The response of “non-violent” Islamists to counter-extremism programs displays a master class in deception. The greatest mistake made by the Obama administration is to treat groups such as CAIR and the Islamic Society of Boston (ISB) as genuine representatives of the Muslim community.
A number of Massachusetts Muslim groups, led by Cambridge city councilor Nadeem Mazen, are currently spearheading a campaign against the Obama administration’s program, Countering Violent Extremism (CVE), which has designated Boston as one of its pilot cities.
From the government’s perspective, Boston was an obvious choice. The city has a long, unfortunate history of producing internationally-recognized terrorists, including the Tsarnaev brothers, who bombed the Boston marathon; Aafia Siddiqui, whom FBI Director Robert S. Muellerdescribes as “an al-Qaeda operative and facilitator;” Abdulrahman Alamoudi, the founder of the Islamic Society of Boston, and named by the federal government as an Al Qaeda fundraiser, and Ahmad Abousamra, a key official within Islamic State, whose father is vice-president of the Muslim American Society’s Boston branch.
During the past decade, in fact, twelve congregants, supporters, officials and donors of the Islamic Society of Boston alone have been imprisoned, deported, killed or are on the run in connection with terrorism offenses.
Despite these alumnae, a number of extremist Islamic organizations, such as the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), have claimed that the government’s attempt to combat radicalization “targets American Muslims” and “undermines our national ideals.”
Cambridge city councilor Nadeem Mazen, who is also a director of CAIR’s Massachusetts branch, has spoken at a number of anti-CVE rallies, condemning the government’s approach as “authoritarian” because it included “violent practices like surveillance and racial profiling.”
In response, Robert Trestan, the Massachusetts director of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL),points out that the CVE program “is relatively new in this country. It’s not fair to judge it yet and be overly critical.” He added: “Nothing I’ve seen or participated in has gone anywhere near proposing or suggesting anything close to surveillance, crossing the line of people’s civil rights or profiling.”
What, then, is the basis for this opposition?
Critics of Nadeem Mazen look with concern at his opposition to policing that protects Americans from terrorist attacks. In May, Mazen voted against the Cambridge Police Department budget. Heargued that the funding for SWAT teams and the police’s participation in CVE programs only served to “alienate the Muslim community.” The Cambridge SWAT team, however, played a crucial part in the arrest of Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev just hours after he and his brother murdered three spectators and injured hundreds at the Boston marathon.
Mazen has also taken part in protests against Boston police departments. Addressing a crowd of activists from a group named Restore the Fourth, Mazen claimed that police counter-terrorism units are part of a larger conspiracy to suppress free speech: “They are working very hard…in the background….but really, there’s never any need. … Some of the research is looking at free speech activists…like me. … It is that type of government operation, it’s that that is the best and the most evident hallmark of tyranny.”
Are Mazen and CAIR, then, simply free speech campaigners?
CAIR does not exactly have a reputation for liberal activism. It was founded in 1994 by three officials of the Islamic Association of Palestine, which, the 2008 Holy Land Foundation terror financing trial would later determine, was a front for the terrorist group, Hamas. During the same trial, the prosecutors designated CAIR as an “unindicted co-conspirator.” U.S. District Court Judge Jorge Solis concluded that, “The government has produced ample evidence to establish the associations of CAIR… with the Islamic Association for Palestine, and with Hamas.”
One of CAIR’s original Islamic Association of Palestine founders, Nihad Awad, is today CAIR’s Executive Director. Awad peddles conspiracy theories that the U.S Congress is controlled by Israel, and has stated that U.S. foreign policy was propelled by Clinton administration officials of a particular “ethnic background.”
The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) notes that CAIR has long expressed anti-Semitic and pro-terror rhetoric. The ADL adds that, “[CAIR’s] public statements cast Jews and Israelis as corrupt agents who control both foreign and domestic U.S. policy and are responsible for the persecution of Muslims in the U.S.”
|In November 2015, CAIR, which in the Holy Land Foundation terror financing trial was determined to be a front for the terrorist group Hamas, organized a “lobbying day” at the Massachusetts State House.|
Not all of Massachusetts’s Muslim groups have opposed involvement in the CVE program. In February, the Islamic Society of Boston (ISB), which is partly run by the Muslim American Society, took part in the White House’s summit on Countering Violent Extremism.
The ISB’s Director, Yusufi Vali, however, would later criticize the CVE program on the grounds that by focusing on radicalization rather than violence, the authorities were unfairly targeting Muslim-Americans simply because of their faith.
Instead, Vali has urged, the government should deputize responsibility for combatting extremism to groups such as his. Boston is a pilot city for the CVE program, he claimed, because of the “strong relationship” between law enforcement and institutions such as the ISB. Only the ISB’s version of Islam, Vali proposed, can “appeal to young people” and “win in the marketplace of ideas.”
But the ideology underpinning the Islamic Society of Boston itself is cause for some concern. In 2008, the Muslim American Society (MAS), which runs the ISB’s Cultural Center, of which Vali is also a board member, was labelled by federal prosecutors “as the overt arm of the Muslim Brotherhood in America.”
Religious leaders of the Muslim American Society have included Hafiz Masood, the brother of Pakistani terrorist Hafiz Saeed, who masterminded the 2008 Mumbai Massacre in which 164 people were murdered. While he was living in the Boston area, according to a Times of Indiareport, Masood was raising money and trying to recruit people for his brother’s terrorist group. After being deported by the government for filing a fraudulent visa application, Masood has sincebecome a spokesperson for Jamaat-ud-Dawa, a branch of his brother’s terrorist group, Lashkar-i-Taiba.
The ISB itself was founded by the Al Qaeda operative Abdulrahman Alamoudi, who was jailed in 2004 for participating in a Libyan plot to assassinate Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah. The ISB’s other trustees have included prominent Islamist operatives, including Yusuf Al Qaradawi, the spiritual leader of the global Muslim Brotherhood.
In October, an event hosted by the ISB featured a number of extremist preachers. One of them, Hussain Kamani has cited Quranic verse and commentary to warn Muslims, “do not resemble the Jews” and has advised parents to “beat” their children “if they do not [pray].” In a talk titled ‘Sex, Masturbation and Islam,’ Kamani explains that a Muslim man must only fulfil his sexual desires “with his spouse…[or] with a female slave that belongs to him.” Those who commit adultery or have sex outside of marriage, Kamani further declares, must be “stoned to death.”
If one looks to European experiences with counter-extremism programs, some of which have been in place for over a decade, Yusufi Vali and the ISB have good reasons to lobby against a focus on radicalization. In Britain, under Prime Minister David Cameron, the government has come to the realization that some of the Islamic groups entrusted with counter-extremism initiatives are, in fact, part of the problem.