The Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) has urged the U.S. government to investigate a group which it has accused of spying on Muslims.
CAIR is currently holding an internal investigation over claims that the Investigative Project on Terrorism (IPT), a Washington based research group, was spying on the organisation.
Nihad Awad, CAIR’s National Executive Director, has also called upon U.S. authorities to investigate the IPT and its alleged involvement in spying on the group.
Awad said: “I would like to take this opportunity to call on the Justice Department, on the FBI, on the US Treasury to investigate and hold IPT Director, Steven Emerson, and his Investigative Project on Terrorism accountable. Why is he allowed to spy … in service of the state of Israel? Spying on American Muslims, on legal organisations, should not be allowed…
“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. We commend the whistle-blowers who are coming forward to apologise, take responsibility and provide information. In the coming weeks, we plan to continue releasing additional information as we uncover and validate it.”
CAIR National Deputy Director, Edward Ahmed Mitchell, said: “The fact that anti-Muslim bigots and anti-Palestinian racists have invested so much time and effort in spying on our community is a sign of the importance of our community. These hate groups are terrified that American Muslims will use our political activism, civic engagement and legal work to advance justice here and around the world. They’re right to be afraid because that’s exactly what we’ve been doing and will continue to do, God willing.”
Last month, CAIR announced that CAIR-Ohio director Romin Iqbal had been fired for passing information about CAIR’s civil rights work to the IPT which is led by far-right activist Steven Emerson, who has been described as an “anti-Muslim activist” by the Southern Poverty Law Centre.
Days after Iqbal’s termination, a Virginia Muslim voluntarily came forward to admit and apologise for working as a paid IPT spy from 2008 to 2012. Tariq Nelson of the Dar Al-Hijrah Islamic Centre in Falls Church, Virginia, said that he spied for IPT because he was going through financial distress at that time.
He said: “For about four years starting in 2008, I provided information to IPT. Emerson used SAE Productions, one of his for-profit companies, to pay me about $3,000 per month. Looking back on those times, it’s now clear to me that Emerson’s main goal in spying on Muslims was to protect the Israeli government; essentially, to ensure there would never be a ‘Muslim AIPAC’ to challenge U.S. support for Israel.”
In addition to CAIR, Muslim organisations and leaders surveilled or spied on by IPT are alleged to include then-Congressman Keith Ellison, the Park51 community centre, the Muslim Alliance of North America, the Islamic Society of North America, Muslim American Society, the Muslim Legal Fund of America, Muslim Advocates, the Muslim Public Affairs Council, and Zaytuna College, among others.
IPT rejects being characterised as anti-Muslim. It says it is focused on exposing what it calls “radical Islamist activity on American soil.”
It says Steven Emerson is considered one of the leading authorities on Islamic extremist networks, financing and operations as well national security and intelligence.