On September 18, the Minnesota Department of Human Rights (MDHR) suddenly cancelled its planned “Dismantling Hate Crimes Panel and Open Forum” at the 11th hour after facing a public backlash over the participation of the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR). Although MDHR Commissioner Rebecca Lucero told local news that the decision was “related to a bunch of safety concerns that were raised by the police,” St. Cloud Assistant Police Chief Jeff Oxton denied receiving any threats concerning the event.
Why, then, did MDHR suddenly pull the plug on a forum that was planned weeks ago and included representatives from the FBI, St. Cloud Police Department, and the American Civil Liberties Union? Did the panelists get cold feet after learning more about the Islamist group with which they were due to share a stage?
CAIR refers to itself as a Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization, but in reality it functions as the vanguard of Islamism in the United States, with a long history of ties to terrorism and extremist movements that ultimately seek to replace constitutional government with theocracy. If anyone should be able to see through this deception, it is the FBI.
In fact, multiple FBI agents have testified to CAIR’s relationship with the designated terror group Hamas. In 2008, CAIR was named by federal prosecutors as an unindicted co-conspirator in the Holy Land terror financing trial, a designation that was subsequently upheld in appellate court. As a result, the bureau has had a policy in place since 2008 forbidding its agents from associating with CAIR.
However, in spite of this sensible, fact-based policy, enforcement of it over the years has apparently grown lax. A 2013 Department of Justice report noted multiple instances when federal agents negligently violated this directive by meeting with CAIR.
The latest violation was set to occur at this hate crimes panel, held at the St. Cloud Public Library and hosted by the St.Cloud Regional Human Rights Commission (HRC) and St. Cloud Pride, a local nonprofit. However, after the Middle East Forum’s Islamism In Politics (IIP) project joined local activist groups in pressuring the FBI and other event participants to withdraw, it was summarily cancelled.
The panel was to feature Michael Melcher, Supervisory Special Agent of the FBI, and Jaylani Hussein, the Executive Director for CAIR’s Minnesota branch (CAIR-MN). Local law enforcement was to be represented by Blair Anderson, chief of the St. Cloud Police Department (SCPD). The panel was to focus on hate crimes: “what are they, how do we monitor them, report them, and how do we prevent them from happening?”
The first step in preventing hate crimes, however, should be recognizing who is responsible for fomenting the bigotry that fuels such violence. On this point, CAIR is more part of the problem than the solution – it has a long history of promoting speakers and organizations with histories of spreading anti-Semitism and anti-gay hate.
Of all the CAIR branches, CAIR-MN in particular has played a key role role in encouraging Muslims not to work with the FBI and other law enforcement agencies. It has actually worked to impede FBI investigations into Somali-linked terrorists.
In 2009 local Somali Muslim activist Abdirizak Bihi publicly condemned CAIR-MN – protesting a CAIR event organized to discourage local Somalis from helping the FBI. Bihi later testified before Congress’s Homeland Security Commission, revealing how CAIR worked with local mosque leaders to hinder the FBI’s investigation into missing young men suspected of joining the East African Al Qaeda affiliate, al-Shabaab.
The St. Cloud police should also cut ties with CAIR. Certainly, other local law enforcement across the country have done so. In 2009, for example, the Columbus Police Department halted collaboration with CAIR; and, in 2019, the Arkansas House of Representatives passed a resolution discouraging law enforcement from engaging with the Islamist organization.
At a previous St. Cloud Public Library event in 2017, Hussein refused to condemn Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood. One can hardly imagine the FBI joining forces with a local Christian community leader who refuses to condemn the KKK or a neo-Nazi organization. However, in Hussein’s case, not only were his remarks tolerated, but he was invited back to present again.
CAIR-MN regularly hosts events and promotes speakers who possess radical and hateful histories. For example, CAIR-MN’s website describes former CAIR board member Siraj Wahhaj as “one of the most admired Muslim leaders and speakers in America.” He is also among the most infamous and radical – well known for his hardline positions embracing homophobia, misogyny, violent Jihad, barbaric forms of punishment, anti-Americanism and racism.
The collaboration between CAIR and St. Cloud Pride is particularly ironic given CAIR’s long history of promoting anti-gayclerics such as Wahhaj, Omar Suleiman, Suhaib Webb, and Muzammil Siddiqi. Wahhaj believes that homosexuals are “cursed” and afflicted by “a disease of this society.” Suleiman has also described homosexuality as a “disease” and a “repugnant shameless sin.” Webb described it as an “evil inclination,” and Siddiqi has defended the death penalty for homosexuals in Muslim countries.
CAIR has also exhibited troubling associations with other Minnesota Islamists. CAIR National and CAIR-MN have both worked with Asad Zaman, director of the Muslim American Society’s Minnesota branch (MAS-MN). On his social media, Zaman has shared anti-Semitic conspiracy theories from Nazi websites and promoted violent Islamist organizations such as the terror group Hamas and Bangladesh’s Islami Chhatra Shibir. CAIR and MAS share the distinction of both being named terrorist organizations by the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and they often collaborate on projects across the United States.
Counter-Islamist activist Chris Gaubatz contacted the Minneapolis FBI office to urge them to withdraw Melcher’s participation. Kevin Smith, the FBI’s spokesman in Minneapolis, claimed that the bureau was unaware of CAIR’s participation when the panel was formed, and he claimed that it would be inappropriate to withdraw now. When Gaubatz asked if the FBI would cancel if the KKK were involved, Smith answered: “Of course, but that is like comparing apples to oranges.”
Thanks to grassroots activism from IIP and local protest groups such as Minnesota’s Freedom Speaks Coalition, the Minneapolis FBI may no longer be convinced that CAIR is so different from the KKK after all. Meanwhile, the Minnesota Department of Human Rights’ suggestion that the police were concerned about “protecting public safety” does not stand up to scrutiny, and local police failed to respond to questions about its advice to event organizers at the time of publication.
What is abundantly clear, however, is that CAIR makes for a deeply unsuitable partner – a fact that was communicated to the FBI by a variety of Muslim and non-Muslim activists in the days leading up to the panel. Given its 11-year-old policy forbidding partnership with CAIR, it should be the FBI informing a naïve public about this terror-tied Islamist group; not the other way around.
DavidM. Swindle is a fellow of Islamist Watchand the Southern California associate of theCounter-Islamist Grid. He also works as the Director of Research for The Israel Group. Follow him on Twitter @DaveSwindle.