Byline: Audrey Hudson, THE WASHINGTON TIMES
Membership in the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) has declined more than 90 percent since the 2001 terrorist attacks, according to tax documents obtained by The Washington Times.
The number of reported members spiraled down from more than 29,000 in 2000 to fewer than 1,700 in 2006. As a result, the Muslim rights group's annual income from dues dropped from $732,765 in 2000, when yearly dues cost $25, to $58,750 last year, when the group charged $35.
The organization instead is relying on about two dozen donors a year to contribute the majority of the money for CAIR's budget, which reached nearly $3 million last year.
Asked about the decline, Parvez Ahmed, CAIR's board chairman, pointed to the number of donors.
"We are proud that our grass-roots support in the American Muslim community has allowed CAIR to grow from having eight chapters and offices in 2001 to having 33 today," Mr. Ahmed said.
The self-described civil liberties organization for Muslims seeks to portray "a positive image of Islam" through public relations and the press, but instead has alienated some by defending questionable accusations of discrimination.
Critics of the organization say they are not surprised that membership is sagging, and that a recent decision by the Justice Department to name CAIR as "unindicted co-conspirators" in a federal case against another foundation charged with providing funds to a terrorist group could discourage new members.
M. Zuhdi Jasser, director of American Islamic Forum for Democracy, says the sharp decline in membership calls into question whether the organization speaks for American Muslims, as the group has claimed.
"This is the untold story in the myth that CAIR represents the American Muslim population. They only represent their membership and donors," Mr. Jasser said.
"Post-9/11, they have marginalized themselves by their tired exploitation of media attention for victimization issues at the expense of representing the priorities of the American Muslim population," Mr. Jasser said.
The organization has condemned some suicide bombings in Israel but has been criticized for refusing to condemn Hamas or Hezbollah by name.
Sen. Barbara Boxer, California Democrat, rescinded a "certificate of accomplishment" to Sacramento activist Basim Elkarra after learning that he was a CAIR official, according to Newsweek magazine.
Mrs. Boxer "expressed concern" about past statements and actions by the group, as well as assertions by some law-enforcement officials that it "gives aid to international terrorist groups," the magazine quoted her spokeswoman as saying.
Rep. Joe Sestak, Pennsylvania Democrat, came under fire after delivering a speech at a local CAIR fundraiser in April. Mr. Sestak later said that one of his aides, a former CAIR spokeswoman for the Philadelphia chapter, booked the engagement without his consent.
In response to the arrest of the "Fort Dix Six" involving a plot to attack the New Jersey military base, CAIR "applauded efforts" by federal law-enforcement authorities but "requested that media outlets and public officials refrain from linking this case to the faith of Islam."
CAIR also asked "mosques and Islamic institutions in New Jersey and nationwide to report any incidents of anti-Muslim backlash."
CAIR is leading the legal charge for six imams who were removed from a US Airways flight in November claiming the men suffered from discrimination because of their religion.
Passengers who complained that the men were acting suspiciously are now being sued along with the airline, prompting legislative action by House Republicans to protect "John Doe" passengers from legal action for reporting suspicious activity that may foreshadow a terrorist attack.
CAIR listed contributors in its Form 990 filings with the Internal Revenue Service, but the IRS redacted all the names before releasing the documents. …