Correction Regarding Anisa Abd el Fattah and CAIR:

Yesterday, I erroneously reported that Anisa Abd el Fattah — the woman who filed a complaint with the Justice Department about supposed malfeasance by (among others) "the 'Jewish lobby'" — was a board member of CAIR, the Council on American Islamic Relations. It turns out that she is a former board member, not a current board member. My apologies to readers, and to CAIR and Anisa Abd el Fattah, for the error. I had posted an update at the start of the original post last night, but I thought I'd also post a full correction for those who won't have occasion to reread the post (see item 2 here.

My assertion in the original post relied on this page, which describes her as "a member of the Board of Directors for (CAIR), Council on American Islamic Relations." But I of course should have recognized that, even if the description was accurate, it could only be relied on to describe matters at the description was posted, which was (I now realize) in 2003. Both Anisa Abd el Fattah herself and Ibrahim Hooper of CAIR report that she is no longer a CAIR board of directors member.

The precise time that she was a board member is not clear. Both Anisa Abd el Fattah and Ibrahim Hooper report that she hasn't been one since 1995 or so, which would mean she was there at or near the founding (this speaker bio of Anisa Abd el Fattah reports that she was "a member of the founding Board of Directors for CAIR"). On the other hand, the Oct. 3, 2001 issue of The Hill reported that she "serves on the board of CAIR"; this page, from mid-2001 or later likewise reports her as a then-current CAIR board member.

Still, I suspect that it's often pretty easy to lose track of the precise status of a nonprofit organization's passive board member, and to recycle people's old bios that were never properly updated. Suffice it to say that she was a CAIR board member, but is not one any longer; my apologies for the mistake, and let that be a lesson to me to check closely the dates as of which certain things are claimed to be true.

Alan Gura:
So does CAIR have a position on this complaint?
1.19.2007 1:51pm
Duncan Frissell (mail):
Why the massive correction? The difference between "was" and "is" seems minimal in this case. CAIR board member isn't a public office or anything. Did anyone suggest strongly that you correct?
1.19.2007 3:40pm
Eugene Volokh (www):
Well, I made a mistake, and I thought it was worth correcting. Current association does differ in some measure from past association -- for instance, if Anisa Abd el Fattah was still a CAIR board member, one might ask why CAIR keeps her as a board member, but given that she's no longer a CAIR board member, that question wouldn't arise.

No-one tried to pressure me to correct, if that's what you mean by "suggest strongly." A reader pointed out the error to me, and I started to look into it, expecting to post the correction. Ibrahim Hooper then also pointed out the error, in a brief, polite, and not particularly "strongly" worded message. I posted the correction simply because I thought it was the right thing to do.
1.19.2007 3:54pm
M. Gross (mail):
Correcting the mistake is simply good practice.

However, the correction has little bearing on the argument as a whole, unless CAIR distances itself from her and her recent opinions.
1.19.2007 4:31pm
As usual, kudos to the professor for maintaining a level of intellectual honesty rarely seen on the most popular plogs. The takeaway from this should be (1) it's not that hard to say "I'm sorry. I was wrong"; and (2) doing so does not necessarily make every prior opinion/position taken on the subject inaccurate.

It is this that, for me, defines credibility when it comes to the mainly opinion-based value of blogs.
1.19.2007 4:34pm
Sasha Volokh (mail) (www):
Why should CAIR feel the need to distance itself?
1.19.2007 4:55pm
I think, frankly, there's not a lot of evidence to suggest CAIR's critics much care whether it "distances" itself from this particular complaint. CAIR is kinda like AIPAC in that they seem to be a good all-purpose villain.
1.19.2007 5:18pm
Thorley Winston (mail) (www):
Dittos to what Josh said about Professor Volokh's honesty and helping to keep this as one of the better and more credible blogs. Correcting an honest mistake with the same emphasis that was put on the original error doesn't detract from anything else Professor Volokh wrote, if anything it sets a good aspirational standard for other bloggers.

@ Sasha Volokh and Steve. Agreed, I was one of those who thought it was fair to ask CAIR what they thought of a statement made by someone who was on their board of directors (even though it would be wrong to impute the letter to them unless they expressed support for it). I don't think it's a fair standard (and certainly not one I would want to have applied to myself or groups that I might be seen as in agreement with) to demand that they "distance" themselves from her comments.
1.19.2007 5:38pm
Alan Gura:
It is entirely fair. In fact, it is properly expected.

If Mr. Cooper is going to distance CAIR from the complaint by noting that this lady is no longer a CAIR board member, then it is only logical to ask CAIR's views of the complaint.

Ms. el Fattah appears to be a founding board member of an organization dedicated to improving "American Islamic Relations." She produces a document bearing directly on "American Islamic Relations." She wasn't discussing global warming or tax policy. She was discussing "American Islamic Relations." In the absence of any statement by the organization, it may be fair to suppose that this document might reflect the type of thinking that goes on at the organization she helped found dedicated to the issue to which she spoke.

[By the same token, if Ms. el-Fattah is also a founding board member of an organization dedicated to combatting global warming, that organization would be less constrained to issue a statement about her DOJ complaint, although I suspect they would still address it, for obvious reasons.]

By limiting any "distancing" comments to a simple statement that this lady no longer is a board member makes my question inevitable. One would imagine that any organization whose founding board members make outrageous statements directly related to the organization's mission would be constrained to reject the statements. Do we know why she left? Because they didn't agree with her vision, or because she was too busy to make the meetings/pay dues/whatever?
1.19.2007 8:53pm
If Mr. Cooper is going to distance CAIR from the complaint by noting that this lady is no longer a CAIR board member, then it is only logical to ask CAIR's views of the complaint.

Interesting. One would think one might be entitled to simply correct an inaccurate statement and leave it at that.
1.19.2007 9:58pm
Alan Gura:

It is a free country. Cooper is "entitled" to do what he wants.

However, we don't know why Ms. el-Fattah left CAIR. Was it a personality issue? Internal politics? A matter of time committment? Personal reasons? Or did they have an ideological difference?

All we know is that she was interested in "American Islamic Relations" and founded CAIR to address that purpose. It is logical to assume that when she founded CAIR, the organization reflected her vision. Is that still true today? The fact she is no longer a board member does not, without more, defeat this assumption.

Under the circumstances, it is not enough for CAIR to point out it did not actually issue the statement. CAIR could agree whole-heartedly with Ms. el-Fatah's sentiments but decline to publicize them for political reasons.

Again, unless you suppose that el-Fatah founded/joined a group with which she disagreed, all we really know is that at some point, el-Fatah, a person with views on "American Islamic Relations," worked with CAIR to promote a shared vision of "American Islamic Relations." Did the two visions diverge at some point? Only CAIR can tell us. They don't have to, but they should. And why wouldn't they?
1.19.2007 11:36pm
Barry P. (mail):
Who is "Cooper"?
1.20.2007 8:10am
Sasha Volokh (mail) (www):
Alan -- When you say "[t]hey don't have to, but they should," is that just an if-then statement -- that is, does you sentence silently continue "...if they want me to no longer assume they agree with her statements?" (In which case it's still right for them to keep silent if they think it's justified for strategic reasons, if they don't want to give air time to this former board members, if they're lazy, if they don't care what you think, etc.) Or do you mean this in a deeper normative sense, so that this is just the right thing to do?
1.20.2007 8:55am
AntonK (mail):
CAIR Pitching a Major Fit About "24"
The Muslim Brotherhood front group calling itself the Council on American Islamic Relations is engaged in a major push to force Fox Television to apologize for depicting Muslims as terrorists. They've been spending a lot of their Saudi money on this campaign today; CAIR shills have been all over the media, seething and complaining and lying:

Hit US television show "24" came under fire from a Muslim group, which accused the program's makers of fuelling anti-Muslim prejudice with its latest storyline.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) said "24's" season premiere, in which Islamic terrorists detonated a nuclear bomb near Los Angeles, risked stoking racial hatred.

The criticism was swiftly rejected by the show's network Fox Broadcasting, which said the series did not single out ethnic groups to be villains.

"The raw emotional impact of fictional scenes that include widespread death and destruction in America may adversely affect the public's attitude toward civil liberties, religious freedom and interfaith relations," the CAIR statement said.

"The program's repeated association of acts of terrorism with Islam will only serve to increase anti-Muslim prejudice in our society," it added.

Representatives of the award-winning series responded by pointing out that during the show's five seasons villains have included Americans, Baltic Europeans, Germans, Russians, Islamic fundamentalists and the fictional president of the United States.

One of the lies I heard parroted by CAIR's mouthpieces on several television shows (unchallenged, of course): The 8-Million Muslim Lie.

While the number of Muslims is growing thanks to higher birthrates and immigration, it's nowhere near CAIR's claim. Even the most generous independent estimate puts it at half that size, or 4 million.

Finding reliable data for Muslims in America is hard because the Census Bureau does not survey creed. So CAIR, which has an agenda to Islamize America, has overfilled the vacuum.

To come up with its own figure, it hired a "respected scholar" by the name of Ihsan Bagby to lead its "study." But Bagby not only lacks independence — he's a CAIR board member — he's not even a trained demographer.

Worse, he admits the number he arrived at is a "guesstimation." Here's how he came up with it:

1. With help from CAIR researchers, Bagby called the nation's 1,209 mosques and interviewed 416 of them, asking them how many people were involved in their mosque in any way. The average response was 1,625, which is probably high, given that two imams claimed 50,000 when the nation's largest mosque — Dar al-Hijrah in the D.C. suburbs — has only about 3,000.

2. Bagby then multiplied that fuzzy participation figure by the 1,209 mosques and came up with 2 million "mosqued Muslims."

3. Next, he multiplied that sum by a magical factor of three to capture Muslims who might not participate in mosque activities, and arrived at the original 6 million guesstimate for the size of the Muslim population in America.

He says his factor of three was an educated guess. More like a wild exaggeration. Or perhaps a political calculation, as it produced a number that conveniently matched the size — and potential political clout — of the Jewish population in the country, also estimated at 6 million.

CAIR then took the liberty of bumping up the Muslim count to 7 million. Now — presto — it's at 8 million, and climbing.

"Today, 8 to 10 million Muslims live in the United States," claims Navy Lt. Cmdr. Abuhena Mohammed Saifulislam, who serves as Muslim chaplain for the new Marine mosque at Quantico, Va.
1.20.2007 10:33am
Alan Gura:

While it is always "the right thing to do" to denounce hateful statements, neither CAIR nor anyone else is obligated to do so in a normative sense. They'd be very busy, and needlessly so, running around looking for things to denounce.

The problem is the one which you first identified: they should do it if they don't want reasonable people to think that they are identified with el-Fattah's statements. Nobody is associating el-Fattah's views with CAIR simply because she is Muslim. The association stems from the fact of her apparent involvement with the organization.

It is undeniable that (1)el-Fattah's statements, on their face, relate to "American Islamic Relations," and (2) el-Fattah founded and participated in CAIR to further her views on "American Islamic Relations."

Logically, one may assume that CAIR, the organization that el-Fattah founded and participated in to advance her views.... shares those views.

CAIR can dispel that notion, if it wants to. It would be exceedingly easy for them to do so. Whether they do or not is their choice.
1.20.2007 4:19pm
David in DC:

Did you contact CAIR's Hooper and ask about it, or did he contact you first?

If he contacted you first and so quickly it would give the appearance of trying to distance his organization from Abd el Fattah's views. If you contacted him, it doesn't give that impression, rather that it was a polite and speedy reply.

And, given that your two posts are 23 hours apart and I imagine he got back to you quicker than that, if he contacted you out of the blue it makes one wonder a bit.
1.21.2007 10:48am
Eugene Volokh (www):
David in DC: A reader contacted me first; I started looking into it, and then Hooper contacted me, which saved me the trouble of having to contact them.

I posted a brief update to the original post at 7 pm (Pacific) on the 18th noting that Anisa Abd el Fattah was in fact a former CAIR board member, but I also e-mailed Hooper to ask for a bit of follow-up information about when Anisa Abd el Fattah left the board. Hooper's response came the morning of the 19th; after I got into the office on the 19th, I did a bit more research and posted this item at a little after 10 am Pacific. (It's labeled 1:13 pm, but that's Eastern time.)

I had written to Hooper, as part of our exchange, saying that "I want to ... give you a chance -- if you'd like -- to express your own (or CAIR's) views about the Abd el Fattah DoJ complaint; I'll be happy to quote them in the correction"; but he didn't respond to this, which may stem from a variety of reasons, including lack of time, annoyance at me, or many others.

None of this is particularly telling, I think, but since you asked, I thought I'd answer.
1.21.2007 11:27am
David in DC:
Thanks. It's just surprising to me that he became aware of this at all (and so quickly), and that he would feel it important enough to send you a note out of the blue.

It's not surprising he didn't respond to your question. My guess, based on CAIR's track record, is that they support this attack on the "Jewish lobby". They can hardly say that, though, because try to do the same thing.

Frankly, it wouldn't surprise me one bit if Adb el Fattah was coordinating her actions with CAIR. Actually, it would surprise me if she wasn't.
1.21.2007 1:06pm