WASHINGTON - SEPTEMBER 09: National Executive Director of Council on American_Islamic Relations(CAIR) Nihad Awad holds a translated copy of the Quran as he speaks during a news conference at the headquarters of CAIR on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. The CAIR held a news conference to discuss the latest developments on a Florida church's plan to burn copies of the Quran on the ninth anniversary of September 11 terrorist attacks. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

A petition signed by some 150 American and Canadian Muslim leaders condemning threats of violence against citizens exercising their free-speech and religious rights sounds like good news to many.

But some seasoned observers of Islam argue the names at the bottom of the petition issued by the American Muslim magazine speak louder than the text itself.

Robert Spencer, director of JihadWatch.org and author of many books on Islam, told WND he’s familiar with many of the signatories.

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“The fact that leaders of Hamas-linked CAIR and other patently dishonest Muslim spokesmen such as Aziz Poonawalla have signed on to this does not speak well for its sincerity,” he said.

U.S. counter-terrorism officials regard the Council on American-Islamic Relations, or CAIR, as a front group for the Egypt-based Muslim Brotherhood, the spawn of most of the major Islamic terrorist groups, including Hamas and al-Qaida. CAIR and some of its leaders were named unindicted co-conspirators in the largest terror finance case in U.S. history. The Washington, D.C.-based group is suing a father-and-son team that conducted an undercover probe that came up with 12,000 pages of internal documents confirming CAIR’s role as a front for the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas in the U.S. The findings were published in the WND Books best-selling expose “Muslim Mafia: Inside the Secret Underworld That’s Conspiring to Islamize America”

CAIR leaders who signed the petition include Florida director Parvez Ahmed, Los Angeles director Hussam Ayloush, San Francisco Bay Area director Zahra Billoo, Washington state director Arsalan Bukhari and Pennsylvania board chairman Iftekhar Hussain.

Molly Norris’ cartoon prompted a “death fatwa” from “9/11 imam” Anwar al-Awlaki

Poonawalla is a Muslim blogger who has accused Spencer of “Islamophobia” and Republicans of waging a “War on Muslims.”

The petition, “A Defense of Free Speech by American and Canadian Muslims,” was posted in the wake of controversy over Seattle cartoonist Molly Norris and her tongue-in-cheek call for an “Everybody Draw Mohammed Day” May 20 to protest threats against free speech.

Morris, working for the alternative newspaper Seattle Weekly, was responding to the Comedy Central TV network’s decision to censor a depiction of Islam’s prophet on the irreverent animated series “South Park.”

As WND reported in May, despite carefully altering its depiction of the Muslim founder, the “South Park” episode nevertheless prompted a warning from a Muslim website that the show’s creators, Trey Parker and Matt Stone, could end up murdered like Dutch filmmaker Theo Van Gogh.

Norris, meanwhile, faced a threat from notorious imam Anwar al-Awlaki, who called her a “prime target” for execution whose “proper abode is hellfire.” The Yemeni-American cleric reportedly inspired two 9/11 hijackers, Fort Hood killer Nidal Malik Hasan and “Christmas Day bomber” Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab.

Faced with the threat, Norris disassociated herself from “Everybody Draw Mohammed Day,” insisting it was just satire and not a real event. Others took up the cause, however, including the creators of a Facebook page that drew 100,000 participants.

Last month, the FBI advised Norris to change her identity and go into hiding.

The Muslim petition affirms “the right of free speech for Molly Norris, Matt Stone, Trey Parker, and all others including ourselves.”

The signatories “unconditionally condemn any intimidation or threats of violence directed against any individual or group exercising the rights of freedom of religion and speech; even when that speech may be perceived as hurtful or reprehensible.”

The petition declares the Muslim leaders are “saddened by the recent wave of vitriolic anti-Muslim and anti-Islamic sentiment that is being expressed across our nation.”

“We are even more concerned and saddened by threats that have been made against individual writers, cartoonists, and others by a minority of Muslims. We see these as a greater offense against Islam than any cartoon, Quran burning, or other speech could ever be deemed.”

CAIR critic Andrew Whitehead, director of the website Anti-CAIR, noted Norris reached out to the executive director of CAIR’s Washington state affiliate, Bukhari, to help diffuse the threat.

But Whitehead says that despite Bukhari’s public repudiation of threats of violence, as a signer of the petition, he fell short of actually condemning al-Awlaki’s death fatwa. Instead, Bukhari said merely, “I really wish the guy would” retract his words.

“CAIR cannot be trusted to lift a finger to protect fellow Americans from the fanatical fatwa frothings of the mad clerics of radical Islam,” Whitehead said. “CAIR respects, admires, and protects these imams, seemingly content to sit back and watch potentially violent events unfold, their perverse indifference obscured by claims of ignorance and unaccountability.”

Whitehead points out CAIR’s Michigan director, Dawud Walid, defended the radical Detroit imam who was killed in October 2009 in a shootout with the FBI, Luqman Ameen Abdullah. Walid described Abdullah as a benevolent, “very quiet” man who possibly was set up and murdered by the FBI. Whitehead notes, however, Abdullah once told followers that they should not “carry a pistol if you’re going to police. You give them a bullet.”

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