Some weeks ago, Canadian Council on American-Islamic Relations’ (CAIR-CAN) Executive Director Ihsaan Gardee responded to a National Post article by Columnist Barbara Kay. Following is a reaction to Mr. Gardee, from David B. Harris, Canadian lawyer and intelligence specialist. Harris was also a defiant former defendant in a failed “libel lawfare” lawsuit that Gardee’s organization launched as part of a North America-wide Islamist attempt to silence questions about the origins, activity and connections of CAIR-CAN and its affiliates. Note what Mr. Harris thinks about Gardee’s attempt to use Ms. Richelle Wiseman’s Calgary-based Centre for Faith and the Media (CFM) in defence of his Islamist organization. CAIR-CAN is the Canadian chapter of the radical, Washington, DC-based Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR). As Harris points out, CAIR is among the Muslim Brotherhood-rooted organizations that the US Justice Department designated “unindicted co-conspirators” in the recent Holy Land Foundation terror-funding trial. This designation was made despite the CAIR enterprise’s vigorous, Saudi-funded public-relations’ propaganda and charm offensives.
FRONTS, DUPES and DOUBLESPEAK :The Strange Case of CAIR-CAN … and Its Friend
By David B. Harris, 15 July 2009
“Labels that attempt to link one to terrorism or extremism can pack a powerful political punch and they have become a favoured tool among some commentators. But they only represent an intellectual dishonesty emanating from the politics of fear and suspicion. Richelle Wiseman of the Centre for Faith and the Media recently exposed these types of discredited attacks against CAIR-CAN and others. …” – Ihsaan Gardee, Executive Director, Canadian Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-CAN), 28 April 2009
I’m willing to believe that Canadian Council on American-Islamic Relations’ (CAIR-CAN) Executive Director Ihsaan Gardee is capable and charming. He certainly brought some of this to bear recently, in defending his employer from its latest detractor, National Post columnist Barbara Kay (Barbara Kay, “Do Christian Canadians hate Sikhs, Muslims and Jews ? PART 2” (28 April 2009)).
Mr . Gardee was reacting to Ms. Kay’s vigorous, sharia-free flailing of Canada’s Maclean’s magazine. It seems that the magazine made the mistake of briefly quoting him in its recent report on religious and racial attitudes in Canada. Kay was appalled that any mainstream publication could overlook the evidence, and take a representative of CAIR-CAN seriously as an arbiter of moderation and sweet reason in religious or public-policy matters.
To be fair, the beleaguered Mr. Gardee put up a pretty skilled defence. As this tale shows, however, Gardee seems destined forever to remind us of H.L. Mencken’s description of US President Grover Cleveland : “a good man in a bad trade.”
How else to describe someone condemned to churn out endless streams of the improbable, the unbelievable and the painfully ridiculous ? I think, of course, of the periodic rote denials that Mr. Gardee is forced to make on behalf of his Islamist – that is to say, hardline Islamic – organization.
For those unfamiliar with the tired ritual, it can be summarized briefly. Step1 : based on careful research, a conscientious writer or other commentator tells some hard truths about CAIR-CAN, its background and connections. Step 2 : a CAIR-CAN operative accuses the truth-teller of “mudslinging”, “throwing around fabricated information,” propagating “silly and inaccurate smears.” Mr. Gardee’s terminology with Kay, come to think of it.
Step 2 incorporates certain familiar features. The CAIR-CAN operative must respond with denials, yet avoid self-indicting specifics. CAIR-CAN’s PR rep must combine a personable, non-threatening style, with a level of righteous indignation deemed appropriate to the challenge – and consistent with the appearance of a credible organization. Indeed, at its best, a CAIR-CAN Step 2 Indignation Initiative (CCS2II) must position the organization as a victim of some unspecified and largely-imaginary version of anti-Muslim prejudice, a creative and calculated means of silencing responsible critics. In its neoclassical form, CAIR-CAN Step 2 Indignation rises to the level of pronouncing those who do their homework, “McCarthyites” and, needless to say, “Islamophobes”. I mention all this merely as a public service, so that you will not need to spend time reading future CAIR-CAN denials.
For those who have read the latest denial, “Let’s,” as Mr. Gardee has so aptly put it, “set the story straight.”
THE USUAL DENIAL
Mr. Gardee’s script requires that we first be told that CAIR-CAN is a “grassroots civil liberties organization.” This is true only if a Canadian lobby can properly be called “grassroots” when it is the product of the Saudi-funded radical fundamentalist US-based Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), a key element in what is commonly known as the Wahabbi Lobby – although the appellation doesn’t give appropriate credit to its equally-radical Muslim Brotherhood flavour.
Barbara Kay correctly states that CAIR-CAN’s mother organization was designated an “unindicted co-conspirator” in last year’s successful Holy Land Foundation prosecution. (For this designation, see US Government document, Attachment A, Section III [“individuals/entities who are and/or were members of the US Muslim Brotherhood’s Palestine Committee and/or its organizations”]. Also at http://www.investigativeproject.org/documents/case_docs/423.pdf.) Why ? Among many other trial gems, a CAIR founder was recorded participating in a meeting that looked rather like a conspiracy to mislead the US public and authorities about Hamas terrorist funding. Some say the front organization they talked of setting up at the time, was CAIR. Related transcripts even reflect an infantile effort to fool FBI wiretap spooks, by referring to Hamas only by its reversed letters : SAMAH. Not a stratagem likely to have forced listening G-Men to haul out their decoder rings.
FBI surveillance transcripts of the notorious 1993 “Philadelphia Meeting” at which all this occurred were accepted in evidence at the Holy Land Foundation trial, and are available at the Court website : http://www.txnd.uscourts.gov/judges/hlf2.html. There, in Philadelphia, large as life, was CAIR founder Nihad Awad, presently National Executive Director of CAIR, and probably Omar Ahmad, unindicted co-conspirator and now past Chair of CAIR. I am unaware of CAIR-CAN’s having condemned the Philadelphia behaviour – or, indeed, having condemned by name those connected to CAIR who have been convicted on terror-related charges – but perhaps Mr. Gardee can reassure us in his next denial.
As for “civil liberties”, funny you should mention that. A major international Conference was held in Washington, DC, on 19 May 2009, to discuss a serious challenge to US First Amendment and Canadian Charter, s. 2, free-speech rights (http://www.legal-project.org/docs). Its name and focus was “Libel Lawfare” – Islamist attempts to use courts, human-rights’ commissions and other judicial and quasi-judicial forums to silence responsible enquiry about radicalism and radical front groups.
The CAIR/CAIR-CAN enterprise (CCCE) won adverse star-billing at the Conference, owing to its North America-wide campaign of libel lawsuits, between roughly 2002 and 2006, against media and other commentators asking difficult questions about such groups. I spoke at the Conference, as one of the several former defendants who were able to force CAIR/CAIR-CAN to shut down their suits against us. In my case, the lawsuit stemmed from a Radio CFRA Ottawa broadcast I had made with radio personality Steve Madely, in 2004. Stung by the prospect of backfiring legal disclosures coming out of their own suits, CCCE thereafter got out of the libel business, and now tries instead to appear, well, capable and charming. The length and breadth of the CCCE assault on journalists and responsible free speech is catalogued at http://www.danielpipes.org/blog/2004/09/cairs-growing-litigiousness.html. Civil liberties, you say ? Where are Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch when you need them ?
“We are not “controlled” by CAIR, our American counterpart, but are a fully independent Canadian organization,” sniffs Mr. Gardee. Alas, he has not read the December 2003 affidavit sworn out by CAIR-CAN Founder and then-Chair, Dr. Sheema Khan, in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice. (Dr. Khan’s affidavit : http://pointdebasculecanada.ca/IMG/pdf/cair_affidavit_Sheema_Khan.pdf.) There, as Tarek Fatah and any number of others have pointed out, the affidavit asserts that CAIR-CAN is controlled and directed by the US mothership. (Mr. Fatah’s devastating pronouncements on this and related subjects, are at http://www2.canada.com/calgaryherald/…, and http://pointdebasculecanada.ca/spip.php?article1143.)
Mr. Gardee is certainly not making the unchivalrous suggestion that Dr. Khan would mislead a court of justice. So, as one gentleman to another, I am quite ready to share a copy of the affidavit with him, in order to further his education about the organization that he represents. After perusing this, he might wish to confirm Globe and Mail columnist Margaret Wente’s report that Dr. Khan sat on the Board of CAIR when she was a senior official of CAIR-CAN (http://www.theglobeandmail.com/subscribe.jsp?art=897986 or http://www.icjs-online.org/index.php?article=541). And, if he is going to persist in denying CAIR-CAN’s foundational and subservient relationship to CAIR, Mr Gardee should at least humour his audience by asking CAIR to ditch its boast of having “35 offices and chapters nationwide and in Canada.” (Emphasis added. http://www.cair.com) Unless, of course, Mr. Gardee intends to outdo past denials by denying that CAIR-CAN is one of those “chapters … in Canada.” By “fully independent,” perhaps Gardee wrongly thought that having a Canadian incorporation and a Canadian board, means something more than it does.
“We are an open book, and our entire work is in the public domain.” Fine words. Speaking of books, is CAIR-CAN going to open its financial ones so that we can see how uninvolved it has been in the CCCE, and who has contributed in money and kind, over the years ? Another question : in light of all the evidence, is there an ethical or other issue for donors who give money to CAIR-CAN in reliance upon the claim in its 2008 Annual Review, that “CAIR-CAN is separate and fully independent of the Washington-based CAIR, although the two may coordinate on areas of mutual concern ?”
“We have also firmly and unequivocally denounced terrorism and religious extremism – whether committed by Hamas, al-Qaeda, the Tamil Tigers or any other entity that engages in violence against civilians and non-combatants.” This is, of course, the required response to allegations that CCCE does not condemn by name Hamas, Hezbollah, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and certain other terror groups. In deference to CAIR-CAN, its mention of Hamas is a rare and hopeful development – until one asks whether this is meant to be a condemnation of an occasional violent act by Hamas, or, as should be the case, a condemnation of Hamas as the intrinsically racist, Jew- and Christian-targeting anti-Western terror organization that Hamas’s own Charter claims it to be, and that Canadian law defines it as being. Recall that the Hamas Charter, Article 7, incorporates the Islamic hadith specifying the route to a satisfactory state of affairs : “The prophet, prayer and peace be upon him, said : The time will not come until Muslims will fight the Jews (and kill them) ; until the Jews hide behind rocks and trees, which will cry : O Muslim ! there is a Jew hiding behind me, come on and kill him !”
It is difficult maintaining one’s composure in the face of so much inconvenient material, but Mr. Gardee has risen manfully to the occasion. Only near the end of his response to Kay does a harsher formulation inadvertently remind us of CAIR-CAN’s founding mindset and roots. Mounds of evidence against CCCE ? Mr. Gardee is constrained to say it’s all just “intellectual dishonesty”, “politics of fear and suspicion,” “deceptive commentary”, and – yes – “McCarthyism”.
A FRIEND INDEED
In a final, surprisingly pathetic stretch for one so gifted, Mr. Gardee at last subsides with an inevitable reference to Ms. Richelle Wiseman, Executive Director of what might be a one-person Centre for Faith and the Media (CFM) (see Canada Revenue Agency filing, http://www.cra-arc.gc.ca), in Calgary. Ms. Wiseman, he says, “exposed these types of discredited attacks against CAIR-CAN and others,” and we are directed to follow the link to her blog.
Not so fast. Mr. Gardee fails to mention that the Past President of the moderate Muslim Canadian Congress, Ms. Farzana Hassan, has herself exposed problems with Ms. Wiseman’s CFM – and many of those problems relate to CAIR-CAN’s possible grip on the Wiseman organization (http://www.investigativeproject.org/1011/heritage-canukistan). Ms. Hassan points out that, at a time when they did not seem to know any better, Ms. Wiseman and her colleagues stumbled into an association with CAIR-CAN. (Most recently reported CFM directors on the publicly-available Canada Revenue Agency file : http://www.cra-arc.gc.ca, although some now seem to have resigned upon realizing the extent of the problem.) Indeed, Hassan reports that Centre for Faith and the Media Board member, Dr. Jamal Badawi, was on the Holy Land Foundation unindicted co-conspirator list, and was also on the Board of … CAIR-CAN. And, come to think of it, on the Board of the unindicted co-conspirator organization, Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), too. (For ISNA, see US Government list at Attachment A, Section VII [“individuals/entities who are and/or were members of the US Muslim Brotherhood”]. Also at http://www.nefafoundation.org, Dr. Badawi is listed in Section II, among “individuals who participated in fund-raising activities on behalf of the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development.”)
This is serious, because the Centre for Faith and the Media, an organization that enjoys charitable-tax status and lives on a limited donations’ base, has been funded by apparently guileless Heritage Canada government bureaucrats to the tune of possibly over a hundred thousand dollars per annum to undertake something called “The Muslim Project”. CAIR-CAN officials – including Mr. Gardee – have been involved in this, some of the CFM “Muslim Project” public roundtables having been awash in current and former CAIR-CAN operatives and associates. (Indeed, for years, CFM relied on a “Journalist’s Guide” to Islam that was posted on the CFM site, was copyrighted CAIR-CAN, 2003, and was recently wrenched from the site when the CAIR-CAN connection backfired.)
The Muslim Project is supposed to be a look at coverage of Muslims and Islam in Canada, and if the influence of CAIR-CAN and similarly hardline organizations is felt, the final tax-paid CFM report will reflect the more tendentious – and divisive – of the CCCE’s Muslim-victimhood claims. (For examples of CAIR-CAN’s absurd “victimhood” methodology, see Neil Seeman’s, http://www.freerepublic.com” and my own http://www.fraserinstitute.org, at 145-147, especially “A Closer Look at a CAIR-CAN Survey.” See also the longsuffering Globe and Mail editors’ memorable knuckle-rapping of their own part-time columnist, Dr. Sheema Khan. Khan, as CAIR-CAN Chair, was said to have been among those whom the editors decried as having used the 2005 Islamic terror-bombings of London’s transportation system, to bizarrely “jostle for a spot on victimhood’s centre stage” : http://www.theglobeandmail.com/archives/article890531.ece.) One guesses that the ultimate and predictable slant of the Centre for Faith and the Media “Muslim Project” report, will be welcomed by hardliners as a weapon to silence media, encourage more human-rights’ commission censoring of information about Islamist machinations, and demand further lopsided fundamentalist privileges in business and government. No wonder there are calls for an inquiry into Heritage Canada’s funding of this adulterated initiative.
In any event, Mr. Gardee thus does well to cite Ms. Wiseman’s blog post – a post that gives no evidence of being authorized by her CFM volunteer Board, if one still exists – for, faced with the embarrassment of the Hassan revelations and possible blowback from Heritage Canada, Wiseman seems to have felt obliged to rationalize the CAIR-CAN connection. (See her comment at http://www.investigativeproject.org.) Unfortunately for the effort, Ms. Wiseman’s eagerness leads her to stumble yet again, this time into relying on the notoriously unreliable and misleading 19 April 2006 CAIR-CAN news release (http://www.caircan.ca/itn_more.php?id=2457_0_2_0_C) that announced the end of the group’s separate libel lawsuits against me, and, in an unrelated matter, against David Frum and the National Post. See my news release on this sordid episode, at http://pointdebasculecanada.ca/spip.php?article1141, http://www.anti-cair-net.org/HarrisStatement.html, http://www.jihadwatch.org.
It is a measure of things that the CAIR-CAN release leaves the impression that I was not used as a Radio CFRA analyst after the commencing of the lawsuit against me, a patent falsehood. (As I pointed out at the Washington, DC, Libel Lawfare Conference, it is a helpful reflection on CAIR-CAN’s reputation and ethical standards that, three years after its publication, this disinformational news release remains, uncorrected, on the CAIR-CAN website.) Anyway, in line with the CAIR-CAN release – indeed, with the Statement of Claim in its failed lawsuit – Wiseman misleadingly says that “Allegations that CAIR-CAN had links to terror arose in 2004 with a comment made on an Ottawa radio station by Mr. David Harris.” Again, Wiseman gets her facts wrong ; any concerns about CAIR-CAN deriving from its CAIR connection long antedated anything I mentioned. In fact, documents show that Dr. Khan and other persons exerted themselves to become a US CAIR chapter years before I said anything in 2004.
Was this Ms. Wiseman’s way of implying that concerns about CAIR-CAN were few and far between before I came on the scene in 2004 – and that CFM’s blunder in connecting with CAIR-CAN, was therefore more excusable ? Has she, in a form of defensive panic, felt driven to whitewash CAIR-CAN in a way that has reduced her Canadian Centre for Faith and the Media to the status of a doormat for CAIR-CAN and other Islamic radicals ? I do not know. But I do know when an ostensible religious and media authority cannot get simple facts straight, when the errors tend in one direction, and when an organization seems bound up with the wrong folk – including folk who have made a habit of silencing journalists and other commentators.
Which brings us back to Mr. Gardee. As the good man that he is, perhaps he will get the little matter of the news release corrected, and then we can work together to find him a better trade.
David B. Harris
David Harris is a lawyer and Director of the International and Terrorist Intelligence Program, INSIGNIS Strategic Research Inc. A former chief of strategic planning at the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, he was counsel to the Canadian Coalition for Democracies in its capacity as an intervener before Canada’s federal Air India and Iacobucci Internal terrorism-related inquiries.
Copyright © 2009 by David B. Harris. All rights reserved.