Saturday, June 16, 2007

The Council on American-Islamic Relations has had a precipitous drop in its membership base. As reporter Audrey Hudson revealed this week, a review of tax documents over the period 2000-06 shows that CAIR’s paid membership spiraled down from more than 29,000 to fewer than 1,700. This post-September 11 period, the group’s most visible in the national conversation, yielded many media appearances, press mentions and a chance for influence. And yet, dues-paying members left in droves during this period.

There are numerous reasons why people would and would not want to join an organization like CAIR. An elixir in the hands of radicals and questionable ties to Hamas are enough to make queasier the stomachs of moderates. Sunlight remains the best disinfectant.

It could have been otherwise for CAIR had it purged itself of radicals. But alas, it wasn’t to be. Dues collections fell from more than $732,000 to less than $59,000 over the post-September 11 period. Since the group’s budget expanded and the number of chapters and offices nationwide grew from eight to 33, this meant that the fund-raising burden fell increasingly on a few well-heeled backers. Nineteen contributors provided $1.3 million in 2005, or about half CAIR’s budget. Meanwhile, other signs of public repudiation rolled in. Sen. Barbara Boxer, California Democrat, among others not known for Islamophobia, shunned the group.

We imagine sunlight is a detestable thing if you’ve got something to hide. It certainly sounds detestable for CAIR, at least if we judge by the group’s reaction to our story.

In a news release yesterday, CAIR accused The Washington Times of “agenda-driven reporting,” “Islamophobic content” and “scurrilous attacks.” It cited unnamed “Islamophobes seeking to marginalize and disenfranchise the American Islamic community,” “hate-mongers” and critics who employ “McCarthyism” (while lamenting “guilt by association,” ironically). It then turned to Mrs. Hudson to accuse her of a “vendetta against our organization and the American Muslim community,” “sloppy and agenda-driven reporting,” an “apparent bias lead[ing] her to ‘cook’ CAIR’s membership figures” and “tarnish[ing] the journalistic reputation of The Washington Times.”

Phew. All this, for reporting the contents of a few years’ federal 990 filings.

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