Weakley County Commissioner says schools should not buy books tied to Muslim advocacy group CAIR

WEAKLEY COUNTY, TN — A Weakley County, Tennessee, leader is standing by remarks he made recently about textbooks connected to the American Muslim advocacy group CAIR.

Weakley County Commissioner David Hawks says he is worried about accusations of CAIR having relationships with extremist groups. He first raised the issue at a Health, Education, and Economic Development Committee meeting Tuesday morning while discussing the school board’s budget.

“They have suspected — and I use the word suspected — ties to Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood, and in my opinion the taxpayers of Weakley County, particularly District 7, would not want a single penny of their money going to an organization that are suspected of having terrorist ties,” he said. Hawks chairs the committee.

CAIR has denied any connection to terrorism or Hamas.

Hawks cited two instances he said give him pause. The first is a letter CAIR founder and former CEO Nihad Awad reportedly sent to Muammar Gaddafi asking for funding on a project called the Muslim Peace Foundation in 2009.

“In those letters, he more or less makes it known that he is a supporter of the Quran, and that turning everyone into a Muslim or into the Muslim faith is what his goal is,” Hawks said, “And again, I say I live in the Bible Belt of the country, and Weakley County I think is a Bible Belt county, and I don’t think we need to be buying books from a organization like that.” The entire letter has not been made publicly available, but was cited in part by Republican U.S. Rep. Frank Wolf of Virginia during a congressional hearing in 2011.

Hawks also said CAIR was named as a unindicted co-conspirator in a finance terrorism case — the Holy Land Foundation terrorism trial.

“There’s a gray area there that I think needs to be addressed,” Hawks said.

CAIR is recognized by the United States government as a lobbying organization and is not on the U.S. foreign terrorist group list. A U.S. court of appeals also ruled the public listing of CAIR’s name in the finance terrorism case was unconstitutional, ruling that it was a violation of the Fifth Amendment.  In 2009, the FBI sent a letter to a Rep. Wolf confirming it had suspended formal contact with CAIR after being named in that case. In part, the letter reads:

“The FBI’s decision to suspend formal contacts was not intended to reflect a wholesale judgment of the organization  and its entire membership. Nevertheless, until we can resolve whether there continues to be a connection between CAIR or its executives and HAMAS, the FBI does not view CAIR as an appropriate liaison partner.” 

Hawks said despite any public, legal U.S. Government recognized acknowledgments that CAIR has connections to terror groups being named is enough. Hawks said he has asked the district superintendent and all but one the school board members to consider not buying any books published, co-authored or written by CAIR.

Editor’s note: CAIR National Communications Director Ibrahim Hooper responded in an email after this story aired with this statement: “CAIR does not write or publish any textbooks. The only time we would have anything to do with textbooks is if they contain Islamophobic materials. CAIR is however the frequent target of the type of anti-Muslim conspiracy theories promoted by the county commissioner.”

The superintendent was not in town when I reached out, and couldn’t tell us if they will adopt a policy like this. They’ve already purchased books for the upcoming year. Teresa Jackson, elementary supervisor of curriculum and instruction, says it’s a long process. It starts with a state pre-approved list sent to their textbook adoption committee.

“The teachers are to give feedback to them, so when they give it back to the committee, every teacher had had a possibility to say no to what’s selected,” Jackson said, “And from that they have to come to a consensus to determine what book is best for that grade level.”

Hawks said he wouldn’t be completely opposed to content contributions from CAIR in textbooks, because he does not have a problem with the content they would give. But, he said: “If CAIR is getting anything monetarily off that book, I don’t want our school board to purchase that book.”

He said everyone is free to practice their own religion and live in this country. “I know all Muslims are not bad. I know that,” he said.

“I’m not worried about the backlash,” he said. “Like I said, I think from my upbringing and the taxpayers of Weakley County, I think I’ve done what’s right for the taxpayers of Weakley County and the students of Weakley County in making my request.