The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) was created as an “organization that challenges stereotypes of Islam and Muslims” (CAIR letter to Vice President Gore, 10/06/1995), a “Washington-based Islamic advocacy group” (Press release, 8/28/1995) and an “organization dedicated to providing an Islamic perspective on issues of importance to the American public” (Press release, 12/13/1995). Prior to establishing CAIR, its founders observed that “the core challenge [in America], that of stereotyping and defamation, was having a devastating effect on our children and paralyzing adults from taking their due roles in civic affairs” (“The Link,” a newsletter published by Americans for Middle East Understanding, February-March 2000). Within that understanding, they formed CAIR to challenge anti-Muslim discrimination nationwide.
Since being established in 1994, CAIR has a successful track record in its defense of civil liberties and tolerance. It is frequently seen as the “go-to” organization when bias is directed against Muslim individuals or institutions. Its status as the most frequently quoted American Muslim organization in our nation’s media also suggests success in “providing an Islamic perspective on issues of importance to the American public.”
CAIR’s international reputation is substantial. In one manifestation of this reputation, Nihad Awad, the organization’s national executive director, was listed among the 500 most influential Muslims in the world in a 2009 publication produced by the Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Center (Jordan) in concert with Georgetown University’s Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding. In early 2010, Arabian Business Magazine ranked Awad #39 on its 2010 “Arabian Business Power 100″ list. In describing why Awad was named to the list the magazine said, ” … CAIR’s actions have forced many large outlets to be more tolerant of Muslim culture.”
This document is the result of an initial review of 1,999 CAIR media advisories and press releases–all the releases in CAIR’s database–as well as 671 action alerts issued from 1994 through the end of 2008. Some material from 2009 and 2010 is also included.
The document is intended to offer the reader a forthright overview of CAIR’s actions and statements. It provides an insight into the extraordinary breadth and depth of the organization’s work and public positions.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) was established in 1994 to challenge stereotypes of Islam and Muslims. Today, the organization has a nationwide presence and a headquarters on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C.
The vast majority of CAIR’s work deals with civil rights and anti-defamation. These two categories alone account for 50 percent of the 1,999 news releases reviewed for this report. CAIR has consistently won praise from elected officials and the media for its tenacious efforts to combat both discrimination against Muslims and defamation of Islam.
- In addition to attacks on individuals, Islamic institutions are frequent targets of Islamophobic hatred. Since 1994, CAIR has detailed at least 64 acts of destruction and desecration of Islamic places of worship–including shootings, vandalism, arson, and bombings.
CAIR has expended tremendous energy on educational efforts, including the production of public service announcements (PSA) introducing Americans to their Muslim neighbors and rejecting terrorism. We have published guides to Islamic religious practices for professionals–such as doctors, law enforcement and educators–who routinely interact with Muslims. We have also delivered books on Islam to thousands of American public libraries and offered free materials to individual citizens and public officials interested in learning more about the faith.
CAIR believes that Muslims worldwide must offer themselves as personal examples of the Islamic values of compassion, tolerance and moderation. We encourage members of the American Muslim community to work in public service.CAIR puts this belief into action by hosting Muslim Youth Leadership Summits around the nation. CAIR has three main training events for the general community: Know Your Rights, Civic Participation and Media Relations. As a singular example of how widespread these training events are: CAIR conducted 42 civic participation training events for the community nationwide in 2008.
The centerpiece campaign to CAIR’s call for public service is the “Muslims Care” campaign. Through this program, Muslim leaders are encouraged to give sermons about volunteerism and community members receive a step-by-step guide to participating in activities such as blood drives, health awareness fairs and student tutoring.
CAIR serves as an example to all Muslims that the American system affords everyone an opportunity to successfully redress their grievances in a non-violent, lawful manner. Though the organization is not theological in nature, CAIR is faith-based and its message to its own community has always centered on the “middle way.”We have demonstrated that Islam advocates both freedom of religion and freedom of conscience through arguments grounded in the faith’s primary sources. (For example, a CAIR release issued 3/22/2006 contains the following conclusion: “Religious decisions should be matters of personal choice, not a cause for state intervention.”) CAIR has rejected so called “death fatwas” and the use of violence as a response to incidents like the Danish cartoons mocking the Prophet Muhammad. The organization supports political solutions to problems over the use of violence.
CAIR has always shown support for America’s founding principles and religious pluralism. CAIR affirms the right of free speech, on multiple occasions even defending its detractor’s right to free expression. CAIR strongly supports the Constitutional right to due process.
CAIR strongly opposes racial and religious profiling.
We have a well-established, very public record of denouncing terrorism and religious intolerance. CAIR has condemned attacks on–and raised money to rebuild–churches and has repeatedly repudiated anti-Semitism.
While supporting the nation’s strategic campaign to combat terrorism and to protect American citizens from attack–whether or not we agree with particular tactics used to carry out that campaign–CAIR has generally opposed U.S. invasions of foreign nations.
CAIR uses the international prestige earned through its domestic programs to make humanitarian appeals. In 2009, CAIR officials hand-delivered a letter to Iranian President Ahmedinajad requesting that he release three American hikers detained by that nation. Also at that meeting, CAIR delivered a letter to the Iranian leader from the family of former FBI agent Robert Levinson, who has been missing in Iran since 2007.
Similarly, in 2009, CAIR staff spoke directly to the Iranian President urging him to release journalist Roxana Saberi.
In early 2006, CAIR staff went to Baghdad to appeal for the release of a kidnapped American journalist. Later that year, CAIR called on the government of Afghanistan to release Abdul Rahman, a man facing the death penalty for converting from Islam to Christianity. In that release, CAIR offered a religious basis for opposition to apostasy laws.
In 2007, CAIR Executive Director Nihad Awad joined 137 other Muslim leaders and scholars from around the world in sending a first-of-its-kind open letter designed to promote understanding between Muslims and Christians worldwide. The letter, entitled “A Common Word Between Us and You,” was sent to Pope Benedict XVI, Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams and more than 20 other Christian leaders. Awad is also an original endorser of the Amman Message and its three points of tolerance.
CAIR has challenged France’s policies toward its Muslim minority, as well as policies adopted by Tunisia and Turkey that targeted Muslim women. We worked to deny a visa to an Indian official associated with the massacre of Muslim’s in the state of Gujarat. CAIR has strongly criticized Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza and its persistent use of disproportionate force against civilians. We urged Pakistan’s military to return the country to civilian rule and asked Russia to withdraw from Chechnya.
CAIR’s advocacy model is the antithesis of the narrative of anti-American extremists. Indeed, our track record of success solidly repudiates extremist arguments that Muslims cannot get justice or fair treatment in our nation. More about CAIR