Within hours of a terror attack that left 14 dead in Southern California, the nation’s best-known Islamic advocacy group held a press conference with the killers’ family – and Muslims around the country cringed.
In the days following the Dec. 2 attack in San Bernardino, Council for American-Islamic Relations representatives partially blamed U.S. policy for terrorist attacks, accused gunman Syed Rizwan Farook’s co-workers of making fun of his beard and sought to downplay comments by Farook’s father linking him to ISIS. Like Muslims throughout the U.S., CAIR officials condemned the attack, but too often with what sounded to critics like subtle caveats.
“CAIR is a primary obstacle in the effort of many honest American Muslims who recognize our need to own up and lead long-overdue reforms against the root causes of radicalization: Islamism and its separatism,” said Dr. Zuhdi Jasser, an ex-U.S. Navy officer who founded and heads the American Islamic Forum for Democracy.
For would-be reformers like Jasser, reclaiming the faith begins with taking back control of Islam’s image. He and other increasingly outspoken Muslim-Americans say true moderates must be honest and unequivocal in condemning acts of violence carried out in the name of Islam. Most of all, they are tired of the Washington-based nonprofit claiming to speak for them.
“CAIR’s information is marketed and packaged so it seems that they speak for all of us, but they don’t speak for me and my group,” said Raheel Raza, president of the Council for Muslims Facing Tomorrow. “CAIR does not and has never represented the majority Muslim voices which are as diverse as Muslims in America.”