Sheriff Lee Baca is a friend. We have known him for decades, long before he was elected sheriff we worked with him as he dedicated himself to improving inter-group relations in Los Angeles County. We don’t doubt his commitment, sincerity and genuineness in seeking to reach out to diverse communities throughout the county.
But even good guys can be wrong.
Last week Lee testified before US House of Representatives Committee on Homeland Security. During the course of his testimony, Lee was confronted by Rep. Mark Souder regarding Lee’s attendance at fund-raising events on behalf of the Council on American Islamic Relations (“CAIR”), a national non-profit that claims to “enhance understanding of Islam, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.” Souder told Baca that CAIR, in fact, has veered from its proclaimed mission and espouses “radical speech” and is an organization “which even the FBI has separated themselves from.”
Lee took umbrage and condemned the “circuitous attack on CAIR…it is un-American.” Upon his return to LA, Lee defended CAIR even more passionately. In attending a meeting of the Muslim American Homeland Security Congress yesterday, he decried the congressman’s comments and termed them an affront to all Muslim Americans, “when you attack CAIR, you attack virtually every Muslim in America.”
Unfortunately, what Congressman Souder observed, understated the problem with CAIR, it doesn’t just espouse “speech that is radical.” In fact, last year the FBI disclosed that it was limiting its contacts with CAIR, “until we resolve whether there continues to be a connection between CAIR or its executives and Hamas, the FBI does not view CAIR as an appropriate liaison partner.”
There are exhaustive studies of CAIR which recount its links to the Holy Land Foundation, an organization whose leaders were convicted in 2008 of funneling over $12 million to Hamas, its ambiguity in condemning terror, and much more. But they aren’t needed to realize that what Congressman Souder observed was accurate. The organization has veered from its proclaimed mission; in fact, “espousing radical speech” may be among the least of its transgressions.
Hopefully, Lee is wrong when he claims that if you attack CAIR “you attack every Muslim in America.” We have more confidence in American Muslims than that.