- The Washington Times - Friday, November 12, 2021

A Muslim advocacy group is accusing the College Democrats of America of “Islamophobia” for harassing one of their officers on social media over pro-Palestinian comments she made online as a child.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) this week called in a letter for the Democratic Party-affiliated group to open an “independent investigation” with the intent of disciplining or expelling the unnamed members who “repeatedly harassed” Rollins College senior Nourhan Mesbah on social media when she ran successfully for national vice president in August. 

The harassment includes the members’ “liking” a social media comment that read in part: “Boot this jihadist out, no room for racist totalitarianism,” CAIR says.

In the letter sent this week to College Democrats President Jalen Miller, CAIR’s national deputy director Edward Mitchell also accuses the CDA members of “weaponizing” an “anti-Muslim” political ad against Ms. Mesbah over the pro-Palestinian comment she said she regretted making online as a 13-year-old.

“Anti-Muslim bigotry is not unique to any particular party, and no party is immune to it,” Mr. Mitchell told The Washington Times on Friday.

“The perception is that only the Republicans have a problem with Muslims, but the truth is that you find Islamaphobia on the Democratic side, too,” he added.

Ms. Mesbah declined to discuss the incident, which erupted after the ad featuring her childhood comment prompted fellow College Democrats to accuse her of antisemitism and push for her censure.

The letter includes testimony from several Muslim members of the organization, including College Democrats Muslim Caucus Chair Tyrese Rice, who complained on Ms. Mesbah’s behalf about the “bigoted and imbalanced implications of the organization” at both the state and national levels.

“There was a lack of Muslim representation and an underlying stigma against discussion [of] related topics and concepts,” Mr. Rice said about the College Democrats when he first joined them.

Another comment in the letter from an anonymous student says CDA perpetuates a culture of hostility toward “Palestinian liberation” and silences Muslim students who speak up about it.

“By creating a space to allow Muslim members to be called ‘jihadist[s]’ among other names, we have abandoned our progressive ideals,” the student writes.

The College Democrats have not responded to Mr. Mitchell’s letter, and their spokesman did not respond Friday to telephone and email requests for comment.

Reached Friday afternoon, a spokesperson for the Democratic National Committee declined to comment on the dispute.

Although CDA leaders hold ex-officio membership in the DNC, the Democratic Party has no control over the independent organization.

A source close to the dispute, who did not wish to be quoted, told The Times on Friday the complaint reflects an ongoing dispute between Jewish and Muslim factions in the College Democrats over Israel’s control of the Palestinian territories.

According to the source, the CDA is preparing to release the results of a completed investigation that calls on Ms. Mesbah to resign for her “anti-Semitic” comments.

Because Ms. Mesbah did not like that investigation, the source said, she has enlisted CAIR to create a public narrative of Islamophobia within College Democrats’ leadership.

The allegations of “anti-Muslim bigotry” within the College Democrats may reflect a tendency of CAIR to bully and harass political opponents, according to critics of the group’s practices.

The website “We CAIR,” which describes itself as a “Coalition for Accountability & Islah-Reform,” has collected the “testimonies” of people who say CAIR has targeted them with intimidation, harassment and fraud.

But Mr. Mitchell said Friday that CAIR has received a growing number of reports about the College Democrats targeting Muslim student members for “how they dress, how they pray and their values.”

“Over the past several months, we’ve gotten multiple complaints about anti-Muslim bigotry in the College Democrats,” Mr. Mitchell said.

“We don’t want Muslims to be mistreated for speaking out about Palestinian rights, for practicing their faith visibly or for pursuing a leadership position,” he added.

• Sean Salai can be reached at ssalai@washingtontimes.com.

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