HomeCommunity IssuesRight-Wing Espionage alleged by Muslim civil rights group

Right-Wing Espionage alleged by Muslim civil rights group

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) has revealed new evidence on extensive spying conducted by an anti-Muslim organization, the Investigative Project on Terrorism (IPT). According to the Washington Post, the civil rights organization said the information uncovers reveals what is perhaps the biggest espionage effort on the Muslim community in recent years.

In a press conference on Wednesdayh, CAIR National Deputy Director Edward Ahmed Mitchell reviewed leaked documentation revealing that the IPT had spent over a decade hiring spies to report on the Muslim community. According to CAIR, targets included significant community leaders such as former Representative Keith Ellison, the first Muslim person to serve in Congress. Numerous other Muslim organizations, including but not limited to the Muslim Alliance of North America, the Muslim Legal Fund of America, the Muslim Public Affairs Council, and the Islamic Society of North America, were also surveilled.

According to the Columbus Dispatch, the IPT claims its mission is to “expose the activities of terrorist networks and supporters in the U.S. and abroad and to educate the public about this threat.”

However, local Muslim community leaders and civil rights organizations such as the Southern Poverty Law Center have long identified the IPT as an anti-Muslim hate group. IPT founder Steven Emerson also has a significant history of Islamophobic statements: the Bridge Initiative Team of Georgetown University notes that Emerson has promoted “falsified information and conspiracy theories about Islam and Muslims,” such as claims that Muslim organizations are “infiltrating.

The new investigative evidence comes after CAIR-Ohio announced they had terminated then-Executive and Legal Director Romin Iqbal for espionage. In December, an independent third party investigator found “conclusive evidence” that Iqbal had collaborated with the IPT for over a decade, passing meeting recordings and confidential recordings to the anti-Muslim group. According to CAIR-Ohio, Iqbal confessed when confronted by the evidence. At the time of publication, he has not yet commented publicly, and his motives for espionage remain unclear.

Furthermore, CAIR-Ohio discovered numerous suspicious purchases from gun retailers in the weeks before Iqbal was terminated. A suspicious package containing parts of an AR-15 rifle was also mailed to the CAIR-Ohio Columbia office the day before the press release was published. According to the Dispatch, newly appointed acting executive director Amina Barhuma reported the incidents to the Hilliard Division of Police, alongside fears that the “very manipulative” Iqbal may have been planning a retaliatory attack. However, the Dispatch later reported that the police refused to open an investigation into the matter.

The announcement of Iqbal’s termination made national headlines, and sent shockwaves through the local Muslim community. According to the Dispatch, Iqbal was a “pillar” of the community who frequently spoke out against Islamophobia. Whitney Siddiqi, the community affairs director for CAIR-Ohio, described Iqbal’s actions as “a complete act of betrayal.”

“We want the community to know that our work transcends any one individual,” Siddiqi told the Dispatch. “We know it’s heartbreaking, we know it’s shocking, we know it is honestly a feeling that many of us can’t describe right now. … If anything, this has motivated us, this has reinvigorated us to do the work we do.”

In their press release, CAIR-Ohio confirmed that the local Muslim community was safe, reaffirming their continued determination to fight for the community.

“We recognize the difficulty of receiving this information and the unease it brings. We all feel betrayed by a once-trusted leader and advocate whom we relied upon,” CAIR-Ohio wrote. “However, our mission to protect the civil rights of Ohio Muslims transcends any one individual. We want to assure the community that CAIR-Ohio’s local assets, operations, and infrastructure are safe and secure.”

CAIR’s recently released evidence reveals that Iqbal’s termination was part of a larger nationwide investigation, which began after an unidentified leaker from the IPT warned CAIR of a mole in their organization. In a statement through CAIR, the leaker revealed they had become disillusioned with IPT’s anti-Muslim rhetoric in their years working for the organization.

“My original motivation in working for IPT was the terrorism perpetrated against the United States on September 11th, but much of the work we did was not related to terrorism nor the United States,” the leaker further wrote. “I came to realize that IPT’s main concern was not protecting our nation from legitimate threats, but protecting a foreign government—Israel—from legitimate criticism.”

Information from former IPT spy Tariq Nelson revealed that IPT had not worked alone. In the January 12th press conference, Mitchell revealed that Emerson asked Nelson to provide information to other often right-wing sources. At Emerson’s request, Nelson met with a law enforcement agent who refused to identify his name or employer.

Nothing, however, came out of the meeting. According to Mitchell, Nelson believes that the officer concluded that he was “not a true believer in the anti-Muslim cause,” and did not want to continue working with him.

Nelson was also asked to meet with Daniel Pipes, the founder of the Middle East Forum (MEF) which CAIR identifies as an “anti-Muslim, anti-Palestinian hate group.” According to the Islamophobia Network, Pipes has advocated for profiling American Muslims and Arabs, and claimed a Muslim community center in New York would “spread Islamist ideology.” According to Mitchell, Pipes allegedly called Nelson and asked Nelson to speak out against the Muslim community. Nelson refused, and did not hear from Pipes or the MEF again.

CAIR also revealed that the unidentified IPT leaker claimed that the organization was working with multiple Republican Congressmen, including former Michigan Rep. Pete Hoekstra. Though Mitchell stipulated that it wasn’t clear whether the lawmakers knew about the espionage activities, he said that CAIR obtained “some evidence” that Emerson had provided information to representatives “hostile to Muslims.”

The Dispatch reports that CAIR National Executive Director Nihad Awad has contacted the FBI about their investigation. Awad, however, told the Dispatch that the government “have not been responsive as I expect them to be.” In the meantime, CAIR has determined to continue investigating the IPT’s surveillance efforts on the Muslim community.

“We are working diligently to uncover, disrupt and expose every attempt that this anti-Muslim hate group and its allies have made to spy on American Muslims in service to the Israeli government,” Awad said in CAIR’s press release. “In the coming weeks, we plan to continue releasing additional information as we uncover and validate it.”

AsAmNews has Asian America in its heart. We’re an all-volunteer effort of dedicated staff and interns. Check out our new Instagram account. Go to our Twitter feed and Facebook page for more content. Please consider interning, joining our staff, or submitting a story, or making a contribution.

Photo: would a screenshot from here work? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NU3Do6LC7WI&t=1567s

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Latest

Worth the Time

Must Read

Regular Features

Latest

A Twitter list by @AsAmNews