"The truth will stop CAIR," said Reed Rubinstein, who asserted that leaders of the Washington, D.C.-based group hope to see the end of Israel, as well the day when Islamic law will govern the United States.
Founded in 1994, CAIR maintains more than 30 offices around the country, billing itself as the largest civil-rights group working on behalf of Muslims.
The April 11 talk by Rubinstein at the Springfield Country Club was organized by the Philadelphia chapter of the Republican Jewish Coalition. It took place just four days after both U.S. Rep. Joe Sestak (D-District 7) and Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell spoke at a CAIR event in Philadelphia.
The setting for the presentation — right in the heart of Sestak's Delaware County congressional district — was not accidental, according to Scott Feigelstein, director of RJC's Philadelphia branch.
"I expected more from my congressman," said Feigelstein, who added that Sestak's appearance at a CAIR banquet should be revisited when he runs for re-election in 2008.
At the same time, Feigelstein insisted that speaking against CAIR is a job for Republicans and Democrats alike. At one point during the event, both he and Rubinstein chided an audience member for making a reference to "idiot Democrats."
On the other side of the proverbial aisle, Steve Rabin, deputy executive director of the National Jewish Democratic Council, said that his organization conveys to candidates and elected officials the opinion "that CAIR is a problematic organization."
Not too long ago in 2004, Rubinstein agreed to defend Andrew Whitehead, a Virginia man who operates an "Anti-CAIR" Web site. According to the attorney, CAIR had sued Whitehead for defamation, objecting to a number of statements on the site, including claims that CAIR was founded by Hamas supporters, and is a terrorist front group.
Rubinstein noted that CAIR decided to settle the case rather than allow opposing consul access to its internal records and documents. All of the statements remain on Whitehead's Web site, according to Rubinstein.
A 'Media Creation'?
Ibrahim Hooper, a spokesman for CAIR, said in a separate interview that Whitehead paid the organization an undisclosed sum as part of the settlement.
Rubinstein said that CAIR's activities are legal and protected by the Constitution, but that doesn't mean it should be considered a legitimate representative of the American Muslim community. For one, he began, while it claims to be a significant, grass-roots organization, in reality, it has about 3,000 members and receives most of its funding from abroad.
He also claimed that CAIR was a "media creation," and recent articles that appeared in The New York Times and The Philadelphia Inquirer have portrayed it as a mainstream organization that has a few right-wing, mostly Jewish critics.
But Hooper replied that it's Rubinstein who's distorting what the organization is all about.
"It's just unfortunate that he spends his time promoting interfaith hostility and bigotry, instead of trying to promote mutual understanding," said Hooper. "It's also unfortunate that the Republican Party is gaining a reputation for being a repository for this kind of mistrust and hostility toward Islam."