A House Republican leadership group called on Democrats today to retract an offer to the Council on American-Islamic Relations to hold a seminar in a Capitol conference room.

Describing the national Islamic civil liberties group as “terrorist apologists,” the House Republican Conference urged House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to cancel tomorrow’s event, which seeks to address “global attitudes on Islam-West relations.”

CAIR brands itself as a mainstream advocacy group, but it is a spinoff of the now-defunct Islamic Association for Palestine, launched by Hamas leader Mousa Abu Marzook and former university professor Sami al-Arian, who pleaded guilty last year to conspiracy to provide services to Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Several CAIR staffers have been convicted on terrorism-related charges, and CAIR founder Omar Ahmad allegedly told a group of Muslims they are in America not to assimilate but to help assert Islam’s rule over the country.

A press release by the House Republican Congress bore the headline “Democrats arrange official meeting with pro-Hamas, pro-Hezbollah group in U.S. Capitol.”

“It’s really disappointing,” CAIR national spokesman Ibrahim Hooper said in reaction, according to the Associated Press.

Whenever there’s an attack from elected officials, he said, “we don’t even ask any more which party it is. It should be a concern to ordinary Republicans that the party is being viewed as a reservoir of anti-Muslim hate.”

Hooper himself, however, is on record stating his hope that the U.S. will one day be under Islamic rule, telling the Minneapolis Tribune in 1993, “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. But I’m not going to do anything violent to promote that. I’m going to do it through education.”

Rep. Bill Pascrell, D-N.J., arranged the CAIR meeting in a room used by the Ways and Means Committee, the AP reported. Pelosi’s office said it has no direct authority over use of the facility.

Defending his group against the Republican complaints, Hooper pointed out CAIR launched public service ads on TV against terrorism and worked closely with the FBI and other government agencies, the AP said. He also noted CAIR officials joined President Bush in a visit to Islamic centers after the Sept. 11 attacks.

The group’s regular meetings with the Justice Department and FBI, however, have prompted complaints from case agents, who say the bureau rarely can make a move in the Muslim community without first consulting with CAIR, which sits on its advisory board.

CAIR has conducted “sensitivity” and cultural training with federal agencies such as Immigration and Customs Enforcement and with the military. In June, a senior Department of Homeland Security official from Washington guided CAIR officials on a behind-the-scenes tour of Customs screening operations at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport in response to CAIR complaints that Muslim travelers were being unfairly delayed as they entered the U.S. from abroad.

CAIR says its aim is “to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.”

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