Letters to the editor October 23

Letters to the editor October 23

With harmonious goal, CAIR speaks up

With regard to The Chronicle’s Oct. 9 article “CAIR under the microscope,” it was disappointing to note the absence of many examples I articulated during my long discussions with the reporter concerning reasons why CAIR has to speak up on public relations issues (which are perceived as “politics” or “foreign policy”) only because the consequent media discourse harms the public relations of Muslim Americans in their daily lives. CAIR’s mission is to protect the civil rights of Muslims and improve their relations with mainstream Americans. Advocacy and communications with elected American representatives are some of the means.

Muslims from all parts of the world are much more diverse than in Israel-Palestine or only the Middle East. So we have to speak up because issues affect Muslims in general. If there is specific causation for violence and retaliation, such as the displacement and deprivation of native people, the source of people’s emotions has to be made known. When there are violations of the Geneva Conventions, or when lives or natural resources are taken indiscriminately, sometimes solely for economic greed, people of conscience have to speak up.

CAIR is no different in this context and has spoken on issues far beyond the Middle East, especially when it affects the lives of Muslim Americans.

In the particular instances of Israeli communications channels in the United States blaming Islam as the sole reason for the violence in the “occupied territories,” there we have to speak up for the human aspects of the environment. The old propaganda of the “land with no people,” of the “fight the pagans to get the Promised Land,” of “these people never existed,” etc., has to be addressed with honesty. (You can see violations of the Ten Commandments, too.)

An early 2000 example is Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stating emphatically that a “suicide bombing in the U.S. is a near certainty,” casting suspicion on the entire Muslim American community. Of Mitt Romney: Following his pre-election visit and briefing, he declared the Palestinian camps’ squalor being due to their “religion.”

Though the State of Israel falsely alleges direct causation of violence from Islam, CAIR has never spoken ill of Judaism or the Jewish people. For over a millennia, Jews had found refuge in Muslim empires from persecution in Europe and rose to prominence in those multi-religious symbiotic societies; this was specifically because Islam respects Jews and their divine messages. Specific government policy is fair for criticism, whether it is related to Iraq, Guantanamo, Gaza or the West Bank. Israel can take the leadership role by demonstrating compassion and empathy for its neighbors and build mutually beneficial relationships for a thriving region. The stronger party is historically in a driving position to enable such an outcome.

I had specifically mentioned the news releases CAIR sent to all media channels in Pittsburgh, also given to members of Congress, in which we denounced Hamas’ rocket fire as a clear violation of the Muslim creed. In letters to members of Congress, the focus was on respect for Geneva Conventions, U.N. resolutions, human rights and the honorable use of our taxpayers’ money — which all of our allies should respect. The emphasis was to have American values respected and not to add more fuel to a raging fire, especially in asymmetric warfare. This is something every civil rights group would advocate.

We speak because many media reports tend to dehumanize the native people, and the resultant social discourse affects American Muslims in their workplaces and schools.

I perceived that even your article looks unfavorably on anyone associated with an Islamic-named organization; I hope that I am wrong. This would be uninformed and stereotypical.

CAIR wishes to work toward a harmonious society with all organizations that respect human rights, civil rights, our own Bill of Rights and all the international laws that the U.S. endorses.

Safdar Khwaja

President, CAIR-Pittsburgh