Congressional candidate hits out at CAIR amid growing ‘witch-hunt’ of Muslim groups and rising Islamophobic attacks.
A US congressional candidate has become the latest legislator to label the country’s largest Muslim rights group a “terrorist” organisation.
Republican Josh Mandel, who is also Ohio treasurer, claimed on Wednesday that the Council on America-Islamic Relations (CAIR) “is Hamas”.
Mandel posted an article on social media in reference to the Palestinian faction that controls the Gaza Strip.
The caption read: “If Council on American Islamic Relations is for it, it is probably bad for America. What a horrible organisation.”
A day later, he said on Twitter that CAIR also had ties to the Muslim Brotherhood.
His comments follow Texas Republican Senator Ted Cruz’s announcement of the “Muslim Brotherhood (MB) Terrorist Designation Act”, which aims to label the Islamic political, religious and social movement, founded in Egypt in 1928 and active across the Muslim world, as a threat to national security.
Along with the Brotherhood, several “affiliates”, including CAIR, are named.
Julia Shearson, the executive director of Cleveland, Ohio’s CAIR office, said she was not surprised.
Mandel, who is running for a seat in the senate, “wants to have a higher office than he has now, and he’s going to use the ladder of Muslim hate to get there”, she told Al Jazeera.
“Unfortunately, it is a popular tool these days.”
CAIR has spent years dispelling rumours about its ties to foreign groups, Shearson explained.
This “subtracts from the real meat and potatoes work we need to do”, she said.
The article Mandel posted was written by the Washington, DC-based Center for Security Policy (CSP).
J Richard Cohen, president of the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), referred to the CSP as “an extremist think-tank headed by anti-Muslim conspiracist Frank Gaffney”.
The SPLC is an American nonprofit legal advocacy organisation specialising in civil rights and public interest litigation.
Shearson continued: “CSP is pushing for the Muslim Brotherhood to be labelled a terrorist organisation using outlandish conspiracy theories which are also used against CAIR … it’s all the xenophobic dog whistles about Muslims who don’t belong here.”
Fear in muslim community
Both Soltani and Shearson said propaganda was having an effect, and moves against the Muslim Brotherhood could be used as fuel to further target Muslims.
Hate crimes against Muslims have risen nationwide. Last August, an Arab man was killed in a racist attack in Tulsa.
In December, a pig carcass was dumped outside a mosque in Lawton, Oklahoma. Also in December, in Ohio, a teenaged boy was shot in Cleveland after his assailant reportedly called him a “terrorist”.
In January this year, a profane message against Arabs and a swastika were painted on a family home in Toledo.
“Members of the Muslim community are afraid,” Shearson said. However, she welcomed a recent uptick in interfaith volunteers and new donors.
Lauding members of the Jewish, Christian and other communities that rallied around their Muslim neighbours, she said: “This kind of support has been a very positive development.”