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Why did Peter King take on CAIR at radicalization hearings?

At the hearing on 'radicalization in the American Muslim community,' Rep. Peter King takes particular aim at the CAIR, the largest US Muslim civil-rights organization.

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“This means that responsible Muslim-American leaders must reject discredited groups such as CAIR – The Council on Islamic-American Relations which was named as an unindicted co-conspirator in the terrorist financing case involving the Holy Land Foundation,” King said. “Thankfully, FBI Director Mueller has ordered the FBI to cease all dealings and contact with CAIR. I would hope that all law-enforcement officials would follow the lead of the FBI Director.”

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The situation King refers to began in 2008 when the FBI – without a detailed explanation – quietly withdrew formal relations with all local chapters of CAIR.

At the time, it was assumed that the FBI’s decision to sever most of its work with CAIR went back to May 2007, when the organization was named along with some 300 other Muslim-American groups and individuals as an "unindicted coconspirator" in the controversial terrorist funding trial of the Holy Land Foundation, which had been the largest Muslim charity in the United States.

After a mistrial that year, a retrial in 2008 found the Texas-based Holy Land Foundation and some of its officials guilty of money laundering and providing material support to a foreign terrorist organization. One of those convicted – Ghassan Elashi – had been a founding member of the Texas branch of CAIR.

Questions raised

That episode raised questions about CAIR’s background and inclinations.

“We are struck … by the tendency of many in the United States, including the media and various government agencies, to ignore the Islamist influences on established Muslim-American organizations and their leaders,” Boston College political scientist Peter Skerry and American Enterprise Institute scholar Gary Schmitt write in a Monitor opinion piece.

“For example,” they continue, “the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), which has origins and ties to the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas, is routinely described and treated as though it were just another civil-rights or advocacy organization.”

CAIR itself has never been charged with any wrongdoing; being named an “unindicted coconspirator” in the Holy Land Foundation case was later reported to have been “largely a tactical move by the government.” And the difficult relationship with the FBI is due at least in part to the agency’s controversial use of paid informants at several mosques.

But such persistent questions – reemphasized by King’s congressional hearings and raised in the context of public concern about Islamic fundamentalism and related attacks in recent years – make it more difficult for the organization.

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