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Muslim Organization Defends Leader Who Blamed Jews For Islamophobia

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) defended one of its leaders Saturday after criticism of a November speech in which she said Jewish organizations and synagogues are a part of an “Islamophobia industry” working to dehumanize Muslims.

Zahra Billoo, executive director of CAIR San Francisco, described Jewish or Zionist organizations as “enemies” who take part in a “conspiracy” of Islamophobia during a speech at American Muslims for Palestine’s Annual Convention on Nov. 27, The Jerusalem Post reported Sunday.

“We need to pay attention to the Anti-Defamation League, we need to pay attention to the Jewish Federation, we need to pay attention to the Zionist synagogues, we need to pay attention to the Hillel chapters on our campuses,” Billoo said in her speech.

“In the wake of her speech, anti-Muslim websites misquoted Zahra’s remarks and falsely claimed that she had discouraged Muslims from working with Jewish groups at-large,” CAIR said in its defense of Billoo on Saturday.

“Throughout her speech Ms. Billoo blamed America’s Jewish institutions – from civil rights orgs to respected campus orgs to charitable orgs to virtually every synagogue in the US – for a variety of America’s illls, including Islamophobia,” Jonathan Greenblatt, chief executive of the Anti-Defamation League, said Sunday.

Billoo “discouraged engagement, dialogue & partnership with the Jewish community. By her standard, no synagogue from any major Jewish movement—including the OU, USCJ, URJ, Reconstructionist, or Renewal— should be welcomed, because they are all her ‘enemies’ and ‘polite Zionists.’ She spins a vast conspiracy around Jewish orgs supporting poverty, homelessness, and police brutality and attacking Muslim Americans for their opposition. Claiming that American Jews are working to subject our fellow Americans to poverty and brutality is wildly antisemitic,” Greenblatt said.

“She claims ‘Islamophobia is a well-funded conspiracy, a well-funded project’ by Jewish communal orgs,” Greenblatt said. “To so brazenly refer to the vast majority of American Jews as enemies solely because of their connection to the Jewish homeland, to repeatedly blame Jews for Islamophobia, and to unapologetically promote tropes used against Jews for millennia, is grotesque … Ms. Billoo’s speech, and CAIR’s support for it, are both blatant acts of antisemitism. CAIR obviously should reject such hate without hesitation but it has a long and problematic history of anti-Israel rhetoric,” Greenblatt said.

Billoo was voted off of the Women’s March national board in September 2019 following repeated accusations of antisemitism. At the time, Billoo blamed “an Islamophobic smear campaign led by the usual antagonists.”

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