Democratic lawmaker’s controversial history of support for CAIR comes under scrutiny

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By Carina

Several Democrat members of Congress have historically shown support for the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), whose leader, Nihad Awad, recently sparked controversy with his remarks on Hamas’ attacks on Israel.

Awad, CAIR’s executive director and co-founder, expressed satisfaction with the October 7 Hamas invasion of Israel, challenging the Jewish state’s right to self-defense as an “occupying power.”

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Awad’s remark on Gaza’s right to self-defense at Palestine convention

Awad stated at the 16th Annual Convention for Palestine in the U.S., “The people of Gaza only decided to break the siege — the walls of the concentration camp — on Oct. 7.”

“And yes, I was happy to see people breaking the siege and throwing down the shackles of their own land and walk free into their land that they were not free to walk in.”

He added, “And yes, the people of Gaza have the right to self-defense — have the right to defend themselves. And yes, Israel as an occupying power does not have that right to self-defense.”

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White House distances from CAIR after Awad’s remarks

This comment led the White House to distance itself from CAIR, removing the organization as a committed partner to fight antisemitism on its website.

A White House spokesperson condemned Awad’s statements to Fox News Digital: “We condemn these shocking, Antisemitic statements in the strongest terms.”

“The horrific, brutal terrorist attacks committed by Hamas on October 7th were, as President Biden said, ‘abhorrent’ and represent ‘unadulterated evil.'”

U.S. lawmakers’ history with CAIR: Sinema’s endorsement and contributions

Despite this, many U.S. lawmakers have previously endorsed CAIR. Sen. Krysten Sinema, I-Ariz., once lauded CAIR for advocating “for a more just society” and accepted campaign donations from former leaders of the group’s Arizona chapter.

“I applaud the council’s devotion to our nation’s democratic values and your work advocating for a more just society,” Sinema remarked in 2019. However, she did not comment on Awad’s recent statements.

Federal Election Commission records reveal Sinema received contributions from CAIR-Arizona’s former director and leaders.

U.S. Senators’ stances on CAIR and Israel-Hamas conflict

Additionally, Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., currently facing criminal bribery charges, praised CAIR’s service but did not respond to inquiries about their stance on the Israel-Hamas conflict.

In 2019, Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, commended CAIR for empowering American Muslims in political and social activism.

He condemned the recent comments from CAIR, stating, “I condemn in the strongest possible terms these antisemitic statements — and anyone who tries to make excuses for Hamas’s murder of innocent civilians. I strongly support Israel’s right to defend itself and will continue to stand with the Israeli people as they fight back against Hamas’s terrorism.”

Congressional support for CAIR shifts after recent comments

Over 100 Congress members, including then-Senator Vice President Kamala Harris, have recognized CAIR’s work. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Mich., thanked CAIR in 2018 for defending justice and civil liberties.

However, she has since condemned CAIR’s recent comments: “There are no two ways about this: Hamas’s October 7th terrorist attacks on Israel were completely horrific – innocent Israelis were slaughtered, hundreds of civilians were kidnapped, and now, countless families are grieving and afraid.”

“I condemn these blatantly antisemitic comments in no uncertain terms, and these remarks have led to me completely losing faith in the organization and its work.”

Squad members Tlaib, Omar endorse CAIR

Members of “the Squad,” such as Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., and Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., have shown support for CAIR in the past.

Tlaib acknowledged CAIR’s role in America’s progress, and Omar, despite facing backlash for her 2019 comments at a CAIR fundraiser, was named CAIR’s “American Muslim Public Servant of 2021.”

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