The Council on American-Islamic Relations said it will remove a poster from the group’s website promoting an upcoming conference that encourages people not to talk to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
The poster, which appeared on the website of CAIR’s California chapter, features a sinister-looking FBI agent with the headlines “Build a Wall of Resistance” and “Don’t Talk to the FBI.” The poster was designed in the late 1970s or early 1980s and has been reproduced by various groups and activists since then in response to alleged harassment by the FBI and to protest grand jury subpoenas.
“I think it’s subject to misinterpretation,” spokesman Ibrahim Hooper told Fox News Radio when speaking about the poster. “We decided out of extreme caution to take it down.”
The poster was promoting a conference called “FBI Raids and Grand Jury Subpoenas: Know Your Rights and Defend Our Communities.” The keynote speaker is Hatem Abudayyeh, identified by CAIR as an activist and Palestinian community leader whose home was allegedly raided by federal agents in September….
Hooper conceded the poster “crosses the line,” but refused to renounce the artwork and blamed critics for fomenting what he called a manufactured controversy.
The poster, of course, is constitutionally protected speech. People generally have the right not to talk to the FBI, and one can certainly encourage people to exercise those rights. Even encouraging illegal conduct is generally constitutionally protected (setting aside the rare advocacy intended to and likely to produce imminent illegal action), at least when it’s done as a general matter, as opposed to soliciting a specific crime. Encouraging legal conduct is even more clearly protected.
But it seems to me that if the Council on American-Islamic Relations wants to be taken seriously as a mainstream American organization that is committed to helping prevent terrorism (which necessarily involves helping investigate possible terrorism) — of course, as well as protecting the rights and interest of law-abiding Muslims — then it ought to be quite careful that its affiliates act and speak consistently with this message.