslim masses, especially in the US, with the same brush as if their understandings of Islam and politics, as well as their goals, are the same. Muslim and Islam haters use this as fodder to confirm their wrong suspicions that Muslims in the US, through representatives such as CAIR, aim to infiltrate and/or take over the United States.
Who is to blame? Both the media and CAIR are at fault because, I believe, they feed on each other to attain their own respective aims and benefits while ignoring the views of America’s Muslim majority. This includes what the majority of Muslims in the US believe about the Muslim organizations that represent them. And this brings us to a very important question:
Which Muslim organizations do American Muslims believe represent them?
To clear the confusion caused by both the media and CAIR, the answer to this question was fortunately answered in a Gallup Poll conducted from 2008 to 2011. The survey report, “Muslim Americans: Faith, Freedom, and the Future” was released by Gallup in August 2011.
In the report, American Muslims were asked:
Which American Muslim organization most represents your interests?
The results for CAIR, the organization of concern, are:
CAIR: 12% males; 11% females
The results are clear that the vast majority of American Muslims do not believe that CAIR represents them. This means that one cannot paint CAIR and other American Muslims with the same brush, no matter what Fox News portrays or who CAIR says it represents.
But how do the majority of American Muslims feel they are represented by other Muslim organizations in the US? The results are just as interesting:
-Islamic Society of North American (ISNA): 4% males; 7% females
-Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC): 6% males; 1% females
-MAS: 0% males; 2% females
-Imam W.D. Muhammad Group: 3% males; 1% females
-Islamic Circle of North American (ICNA): 2% males; 0% females
-Other: 6% males; 20% females
-None: 55% males; 42% females
While CAIR has minimal support by American Muslims, other organizations are supported even less. This does not mean that CAIR represents American Muslims. It means that there is a crisis of leadership among Muslims in the United States – if the American Muslim majority even chooses to be represented by any organization.
The myth of American Muslims’ support for CAIR, as well as what the media and CAIR wrongly portray, has been laid bare. This is bad news to Muslim organizations that seem to pretend to represent the American Muslim majority when they actually do not, and also for media “pundits” and Islamophobes who do not educate and inform the American public, but contribute to magnifying a distorted and unrealistic understanding of what the majority of American Muslims really think.