CAIR-Backed Chicago Islamist Activist-Turned-Politician on the Rise

On October 27, Abdelnasser Rashid, 30, announced his bid for Cook County Board of Review as an independent Democrat in 2020.

Rashid, who is a former chief policy officer for Cook County Assessor Fritz Kaegi, and who previously served as deputy state director for the 2016 Bernie Sanders presidential campaign, previous ran for the Cook County Commissioner office in 2018 and lost by a very narrow margin.

The Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR)- Chicago awarded Rashid its Trailblazer Award at its 15th annual banquet in February 2019 for his campaign.

CAIR has been identified by federal law enforcement and shown in federal court to have been founded as part of a U.S. Hamas support network, and is a designated terrorist entity in the United Arab Emirates.

Rashid thanked the CAIR audience for its support before announcing the formation of Empower Southwest, an organization intended to maintain the Rashid campaign election infrastructure and continue its advocacy. Rashid founded Empower Southwest together with CAIR-Chicago Board member Ahlam Jbara.

Jbara’s CAIR biography notes she “has led the voter registration and get out the vote campaigns on the southwest side in the Muslim community, has trained youth and adults on civic engagement and organizing.”

Jbara has also used her experience to assist organizations like American Muslims for Palestine (AMP) with political organizing. In Congressional testimony and civil court AMP has been accused representing the newest incarnation of the same U.S-based Hamas financing network linked to CAIR.

Jbara was personally thanked by Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) in a post-election social media post. Tlaib later faced criticism for her ties to Jbara, whose social media publicly displayed selfie photos with convicted Palestinian terrorist Rasmea Odeh, who was a Chicago activist before being deported for lying about her terrorism conviction to U.S. immigration authorities.

Jbara also appears in a Facebook post by the Rashid campaign after last year’s tight loss. Featured in the same photo is Bassem Kawar, a leading activist with “Take on Hate”, a Chicago based activism group with close ties to Odeh.

Rashid also received support from The Muslim Educational Cultural Center of America (MECCA) near Chicago, a mosque founded by Muslim Brotherhood leaders which hosted Rashid during his bid for Cook County commissioner in 2018.

Are Rashid’s associations with Islamists merely an example of politics making strange bedfellows? It seems unlikely when you also consider Rashid’s college ties.

While at Harvard, Rashid served as the 2012 president of the Harvard Islamic Society (HIS), which has been repeatedly accused of anti-Semitism. In 2002, the Harvard Islamic Society attempted to raise funds for the Holy Land Foundation, which would later be convicted for fundraising for Hamas. Harvard Islamic Society is also known for demonstrating bias against Muslim scholars and activists who refuse to boycott Israel. For example, Rabia O’Chaudry, the New York Times best-selling author, was disinvited from speaking at the HIS annual dinner in 2018 because of “pressure from some alumni and her board members,” after the society learned that O’Chaudry “did a study fellowship w [with]/an Israeli seminary.”

Considering Rashid’s young age, and early competitiveness it seems clear he will have a long political career ahead of him and can be expected to continue to rise in Chicago progressive politics, particularly with his ability to maintain his campaign organization. Rashid joins a number of other candidates with Islamist ties seeking local office in Chicago, all running on very progressive platforms. The affiliation between Islamists and progressives remains a growing trend which has worried those who track Islamist groups.

 

Hesham Shehab is the Chicago associate of the Counter-Islamist Grid (CIG)

An earlier version of this article stated that Rashid is the current chief policy officer of the Cook County Assessor’s Office, as stated on his campaign website. According to Scott Smith, the communications officer for the Cook County Assessor's Office, "Rashid stepped down from this position in October to run for Cook County Board of Review."