If left-wing politicians thought they were immune from ridiculous accusations of anti-Muslim bigotry by treating the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) with kid gloves, they are in for a surprise.
In declaring its opposition to the latest bi-partisan bill to prevent suspected terrorists from buying guns, the sordid group has accused the Democrats and Republicans of trying to suppress Muslims’ civil liberties.
CAIR is, according to the Justice Department, a front for the U.S. Muslim Brotherhood and has links to Hamas. The Muslim country of the United Arab Emirates, which previously funded CAIR, designated CAIR as a terrorist organization when it cracked down on Islamist extremism.
Gun control is an intense debate in the United States with reasonable supporters on each side, but CAIR is polluting the political dialogue with (yet again) ridiculous cries of Islamophobia—and this latest round is exceptionally over-the-top.
The Terrorist Firearms Prevention Act of 2016 aims to stop suspected terrorists whose names are on the no-fly list or the “selectee” list for extra scrutiny from buying guns. There are multiple cases of people who are obviously not terrorists who have ended up on the no-fly list and there are legitimate questions about the bill’s compatibility with the U.S. Constitution, but that’s not the respectable dialogue CAIR is promoting.
Rather, CAIR claimed that the bipartisan group of Senators secretly wants the gun control because it only impacts Muslims:
“We oppose the Terrorist Firearms Prevention Act of 2016 because it appears to limit the ban on firearms purchases to American Muslims…”
“It would seem the Senate is willing to only apply constitutional limitations on the American Muslim community, which is disproportionately impacted by federal watch lists.”
Absolutely nothing in the bill would separate the Muslims from the non-Muslims on the terror watch lists so the former could be blocked and the latter be permitted. Much of the negative media attention surrounding the watch lists is from non-Muslims being inappropriately placed on them.
CAIR’s gotten away with the Islamophobia card for so long that they didn’t even bother pairing this propaganda with any semblance of logic.
Speaking of disproportionality, the disproportionate hysteria of CAIR’s rhetoric is plain to see when the actual facts and context are presented.
The broad term of “watch lists” refers to the consolidation of lists within the Terrorist Screening Center. Its database has about one million names—not one million Americans—one million names of individuals around the globe. Out of a world-wide population of 7.4 billion people, only 5-15,000 names on the list are Americans (although it reached 25,000 citizens and permanent residents in 2013).
According to the FBI, of the more than 23 million background checks made in connection with gun purchases last year, 244 of those checks were on people on the terror watch lists. Over 90% of those on the terror watch list who wanted a gun were allowed to buy it (and presumably did). Only 21 were blocked.
That means 223 suspected terrorists were allowed to buy guns in one year.
Those that were blocked were stopped not because they were on a terror watch list. They were stopped because other regulations got in the way, such as being a convict or because of substance abuse.
The “anti-Muslim” legislation that CAIR is attacking doesn’t even use the entire database. The Terrorist Firearms Prevention Act of 2016 uses two: the No-Fly List and the Selectee List (for additional screening). That means about 900,000 foreigners and 2,000 Americans on the terror watch list are still allowed to buy guns under this proposal.
The No-Fly List has 81,000 names. The FBI says only about 1,000 Americans—1,000 out of the total U.S. population of 320 million—are on this list and would be blocked from getting a gun if a proposal like this was adopted.
The Selectee List has 28,000 names. Less than 1,700 are Americans.
For the Terrorist Screening Center, a government agency submits a name and evidence justifying why they believe there is a reasonable suspicion that they are linked to terrorism. The National Counterterrorism Center looks at it and, about 90% of the time, agrees and adds the name.
Names are also frequently removed, at a rate of about 16,500 per year. The standard for inclusion is high enough that Orlando shooter Omar Mateen was on the list and taken off, despite plenty of evidence he could be a threat.
Names cannot be added on the basis of activity permitted under the First Amendment. And anyone (even a non-citizen) who has experienced difficulty traveling and believe it is because their name is on a watchlist can follow the redress process with the Department of Homeland Security so a review happens.
While this process can take far too long and needs to be fixed, removal is possible. Ask the terror-linked Islamists who have used lawsuits to get themselves removed from the list.
The bill includes a provision that individuals who believe their rights have been violated can appeal to a federal court and, if they win, the government pays their attorney’s fee.
There is understandable concern about the bill’s provision that the government can present secret evidence to the court for security reasons. If the secret evidence is used, the court is responsible for releasing as much information as possible in order to respect due process. Senator Collins’ factsheet says this is done in other criminal proceedings and is not unusual.
While there are logical reasons to oppose the bill, Islamophobia isn’t one of them. Progressives who have looked the other way when CAIR exploits anti-Muslim sentiment by playing the Islamophobia card should learn a lesson from this.
This deceitful attack on the integrity of Senators (including top Democrats) who support this gun control bill is just as unacceptable as the deceitful personal attacks on anti-Islamist voices seen (fairly or unfairly) as conservative.
There’s a common thread between this cry of Islamophobia and
Let this be a wake-up call for more progressives to see CAIR for what it really is: A Muslim Brotherhood-linked group that uses bullying and deception to pollute productive dialogue about anything related to national security, Islamism and anti-Muslim discrimination.
Ryan Mauro is ClarionProject.org’s national security analyst, a fellow with Clarion Project and an adjunct professor of homeland security. Mauro is frequently interviewed on top-tier television and radio. Read more, contact or arrange a speaking engagement.