Lawfare Project Concerned That Former Leading National Council of Canadian Muslims Operative Amira Elghawaby Participated in Canadian International Council Event in Canada’s Capital

Today, The Lawfare Project sent the following correspondence expressing its concern regarding the participation of Ms. Amira Elghawaby, longtime “human rights coordinator” and “communications director” of the National Council of American Muslims (NCCM), formerly the Canadian Council of American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-CAN), in an event organized by the Ottawa Chapter of the Canadian International Council.

***Letter Text Begins Below***

To Canadian International Council Board Members James Appleyard, John English, William C. Graham, Nicholas Hirst, Jennifer Jeffs, Keith Martin, Nicholas M. Rouleau, Jodi White and Gerald Wright; Provost Mayo Moran of CIC Partner Organization Trinity College in the University of Toronto; and Individual, Corporate, and NGO Members of CIC

c/o Dr. Mark Sedra, President and Research Director, Canadian International Council, msedra@thecic.org

Dear Canadian International Council Board Members, CIC Partner Organization Trinity College in the University of Toronto, and Individual, Corporate and NGO Members of CIC,

It has been brought to the attention of The Lawfare Project, a legal think tank based in New York City, that the Ottawa Branch of the Canadian International Council (CIC) hosted an event, titled “Canada And The World: Views From Canadian Muslims,” on October 17, 2017. It has further come to our attention that one of two announced discussants was the controversial Ms. Amira Elghawaby, a longtime employee, including “human rights coordinator” and “communications director”, of the National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM), formerly the Canadian Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-CAN, CAIR.CAN, CAIR-Canada).

The Lawfare Project is concerned that your credibility and standing, and that of other individuals and organizations who attended or were involved in the October 17 event, including government officials, NGOs, and others, could be harmed by involvement in an event so intimately and unavoidably connected, through Ms. Elghawaby and her history, to NCCM/CAIR.CAN.

NCCM/CAIR.CAN has long been a highly controversial organization in the context of Islamist radicalism. Links to a series of mainstream articles and other documents examining NCCM/CAIR.CAN, are appended for recipients’ personal review in the course of their own due diligence analysis. These deal in various ways with a number of concerns about NCCM/CAIR.CAN, and invite many questions relevant to Ms. Elghawaby’s professional connection to NCCM/CAIR.CAN. This connection appears to have existed as recently as only weeks ago, when Elghawaby would have seemed to many serious observers to have been a directing mind of NCCM/CAIR.CAN. Among the questions that should have been fully dealt with by any competent, responsible entity considering offering an invitation of the sort benefiting Ms. Elghawaby:

  • Why, during Ms. Elghawaby’s lengthy and prominent NCCM/CAIR.CAN tenure, did NCCM/CAIR.CAN never condemn, publicly and by name, its Saudi-funded, US-based mother organization, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), despite the latter’s U.S. designation as an unindicted co-conspirator in the Holy Land Foundationterror-funding prosecutionand its having been declared a terrorist organization by at least one country?
  • Why, during Elghawaby’s involvement, did NCCM/CAIR.CAN never condemn, publicly and by name, all of those persons who were materially linked to the U.S. mother organization and were found guilty of terrorism-related charges—including CAIR’s own former “civil rights coordinator”? How is this consistent with a dedication to counter-radicalization, counter-terrorism, “inclusivity”, and concern about youth extremism – “provid[ing] a moral compass to our youth,” as the CIC Ottawa Branch’s invitation put it?
  • Does the CIC understand that, according to the National Post, CAIR is “linked by the FBI to the Muslim Brotherhood-created Hamas support network in the U.S., and is still considered unsuitable by them as ‘an appropriate liaison partner’ for any government outreach?” Or that the FBI has for years refused to meet with, or be trained by, CAIR officials – and still appears to await a satisfactory explanation for CAIR’s extensively reported deep connections to Hamas, a designated terrorist organization under Canadian and U.S. law? Or that all of this was publicly notorious before Ms. Elghawaby chose to join, and speak for, NCCM/CAIR.CAN as a senior official of the group?
  • Does the CIC understand its reputational risk in being connected with, and mainstreaming, a recent, key strategic player in what was conceived as the Canadian chapter of CAIR? Have CIC personalities who were implicated in the October 17 event contemplated the ramifications for their professional and personal credibility in United States’ and other Allied contexts? Have they examined NCCM/CAIR.CAN’s record, including as conveyed in testimony about NCCM/CAIR.CAN before Canada’s House of Commons Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security?
  • In order to better understand Elghawaby and NCCM/CAIR.CAN, will the CIC press NCCM/CAIR.CAN to at last release all documents it has been forced to disclose in the course of any court proceedings in which it has been involved? Such documents would include those relevant to what was regarded by many human rights advocates as a combined, multi-year Canada-U.S. “libel lawfare” nuisance-lawsuit attempt by CAIR and CAIR.CAN/NCCM, contrary to Section 2 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms’ guarantee of freedom of expression, including freedom of the press, and contrary to analogous U.S. First Amendment rights, to silence commentators who were demanding answers about these organizations? (This category of lawsuit is familiar to, and generally condemned by, human rights lawyers as Strategic Litigation Against Public Participation [SLAPP].) In the event that NCCM/CAIR.CAN operatives should claim that such documents cannot be released as a result of discretionary confidentiality obligations, why did NCCM/CAIR.CAN agree to – or insist on – such obligations in any pertinent legal settlement? As a related question, will NCCM/CAIR.CAN release names of its donors, including foreign sources? Does ambiguity involved in such realms reflect an attempt to render the public record incomplete, and thwart necessary examination of NCCM/CAIR.CAN – enabling Elghawaby and her associates more readily to complicate due diligence investigations by groups considering inviting their participation, such as the CIC?
  • Why did NCCM/CAIR.CAN produce, with the troubling Islamic Social Services Association (ISSA), and with Ms. Elghawaby at NCCM/CAIR.CAN’s “human rights’” helm, “United Against Terrorism”, a supposed counter-radicalization handbook recommending as scholars “to consult to gain an accurate understanding of our faith” individuals who may be part of the radicalism problem, such as: Dr. Ingrid Mattson, former head of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), a U.S. unindicted co-conspirator organization; Dr. Jamal Badawi, a former ISNA officer known for recommending light physical punishment for uncooperative wives; Sheikh Siraj Wahhaj, another U.S. unindicted co-conspirator; and other questionable individuals? Why was Elghawaby so active in pushing the “United Against Terrorism” operation, given this kind of content?
  • Does this content explain why an embarrassed Royal Canadian Mounted Police suddenly withdrew its misguided support for the handbook project? Why, given this withdrawal – and during Elghawaby’s distinctive role in pressing the “counter-radicalization handbook” upon the public – did NCCM/CAIR.CAN and ISSA mislead Canadians and others by continuing to distribute the document, domestically and internationally, with the RCMP logo still on its cover?
  • Is it true that, with Elghawaby’s being among its leading figures, CAIR.CAN changed its name in 2013 to “NCCM”, in order to escape its history, while maintaining its contacts and approach – at least until critics remarked on the maneuver?
  • Why, under Elghawaby’s strategic communications direction, did NCCM/CAIR.CAN, notwithstanding its advertised “Stronger Together” public relations spin, persist in sowing division and discord, and risking alienating Muslims from Canadian society, with exaggerated “Islamophobia” studies and narratives – narratives that have been condemned by many mainstream Canadian Muslims? Why did NCCM/CAIR.CAN push the narrative that downplays the statistically far-greater suffering of other minorities – individual Canadian Jews, for example, in a recent year, facing eight times the police-reported hate crime risk encountered by Canadian Muslims, based on Canadian government statistics? Is it because the startling nature of such misrepresentations met such media hostility that Elghawaby and NCCM/CAIR.CAN might now be attempting to finesse this statistical overreach by improbably spinning themselves as “multicommunity” human-rights advocates? And, this, with occasional, token assistance of one or two marginal Jewish voices who may earlier have been confused or compromised through misguided association with NCCM/CAIR.CAN?

The Lawfare Project is persuaded that the totality of publicly available evidence about NCCM/CAIR.CAN and its leaders raises questions of such gravity that significant current and former NCCM/CAIR.CAN figures such as Ms. Elghawaby should have no place gaining the legitimacy and privileged networking opportunity that inevitably would flow from participation in the October 17, 2017 CIC “Canada And The World: Views From Canadian Muslims” gathering. Moreover, we believe that the CIC, its partners, and affiliated persons should undertake a review to determine how it came to be that a major NCCM/CAIR.CAN operative was not screened out of the CIC invitation process. This, especially at a time when genuinely reputable Canadian Muslim organizations, such as the Muslim Canadian Congress and the Council for Muslims Facing Tomorrow, exist.

It will be important for the CIC and its partners and supporters to determine whether anyone associated organizationally or ideologically with NCCM/CAIR.CAN or Ms. Elghawaby used improper influence from within the CIC or elsewhere to facilitate Elghawaby’s involvement in the scheduled event.

Consistent with indications above, The Lawfare Project cautions that several individuals and organizations, including certain conference invitees, may, in failure of their own professional due diligence obligations or otherwise, already have histories of engagement with NCCM/CAIR.CAN. This being the case, NCCM/CAIR.CAN “partners” and connections – including CIC staff and officials implicated in this event – may, contrary to the evidence and their own trust obligations, now feel obliged to come to the defense of NCCM/CAIR.CAN, lest their own diligence failure and compromised position be exposed to public and professional review.

The Lawfare Project anticipates that, based on the group’s record, NCCM/CAIR.CAN operatives, together with collaborating associates in other organizations, will respond to this expression of concern in their customary way: by pressing compromised persons and organizations for “endorsements”, in order to sweep aside substantive questions about the history, present, and past connections, and agenda of NCCM/CAIR.CAN and Ms. Elghawaby.

In this regard, The Lawfare Project is disturbed to note that the CIC Ottawa Branch’s announcement of the October 17 event plays up the fact of Ms. Elghawaby’s “recent address to the Harvard Club of Ottawa”. Before accepting this as a serious credential, it must be observed that the Club’s credibility is indicted by the fact that a reportedly significant member of the Club has been none other than Dr. Sheema Khan. Dr. Khan was founding chair of NCCM/CAIR.CAN, and it was her sworn affidavit for a Superior Court of Ontario proceeding that left no doubt about NCCM/CAIR.CAN’s intimate connection to the U.S. CAIR organization. Moreover, unchallenged reports state that Khan was herself on the board of the U.S. mother organization. Did Dr. Khan or associated NCCM/CAIR.CAN elements facilitate, in any way, the Harvard Club of Ottawa’s invitation to Elghawaby – and the embarrassing failure of due diligence implicated in this?

It is also to be noted that Ms. Margaret Huber is listed as the President of both the Harvard Club of Ottawa, and of the CIC’s Ottawa Branch. As such, Huber, a former Canadian ambassador, would appear to bear particular responsibility for the embarrassment that will now beset both the Harvard Club of Ottawa and the CIC.

Prospective attendees for events, such as that held on October 17, and CIC supporters conducting due diligence assessments in the reputational interest of themselves and their organizations, should not be diverted by the inevitable “endorsement” campaigns at which NCCM/CAIR.CAN actors excel, from the substantive questions raised in the present communication, and arising from some of the material appended below. In light of the record, any individual or entity inclined to endorse NCCM/CAIR.CAN and its significant players should be considered, at best, ethically problematic.

Bearing this in mind, it is unclear why October 17 CIC moderator Dr. Melanie Adrian, and discussant Dr. Monia Mazigh – and, of course, Ms. Huber – would hazard their reputations through the Elghawaby link. It would also be useful to know whether Huber, Adrian, or Mazigh might previously have collaborated with, or have had links to, NCCM/CAIR.CAN or associated persons, events or such other troubling organizations as the Muslim Association of Canada.

By way of background, Dr. Adrian is a graduate of Harvard University and, in September, Dr. Mazigh appeared with Elghawaby at the aforementioned Harvard Club presentation at Ottawa’s Main Mosque, along with fellow panelist, Canadian Council of Imams’ member and Kanata Muslim Association Imam, Mr. Sikander Hashmi.

The Lawfare Project is encouraging Canadians of good faith, including Canadian journalists, to examine the CIC’s governance and decision-making in this matter, and the surrounding professional, ethical, moral, and, perhaps, legal issues. The below Appendix provides the names (with linked email addresses) to the executive personalities of the CIC’s National Capital Branch. Interested parties may also wish to explore the compatibility of the CIC’s status as a registered Canadian charity under Canada’s Income Tax Act, with the resultant analysis.

Sincerely,

Brooke Goldstein
Attorney at Law
Executive Director, The Lawfare Project

Selected Articles About NCCM/CAIR.CAN Dating from Period of Ms. Amira Elghawaby’s NCCM/CAIR.CAN Senior Professional Involvement and Communications’ Leadership

(Note: Unless explicitly stated otherwise, the following articles, and material available through associated links, do not necessarily reflect the views of The Lawfare Project or associated persons or organizations. The articles are provided to recipients for their own exclusive educational or informational use.)

Appendix – Excerpted from Canadian International Council, National Capital Branch, “National Capital (Ottawa) Branch [“Branch Executive Leadership” and “Branch Executive Ex Officio”],” https://thecic.org/ottawa/, as downloaded, October 18, 2017.

Canadian International Council
National Capital Branch

Branch Executive Leadership

President
Margaret Huber 

Vice-Presidents
Randolf Harrold
Abbie Dann (Membership)
Ehsan Torkaman (Youth)

Communications
Elliott Cho

Program Co-Directors
Justin Anstett
Sandelle Scrimshaw

Secretary
Ayesha Harji

Treasurer
Jérôme Bilodeau

Past-President
David Dyment

Councillors
Nathan Bowers-Krishnan (Outreach)
Phil Gurski (Program)
Paul Heinbecker
Margaret McCuaig-Johnston (Program)
Laura Patrick (Outreach)
Rafal Rohozinski
Wisam Salih

Branch Executive Ex Officio

Career Expo
Samson Kan, (Chair)

General
Zoe Dugal (Program)
Anthony Farrow(Membership)
David Halton(Communications)
Randy Keefer
John Noble (Past President)
Michel Sleiman (Program)
Rachel Webb(Communications)

Foreign Policy Initiative
Peter Fawcett (Co-Chair)
Alex Goddard (Co-Chair)
Gerry Wright (Co-Chair)

Politics @ the Pub
Malika Asthana
Isabell Avudria
Andrey Demin
Annie Xie

thePanel
Nathan Bowers-Krishnan

University Student Representative
Lexie Krocker (UOttawa)

Africa Study Group
Bruce Montador (Chair)

Asia Pacific Study Group
Alex Goddard (Co-Chair)
Dan Koldyk (Co-Chair)
Grégoire Legault (Co-Chair) 

Intelligence Futures Study Group
Rafal Rohozinski (Chair) 

Latin America and the Caribbean Study Group
Sean Burges (Chair)

Middle East Study Group
Hamid Jorjani (Chair)

Benjamin Ryberg