CAIR opened its first office in Washington, DC, with the help of a $5,000 donation from the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development(HLF), a self-described charity founded by Mousa Abu Marzook. In May 1996, CAIR coordinated a press conference to protest the decision of the U.S. government to extradite Marzook for his connection to terrorist acts performed by Hamas. CAIR characterized the extradition as “anti-Islamic” and “anti-American.” When President Bush closed HLF in December 2001 for collecting money “to support the Hamas terror organization,” CAIR decried his action as “unjust” and “disturbing.”
From its inception, CAIR has sought to portray itself as a moderate, mainstream organization, and as early as 1996 its officials became frequent guests at State Department and White House events. In the aftermath of 9/11, when the Bush administration tried to reassure American Muslims that Islam was not the target of the war on terrorism, CAIR officials were prominent among the invitees. CAIR was the main Islamic group to gain U.S. media access in the post-9/11 period, providing the “Muslim view” of the terrorist attacks and of America’s response to them. As self-acclaimed Muslim spokesmen, CAIR officials typically refused to “simplify the situation” by blaming Osama bin Laden for the attacks on America. Moreover, while they eventually were induced by journalists to condemn Palestinian suicide terror in a pro forma manner, they hedged their disavowals by describing it as an understandable response to Israeli brutality….
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