A controversial American Islamic advocacy group has planned a voter registration drive to coincide with the upcoming Muslim holiday at the end of the pilgrimage to Mecca.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations, alleged to have ties to terrorist groups such as Hamas, says “our goal, insha’Allah (if Allah wills), is to register more than 100,000 new Muslim voters over the next eight months.”

CAIR is urging Islamic communities to sign up Muslim voters at festivals that follow Eid ul-Adha prayers, held on Feb. 22 or 23, depending on the new moon. The holiday commemorates what Muslims believe was the prophet Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son Ishmael at God’s command.

Some observers of CAIR and similar organizations insist that while these groups have a right to lobby just as any other public interest, their aims are suspect.

“They may not admit it, but ultimately they want to make the U.S. a Muslim country,” Steven Emerson, a leading anti-terrorism specialist, told WorldNetDaily.

“In the interim they want to acquire as much political power as possible to push their agenda, to be afforded legitimacy by political officials,” Emerson said. “So this (voter drive) is part and parcel of their campaign.”

CAIR spokesman Ibrahim Hooper indicated in a 1993 interview with the Minneapolis Star Tribune that he wants to see the United States become a Muslim country.

“I wouldn’t want to create the impression that I wouldn’t like the government of the United States to be Islamic sometime in the future,” Hooper told the Star Tribune. “But I’m not going to do anything violent to promote that. I’m going to do it through education.”

Hooper noted in the interview that Muslims aren’t allowed to take over the U.S. and other governments. “What we fight for here and in the remainder of the world is to practice our beliefs,” he said.

Calls to CAIR and Hooper’s office by WorldNetDaily were not returned.

Emerson notes that Abdulrahman Alamoudi, then-executive director of the American Muslim Council, said at a conference by the Islamic Association for Palestine in December 1996 that the United States will become a Muslim country, even if it takes 100 years.

Emerson was a staff member of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations and a journalist for U.S. News & World Report and CNN. In a CAIR editorial published on its website, Hooper called Emerson “the attack dog of the extremist wing of America’s pro-Israel lobby.”

CAIR Executive Director Nihad Awad said in a statement on the voter drive that “recent events and new government policies have served to spur already growing political participation by American Muslims.”

“We have an obligation, because of the Islamic duty of ‘enjoining good and prohibiting evil,’ to make our voices heard on a number of important issues,” Awad said. “Voting, at both the local and national level, is the best way to accomplish that goal.”

Awad once worked for the Islamic Association of Palestine, considered by U.S. intelligence officials to be a front group for Hamas operating in the United States. While acknowledging Awad’s former affiliation, Hooper has denied any connection between CAIR and IAP.

But CAIR recently rallied to the defense of the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development – a U.S.-based group accused of channeling funds to Hamas – arguing that President Bush’s decision to freeze their assets could give the impression that “there has been a shift from a war on terrorism to an attack on Islam.”

Emerson cites as evidence of CAIR’s affinity for Hamas “their co-sponsorship of conferences calling for the death of Jews, statements on behalf of Hamas leaders, statements defending Iran and the Sudan and sponsorship of hate rallies where attacks on America are made.”

Alamoudi, the former AMC director, was quoted at a Washington, D.C. rally, Oct. 28, 2000, saying: “I have been labeled by the media in New York to be a supporter of Hamas. We are all supporters of Hamas. I wish they added that I am also a supporter of Hezbollah.”

CAIR seeks to underscore its political clout by citing a figure of about 7 million Muslims in the United States, but recent counts have come up with a much lower total. An evaluation of current estimates, conducted by Howard Fienberg and Iain Murray of the nonprofit, nonpartisan Statistical Assessment Service, concluded there are about 2 million U.S. Muslims. A recent study commissioned by the American Jewish Committee puts the number between 1.9 million and 2.8 million.

CAIR and other groups such as the AMC, American Muslim Alliance and Muslim Public Affairs Council, helped get out the vote during the 2000 election. Their top issues included opposition to racial profiling and the use of secret evidence against people suspected of terrorist activity.

The groups claimed their support of Bush put him in office, but an exit poll by the Detroit News showed 66 percent of Muslims in Michigan voted for Al Gore. Muslims are heavily concentrated in Detroit and other major metropolitan areas including New York, Chicago and Southern California.

Arab-American pollster John Zogby estimates that U.S. Muslims are about 30 percent African-American, 20 percent Pakistani, 15 percent Arab American and 13 percent Indian. About 20 percent come from Iran, Turkey, Africa and Asia.

While most Muslims in the U.S. might not share CAIR’s views or even know about the organization, adding 100,000 Muslim voters would give the group more clout to carry out its political agenda, Emerson said.

“I think we’ve already seen some of that in terms of what has happened over the last few years,” he said, “when Hollywood studios change the scripts to take out any references to militant Islamic terrorists, or when school boards actually excise books from the curriculum because CAIR says they are deemed harmful to ‘Islam,’ or if counterterrorism laws are not enforced because of the fear that this is going to be anti-Muslim.”

Emerson said that before Sept. 11 there was a strong move in Congress to stop the use of classified evidence in deportations of terrorists.

“They had been gaining a lot of momentum abetted by the naivete of the media,” Emerson said.

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