In its email response to “anti-Muslim” comments by attendees of a lecture at Scripps College last week, the Claremont Colleges’ Muslim Student Association urged students to donate to the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR)—which has faced scrutiny by the federal government for its connections to terrorist groups, such as Hamas.
As the Independent reported on October 11, an open lecture held at Scripps College was attended by an assortment of non-Claremont College students who persistently questioned the speaker—Hussam Ayloush, Executive Director of the Los Angeles chapter of the Council of American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-LA)—about his views on Islamist terror and President Trump’s immigration policies.
According to a video of the incident, which has since been removed for violating YouTube’s terms of service, the exchange quickly devolved into shouting between some of the attendees and a professor who was overseeing the lecture.
In response to this incident, the Muslim Student Association (MSA) issued a campus-wide statement, claiming that comments made by the lecture attendees were “anti-Muslim, Islamophobic, and anti-immigrant” and stating that many were “deeply affected” by the exchange that occurred.
The MSA provided a list of ways that students can be an “ally to Muslim students on campus,” which included submitting thank-you notes to the speaker who led the lecture and reaching out to students who may need support.
The MSA’s list also encouraged students to donate to and attend a rally hosted by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR). CAIR has faced scrutiny over the years, including by the U.S. government, on account of its alleged connections to terrorist groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah. The United Arab Emirates has also explicitly listed CAIR as a terrorist organization.
The FBI discovered a connection between CAIR and Hamas during the 2008 Holy Land Foundation (HLF) trials. During the trials, it was found that the Holy Land Foundation, once the largest Islamic charity in the country, had funnelled over $12 million to Hamas, which had been designated a terrorist organization in 1995.
The U.S. government closed the Holy Land Foundation, then the largest Islamic charity in the country, and seized its assets in 2001 following the September 11 terror attacks. Government lawyers spent the bulk of the next decade assembling evidence to put the group’s leaders behind bars for financing terrorism.
One of the founders of the HLF, Ghassan Elashi, was sentenced to 65 years for terrorism financing in the 2008 case. Elashi was also a founding member of a Texas branch of CAIR, and CAIR itself was listed as an unindicted co-conspirator in the terrorism financing scheme.
Other HLF officers received similar penalties on charges ranging from conspiracy to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization, providing material support to a foreign terrorist, and conspiracy to commit money laundering.
Following these developments, the FBI discontinued its liaison relationship with CAIR. In a March 2009 letter, FBI Assistant Director John Miller wrote to then U.S. Rep Frank R. Wolf (R-Va) explaining that the FBI had decided to end engagement with CAIR in part because “CAIR was listed as an unindicted co-conspirator” in the HLF case.
The FBI also stated at the time that the agency would not consider resuming its relationship with CAIR until the organization can “resolve whether there continues to be a connection between CAIR or its executives and Hamas.”
The FBI has yet to resume any official affiliation with CAIR, even after a review of the matter by President Obama’s Department of Justice in 2013.
Additionally, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), a Jewish group that battles anti-Semitic discrimination, claims that CAIR is tied to groups that push anti-Semitic agendas.
The Claremont Colleges’ MSA did not include in their statement any disclosure of CAIR’s questionable ties as they sought students’ financial support of the group.
MSA’s statement is included below:
“To the greater 5C Community:
The recent incident at Scripps College on October 10 involving a group interrupting speaker Hussam Ayloush has come to our attention. This group made anti-Muslim, Islamophobic, and anti-immigrant comments and abandoned civil, academic discourse. The Muslim Students Association, with students from all backgrounds, is deeply affected by this incident. We are students who have worked tirelessly to pave our way at the Colleges. Considering the recent political climate and the rise in Islamophobia, we have already been forced to bear the burden of not belonging in addition to continuing on with our daily lives as students. When incidents like these take place, they dig deep into wounds that have not yet healed. We expect these spaces to be safe places of higher learning, where we can explore ideas and share our thoughts. More than that, we expect that our identities, so central to our lives, will not be targeted.
We hope that communities that aren’t affected by this incident stand in solidarity with the Muslim community at the Claremont colleges. Below we have listed steps you can take as an ally to Muslim students on campus.
Make sure your affected friends have adequate support. Note that this group includes Muslims and those assumed to be Muslim due to racial, ethnic, or religious origin. Point them to resources such as Monsour or Chaplain Adeel Zeb (Azeb@cuc.claremont.edu) if they need additional help.
Take steps to intervene when Islamophobic comments are made.
There is a box in the McAlister Center (in the library) to write and submit Thank-You notes for Hussam due by Sunday 10.15.17 @ 11pm.
You can donate to CAIR-LA by following the link below:
CAIR-LA is hosting a No Muslim Ban Ever Rally this Sunday, October 15 from 12 PM- 4 PM at the Japanese American Cultural and Community Center. More details are below:
One kind of oppression does not overshadow another, and we must stand together to fight every oppression, especially when it is directed towards marginalized communities.
Thank you to all community members and student groups that have come out in solidarity and support during this time. We appreciate your efforts in making the colleges a more inclusive space.
The Board of the Muslim Students Association”
Photo: Flickr / slagheap