Are Muslim Defendants Getting Special Treatment in Court?
An otherwise unremarkable hearing in the Fairfax County, Virginia, general district court last Thursday marked an ominous trend with respect to the cherished American judicial principles of the rule of law and equality before the law. The hearing on four misdemeanor charges against Dr. Mustafa Ahmed Abbasi featured all of the usual players -- judge, bailiff, clerks, prosecutors, police officers, criminal attorneys, and defendant -- but with one notable addition to the judicial drama, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR).
CAIR's intervention in the Abbasi case is a manifestation of a larger campaign against law enforcement to use political alliances and legal threats to intimidate police in cases involving Muslim defendants and to establish separate and preferable treatment for Muslims in the American legal system.
The circumstances concerning the charges against Dr. Abbasi are as unremarkable as last Thursday's hearing. On February 9, Abassi committed an improper turn which prompted a traffic stop by Fairfax County police. After consent for a search of the vehicle was given, police discovered loose pills, needles, and prescriptions written to other individuals in the trunk of the car, violations of Virginia law. Dr. Abbasi admitted that he treated members of his mosque out of his vehicle, also a violation of Virginia medical rules (it should be noted that he is also a U.S. Customs and Immigration Service-approved immigration doctor). Abbasi received a summons for unlawfully prescribing drugs and three others for possession of controlled substances, and was allowed to leave the scene on his own recognizance.
More than two months later, a letter was sent from CAIR national legal counsel Nadhira Al-Khalili to Colonel David Rohrer, chief of the Fairfax County Police Department, claiming that the traffic stop was made on the basis of profiling and that Dr. Abassi's consent to the vehicle search was never given. She also claimed that Abbasi's arrest was part of a pattern of "religious discrimination" by the department.
The CAIR letter made a series of demands, including an internal affairs investigation of the incident, a reprimand for the officer who made the stop, a written apology for Dr. Abbasi, a dash-cam video of the traffic stop, audio of the related police radio transmissions, and the institution of CAIR's workplace sensitivity and diversity training for the entire Fairfax County Police.
An important fact to note is that CAIR's narrative was derived entirely from Dr. Abbasi's own self-serving account. Al-Khalili's letter admitted that they had not even attempted to review any factual evidence that might exist in the case (dash-cam video and police radio transmissions), which could have been easily obtained through an open records request before making their accusations of religious discrimination. Before then, she had not asked for any evidence. It seems that CAIR's demands were clearly aimed at having their "diversity" training instituted by the police department, as there was no indication that Al-Khalili was acting as counsel for Abbasi (she did not appear at last week's hearing), but was rather acting in CAIR's own organizational interests.
CAIR's hysterical claims in this case -- Al-Khalili's letter raises the specter of "the Fairfax County Police Department's repeated and relentless attacks on American Muslims" -- are belied when reviewing the special relationship between CAIR and Fairfax County officials, including the chief of police, Col. David Rohrer, and the County Board of Supervisors chairman, Gerry Connelly.
In fact, Col. Rohrer was a featured speaker at the November 2006 CAIR national annual fundraising dinner, which raised more than $600,000 for the terror-linked group. Col. Rohrer delivered a message professing tolerance and understanding for CAIR's mission:
As we go forward, let us choose to make a difference and embrace a vision of peace and unity and hope. And let us choose for us and our children hope over fear, caring over indifference, tolerance over intolerance, acceptance over prejudice, and understanding over ignorance.
Rohrer also praised CAIR for "helping police departments to better understand the Muslim community," though as was reported last year by the Washington Times, CAIR's membership in 2006 had plummeted to fewer than 1,700 members nationwide and thus is hardly representative of the Muslim community; nor can it remotely claim to speak on its behalf.
Additionally, Rohrer and Fairfax County Supervisor Connelly organized and attended a "community forum" on January 25, 2005, in response to CAIR's concerns about police enforcement of immigration laws. According to a CAIR press release, Connelly assured attendees that "Fairfax County police officers are not an arm of federal immigration enforcement agencies." Col. Rohrer had ensured that representatives from the Fairfax Police Internal Affairs Division were present at the CAIR "forum." Two months later on March 29, CAIR conducted "diversity and sensitivity" training for the staff of the Fairfax County Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court.
But the close relationship between Fairfax County and CAIR has been in the news more recently after Fairfax County Police Sergeant Weiss Rasool pled guilty in April to illegally accessing a federal law enforcement database to run three license plates for a member of his mosque who believed he was under surveillance, tipping him off to an FBI investigation. According to the Washington Post, when FBI agents showed up the following morning at his friend's residence, the surveillance subject and his family were already in the process of shredding evidence. Rasool denied he had tipped off his friend until federal prosecutors played a wiretap recording of the message he had left with his friend and that had been obtained through a warrant from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. Rasool also repeatedly checked his own name and those of other friends through the National Crime Information Center system and the Terrorist Watch List.
CAIR governmental affairs director Corey Saylor sent a letter to the sentencing judge in the case praising Rasool's eagerness "to promote a substantive relationship between the Fairfax County Police Department and the local Muslim community." Despite his admission and guilty plea, Sgt. Rasool is still a member of the Fairfax County Police Department.
But as Steve Emerson of the Investigative Project reported following his guilty plea, Sgt. Rasool and several other Muslim members of the Fairfax County Police Department had already been instrumental in scuttling a counterterrorism program at the county's Criminal Justice Academy conducted by the Higgins Center for Counterterrorism Research. The Higgins course is designed to help counter infiltrating threats -- skills apparently sorely needed by Fairfax County officials. One of Rasool's comrades complaining about the Higgins course represented himself as speaking on CAIR's behalf.
CAIR's cozy relationship with Fairfax County officials was also seen in the recent revelation that CAIR co-founder and executive director Nihad Awad had recently donated to Fairfax Supervisor Gerry Connelly's current campaign for Congress. Awad had used an alias, Nehad Hammad, in making the campaign contribution.
Contrast this longstanding association and cooperation between CAIR and the highest levels of Fairfax County government and police, including appearances at CAIR fundraisers, with the hysterics of the CAIR demand letter sent by Nadhira Al-Khalili in the Abbasi case:
We have noticed what may be a pattern and practice of the Fairfax County Police Department to discriminate against persons of the Islamic faith. We are bringing this issue to the attention of the United States Department of Justice and are requesting a full investigation of the Fairfax County Police Department's repeated and relentless attacks on American Muslims.
The record clearly shows that Fairfax County officials have been overly accommodating to CAIR, especially considering the group's longstanding ties to international terrorist organizations. In fact, the Department of Justice in December concluded in a federal appeals court brief that "CAIR conspired with other affiliates of the Muslim Brotherhood to support terrorists." This raises the question of why anyone affiliated with Fairfax County government or police should have any association with CAIR at all except in criminal investigations looking into the group's activities.
Last week, Dr. Abbasi pled no contest to one of the drug possession charges rather than face multiple convictions on the others dealing with possession and unlawfully prescribing drugs, effectively undercutting CAIR's narrative of events. The plea deal emerged after the judge expressed skepticism at the claims of racial profiling, religious discrimination, and failure to obtain consent for the vehicle search after hearing and reviewing all of the evidence and testimony in the matter -- something CAIR admits it never bothered to do before making its accusations against the officers involved and making its demands for internal affairs and DOJ investigations. What we see at work in the case of Dr. Mustafa Abbasi is part of a concerted effort by CAIR to threaten and intimidate police departments in cases involving Muslims across the country to advance its cultural jihadist agenda.
As a regular consultant to police agencies on counterterrorism issues, I can attest to the immense pressure that police and other first responders are constantly under without having to deal with bogus claims of religious discrimination and self-serving demands to institute CAIR's own "diversity and sensitivity" training programs. If the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division wishes to look into these matters, as CAIR has demanded in Abbasi's case, perhaps it should begin by examining the hostile work environment for police officers created by CAIR's constant, yet continually baseless, grievance-mongering.