West Virginia lawmakers invited the Council on American-Islamic Relations — the largest Muslim advocacy group in the United States — to visit the state Capitol after a display in the statehouse depicting Muslim U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar with an image of the 9/11 terrorist attacks set off a storm of controversy earlier this month, WVAH-TV reported. CAIR accepted the invitation, the station said.
CAIR has been criticized for its ties to Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood. Omar — a far-left Minnesota Democrat who's been repeatedly condemned for anti-Semitism over her first few months in office — is scheduled to speak at a Saturday fundraising event for CAIR in Los Angeles.
Image source: YouTube screenshot
What's the background?
The display that ignited the March 1 controversy was placed just outside the House of Delegates chamber for the West Virginia Republican Party's inaugural WVGOP Day called "Republicans Take the Rotunda!" USA Today reported.
The phrase "'Never forget' – you said ... " went with an image of the exploding Twin Towers in New York City on the top part of the display; the phrase "I am the proof – you have forgotten" went with an image of Omar on the bottom.
Image source: YouTube screenshot
The display was from a local branch of ACT for America, which WVNews said was "labeled the largest the nation's anti-Muslim hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, which regularly tracks extremist and hate groups across the country."
Then Democrats lost it, objecting to the display and arguing with statehouse sergeant at arms Anne Lieberman, who was accused of saying "all Muslims are terrorists." Lieberman denied the charge but later resigned from her post.
Democratic Delegate Mike Caputo, angry about the poster, kicked open a door in the House and injured a doorkeeper, WVAH reported. Republican House Speaker Roger Hanshaw removed Caputo from the committees on which he serves for the remainder of the legislative session, WVAH said, adding that resolutions to censure and remove Caputo from the House were tabled.
"I'm the one who kicked the door open. That's how angry I was. I went over to that poster and I said it was a racist poster," Caputo told Metro News, adding that "when it gets personal with me, it's bad. There is no place in these halls for the crap [that] is going on out there. Don't let this happen in the House. It's taken away from our work. It's wrong. It's just wrong. I apologize for my anger. I don't like getting this way. I'm very angry today."
Omar responded by denouncing "the GOP's anti-Muslim display":
What's the background of the CAIR invitation?
In the wake of the dust-up, Democratic Delegate Ken Hicks drafted a letter to CAIR's National Board Chair Roula Allouch that was signed by over 30 other delegates, WVAH said, citing a news release from CAIR.
"While our federal and state constitutions protect all citizens' right to freedom of expression and speech under the 1st Amendment, the poster was considered as 'hate speech' which has no place in the honorable State Capitol in Charleston, West Virginia," the letter read, adding that "my fellow delegates and I invite you and anyone you wish to bring with you to the West Virginia State Capitol for a visit."
CAIR is in the process of scheduling a visit, WVAH reported, adding that the organization said it hopes get-together will "reaffirm our nation's role in honoring and protecting religious diversity."
CAIR's ties to Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood
CAIR has been accused of working closely with the Muslim Brotherhood, refusing to denounce Hamas and Hezbollah, and even being connected to Hamas.
According to the National Review, at least seven CAIR board members or staffers have been arrested, denied entry to the U.S., or were indicted on, pleaded guilty to, or were convicted of terrorist charges.
In 2008, a federal judge said there was "ample evidence to establish the association" between CAIR and Hamas.
CAIR has dismissed these allegations, accusing detractors of being "anti-Muslim bigots" intent on spreading a "misinformation campaign."