Muslim-American org fires director for allegedly helping anti-Muslim group
COLUMBUS, Ohio (WXIX/Gray News) - The Ohio chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a nationwide Muslim civil rights organization, announced they fired their director for leaking information to an anti-Muslim group, WXIX reported.
An independent investigation determined Romin Iqbal recorded CAIR network meetings for several years and passed information about their national advocacy work for years to the Investigative Project on Terrorism, led by Steven Emerson, CAIR officials said in a news release.
“After being confronted with clear evidence of misconduct, Iqbal admitted that he had been secretly working with the anti-Muslim hate group,” they said in the statement. “This betrayal and violation of trust was planned and purposeful, taking place over a period of years.”
Iqbal, 45, was recently suspended, the CAIR-Ohio board voted to fire him Saturday and he was notified Tuesday, a CAIR-Ohio spokeswoman said in a news briefing Wednesday.
He had worked for the group since 2006 and led the Columbus and Cincinnati offices since 2008, said spokeswoman, Whitney Siddiqi.
IPT describes itself as a nonprofit research group that investigates “radical Islamic terrorist groups.” Its website criticizes CAIR.
Emerson “is known for spreading hate, vitriol and anti-Muslim rhetoric,” Siddiqi said Wednesday, calling what Iqbal did “a complete act of betrayal.”
In the wake of Iqbal’s termination, the Columbus office of CAIR-Ohio said it discovered suspicious purchases from ammunition and gun retailers conducted in recent weeks using a CAIR-Ohio credit card administered by Iqbal.
On Monday, CAIR-Ohio staff also found a suspicious package mailed to the CAIR-Ohio Columbus office containing parts for an AR-15 rifle. The group reported it to law enforcement, which is currently investigating the matter, their news release says.
Siddiqi identified those agencies Wednesday as the Hilliard Police Department and the FBI. She said CAIR-Ohio also is considering taking legal action against Iqbal.
“As a matter of policy, we cannot confirm or deny the existence of a potential investigation,” said FBI spokesman Todd Lindgren via email.
Dave Thomas Law Offices is representing Iqbal, which said they have no comment.
A spokeswoman for Hilliard police said they can’t comment because “we’re having active, ongoing discussions with CAIR and the FBI on this matter, so we can’t be speaking on it quite yet. Once we have more information to share we’ll be sure to reach out.”
A Hilliard police report shows CAIR-Ohio turned over a list of 22 purchases totaling close to $4,000 from gun-related websites they say their former director made in just over a week, from Dec. 1 to Dec. 9.
Since the purchases were made while he was suspended and just before they fired him, CAIR-Ohio assumes he had prior knowledge they were going to fire him for his involvement with anti-Muslim groups, the police report states.
Hilliard police gave the CAIR-Ohio employee who contacted them their card and told her they would put on an extra patrol. Police also told them to alert police if they hear from Iqbal or if he is seen on their property.
CAIR-Ohio told police they changed the locks to the business on Monday.
In a letter to the Ohio Muslim community, CAIR-Ohio encouraged mosques and community centers to exercise vigilance and review their security protocols out of an abundance of caution.
CAIR-Ohio’s local assets, operations, and infrastructure are safe and secure, the news release from the group says.
“We recognize the difficulty of receiving this information and the unease it brings. We all feel betrayed by a once-trusted leader and advocate whom we relied upon. However, our mission to protect the civil rights of Ohio Muslims transcends any one individual. We want to assure the community that CAIR-Ohio’s local assets, operations, and infrastructure are safe and secure.”
CAIR-Ohio’s Columbus-Cincinnati Board appointed Amina Barhumi as acting executive director. They say they are working to ensure clients are supported through this time.
“It is clear anti-Muslim extremists will stop at nothing to try to harm us. Although we are all shocked and saddened by these developments, we know civil rights organizations and movements for justice have been spied upon from within for decades. In particular, Muslim organizations have been the target of malicious surveillance attempts due to a continuous rise in Islamophobia over the past two decades,” CAIR-Ohio’s letter states.
“Despite these attempts to harm us, we are undeterred. Our dedicated team has a renewed commitment to our mission: to protect and defend the civil rights of Ohio Muslims. And we are only able to do this through your support as champions of justice.”
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