On November 15, while some of us were hiding from the cold and wondering why Christmas had suddenly appeared all over the place, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) Cabinet approved a list of designated terrorist groups and apparently didn’t check it twice.
This desperate attempt to “combat terrorist crimes” lists 82 organizations that are to be considered malicious groups, worthy of public awareness. The full list is available for anyone to view.
At first glance, the list seems like a handy device to out several horrible organizations to the public. Until you get about halfway through.
Listed as number 38, alongside the likes of al-Qaeda and ISIS and Boko Haram, is the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR). My jaw nearly snapped clean off my skull when I read that. CAIR is the leading organization in the United States aiding in the defense of American Muslims and Muslims abroad. CAIR has publicly denounced the violent actions of nearly every group on the blacklist. In fact, there has never been a terrorist attack ever, on any continent, that can be attributed to the CAIR organization or its affiliates. Here is a link to CAIR’s Vision, Mission, and Core Principles. Number 8 on CAIR’s list of Core Principles states:
I don’t know about you, but nothing about that screams “terrorist” to me. Quite the opposite, actually. Which forces me to think, did the government of the UAE even research any of these organization before slapping their names alongside the likes of child molesters, mass murderers, and “real” terrorists?
The farther down the list I went, the worse everything became. Islamic groups that are known for their charitable works in other countries were also on the blacklist. Coming in at number 67 is the Muslim American Society (MAS). There is a MAS chapter in Brooklyn, an hour from my home, and do you want to know what kind of terrorizing activities they get into there? Youth programs, guided study in the Qur’an, babysitting, community fundraisers — there’s even a fitness center! The front page of the MAS website lists its mission as:
MAS is essentially a Muslim version of the YMCA, and I’d like to see what nation is going to blacklist the YMCA.
I mean, come on people! MAS was cited by CNN as “a positive program dealing with youth on the key issues of extremism, violence, hate, and intolerance.” MAS was commended by Congresswoman Sheila Jackson for “outstanding services in a project that provided assistance for victims of Hurricane Katrina.”
Under what premises were these organization listed as terrorist groups? It seems fair to say that the word “terrorist” is being manipulated for political purposes.
CAIR and MAS are one of the few thriving organizations American Muslims have as representatives in a country where we face rampant discrimination and fear of harm, and the UAE has lumped them together with murderers. This is a dangerous message to send to anyone who reads this list. A person without any knowledge of these organizations takes one look at this ridiculous list and suddenly their local CAIR center or MAS chapter becomes some kind of anti-American, violent cult. It may seem like an exaggeration, but things like this can and do happen.
Clearly, there are “real” terrorist groups on the blacklist that have posed threats to their communities. We should all take a look and know who these groups are and where they’re committing crimes. But I urge you — no, I beg you — as someone who wants to be an informed person, do your own fact-checking on these groups. If a name sticks out to you, look it up before you decide to share this blacklist with all of your Facebook friends.