By Patrick Poole
A group of six Ohio colleges in the Cleveland area are working together to help provide “new perspectives” about the Middle East and to confront “misinformation” about the region and about Islam specifically. However, the group has chosen a curious partner to represent the American Muslim community: the Muslim Brotherhood-founded and terror-supporting Hamas front group, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR).
On Tuesday, the Northeast Ohio Consortium for Middle East Studies (NOCMES) will be hosting Naif al-Mutawa at the City Club of Cleveland for a talk on “Art, Narrative and Muslim Identity.” Later that evening he will appear at Baldwin Wallace College. Al-Mutawa is the CEO of the company that has produced the first series of comic books with Muslim superheroes. The colleges sponsoring NOCMES include Oberlin College, Cleveland State University, John Carroll University, Kent State University, Baldwin-Wallace College, Case Western Reserve University, and Hathaway Brown (an all-girls K-12 private school).
The Tuesday talk is part of NOCMES’ “New Perspectives on Muslim and Middle East Societies” program funded by the Social Science Research Council (SSRC), which is funded partially by U.S. taxpayers through the State Department and the National Science Foundation. SSRC’s “Islamic Traditions and Muslim Societies in World Contexts” has awarded a grant to NOCMES funded by the Carnegie Corporation.
So when people first meet people from the Middle East they’re first afraid because, is this person going to be a terrorist or an Islamic fundamentalist? But to actually learn that they’re human beings just like them.
It is indeed curious that a video intended to promote a program intended to confront “misinformation” about Muslims and the Middle East would promote such a bigoted and misinformed view about Americans and Westerners in general. (Lest I be accused of taking Zawahri out of context, that statement is the only quote by her that the video itself provides.)
The NOCMES video also features Julia Shearson, identified as executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) Ohio chapter. In 2008, Shearson was the most vocal defender of the gender policies at Harvard University which banned men from campus gymnasiums so that Muslim women would not need to have contact with them. Shearson defended the policy during appearances on CNN, Fox News, and other media outlets.
That is not the only connection between NOCMES and CAIR-Ohio. In fact, a flyer for Tuesday’s event at the City Club of Cleveland posted on the NOCMES website identifies CAIR-Ohio as one of NOCMES’ partners.
CAIR’s sordid history of terror support has been noted by Department of Justice prosecutors, who claimed the following during one federal case:
From its founding by Muslim Brotherhood leaders, CAIR conspired with other affiliates of the Muslim Brotherhood to support terrorists.
According to the court testimony of FBI agent Lara Burns in the successful Holy Land Foundation prosecution (the largest terrorism financing trial in American history), the organization was a front for the terrorist group Hamas and was founded in 1994 by Hamas members specifically to support the terrorist group. CAIR was named an unindicted co-conspirator during that trial. The federal judge who tried the case, Jorge Solis, wrote an opinion unsealed in November 2010 stating:
The four pieces of evidence the government relies on, as discussed below, do create at least a prima facie case as to CAIR’s involvement in a conspiracy to support Hamas.
Judge Solis explored that evidence at length in his decision, ruling against CAIR in their bid to be removed from the trial’s list of unindicted co-conspirators. For this reason, the FBI severed all ties with CAIR in January 2009. In March 2011, FBI Director Robert Mueller reaffirmed this policy to the House Judiciary Committee, explaining:
We have no formal relationship with CAIR because of concerns with regard to their national leadership.
The CAIR-Ohio chapter that NOCMES has partnered with is among the most radical CAIR chapters in the country, with a long list of troubling episodes:
In 1999, CAIR-Ohio rushed to the aid of Muhammad Al-Qudhaieen and Hamdan Al-Shalawi, the two men who the 9/11 Commission and the FBI identified as the 9/11 “dry run” hijackers. CAIR-Ohio president Ahmad Al-Akhras even made statements to Egyptian media attacking the airline for removing the men from the plane at the request of the pilot after they had repeatedly tried to enter the cockpit, claiming the men were being profiled.
The keynote speaker for CAIR-Ohio’s 1999 annual fundraising banquet was al-Qaeda financier and CAIR national advisory board member Abdurahman Alamoudi, who pled guilty in 2004 and was sentenced to 23 years in prison. The FBI had been watching Alamoudi since 1993, when they were told by an informant that he had served as the financial conduit between Osama bin Laden and the “Blind Sheikh” terror leader Omar Abdel Rahman. Not long after his appearance for CAIR-Ohio, Alamoudi was videotaped just steps from the White House leading an angry crowd in cheers supporting Hamas and Hezbollah.
In 2001, CAIR-Ohio held a fundraiser for the defense of cop-killer and regular CAIR speaker Jamil al-Amin, who was convicted of gunning down a Georgia deputy executing a warrant on al-Amin on weapons charges. In October 2009, the FBI said that Amin continued to lead his violent organization from the federal Supermax prison in Colorado.
Just a few months before 9/11, CAIR-Ohio attacked the mayor of a Columbus suburb after an Israeli flag was flown on the city hall flag pole in commemoration of Holocaust Remembrance Day.
In 2006, CAIR-Ohio hosted Siraj Wahhaj as the keynote speaker at its annual fundraising dinner. Wahhaj had been named an unindicted co-conspirator in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing trial.
Around the same time, three CAIR-Ohio executives showed up at the home of a combat veteran and former Marine to harass the man because they didn’t like the bumper stickers on his truck. At least two of the involved CAIR officials later boasted about the incident to local media.
In 2007, CAIR-Ohio President Ahmad al-Akhras was found promoting an upcoming event for notorious 9/11 denier David Ray Griffin.
Al-Akhras, who also served as CAIR’s national vice chairman, reportedly sent his high school-aged daughter Jana on a Hamas support convoy across the Middle East in December 2009, where the group met with several Hamas leaders and was greeted by several designated terrorists. His daughter was interviewed by al-Jazeera during the trip.
Since the NOCMES event is occurring in Cleveland this week, it is worth noting the annual fundraising banquet for CAIR-Cleveland (led by Julia Shearson) held three years ago in April 2009 featured as its keynote speaker former Hamas fundraiser Monzer Taleb, who was personally named an unindicted co-conspirator in the Holy Land Foundation trial. He was described in court documents as a member and “artistic head” of the Muslim Brotherhood Palestine Committee dedicated to supporting Hamas. Videos entered into evidence during the trial by federal prosecutors show Taleb at Hamas fundraisers singing “I am from Hamas”, and singing with a group glorifying the killing of Jews.
NOCMES’ decision to not only promote but to partner with the Hamas front and terror-supporting CAIR reinforces racist and Islamophobic stereotypes about the Muslim American community. It also underscores the radical, pro-Islamist sympathies of Middle East studies at the supporting institutions. That this effort is being sponsored by state-supported educational institutions ought to be a concern for all Ohio taxpayers.
Patrick Poole is a national security and terrorism correspondent for PJMedia. Sponsored by Campus Watch, a project of the Middle East Forum, his article first appeared in PJ Media on April 30, 2012.