On Dec. 8, American Muslims for Palestine (AMP) held a protest in front of the White House, reacting to President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. The featured speaker was Imam Omar Suleiman, who also led Friday prayers. Suleiman is a notorious bigot who has called homosexuality a “repugnant[,] shameless sin,” advocated for gender segregation, and justified Islamic sex slavery.
Also speaking was the executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), Nihad Awad. During Awad’s remarks at the White House rally, he referred to Suleiman as an “eloquent…respected imam.” Bad enough as this is, one might ask: What was Awad doing at an AMP event at all?
While AMP claims that it “stands against all forms of bigotry and racism,” it has a long and varied history of promoting anti-Semitism. Just last month, AMP founder Hatem Bazian was rebuked by his employer—University of California, Berkeley—for retweeting two vile anti-Semitic images that accuse “Ashke-Nazis” of rape, murder and organ trafficking. Nor, despite Bazian’s protestations, is this out of character for him. He has a long history of anti-Semitic incitement.
This is not surprising. Among the figures addressing the shouting crowd at an AMP protest in New York was Sayel Kayed—the president of AMP New Jersey—who took the opportunity to proclaim, “Death to the peace accords!” This is consistent with past AMP events in which terrorists were lauded and peace with Israel denigrated as a goal.
Indeed, AMP’s national director, Osama Abu-Irshaid, exemplifies such sentiments. Formerly of the (now-defunct) Hamas front organization Islamic Association for Palestine (IAP), Irshaid has gone on record as claiming that the Oslo peace process was a mistake because it assumed Israel’s right to exist.
Worse, still, is Irshaid’s open support of Gaza-ruling terrorist group Hamas. In a 2014 Facebook post, Irshaid applauded Hamas violence against Israelis: “Hamas, whose youth have been renewed by its commitment to its precise principles for liberation [is] the one who believes in his Lord, is proud of Him and works for his cause and people.”
In another post, Irshaid praised Hamas’s “steadfastness and sacrifice,” and claimed, “Gaza is victorious… The descendants of the Muslim David are rubbing the dust with the nose of the descendants of the Jewish Goliath [i.e. humiliating them].” He even commented, “Hamas smells the Zionist weakness and confusion.”
Despite its staff’s clear bigotry and anti-Semitism, when AMP hosted a press conference on the Jerusalem declaration in early December, CAIR had no trouble jumping on board for co-sponsorship. And Nihad Awad was willing to address the annual AMP conference (which ostensibly had the theme of “Education, Empowerment, Action”) as a featured speaker—even though the conference included several alumni of defunct Muslim Brotherhood-linked organizations, including the IAP and the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development. Both “charities” were shut down by the U.S. government for providing material support to Hamas.
CAIR has long claimed to not only be the nation’s preeminent Muslim civil rights organization, but a benevolent force that fights for the civil rights of all peoples. Yet CAIR conveniently looks the other way when its partners issue calls for violence against Jews and the destruction of Israel. Which is it going to be?
Dr. Oren Litwin is a research fellow with Islamist Watch, a project of the Middle East Forum.
Samantha Rose Mandeles is a coordinator at Islamist Watch. Follow her on Twitter at @SRMandeles.