The story that developed in July was just too good to pass up: a Jordanian-born restaurant owner in Xenia, Ohio had been the apparent victim of repeated attempts to burn down his store. The day after the third attack, when a Molotov cocktail had been thrown through the front window of his business, yet another explosion rocked the store—the second attack in 24 hours—sending the owner and his son to the hospital with burns over 80-90 percent of their bodies. An employee in an adjoining store was also taken to the hospital for injuries.
Into this situation jumped the Cincinnati-area chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR)—the self-proclaimed Muslim “civil rights” organization suggesting that anti-Muslim hatred was at work. An item posted on July 14th on the national CAIR website screamed the headline, “Blast at Arab-American Restaurant ‘Suspicious’ .”
Karen Dabdoub, the local CAIR spokeswoman, was quoted in the local media saying,
“Anytime an attack like this happens, the perception in the Arab and Muslim community is that it is ethnically or religiously motivated. Especially in the absence of perpetrators being caught by law enforcement, that’s the fear. Until that (motivation) is discovered, people speculate, rightly or wrongly.”
The problem with CAIR’s narrative of anti-Muslim hatred in small-town America was that it wasn’t true. Arson investigators have determined that the final blast that severely injured the store owner, Musa Shteiwi, and his son, Essa, was set by the pair themselves. In a performance worthy of a Darwin Award, the Shteiwis were standing in a pool of gasoline that they intended to use as an accelerant in setting their store ablaze later that night when Musa Shteiwi took a break and lit up a cigarette, igniting the gasoline prematurely and causing the blast that inflicted their injuries.
But there’s more: prosecutors claim that Shteiwi had hired a former employee, Joshua Hunter, to commit the previous attacks against his store that CAIR had insisted were hate crimes committed by non-Muslim members of the Xenia community. Hunter has been jailed and charged with arson, and similar charges against Musa and Essa Shteiwi are pending until after they have recovered from their injuries.
This incident is a textbook example of CAIR’s incitement of kafir (lit. infidel, non-Muslim)-phobia. On July 14th, when CAIR began making public statements and posting notices on their website about the incident, it had already been widely reported in the Cincinnati Enquirer and local TV news stations that the Shteiwis were either accidentally or intentionally responsible for the explosion. It is clear now that it was both.
That notwithstanding, CAIR officials were quick to use the incident to indulge in their kafir-phobia by portraying the local non-Muslim community as simmering with anti-Muslim hatred, just waiting for the slightest provocation to lash out in acts of violence. But the facts they relied on weren’t true and the date of the item regarding this incident posted on CAIR’s website was almost a week after it was known and reported numerous times in the local press that the pair were implicated, directly or indirectly, for the blast.
Since the arrest of Shteiwi’s associate, CAIR has refused further comment and has offered no apology for its shameless kafir-phobic behavior to the community they falsely impugned.
This recent incident is hardly the first time that CAIR has used faked hate crimes to flame the fires of kafir-phobia. As Daniel Pipes and Sharon Chadha discussed in an article last year, “CAIR’s Hate Crime Nonsense,” a report issued in May 2005 by CAIR, “Unequal Protection: The Status of Muslim Civil Rights in the United States 2005”—a report allegedly identifying a rapid rise of anti-Muslim violence in America—cited several hate crime hoaxes where incidents had been staged or invented whole-cloth by Muslims themselves to make it appear that they were religiously or ethnically motivated. Perhaps CAIR might have rationalized the inclusion of these debunked hate crimes in their report as “fake, but accurate” representations of supposed anti-Muslim bias in America.
To date, so far as I can tell, not only has CAIR not apologized for falsely accusing non-Muslims of hatred and bias in the respective communities where these hate crime hoaxes occurred, but the press releases on CAIR’s website go uncorrected even after the truth is revealed. For instance, a press release related to a staged hate crime in McAllen, Texas still appears today without any correction or update whatsoever, even though multiple media outlets, including even the New York Times, had debunked the incident as a hate crime hoax perpetrated by the “victim” almost two years ago.
Admittedly, CAIR’s ubiquitous appearance in stories related to staged hate crimes denouncing supposed Islamophobia makes for great press releases and news stories, but does little too actually improve American-Islamic relations (CAIR’s self-stated goal). Such feeds the very prejudices that distances Muslims from their non-Muslim neighbors.
Instead of building cultural bridges to achieve their social and political agenda, CAIR regularly burns those bridges by inciting kafir-phobia and carelessly making charges against non-Muslims. As Robert Spencer of JihadWatch pointed out in commenting on this latest incident,
“Hate crimes are a big business: they enable the targeted group to claim victim status, which entitles that group to full-hearted Leftist support, and a free pass for all its own enormities.”
Meanwhile, CAIR’s website makes no reference at all to one of the most arresting incidents Islamic relations with America: the videotaped forced conversion at gunpoint of Fox News correspondent Steve Centanni and his New Zealander cameraman Olaf Wiig. Does CAIR condemn such actions in Islam’s name, and call on all Muslims to recognize the illegitimacy of compulsion in conversions to Islam? Or does it now regard these two men as irrevocably Muslims? Surely, that is an important issue in “American-Islamic Relations” isn’t it?