How fares CAIR, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, North America's toughest and strongest Islamist group? I discern two contrary trends.
On the positive side, the organization is doing gangbusters, hosting large fundraising events, expanding offices (it now claims twenty-eight of them), insinuating itself with the left, and getting more litigious. It is increasingly accepted as mainstream – meeting with government officials, making presentations at police stations, Elderhostels, and in schoolrooms, and giving official invocations.
On the negative side, CAIR is clearly hurting in the substance arena, having to retreat from some prized positions. I have already noted today CAIR's reluctant condemning of the Islamist government of Sudan for the atrocities in Darfur, surely an unpleasant task for an Islamist organization. Even worse for CAIR must have been its feeling compelled to condemn the teacher's manual for a first-grade Arabic textbook used at the Islamic Saudi Academy, a private school in Alexandria, Virginia. The manual's first page tells teachers to instruct students that any religion other than Islam is false. CAIR's spokesman, Ibrahim Hooper, said this conflicts with the Koran and "is inaccurate in terms of portraying Islam's relationship with other faiths." Saudi embassy Nail Al-Jubeir Nail Al-Jubeir reacted harshly to such criticism, calling it "pathetic" and "making a big thing out of nothing." CAIR receives Saudi funding, so for it to denounce a fellow Saudi-subsidized institution suggests how much its radicalism is hurting it.Nor can CAIR enjoy it when, at the last minute, law enforcement officials withdraw from its event.
In all, I am inclined to say that the substance is more of a leading indicator than the packaging, and that as CAIR's actions become ever-better known, the group is likely to come under increased scrutiny and experience difficult times. (Aug. 3, 2004)