Some mysterious dealings at the Tampa chapter of the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) highlight some of the peculiarities of that unsavory group. As terror expert Steve Emerson’s Investigative Project has noted, Ahmed Bedier, up until recently a rising star in the organization, has left his position as the executive director of CAIR-Tampa, and no one is saying why. Since Bedier has espoused numerous questionable positions in the past, could this parting of the ways could herald a new attempt by CAIR to leave behind some of its more radical positions?
CAIR has for years presented two faces to the American people. It says that its mission is “to enhance understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.” And it is a high-profile, active, successful organization. Law-enforcement officials all over the country have received sensitivity training from CAIR. The mainstream media routinely seeks it out for a moderate Muslim perspective.
But there is another side to this organization as well. CAIR is “unusual in its extreme rhetoric and its associations with groups that are suspect,” according to Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL). Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) has said of CAIR that “we know it has ties to terrorism,” and “intimate links with Hamas.” CAIR was named an unindicted co-conspirator in the Holy Land Foundation jihad terror funding case. Several of its former employees and board members are now doing hard time on various terrorism-related charges.
And CAIR’s co-founder and former Board Chairman, Omar Ahmad, told a Muslim audience in 1998 that “Islam isn’t in America to be equal to any other faith, but to become dominant. The Koran … should be the highest authority in America, and Islam the only accepted religion on earth.” In 2003, when these words started to get publicity, Ahmad denied saying this. He denies he said it, and he denies that he believes this. However, the original reporter stands by her story.
Bedier has been a superb embodiment of the double face of CAIR. On the Glenn Beck Show in 2005, he declared: “We condemn any nation, country or group that uses Islam or misuses and misinterprets Islam in violent ways.” Announcing his depature from CAIR, he explained his future plans in terms to warm any multiculturalist’s heart: “I’m going to expand on and build upon my work as a civil rights and human rights leader into broader areas of peace building, interfaith dialogue and reconciliation.”
Yet Bedier has also said that before 1995, when the State Department declared Palestinian Islamic Jihad a terrorist group, there was “nothing immoral” about associating with the group. The anti-terror advocacy group Americans Against Hate notes that “Bedier’s answer is startling, given the fact that, prior to 1995, Palestinian Islamic Jihad took credit for five terrorist attacks, which resulted in the murders of eight innocent people. This includes a suicide bombing in the town of Netzarim Junction, in November of 1994.”
And when two Muslim college students, Youseff Megahed and Ahmed Mohamed, were found with pipe bombs (and one of whom has admitted to making a video about how to use remote-controlled bombs against American soldiers), Bedier claimed that the pipe bomb material was just fireworks and said, “Both of them are really naïve kids.” On a Florida TV show several months ago, Bedier sidestepped numerous opportunities to condemn the barbaric practice of stoning.
So what does Bedier’s departure from CAIR mean at a point when he seemed to have a bright future with the national organization? Does it mean that the organization is finally going to make an attempt to live up to its self-definition, and become a truly moderate group that will work against the jihad ideology and Islamic supremacism in the American Muslim community?
That’s unlikely: the Investigative Project is correct that Bedier was “one of CAIR’s most high-profile local executive directors, publicly commenting frequently on a variety issues ranging from the staunch defense of convicted Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorist Sami Al-Arian to the wearing of Islamic garments such as the hijab in public schools.” Despite the mysterious circumstances surrounding his departure for the organization, there is no indication that any of CAIR’s remaining personnel have changed course.
And that is why government, law enforcement, and the media would be well advised to treat CAIR with extreme caution, a caution they have not shown up to now.