Wednesday, June 12, 2024

Stop This Hamas-Linked Group from Gathering in Philadelphia Suburb of Springfield

ResearchIslamism in PoliticsStop This Hamas-Linked Group from Gathering in Philadelphia Suburb of Springfield

Editor’s Note: Instructions to take action and voice opposition to this event are included at the conclusion of this article.

An embattled Muslim nonprofit that increasingly finds itself isolated and pushed out of social and political circles for its extremist views has found a welcoming reception in the Philadelphia suburb of Springfield Township, Pennsylvania. On March 2, the Springfield Country Club will play host to the Philadelphia chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), a group steeped in antisemitism that is accused of harboring links to Hamas, the terrorist organization that carried out the October 7 massacre in Israel.

True to form, CAIR-Philadelphia’s 17th annual banquet, titled, “Safe, Seen, and Valued: CAIR-Philadelphia’s Communal Vision 2024,” will feature keynote speeches from a radical cleric who has demonized Jews and repeated Hamas propaganda. Even the comic relief, a Muslim comedian known to frequent the Islamist speaking circuit, has made genocidal threats to so-called Palestine’s “oppressors.”

Democratic Rep. Summer Lee (PA), a member of the progressive House “squad,” will deliver “special remarks” at CAIR’s fundraiser, despite taking heat from her Jewish constituents for failing to support policies that allow Israel “to protect its citizens against Hamas.” Her re-election bid is being financed by some of Hamas’s most prolific defenders in the United States, including CAIR’s top leader.

Lee will join CAIR’s keynote speaker, Yasir Fahmy, a scholar-in-residence at the New Jersey-based Islamic Center of Passaic County (ICPC), where the lead imam Mohammed Qatanani has evaded deportation for years stemming from his alleged membership in Hamas.  During an October sermon at the ICPC, Fahmy railed against news reports of Hamas atrocities in Israel.

“‘They’re killing the babies, they’re raping the women’ – zero verification!” said Fahmy. “They didn’t even wait a moment to try to verify it. It’s, ‘We got it, the engine is running, push the narrative, pump it out, because we own it all, we own the airwaves, we own every government, everyone’s gonna say the same thing.’”

During another fiery sermon recited later the same month at ICPC, Fahmy repeated anti-Semitic tropes regarding Jewish money and influence, calling “Zionism” a “sick and sadistic ideological cult.”

“All they can do is throw money at things,” he said. “Bribing, bribing, bribing … Who do they have on their side? It’s anyone they have been able to purchase. It’s elected officials. It’s media outlets. Show me where the Palestinian savagery is. Show me! You can’t show me,” Fahmy concluded.

Nadirah Pierre, an up-and-coming comedian known to frequent Islamist events, will provide the entertainment at CAIR’s fundraising gala.  In between social media skits showcasing her observational humor, Pierre occassionaly gets more serious, like when she prayed in November that Palestine’s “oppressors die horribly and suffer eternally.”

To be sure, CAIR is no laughing matter. The nonprofit’s origins trace back to a 1993 meeting at a Marriott Hotel in Philadelphia. FBI agents were covertly monitoring the gathering, which was organized by the now-defunct Islamic Association of Palestine (IAP), a Hamas front group under the leadership of then-global Hamas leader Mousa Abu Marzook.  CAIR’s future leaders were part of IAP and were present at the Philadelphia meeting, where the discussion centered on the need to establish an Islamic organization that could secretly lobby on behalf of Hamas’s interests.

Less than a year later, CAIR was established.

Likewise, CAIR’s Philadelphia chapter is linked to the same Hamas front. Members of an IAP chapter that went under the name “American Muslim Society of the Tristate Area of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, & Delaware,” or “AMS Tri-State,” created CAIR-Philadelphia in 2004. Incidentally, that was the same year that IAP closed down under the burden of lawsuits that found it liable for judgements awarded to the American victims of Hamas terrorist attacks. Iftekhar Hussain, a current member of CAIR-Philadelphia’s executive committee and board of directors, formerly served as the secretary general of AMS Tri-State.

In the past, CAIR-Philadelphia sought to shrug off allegations of antisemitism that have saddled other CAIR chapters by pointing to its Jewish American director Jacob Bender. However, this was merely a case of tokenization, as Bender, now retired, was fiercely critical of Israel and took every opportunity to vilify the Jewish state.

In April 2019, he issued a press release in light of the Poway synagogue mass shooting in San Diego. As the Jewish community mourned, Bender took the opportunity to slam Israel and argued that if “mainstream Jewish organizations” wanted to fight white supremacy, “they should stop attacking the organization for which I am proud to work” and stop “acting as a defender” of Israeli policies. In a 2020 blog post, Bender wagged his finger at American Jews for for devoting “untold resources” towards “maintaining the priority of the Holocaust” and using the genocide “as a weapon to delegitimize criticism of Israel’s occupation of Palestinian lands…”

For years, local activists and politicians have called on Springfield Country Club to end its business relationship with CAIR, and lawmakers who attend the annual banquet are known to take flak from their constituents. In 2011, then-Rep. Pat Meehan (R-PA), whose district included Springfield, warned about “major concerns” with CAIR’s banquet and its “featured speakers.” The congressman pointed to CAIR’s status as an unindicted co-conspirator in a 2007 Hamas-financing trial.

Rep. Lee doesn’t appear to share Meehan’s reservations. She is not only headlining CAIR-Philadelphia’s event; the congresswoman accepted a $1,000 donation from CAIR founder and lifetime director Nihad Awad, even after video emerged where he called Gaza a “concentration camp” and said he was “happy to see people breaking the seige” on “October 7th.”

Lee isn’t the only public servant responsible for legitimizing CAIR’s fundraiser. Springfield Country Club sits on public property, and its banquet facilities are owned by Springfield Township. Service operations at the country club are leased to Metro Philly Management, whose owner Patrick Burns paid for the development of an adjoining hotel in 2013, the Courtyard by Marriott Philadelphia Springfield.

Year after year, the Hamas-linked CAIR makes use of the country club facilities for its fundraising galas. Yet, local stakeholders who could move to cancel the 2024 banquet, or at the very least could publicly denounce CAIR, are apparently indifferent to the gathering of an extremist group in their own backyard.

Responding to an email sent to Springfield Township Manager J. Lee Fulton, Township Solicitor Jim Byrnes directed responsibility for the event to “a tenant who runs the food operations at the Township,” and asked that messages from concerned citizens be “directed to that entity and not the Township Commissioners nor [the Township] manager.”

Patrick Burns, the owner of the food vendor, failed to respond to a press inquiry. Calls and emails to Rep. Summer Lee (D-PA) went unanswered.

Banning CAIR from Springfield Country Club would hardly be controversial. In fact, CAIR and its coalition partners have experienced at least three event cancellations since October 7 at hotels in Arizona, Virginia, and Florida. All three incidents involved Marriott-franchised hotels and occurred after staff were inundated with phone calls from angry residents.

In December, the White House publicly disavowed CAIR after it became aware of Awad’s speech celebrating October 7. Then, in February, the Islamist group faced additional political setbacks. The Florida House of Representstives passed a bill denouncing CAIR and urging all local and state agencies to cease contact with it, joining legislatures in Louisiana and Arkansas that have passed similar resolutions. Next, Maryland’s House of Delegates introduced a bill to remove CAIR from a Commission on Hate Crimes after a local CAIR leader compared Israel to Nazi Germany.

Despite the flurry of anti-CAIR activity, elected officials and business leaders remain unmoved by the impending CAIR banquet. Fortunately, the public can help.

Concerned citizens can respectfully voice their opposition to CAIR-Philadelphia’s March 2 banquet by calling the individuals listed below. Tell them that organizations connected to U.S.-designated terrorist groups have no place in Springfield Township or Marriott-branded hotels.

Springfield Country Club: 610-690-7600 (select option 1)

Township Manager J. Lee Fulton: 610-544-1300 x.136

Marriott International: 301-380-3000

To receive updates about this and other MEF Action campaigns from the Middle East Forum, please email: Action@MEForum.org.

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Joe Kaufman is a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center and the Chairman of the Joe Kaufman Security Initiative.

Beila Rabinowitz, Director of Militant Islam Monitor, contributed to this report.

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