Now that the Supreme Leader of Iran, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has warned ordinary Iranians not to stage street protests, the risks these demonstrators face at the hands of the state security machinery and the Islamist Basiji militia, cannot be underestimated. However, as the courageous Iranian people defy state oppression to demand democracy and freedom, the Islamic organizations of North America have been conspicuous by their silence.
There has been not one word of support for the Iranian people from CAIR (Council on American-Islamic Relations), ISNA (Islamic Society of North America), MSA (Muslim Society of America) and MPAC (Muslim Public Affairs Council).
The only exception has been the Muslim Canadian Congress (MCC) that issued an early statement denouncing the rigging of the elections and demanded that so-called supreme leader Ayatollah Khamenei step down.
Why then is CAIR silent about the peaceful Iranian demonstrators? Could this silence reflect a fondness for the Iranian regime and its misogynist and homophobic dictatorial leadership led by president Ahmedinejad?
After all, just last September, according to the magazine Family Security Matters (FSM), CAIR co-founder and Executive Director Nihad Awad participated in an interfaith program attended by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad.
The question about this silence is legitimate since there are hardly any developments in the Muslim world that do not trigger a reaction from organizations like CAIR, ISNA or MAS.
For example, FSM reports when the Tunisian government moved to outlaw headscarves worn by Muslim women in 2006, CAIR sprang into action to condemn the Tunisian government’s policy. In a release, CAIR announced it was “urging all people of conscience to contact the government of Tunisia” to protest the restrictions.
The stakes are quite a bit higher on the streets of Tehran this week than it was in Tunisia three years ago. Yet, CAIR has nothing to say despite the fact at least eight people have been killed thus far. Not to mention the fact that CAIR has never once condemned the Saudi or Iranian governments for harassing and arresting women who uncovered their heads in public.
Take a look at the home pages of the Islamic Society of North America, the Muslim Public Affairs Council and the Muslim American Society and try to find a statement of concern over the welfare of the Iranian people, let alone a word of solidarity with them. There is none.
Mahdi Bray of the Muslim American Society (MAS) is another Islamic leader in the U.S. who has a lot to say about all things Islamist, but who has not been able to muster a single word of concern about Iran. Bray had no trouble sitting down with Ahmedinejad in September 2007 and condemning the U.S. for “the injustices that are heaped upon Muslims right here in America.”
In this video, Bray tells the Iranian leader “we share your vision” and that “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. Therefore, we share your vision for justice for all the people of the world.”
What about injustice in Iran? Is Mahdi Bray suggesting that Muslims in America are faring worse than Muslims in Iran?
Or is this silence an indication that these groups feel Iranian Muslims are lesser Muslims, whose struggles do not deserve support? If Darfuris die by the tens of thousands or Iranians march by the millions, ISNA and CAIR seem to be least bothered. It seems, in their eyes, the only true Muslim worthy of their support is the Islamist loyal to the ideology of the Muslim Brotherhood and who follows in the footsteps of jihadis such as the late Syed Qutb and Syed Maudoodi.
ISNA and CAIR should demand the same rights for the Muslims of Iran as Muslims enjoy in U.S. and Canada. They should issue a statement asking from the dissolution of the dictatorial institution of the so-called Supreme Leader. As American and Canadian Muslims, these organizations should stand up and speak aloud for democracy, individual freedom, the
separation of religion and state, and the end of theocracy in Iran.
Their silence in face of the killings in Iran is deeply troublesome and makes one wonder about their true agenda. After all, the U.S. Justice department has already labelled ISNA and CAIR as “unindicted co-conspirators” in the Texas Terror trial that led to the convictions on all counts for all the the accused.
Tarek Fatah is the author of Chasing a Mirage: The Tragic Illusion of an Islamic State (Wiley)