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CAIR’s Selective and Hawkish Stance for War against Syria is Emblematic of Sectarian Bigotry

Cair Syria

The following is a letter of protest against CAIR’s selective, hawkish and outright hypocritical stance for war against Syria that is emblematic of sectarian bigotry

Dear brothers and sisters,

Asalamu alaikum.

We are writing to you as members of the Muslim American community in the United States to condemn in the strongest terms the decision by CAIR’s national executive to support the Trump administration’s unilateral military intervention in Syria.

The decision to support intervention in Syria stands in marked contrast to CAIR’s stance on the invasion of Iraq in 2003. At that time, CAIR rejected the idea of intervention and was critical of the American government’s failure to secure UN approval before attacking.  CAIR was aware that Saddam Hussein had used chemical weapons against civilians in Halabja and crushed with near-genocidal brutality the 1991 Shia uprising that followed the First Gulf War. However it correctly assessed that the forces unleashed by intervention would be even more destructive than the dictator they aimed to remove. The violence and chaos that have followed the Iraq invasion, ultimately leading to the rise of ISIS, has proven CAIR’s stance to be the right one.

It is therefore shocking that CAIR should not only welcome President Trump’s decision to attack a Syrian airbase with 59 cruise missiles, but call for further intervention in the form of a no-fly zone. As you must be aware, the establishment of an NFZ would require the destruction of Syria’s air force and air defence systems, and so CAIR’s request is essentially for a de facto declaration of war against the Syrian government.

We are forced to ask: why is it that CAIR, having been correctly against the Iraq invasion, and with the further example of a failed and disastrous intervention in Libya after it, supports intervention in Syria?

Sadly this, and other inconsistencies make it hard to escape the conclusion that CAIR suffers from political and sectarian bias as a result of the fact that it receives funding and support from groups and individuals based out of Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states that the decision to support intervention was taken to further the political interests of those regimes.

Further examples of this bias include:

  • Under-representation of Shias and other minority sects at the highest level of CAIR’s decision-making apparatus
  • Statements by CAIR allied spokesperson Linda Sarsour defending Saudi Arabia’s human rights record – commonly accepted to be among the worst in the world
  • Failure to criticise the Saudi-led and US/UK supported war in Yemen which has created what the UN describes as the worst humanitarian disaster in the world today
  • Senior CAIR official Hassam Ayloush celebrating the deaths of Russian musicians killed in a terrorist attack on twitter

In themselves, each of these cases is shocking, but taken together, they form a pattern of bias in favour of the Saudi regime and Gulf monarchies and against their political opponents that seriously undermines CAIR’s claim to be working in the interests of American Muslims

It is further distressing that CAIR has taken the uniquely provocative step of referring to the actions of the Syrian government as a ‘genocide.’ The clear implication is that the conflict is not a political one  – between supporters and opponents of Assad – but a sectarian one in which certain groups are singled out for extermination for their ethno-religious background.

The truth is that there is only one genocidal force in the Middle East, it is the extremist ideology that motivates Al-Qaeda, Al-Nusra and ISIS and that has killed hundreds of thousands of innocent Sunnis, Christians, Yazdis, Shias and others for refusing to adhere to its perverted interpretation of Islam. It is the height of irresponsibility for CAIR to adopt such divisive and inaccurate language, which both belittles the suffering of those who have been raped, murdered or enslaved at the hands of terrorist groups and provides such groups with political cover by creating a false equivalence between their actions and those of the regime.

At a time when Muslims in America need to stand together against the threat posed by the most anti-Muslim administration in history, we are appalled to see CAIR’s national executive making common cause with Donald Trump in praising air strikes against a Muslim country which have led to the deaths of nine civilians, including children. If CAIR is to continue to claim to be the voice of Muslim Americans, it must act in the interests of all Muslim Americans, not in the interests of foreign funders and ideological supporters.

We continue to value the fine civil liberties work done by CAIR at the local level to advocate on behalf of Muslims but if the national executive continues to adopt stances that represent only a narrow sliver of the opinion and interests of Muslim Americans then we, and many others like us, will have to look elsewhere for representation.

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