The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) is facing fierce backlash concerning the Texas synagogue siege by an Islamic armed captor this past weekend. One of CAIR’s officials recently blasted Jewish organizations and “Zionist” synagogues, whom she described as “enemies” and accused of betrayal, supporting human rights violations, and spreading Islamophobia. The group had also been calling for the release of the same convicted terrorist the synagogue captor demanded be freed.
Only weeks after the executive director of CAIR in the San Francisco Bay Area called to “know your enemies” as she accused “Zionist” synagogues, Jewish organizations, and Hillel campus groups of betrayal, supporting human rights violations, and spreading Islamophobia, the group has come under fire following the hostage-taking incident by an armed Islamic terrorist at a synagogue near Dallas, Texas, on Saturday.
The terrorist burst into the sanctuary during a Sabbath service at Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville, Texas, and took several members of the community hostage, including the rabbi, while demanding the release of Aafia Siddiqui — a Pakistani national who is serving an 86-year sentence for the attempted killing of U.S. military personnel — before being killed by the FBI in a raid that evening.
CAIR has long campaigned for Siddiqui’s release.
Just last month, CAIR held an event in Texas claiming she had been “kidnapped, ripped apart from her children, shot at, renditioned to the U.S., and is currently serving an 86-year prison sentence for a crime she did not commit.”
TONIGHT AT 7:30 P.M ET: Our Texas chapter & @MPower_Change will be holding a Facebook Live discussion with Linda Sarsour & Marwa Elbially on the campaign to free Aafia Siddiqui.@lsarsour
WATCH LIVE: https://t.co/bTw4UyBacS pic.twitter.com/IVJk8kGDX6
— CAIR National (@CAIRNational) November 11, 2021
In September, CAIR Texas organized a rally to free Siddiqui, where speakers accused the courts of being headed by “Zionist judges” who imprisoned “political prisoners” such as her in “sham trials” following 9/11.
Speaking on a panel at the American Muslims for Palestine (AMP) annual conference in Chicago in late November, Zahra Billoo, who manages one of the largest CAIR offices, warned the audience to “pay attention” to Jewish groups and institutions which she associated with betrayal.
“We need to pay attention to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL). We need to pay attention to the Jewish Federation. We need to pay attention to the Zionist synagogues. We need to pay attention to the Hillel chapters on our campuses,” she said.
“Because just because they’re your friend today doesn’t mean that they have your back when it comes to human rights,” she added.
Speaking against “Zionists,” a term historically used as a euphemism for “Jews” to avoid charges of antisemitism, Billoo called to “oppose the vehement fascists” as well as the “polite Zionists, too,” claiming they “are not your friends.”
“They will not be there for you when you need them,” she said. “They will take your friendship and throw your Palestinian brothers and sisters under the bus.”
She then ridiculed the notion of friendly relations with such “Zionists.”
“‘Oh, you get along because you’re all in Girl Scouts together?’” she asked mockingly. “Talk to them about what is happening in Palestine and see how that conversation goes.”
Highlighting the “connections” between Islamophobia and Zionism, she suggested the audience “know who is on your side” and “know your enemies.”
“I’m not going to sugarcoat that,” she said. “They are your enemies.”
She also accused “Zionist” and “foreign policy” organizations of seeking to harm them.
“There are organizations and infrastructures out there who are working to harm you. Make no mistake of it. They would sell you down the line if they could, and they very often do behind your back,” she said.
“I mean the Zionist organizations,” she clarified. “I mean the foreign policy organizations who say they’re not Zionist but want a two-state solution.”
Only days after Billoo’s remarks, Rep. Cori Bush (D-MO) and Rep. Andre Carson (D-IN) spoke at a CAIR virtual banquet as Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) accepted the group’s “American Muslim Public Servant of 2021” award.
But after the recent attack on worshippers, many revisited the remarks of the CAIR official — which the group expressed support for — drawing a direct line between her hate speech and Saturday’s hostage crisis, with some suggesting the attacker may have also been inspired by CAIR’s campaign to free Siddiqui, a convicted Islamic terrorist, often dubbed “Lady al-Qaeda.”
“Time to ban #CAIR!” wrote the Jewish Voice.
— The Jewish Voice (@JewishVoice) January 16, 2022
“CAIR radicalizes people with their antisemitic agenda,” wrote award-winning former NPR and CNN journalist Josh Levs. “Anytime you radicalize people, there are always some who will take it to the next level.”
“CAIR should absolutely be judged for what they have done and what their leaders have said, including about ‘Zionist’ synagogues,” he added.
“Anyone who may have heard @CAIRNational supposedly ‘condemn’ the #Colleyville Synagogue hostage situation, reminder this is what CAIR Exec Director @ZahraBilloo said only recently, referring to ‘Zionist Synagogues,’” wrote international human rights lawyer Arsen Ostrovsky.
“CAIR’s antisemitic incitement led to what we witnessed in Texas!” he added.
“ICYM: Zahra Billoo @ZahraBilloo, the Executive Director, Council on American #Islamic Relations (San Francisco) #CAIR (a terrorist organization for the UAE), called ‘Zionist synagogues,’ the @ADL, Hillel and other #Jewish organizations ‘enemies.’” wrote commentator Hassan Sajwani.
“The problem is not with the religion, the problem is with radicals and terrorists like CAIR who support, fund, and amplify violence in the name of religion and Justice,” he added.
“My question remains though, if Trump was deemed to be responsible for Jan 6th, how come CAIR and the likes of Billoo are not being deemed at least partially responsible for the rising antisemitism in US including the latest attack on the synagogue?” asked commentator Faran Jeffery.
“There are a lot of unknowns in Texas. Here are some things we do know. 1) In November, CAIR, the council on American Islamic Relations called for the release of Pakistani National Dr. Aafia Siddiqui who is currently imprisoned in Texas,” wrote columnist Daniella Greenbaum Davis.
There are a lot of unknowns in Texas. Here are some things we do know. 1) In November, CAIR, the council on American Islamic Relations called for the release of Pakistani National Dr. Aafia Siddiqui who is currently imprisoned in Texas. https://t.co/wWBk7usfFK
— Daniella Greenbaum Davis (@DGreenbaum) January 15, 2022
“In December, @ZahraBilloo, the Executive Director of CAIR, gave a speech in which she said that Hillel, the ADL, and Zionist synagogues were the enemy, responsible for Islamophobia, and various other ills affecting the US,” she added.
“CAIR–in the news recently because Zahra Billoo, one of its officials, made an #Antisemitic speech claiming that ‘Zionist synagogues’ fuel Islamophobia–has campaigned for Aafia Siddiqui, who requested DNA testing of everyone participating in her trial for ‘Zionist background,’” wrote writer John-Paul Pagano.
“CAIR Texas sponsored and hosted this event to get this terrorist released from prison shortly before another terrorist broke into a synagogue holding the rabbi and congregants hostage for her release. Wake up! CAIR is a terrorist funded, terrorist supporting organization,” wrote one Twitter user.
“November 10: CAIR hosts event to free terrorist, Aafia Siddiqul, November 27: CAIR declares Zionist synagogues spread Islamophobia and ‘are your enemy,’ January 15: Gunman takes Jewish hostages in a synagogue, demands release of Aafia Siddiqul,” the user added.
“It’s just a coincidence when CAIR supports rhetoric that synagogues are enemies and then this terrorist chooses a synagogue,” wrote another.
“Wasn’t it just a month ago when your good friend, CAIR’s Zahra Billoo said we ‘need to pay attention to ‘Zionist’ synagogues?’’ wrote yet another.
“CAIR is literally on the same page as terrorist Malik Faisal Akram, advocating for the release of the same terrorist he took a synagogue hostage to try and release,” another user wrote.
“CAIR supports terrorism and invites violence against Jews,” he added.
“CAIR SF Exec Dir Zahra Billoo labeled Zionist synagogues the enemy last month,” wrote foreign policy analyst Ari Ingel.
“Now Jews have been taken hostage at a Synagogue in #Colleyville & the hostage taker is demanding the release of the same terrorist CAIR has been demanding be released,” he added.
CAIR SF Exec Dir Zahra Billoo labeled Zionist synagogues the enemy last month.
— Ari Ingel (@OGAride) January 16, 2022
“Islamist group [CAIR National] says it strongly condemns the Islamic hostage taking at the Texas synagogue, but just weeks ago campaigned with [Linda Sarsour] for the release of the same convicted terrorist the hostage taker was wanting freed (Aafia Saddiqui),” wrote independent journalist Andy Ngô.
Islamist group @cairnational says it strongly condemns the Islamic hostage taking at the Texas synagogue, but just weeks ago campaigned with @lsarsour for the release of the same convicted terrorist the hostage taker was wanting freed (Aafia Saddiqui). #Colleyville pic.twitter.com/zUyNbmQv4U
— Andy Ngô 🏳️🌈 (@MrAndyNgo) January 16, 2022
In 2009, a federal judge concluded the government had found “ample evidence” to link CAIR with Hamas, an Islamic terrorist organization that routinely disseminates and distributes both anti-Israel and antisemitic tropes.
It was at a private fundraiser for CAIR of Greater Los Angeles where Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) referred to the September 11 terror attacks as a day in which “some people did something.”
Billoo, who served as a board member of the Women’s March before being ousted for tweets deemed antisemitic, has made headlines in the past for her opposition to honoring fallen U.S. soldiers on Memorial Day, bashing the U.S. military, and taking aim at Muslim-Americans who serve in it.
She has also equated the Jewish State with the Islamic State (ISIS) terror group.
In 2007, she shared an essay in which her brother, Ahmed Billoo, who served as president of Long Beach’s radical anti-Israel Muslim Student Association, expressed his belief in the righteousness of suicide bombers, of whom he said need to be evaluated on a “case-by-case basis.”
“Blowing yourself up is not something everyone can do or something that everyone has the courage to do,” he said.
“I just think it is something that Islam justifies,” he added.
Follow Joshua Klein on Twitter @JoshuaKlein.