Among the least discussed aspects of Hamline University’s effective firing of adjunct professor Erika López Prater is the role that the the Hamas-linked Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) played in the fiasco.
Listen to CAIR’s Minnesota executive director, Jaylani Hussein, describe his efforts to influence Hamline University’s decision to declare showing pictures of Muhammad in an art history class as “Islamophobic”:
I had the privilege and opportunity to visit Hamline University after this incident. I met with the staff, the Muslim students, and I conducted what we do which is a diversity, inclusion presentations about Islamophobia.
And, in my time there, I found the Muslim students hurt, pained by this incident. And, after my presentations some of the Muslim students had a panel, and in that panel they shared how impactful, hurtful, and felt targeted by an incident that some of the students were not even in that class, and also other incidents that have happened at Hamline University.
I learned from these students afterwards that from that presentation that it was so moving that it emotionally moved the many staff who were there, the professors, and the administration.
When the university announced that it would no longer employ Dr. López Prater, Jaylani Hussein did a victory dance and praised Hamline for knuckling under to his manipulation. Something he characterized as “leadership.”
The University of Minnesota Art History Faculty put it like this:
This happened without the due process of formal investigation, without an opportunity for Dr. López Prater to respond to the administration’s ill-informed and unfounded accusations, and without good-faith institutional investment in open dialogue or the restorative practices of communication and relational repair. The blame for the mishandling falls entirely to Hamline’s administration.
The faculty is certainly right that the Hamline University administration deserves the blame for its very confused handling of complaints about the display of pictures of Islam’s prophet. But the Council on American-Islamic Relations should also share some of the blame. CAIR is the organization that set the school off on the wrong foot.
Without CAIR’s bad advice, the university might not have made the “mistakes” which caused Dr. López-Prater to sue the school for religious discrimination and defamation.
The subject of defamation in the context of CAIR immediately brings to mind the case of New Jersey teacher Tamar Herman. Tamar Herman is suing CAIR for exactly the same thing that was going on at Hamline: pressuring a school to fire a teacher.
Former Olympic fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad started a rumor on Instagram that Tamar Herman pulled the hijab off one of her students. This rumor turned into threats and vile language directed at Seth Boyden Elementary School and Tamar Herman. CAIR took this as an opportunity to get on TV and demand the teacher’s termination. And it looks as if CAIR succeeded, because Tamar Herman is suing CAIR for defamation.
Of course, if you are talking about threats, vile language over the phone and CAIR, you’re talking about Dan Leonard. Dan Leonard was a member of the Toms River, New Jersey school board who had a personal Facebook page separate from his school board responsibilities. He mocked and scoffed at public figures, including elected officials such as Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar. These posts remained on his Facebook page for months and nothing happened until CAIR learned of them. It was then that CAIR called for Leonard’s resignation from the school board and turned the town of Toms River against Leonard. The school board members and staff were beset by terrorist threats. Secretaries were inundated with vile language over the phone. Things got so out of hand that Dan Leonard’s underage daughter became the object of rape threats. CAIR never did or said anything to calm things down.
Nicholas Damask taught a course on Islam and terrorism for 20 years at Scottsdale Community College in Arizona, without a complaint. But when a Muslim finally did complain, the complaint immediately went to a social media influencer. Because of that, Muslims from all over the world issued threats against the school and Damask personally. He fled his home with his family until the storm of threats passed. However, that is when CAIR took over and sued the school district, as well as Damask personally, for teaching facts about Islam that CAIR would prefer you didn’t know.
The principal of Greenfield Middle School in El Cajon, California, Greg Calvert, threw CAIR out of his office when CAIR reps appeared over an alleged bullying incident involving a Muslim. A short time later, CAIR claimed to be in possession of video evidence of the most extreme case of bullying in the history of the organization. CAIR wanted Calvert fired on the basis of this. CAIR tantalized the media about this video for days until finally releasing it publicly. Two independent investigations found that the video was recorded at someone’s residence and had no connection to the school.
When Calvert took a lower paying job in another city, CAIR pursued him there and demanded his firing again.
Media discussion of CAIR’s role in getting the Hamline University professor fired usually takes the form of looking askance at the Minnesota chapter but finding relief in CAIR National’s statement on the matter.
“Although CAIR’s national headquarters normally does not comment on local issues that arise in states with one of our state chapters, we must sometimes speak up to clarify where our entire organization stands on issues of national concern,” said CAIR National Executive Director Nihad Awad. “This is one of those times.”
In its statement, CAIR reaffirmed its longstanding policy of discouraging the display of images of the Prophet while also noting that the academic study of ancient paintings depicting him does not, by itself, constitute Islamophobia. CAIR also said that it has seen “no evidence” that former Hamline University professor Erika Lopez Prater had bigoted intent or engaged in Islamophobic conduct in the classroom.”
But what does that mean? Will CAIR National discipline Jaylani Hussein? Will it start campaigns to educate American Muslims about how showing images of Muhammad in art class is not Islamophobic? Or is CAIR going to try to have it both ways by condemning an action that was done in its name while simultaneously allowing it to happen?
Right now we can see Jaylani Hussein calling out the triumphalist Muslim war cry “Allahu akbar” at the university, claiming that his position was that of the majority when all evidence was to the contrary, and saying that while he called the professor’s actions “Islamophobic,” he never called her a bigot, thereby having it both ways.
CAIR’s gratuitous and outrageous attacks on individual working-class Americans are going to continue in frequency and severity until the organization one day may succeed in inciting physical harm against one of its targets.
Even then, there is no guarantee that the media, elected officials, or academia will ever see CAIR for what it truly is.