cair concern

Confusion over CAIR’s role in planned Biden meeting with Muslim leaders in Chicago

The White House claims no one from CAIR was invited, but the group organized a letter claiming otherwise

Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

Anti-Israel demonstrators protest and block an intersection near the U.S. Capitol as President Joe Biden attends the National Prayer Breakfast in the Capitol on Thursday, February 1, 2024.

The White House was snubbed this week by the Muslim community in Chicago after Biden administration officials sought a meeting with Muslim, Arab and Palestinian American leaders. 

At least, that’s what several Muslim advocacy groups said on Thursday. More than two dozen Chicago-area groups signed onto a letter stating that the “Palestinian American leadership of Chicagoland has unanimously decided (along with key Muslim and Arab leadership) against attending planned meetings with White House officials in Chicago this week.”

But it turns out that several of the groups who claimed to have turned down the meeting never received an invite in the first place, according to a source familiar with the planned event. The letter was organized by the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a Muslim advocacy group that has faced criticism over praise from several of its leaders for Hamas — and a group that the White House pledged in December not to meet with, due to its executive director’s comments lauding the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks in Israel. 

In fact, no one from CAIR was actually invited to the meeting, according to White House deputy press secretary Andrew Bates. The White House no longer invites CAIR to any events, Bates told JI. 

Tarek Khalil, a Chicago lawyer who is involved with CAIR, said the group had an obligation to weigh in, though he did not respond to a specific inquiry about whether CAIR was invited.

“There was no invite list that was released; the meeting was pitched as for Palestinian, Arab and Muslim groups,” Khalil told JI on Thursday. “Naturally, the largest and most respected Palestinian, Arab and Muslim community groups in Chicago felt inclined to respond and were in consensus seeing no value to such a meeting in this moment.”

The White House declined to share a list of organizations or representatives who had been invited to the meeting. Among the groups listed on the letter was American Muslims for Palestine, an anti-Zionist advocacy group with close ties to Students for Justice in Palestine — but the source familiar with the event planning said AMP also was not invited.

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