The Council on American-Islamic Relations has filed a $1.35 million lawsuit against the founder of a website that accuses the controversial lobby group of supporting terrorism.

The Washington, D.C.-based CAIR charges five statements made by its Internet critic, Anti-CAIR, amount to “libelous defamation.”

CAIR seeks $1 million in compensatory damages and $350,000 in punitive damages in addition to its legal fees and interest.

Anti-CAIR’s founder is Andrew Whitehead, 46, a retired Navy enlisted man in Virginia Beach, Va., who says he simply wants to see CAIR “go away.”

He told the Norfolk Virginian-Pilot newspaper last week he has no money, but CAIR attorney Jeremiah A. Denton III says the suit will proceed anyway, because the Islamic group’s objective is to protect its reputation.

Whitehead’s website says Anti-CAIR is a “group of concerned Americans dedicated to eliminating the Islamist terrorist threat to the United States Constitution. We believe that the Council on American Islamic Relations, CAIR, is a clear and present danger to our Constitution and our way of life.”

The statements at issue in the lawsuit allege CAIR is tied to the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas.

On its website, Anti-CAIR says:

  • “Let there be no doubt that CAIR is a terrorist supporting front organization that is partially funded by terrorists, and that CAIR wishes nothing more than the implementation of [Islamic law] in America.”

  • CAIR is an “organization founded by Hamas supporters which seeks to overthrow Constitutional government in the United States and replace it with an Islamist theocracy using our own Constitution as protection.”

  • “ACAIR reminds our readers that CAIR was started by Hamas members and is supported by terrorist supporting individuals, groups and countries.”

  • “Why oppose CAIR? CAIR has proven links to, and was founded by, Islamic terrorists. CAIR is not in the United States to promote the civil rights of Muslims. CAIR is here to make radical Islam the dominant religion in the United States and convert our country into an Islamic theocracy along the lines of Iran. In addition, CAIR has managed, through the adroit manipulation of the popular media, to present itself as the ‘moderate’ face of Islam in the United States. CAIR succeeded to the point that the majority of its members are not aware that CAIR actively supports terrorists and terrorist supporting groups and nations. In addition, CAIR receives direct funding from Islamic terrorists supporting countries.”

  • “CAIR is a fundamentalist organization dedicated to the overthrow of the United States Constitution and the installation of an Islamic theocracy in America … .”

CAIR claims the statements “are false, and were false when made.”

The group contends further they were made “with knowledge of their falsity” and are libelous because “they impute the commission of a criminal offense.”

CAIR says the statements caused injury to its “standing and reputation throughout the United States and elsewhere.”

But Middle East scholar Daniel Pipes, himself a target of fierce CAIR criticism, insists there is substance to Anti-CAIR’s claims and wonders if the “highly secretive” Muslim group has made a tactical error.

The legal proceedings, Pipes noted in a FrontPage Magazine column, open CAIR to the discovery process.

For Whitehead to defend himself in court, Pipes explained, “he is entitled to ask for the production of documents relating to such matters as CAIR’s founding, funding, mission, and goals, then to grill persons associated with CAIR.”

CAIR is a spin-off of the Islamic Association For Palestine, labeled a “front group” for Hamas by two former heads of the FBI’s counterterrorism section.

The group’s leaders also have provided evidence it has aims beyond civil-rights advocacy.

As WorldNetDaily reported, CAIR’s chairman of the board, Omar Ahmad, was cited by a California newspaper in 1998 declaring the Quran should be America’s highest authority.

He also was reported to have said Islam is not in America to be equal to any other religion but to be dominant.

Hooper himself 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 paper. “But I’m not going to do anything violent to promote that. I’m going to do it through education.”

Last July, however, a member of CAIR’s national staff, Randall Todd “Ismail” Royer, was among 11 men indicted for conspiring to train on American soil for a “violent jihad.”

Another CAIR figure, Bassem Khafagi, was arrested in January 2003 while serving as the group’s director of community relations. The previous December, Ghassan Elashi, the founder of CAIR’s Texas chapter, was indicted for financial ties to Hamas leader Musa Abu Marzook.

In a statement last month, CAIR strongly condemned Israel’s killing of Hamas leader Sheik Ahmed Yassin without mentioning the cleric’s affiliation or his responsibility for countless terrorist attacks against Israel, which were part of his stated objective to destroy the Jewish nation.

Pipes noted CAIR, “which is quick to announce its own activities to the world,” also has been “curiously silent” about its lawsuit against Whitehead.

CAIR’s Hooper told the Virginian-Pilot that while Whitehead is not CAIR’s only critic, “he is one of the most egregious.”

Whenever a group takes a civil-rights stand in the United States, Hooper said, people “will find any way they can to oppose it. That’s just life in the big city.”

In December, CAIR filed a $2 million defamation suit against Rep. Cass Ballenger, R-N.C., who asserted in a newspaper interview the group is tied to terrorism.

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