The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and CAIR - Interfaith Outreach Betrayed

An Open Letter to the USCCB

January 14, 2008 - San Francisco, CA - - One of the key disclosures so far to come from evidence presented by the government in the ongoing Holy Land Foundation prosecution is the existence of a 1991 secret plan drawn up by the terrorist group, the Muslim Brotherhood [see On the General Strategic Goal for the Group in North America] designed to facilitate stealth jihad - a "Civilization-Jihadist-Process" in their own words - against the West, with the goal of supplanting the secular rule of law with Sharia.

This plan was not new even in 1991, referring as it did to a similar set of recommendations put together in 1987 by the same group.

At the end of the above referenced document the Brotherhood identifies some of its key partners in furthering the goals set forth in the plan, one of those organizations [itemized as #22] is the Islamic Association for Palestine, the IAP.

As will be shown below, this is a critical piece of information, useful as a starting point in evaluating the U.S. Catholic Church's interfaith outreach to Islam - specifically the program conducted by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops [USCCB] - which in our estimation has gone seriously awry and inching towards gross negligence.

As a matter of background, the USCCB is an assembly of the hierarchy of the Catholic Church of the United States designed to help direct pastoral matters in the American Catholic Church. In 1964, Pope Paul VI created a department in the Roman Curia for outreach to people of other religions and in 1988 the effort was re-launched under the title, Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue [PCID] The PCID however is not responsible for dialogue with disciples of Judaism as duty falls under the jurisdiction of the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity.

Courtesy of the omnipresent CAIR email newsletter, it came to our attention at the beginning of last August that an "interfaith" meeting was planned between the USCCB and the Council on American Islamic Relations [CAIR], to be held on the 21st of that month.

That meeting took place as planned and was attended by a representative of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and Dr. Muzammil Siddiqi, Director of the Islamic Society of Orange County. The location of the meeting was the Council on American Islamic Relations' [CAIR] Capitol Hill Headquarters, 453 New Jersey Avenue, S.E., Washington, D.C.

Concerned that the meeting might well be seen as bestowing the "official seal of approval" of the USCCB on the controversial group, we entered into a dialogue with a highly placed functionary in that body.

Such "faith sharing" exercises involving representatives of CAIR and USCCB are not new. Since at least 2000 representatives of the Conference have met with delegations of Muslims within a project called The West Coast Dialogue of Catholics and Muslims. The Muslim delegations have almost always included members of CAIR.

In a document entitled, "Friends And Not Adversaries: A Catholic-Muslim Spiritual Journey" [source] the origins of this particular effort are traced back to 1999 when, "Msgr. Lawrence Baird and Fr. Rafael Luévano of the Catholic Diocese of Orange (California) and Dr. John Borelli of the U. S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Washington, D.C., visited Dr. Muzammil Siddiqi, Director of the Islamic Society of Orange County, and three of his associates, Mr. Syed M. Hasan, Dr. Ahmad H. Sakr, and Mr. Haitham Ahmed Bundakji, at their Islamic center in Garden Grove."

At that time Dr. Siddiqi was in the middle of a two term presidency [1997-2001] of the Islamic Society of America [ISNA]. He is also a member of the Supreme Islamic Council of Egypt and the Supreme Council of Mosques in Makkah, Saudia Arabia.

It is perhaps relevant at this point to establish that both CAIR and ISNA are closely affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood and both of these groups were named last summer as unindicted co-conspirators in the largest U.S. prosecution in history of terror funding, the Holy Land case. Additionally as imam of the Islamic Society of Orange County, Dr. Siddiqi is widely believed to the the key figure in the conversion of 25 year-old American, Adam Gadahn [now "Azzam the American," a fugitive and al-Qaeda spokesman] to Islam.

Intending to formalize our concerns over this program, on October 2, 2007 we sent a letter to the USCCB detailing our thinking on the matter.

"[redacted] In order to quantify our, mandate we must proceed from certain propositions, one of which is the understanding that the near totality of the current terrorist challenge comes from - however loosely or rigorously one might want to define it, the Islamic world.

This is not to paint with an overbroad brush, one which would in any way suggest that a majority or even a substantial plurality of believers in Islam are of this ilk, but those of concern are necessarily circumscribed within that demographic. Nor is it to suggest that dialogue with reasonable members of other faiths has no merit and therefore should be abandoned, though the degree to which authentic faith-sharing is possible must always be kept in focus.

Value judgments aside [and despite the in our opinion faulty claims by many Muslims, that Islam is an equal partner in a tripartite entity referred to as the "Abrahamic faiths"] it is clear that Islam is a profoundly and fundamentally different system of belief than are either Judaism or Christianity.

Because of this and since we live in a Western, secular, liberal democracy, dealing with Islam as it relates to society poses unique challenges, many or maybe even most of which are far beyond the scope of this discourse. In that sense, [redacted] your reference to Archimedes' lever and fulcrum was especially appropriate.

Unlike Catholicism which has a hierarchical structure which can often times speak with an authoritative and singular Catholic perspective regarding important religious, cultural and societal matters, there is no parallel in Islam, which is fractionated along at least two major lines and even within those lines of fracture - Shia and Sunni - there is no central authority.

Central within this atmosphere of sectarianism is a tension, which you and I discussed, which involves the promotion of a puritanical spirit, represented loosely by the Wahhabis and Salafis, which seek to purge Islam of any vestige of Western influence, returning the religion to a strict fundamentalism which is extraordinarily aggressive and overly political - a reasonable definition of Islamism - and which sees a bipolar word, dar al-harb [the lands of the non-Muslims] and dar al-Islam [the lands of the Muslims] which is perpetually in a state of war.

This conflict translates into an ongoing battle between fundamentalists [Islamists] and those who are more moderate, which has led to tremendous conflict down to the mosque level in the United States.

"the prayer leader's passionate appeal is a reflection of the ascendancy of Muslim hard-liners at the mosque, one of the most outspoken and embattled in the U.S. The mosque did not become this way without a struggle. Relying on hundreds of documents and dozens of interviews, the Tribune has pieced together the details of a bitter fight in Bridgeview that saw religious fundamentalists prevail over moderates. The story is a rare look inside the transformation of an American mosque, the role of Middle Eastern money in shaping Islam and the tensions many Muslims feel as they try to create enclaves in the U.S." [source Chicago Tribune, "Hard Liners Won Battle For Bridgeview Mosque,",1,7496331.story?coll=chi_news_custom_religion_util]

"[redacted] Hence this leads to more difficulty when deciding with what individuals and groups one should dialogue with because along with the process of dialogue comes the responsibility to not enable or give the appearance of approval to those working disingenuously or at cross purposes.

Though one might reasonably argue that this process should err on the side of a more inclusive dialogue, we believe that there are groups whose charters are so incompatible with ecumenism that to join with them at any level is so problematic that it works in a manner that is at worst corrosive to the overall process, potentially destroying it and at best cheapening it to the point of it becoming meaningless.

One such group is the Council on American Islamic Relations, CAIR.

CAIR describes itself as a Muslim civil-rights organization, along the lines of the NAACP.

It has numerous - over 30 - offices across the United States, with a location in nearly every major American city and is in large part funded by Saudi Wahhabists.

Since its inception in 1994 CAIR has served as a constant source of accusations of Islamophobia. The CAIR newsletter delivered sometimes several times a day via email serves as a series of talking points putting forth the perspective that Islamophobia runs rampant in the society and is getting worse.

Additionally it is designed to inflame impressionable Muslims and marginalize moderates.

Regardless of one's opinion about the organization, it can only be seen as a political entity, though it argues from a Muslim-centric point of view, it is in no way religiously based, nor does it make any such claim.

Its mission statement is as follows:

"The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) is a nonprofit 501(c)(4), grassroots civil rights and advocacy group. CAIR is America's largest Islamic civil liberties group, with regional offices nationwide and in Canada. The national headquarters is located on Capitol Hill in Washington D.C. Since its establishment in 1994, CAIR has worked to promote a positive image of Islam and Muslims in America. Through media relations, lobbying, education and advocacy, CAIR puts forth an Islamic perspective to ensure the Muslim voice is represented. In offering this perspective, CAIR seeks to empower the American Muslim community and encourage their participation in political and social activism." [source,]

A Brief History of CAIR

Mousa Abu Marzook is today the Deputy Chief of Hamas' Political Bureau. It is believed that he currently resides in Syria.

Hamas is the Palestinian based, federally designated terrorist organization responsible for the deaths of thousands of civilians, primarily Israelis. Hamas is an arm of the Muslim Brotherhood, a key Egyptian based Islamist group, which has been linked to terrorist activity internationally, since its inception and from which grew al-Qaeda.

Marzook was responsible for creating the Holy Land Foundation in 1981, now under federal prosecution in Dallas, TX. That prosecution alleges that HLF functioned as a funding source for Hamas, disguised as a charity.

Marzook also founded the Islamic Association for Palestine [IAP] in 1981. The IAP's purpose was to disseminate information favorable to Hamas, functioning as the public relations arm of the group in the U.S. The former chief of the FBI's counter-terrorism department, Oliver Revell, called IAP "a front organization for Hamas that engages in propaganda for Islamic militants."

In 1993, the prospect that the Oslo Peace Accords might be enacted alarmed Hamas, which bitterly opposed the document's recognition of the right for Israel to exist, therefore late in the year a meeting called the "Philadelphia conference" took place in Philadelphia, PA.

"In October 1993, less than one month after the public signing of the Oslo Accords, approximately 20 members of the Palestinian Committee gathered together in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to discuss how best to proceed in light of the Oslo Accords. The [Holy Land Foundation] defendants Shukri Abu Baker, Ghassan Elashi and Mufid Abdulqader were present?.the FBI obtained a warrant from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to monitor the meeting, which lasted approximately three days. During the meeting, the participants openly discussed the problems that the Oslo Accords posed for achieving their objectives." [source, U.S. Dept. of Justice, Trial Brief, U.S. v Holy Land Foundation.

An exhibit found in the home of Abdelhaleem Al-Ashqar [Executive Director of the Al-Aqsa Educational Fund, a suspected Hamas funding operation] detailed sessions which were to take place at the Philadelphia meeting. Under the politics and media session, "Nihad" was scheduled to give a presentation. FBI Special Agent Lara Burns testified on Thursday August 2, 2007 at the Holy Land Foundation trial, that the "Nihad" listed in previous transcripts of FBI wiretaps of the Philadelphia conference was Nihad Awad, currently CAIR's Executive Director.

An August 14, 2001 Immigration and Naturalization Services report states that IAP's work consisted of:

"publishing and distributing HAMAS communiqués printed on IAP letterhead, as well as other written documentation to include the HAMAS charter and glory records [a list of terrorist attacks that HAMAS had carried out against Israeli civilians], which are tributes to HAMAS' violent 'successes.'"

The report went on to detail that the IAP received nearly $500,000 in funding, provided to it by Mousa Abu Marzook, the above noted Hamas leader.

CAIR grew directly out of the IAP, having obtained the seed money to open its Washington, DC office directly from the Holy Land Foundation.

The source of this document is from one of CAIR's 990's, a required federal income tax filing, and provided to, from Steven Emerson's Investigative Project on Terrorism.

CAIR was founded in 1994 by Nihad Awad, Omar Ahmad, and Ibrahim Hooper. Nihad Awad is currently the Executive Director of CAIR, he was also the Spokesman and Public Relations Director for the IAP. Omar Ahmad is the former Chairman of the Board of CAIR, he was also the IAP's President. Ibrahim Hooper is currently CAIR's Director of Communications, he was an employee of the IAP.

Ghassan Elashi served as the Holy Land Foundation's incorporator, he was also the founder of the Texas chapter of CAIR.

"the Muslim Brotherhood directed its Palestinian Committees throughout the world, including the United States, to carry out the mandate of assisting Sheik Yassin's newly-formed Hamas. In accordance with that mandate, the Palestinian Committee in the United States, which included the defendants Elashi, Baker and El-Mezain, created a number of organizations charged with varying missions calculated to comprehensively address Hamas' needs. These organizations included the United Association for Studies and Research (UASR) ("think tank"), the Islamic Association of Palestine (IAP) (propaganda and information) and the Occupied Land Fund (OLF) (money), later to become the defendant HLF. The defendant Shukri Abu Baker was in charge of the HLF and, along with the defendants El-Mezain and Elashi, set out to establish what would become the highest grossing Islamic charity in the United States.

...The IAP, which involved the defendant Ghassan Elashi as an original incorporator and bank account signatory, was designed as a propaganda facility, responsible for Intifada festivals (involving the defendant HLF), pro-Hamas publications, and the general rallying of support within the American Palestinian community. The IAP was the first organization to publish an English version of the Hamas charter, which, as previously explained, vows to replace Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza with an Islamic state. Further, during their existence, unindicted co-conspirator and Hamas leader Mousa Abu Marzook funneled hundreds of thousands of dollars into the three organizations (UASR, IAP, OLF/HLF) during a time when he was an unemployed graduate student." [source, U.S. Dept. of Justice, Trial Brief, U.S. v Holy Land Foundation.

Elashi is a defendant in the HLF prosecution and has already been convicted and sentenced in the Infocom, terror case:

"United States Attorney Richard B. Roper announced that three brothers who operated a family-run, Richardson, Texas, company that sold computers and Internet services mostly to customers in the Middle East, were convicted late yesterday in Dallas, Texas. Following an almost three-week long trial before the Honorable Sam A. Lindsay, United States District Judge, and after one full day of deliberation, the jury found Bayan Elashi, Ghassan Elashi, Basman Elashi, and Infocom Corporation each guilty of conspiracy to deal in the property of a Specially Designated Terrorist and conspiracy to commit money laundering. In addition, Bayan Elashi and Ghassan Elashi were each convicted on 10 counts of dealing in the property of a Specially Designated Terrorist and nine counts of money laundering. Basman Elashi was also convicted on one count of dealing in the property of a Specially Designated Terrorist." [source, U.S. Dept of Justice,]

In December 2004, a federal judge in Chicago ruled that IAP and the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development was liable for a $156 million lawsuit for having aided and abetted Hamas in the West Bank killing of a 17-year-old American citizen named David Boim. IAP thereafter had its assets frozen by the U.S. government and was shut down on grounds that it was funding terrorism.

The foregoing even though presented in abbreviated form, fleshes out the following string of associations?

the Muslim Brotherhood => Hamas => the Palestinian Committee => the Islamic Association for Palestine => CAIR

?which in part led the Justice Department to name the Council on Islamic American Relations as an unindicted co-conspirator in U.S. vs. Holy Land Foundation for Development.

Several CAIR officials have been convicted of terror related offenses [or in the case of Siraj Wahhaj involved as suspects in key terror prosecutions] and one, still very active in the organization, was named as an unindicted co-conspirator in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing plot.

Bassem Khafagi - former director of Community Relation for CAIR, plead guilty to bank and visa and has been deported to Egypt. According to Fox News, "The FBI said Khafagi is a founding member of the Islamic Assembly of North America, a charity that purports to promote Islam...Federal investigators said Islamic Assembly has funneled money to activities supporting terrorism and has published material advocating suicide attacks on the United States.

Randall Todd "Ismail" Royer - a former communications & civil rights specialist for CAIR, according to AP "Royer...admitted helping members of the conspiracy join the militant Pakistani group Lashkar-e-Taiba in the days after the Sept. 11 attacks. He pleaded guilty to the use of a firearm in a crime of violence and aiding and abetting the carrying of an explosive during commission of a felony. He was sentenced to 20 years in prison."

Siraj Wahhaj - CAIR advisory board member named as an "unindicted co-conspirator" in the "Blind Sheik" Omar Abdel Rahman 1993 World Trade Center bomb plots by US Prosecutor Mary Jo White. Rahman is serving a life sentence.

CAIR must be seen as perhaps the key above ground American Islamist player, an active participant, in a plan laid out by the Muslim Brotherhood designed around a strategy they called a "Civilization-Jihadist Process." Though this particular action program was designed by the Brotherhood, it is considered the standard working template employed by Islamists when operating in the West, where they are currently in the minority. This process takes advantage of the rights, liberties and freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution to work from within the system to destroy it, replacing it with a caliphate, or Islamic theocracy.[It is also heavy on da'wa, or conversion efforts of which fraudulent interfaith-dialogue is a component. Also please consider that Islam has tremendous prohibitions against leaving the faith with no dearth of Islamic scholars arguing that those who leave Islam - "apostates" - are liable for the death penalty. Hence it stands to reason that inter-faith sharing with Muslims is much more of a one way dialogue than it is with any other religion or Christian sect].

This strategic battle plan is outlined within a piece of evidence presented by federal prosecutors the Holy Land Foundation trial [government exhibit GX3-85]. It was seized over fifteen years ago in a 1991 raid on the Virginia residence of one of the HLF's unindicted co-conspirators. This official Muslim Brotherhood [Ikhwan] document half in Arabic, half in English, outlines the above detailed audacious plan whereby they hope to subjugate Western civilization.

That CAIR would be involved in such a process is internally consistent since the organization's antecedent, the IAP which functioned as Hamas' American mouthpiece and Hamas, which was in turn created by the Muslim Brotherhood.

As an experiment, you might find it useful to call the DC office of CAIR, ask for Mr. Ibrahim Hooper and then query him, asking if CAIR is ready to specifically and categorically condemn Hamas by name.

He will refuse or try to obfuscate, mentioning something such as, "we condemn all acts of terrorism regardless of source," which of course begs the question.

It is CAIR's methodology and troubling associations which in our opinion must lead a reasonable person or organization to conclude that contrary to its claims of moderation, is in fact a hard-core, revolutionary Islamist organization which is at best terror friendly and which subscribes to an Islamist ideology manifestly incompatible with any notion of ecumenism, no matter how liberally the latter is interpreted.

Lest one think that this conclusion is only one operative within the conservative world, consider that influential left-leaning Democrat members of the U.S. Senate, leaders in their party, have characterized CAIR as follows:

"CAIR is unusual in its extreme rhetoric and its association with groups that are suspect." - Senator Richard Durbin [D ILL]

"CAIR we know, has ties to terrorism and intimate links to Hamas" - Senator Charles Schumer

Along the same lines, liberal Senator Barbara Boxer [D-CA] recently repudiated the group.

In recognition of this evidence we therefore feel justified in asking the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to disassociate itself from any anticipated or planned future dealings with this group and that it no longer meet with representatives of the organization, or in its facilities. Moreover we request that the USCCB no longer refer individuals, parishes, diocesan groups or other parties to confer with members of CAIR or its 30 plus chapters.

Now that the USCCB has been more fully informed about the nature of this organization any further dialogue with it or its members at any level must be seen as bestowing a level of imprimatur and undeserved legitimacy that can't be justified by fact, reason or prudence."

The reply by the USCCB was not unexpected given the series of conversations that we had previous to the transmittal of our letter. We quote from the most relevant section of the response below:

"...I have reviewed the materials and, for the present, see no reason to advise the Bishops to cut off contact with any particular organization. I think you may have misunderstood the mandate and authority of this Secretariat...There are many aspects of American Muslim organizations that create challenges for interreligious dialogue. There have been, and are, some issues that are troubling. I am making an effort to examine the troubling aspects, but given our current mandate, there seems to be no reason to treat CAIR or any other Muslim organization in the US as outside the bounds of dialogue or exchange of information. It has always been my conviction that, if someone is breaking a law that we must all obey, such persons or organizations should be prosecuted. However, singling out particular organizations or religions for legal and other forms of civil reprisals seems to be contrary to the US Constitution...Whenever possible, in the context of our dialogues, these concerns can be discussed with Muslim interlocutors and hopefully remedied..."

Against the backdrop of evidence that we presented and upon consideration of the reply by the representative of the USCCB, we draw five preliminary conclusions:

  • The USCCB's interfaith outreach program to American Muslims appears to be locked into a business as usual approach that does not allow for any reasonable degree of introspection or examination.
  • There seems to be little understanding by those responsible for carrying out this program of its potential for abuse, for example by participants whose only intent is to acquire the appearance of legitimacy for their organizations.
  • The program refuses to recognize that the process it is engaged in is by its very nature, inherently political.
  • Decision makers in the program seem to have almost no comprehension of the methodologies and/or techniques that the Islamists employ. This has led to a "see no evil" attitude in which all participants in these exercises are assumed to be sincere. Such a view does not allow for the possibility of malevolent intent, one gauged towards manipulating "faith sharing" to bring it into accord with an agenda of subverting liberal democracies from within.
  • Through either ignorance or choice, remaining above the fray of the furious internecine battle being waged within the U.S. Muslim community - as detailed by in-depth Chicago Tribune article excerpted above, between moderates and Wahhabist radicals vying for control of American mosques - the Church's approach to Muslim dialogue weakens and marginalizes precisely the sentiments it should be working to empower if true faith sharing and accommodation is the goal.
  • The above points can be synopsized rather succinctly. At its most elemental, the USCCB's approach to faith sharing, at least as it applies to Islam in America, has blinded itself to the possibility of abuse of process.

    This potential for being taken advantage of is critical because any official meeting between the governing body of the U.S. Catholic Church and any other entity has consequences, primary among which is the bestowal of a kind of imprimatur on those groups; that somehow they have been vetted and not found wanting. As a result, Islamist organizations like CAIR, ISNA and others use these meetings to counter reasonable charges made by critics that they are working as a fifth column.

    Participating in these sham exercises feeds into a prevailing Islamist narrative, which goes as follows, "Our critics are bigots and Islamophobes. Why would the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops meet with us at our national headquarters, if there were even the slightest problem?"

    We find it particularly repellant that such a meeting would be held at the CAIR DC headquarters which was partially founded by a grant from the Holy Land Foundation, a copy of which appears earlier in this piece.

    In our opinion these organizations will continue misuse the process, and while the Church looks upon its well-intended efforts as legitimate cross-faith dialogue, others with hidden agendas seek only to use them in a crassly political fashion. If these programs are allowed to continue as they currently are formulated, such ill-advised conferences will cast the U.S. Catholic Conference of Bishops in role of enabler in a well thought out plan designed to slowly and incrementally force Western culture to bow to Sharia.

    It is not news that the Catholic Church has been greatly damaged over the last number of years both by the existence of and then the cover-up attending priestly sexual abuse. While it might have been nearly impossible to prevent many of these cases, dealing with them forthrightly was not.

    The Church was thus damaged doubly, both by the offenses themselves and then by the Church's tepid first response to them.

    We fear that what is being played out in the mater smacks - on a lesser scale - of the same type of lack of ethical judgment. If one evaluates some of the historical lapses that the Church has experienced at important times in its history, failure to exercise rigorous self-examination might well be considered to be the defining contributor to what at times can only be called moral failure.

    We therefore publicly ask the USCCB to reconsider its decision on this matter and hereafter more fully integrate into this process a realization of the extent to which it might be manipulated by those whose sole intent is to deceive.

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