CAIR's Nihad 'Awad Refuses to Condemn Hamas
This interview is from 2004, but to our knowledge it has never been translated into English. This is an organization which purports to represent mainstream American Islam.
Relations in the Islamic Association for Palestine in 1993, and drew the critcism of Palestinian president Yasir Arafat in 1994. There are those who say now that you are a supporter of the Hamas organization in Palestine. What is your position on Hamas?
Nihad 'Awad: First, concerning the issue of Palestine, we have personal opinions which we stated at the time. But now we work for the CAIR foundation; the CAIR foundation represents the Muslim masses in America--this is an Islamic endowment. The truth [is that] the rumor which was spread about CAIR is an Israeli viewpoint, which paints the Muslim community with a broad brush. This is the price of not condemning liberation movements, whether in Palestine or Lebanon. I truly do not condemn these organizations. I will condemn them only when I see that media outlets are requiring the heads of Jewish foundations in America to condemn Israel for its treatment of innocent people; for killing people whether in Lebanon, Qana, or Palestine; for bulldozing their homes; and for their flagrant human rights violations. Not one question [like these] has been directed to any leader of a Jewish foundation in America, so why are the questions being directed at Islamic and Arab foundations in America?
We should put pressure on media and political bodies in America to not look at an important segment of American society--the Islamic segment--from the foreign Israeli viewpoint. We are a segment of American society, and we should be looked at from a purely American viewpoint--not a foreign one, which looks at the Muslim community as if it threatens the interests of Israel. Does the Muslim community in America threaten Israel's interests?! I say that the Muslim community attempts to protect its own interests, and build positive relationships. It has become a bridge of cooperation between the Islamic world and the American administration. This annoys some, but we are not responsible for that.
Talal al-Haj: Do you, a segment of American society, accept the laws accepted by the society? American law states that Hamas is a terrorist organization. Is my question clear?
Nihad 'Awad: This is the only Arab and Christian Senator, and his image was placed next to the image of bin Laden--why? Because he took a position which was different than those of the Israeli pressure groups. No Arab or Muslim leader, or Arab or Islamic foundation in the United States have been spared this accusation, and we are no exception. We do not and will not condemn any liberation movement inside Palestine or Lebanon. If they want us to condemn a liberation movement inside Palestine or Lebanon, then they should condemn Israel ten times over on all levels at all times. We will not condemn any foundation. We are not under the hammer of any person, and we are in a free country. Why [should] we give up our principles?The Islamic community and world hopes for foundations which are committed to their principles. If we are prevented from meeting with any authority because of this, then we will be proud and will continue our work. We will not give up, Allah-willing. [...]