Despite heavy pressure and negative media coverage, the United Arab Emirates is standing by its decision to designate the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the Muslim American Society (MAS) and other Islamist organizations as terrorist groups.
Senior UAE officials have responded to the criticism by restating that CAIR, MAS and other Muslim groups in the West are linked to the Muslim Brotherhood, promote extremism, and incite and finance terrorism.
By calling out European and American affiliates of the Brotherhood, the UAE is trying to bring attention to the Islamists’ influence in and danger to the West.
“[The list is] a clear message to the world about the UAE’s stance against terrorism, extremism and fanaticism, focusing on and putting a cordon around all subversive entities that seek to undermine the security and stability of the state and seeks to protect the community from extremist ideology,” a top UAE official said.
The objective is “to cut off access to all forms of material and moral support for terrorism, to drain its resources, to prevent the incitement of terrorist crimes, to prevent the praising of terrorism and to work to stop the spreading of such crimes or any encouragement of the committing of them.”
“We cannot accept incitement or [terror] funding when we look at some of these organizations. For many countries, the definition of terror is that you have to carry a weapon and terrorize people. For us, it’s far beyond that. We cannot tolerate even the smallest and tiniest amount of terrorism,” he answered.
CAIR proved the UAE’s point earlier this month when its San Francisco Bay Area chapter held a 20th anniversary fundraising banquet that honored convicted Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorist Sami Al-Arian with a “Promoting Justice Award.”
CAIR continues to claim that Al-Arian was unjustly tried, despite the overwhelming evidence against him and his conviction in court. However, CAIR cannot deny is that Al-Arian's radical rhetoric is on record. CAIR is upholding an Islamist extremist with a subversive agenda.
UAE State Foreign Affairs Minister Anwar Gargash implied that CAIR, MAS and other U.S. and European groups banned by his country are part of a pro-Muslim Brotherhood lobby.
“The noise (by) some Western organizations over the UAE’s terrorism list originates in groups that are linked to the Muslim Brotherhood and many of them work on incitement and creating an environment of extremism,” Gargash tweeted.
Gargash defended the UAE’s terrorism-designation process by saying listed groups may defend themselves in the court system if they wish. The possibility of delisting, however, is only “available to the organizations whose approach has changed.”
The UAE’s designation stems from new anti-terror legislation enacted by the Emirates last summer. Article 33 of the legislation mandates an annual review of the list. A banned group is also free to file an appeal. If the initial appeal is refused, the group may file a second appeal within 60 days. If the court does not respond to the initial appeal after 60 days, the defendant may also file a second appeal.
In multiple tweets, Gargash argued that the UAE provides a better model for moderation and prosperity in the region than the Brotherhood, even going so far as to distribute a newspaper column by Thomas Friedman arguing that Dubai sparked the Arab Spring by being the “Manhattan of the Arab world.”
Gargash complimented the article and called out those in the West who “do not see the devastating effects of extremism in the Arab world.”
The designation of CAIR by a Muslim Arab country puts the organization in a difficult spot. CAIR cannot attack the UAE as bigoted Islamophobes, as is its usual strategy with its critics. Moreover, CAIR previously enjoyed friendly relations with the UAE and has received major donations from them.
As CAIR-Florida official Nezar Hamze acknowledged, “[CAIR Executive Director] Nihad [Awad] has had a long relationship with the UAE and other Middle Eastern countries because they travel quite a bit and they talk.”
Even though CAIR runs an alleged scheme to hide foreign donors, its 2007 tax filing shows donations of approximately $220,000 from the UAE Embassy in Washington D.C.; $100,000 from the National Bank of Fujairah in the UAE; $100,000 from the Red Crescent in Abu Dhabi and $45,000 from Bin Hammodah Properties Co. in Abu Dhabi. That’s close to $465,000 from UAE sources in one year alone.
Jordan says it will not ban the Brotherhood, but it did arrest a senior Brotherhood official Zaki Bani Arshid for responding to the UAE’s list by describing the UAE’s government as “the first sponsor of terrorism.”
Meanwhile, CAIR is forcefully denying any links to terrorism or extremism and spinning the U.S. State Department’s statement that the U.S. does not consider CAIR terrorists into a complete vindication.
“We have never been linked to the Muslim Brotherhood. We are not. We are an independent American organization …the Muslim Brotherhood, speaking of the Muslim Brotherhood, is not a terrorist organization. It is widely recognized as a popular movement in the Middle East and the Muslim world and CAIR is not a Muslim Brotherhood organization.”
When CNN anchor Alisyn Camerota pointed out the Brotherhood’s history of violence, Awad falsely claimed that the Brotherhood has renounced violence and described the organization as the “largest social opposition to the dictatorial regimes.”
Awad finished by repeating his claim that CAIR is a moderate civil liberties group and that his group “is not linked to any domestic or international organizations.”
However, Awad’s claims contradict the determinations of federal prosecutors, the Justice Department, the FBI, federal judges, countless terrorism experts and the Muslim Brotherhood’s own internal documents.
In a television debate with the author, a CAIR spokesperson denied the existence of U.S. government documents and quotes by federal prosecutors about CAIR’s connections to the Brotherhood, even as they were shown on camera, read aloud and publicly available on the internet.
The UAE recognizes that extremist ideas cause extremist behaviors. It cannot afford to take half-measures in a region as dangerous as the Middle East.
Two messages are being sent to the U.S. and Europe by the UAE:
First, the West’s overlooking of the Islamist ideology and focusing on its byproduct, terrorism, is like a doctor treating symptoms instead of the disease. As eloquently stated by former FBI agent Nathan Garrett in the film Grand Deception, “We’re not talking about a gun. We’re talking about the man holding the gun?”
For the UAE, the backlash from the pro-Brotherhood lobby in the U.S. only reinforces the necessity of what it has done.
The UAE wants the West to wake up, but it isn’t going to sit around waiting for that to happen.
For a more information on CAIR and their extremist connections, click here
For more information about MAS, click here.
Watch interview with CAIR head who tries to deny his organization's proven ties to Muslim Brotherhood