Muslim organisation fires leader for working with anti-Muslim group

Nation’s largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organisation has fired an Ohio chapter leader for ties to antagonistic group

Romin Iqbal was fired from Cair-Ohio on Tuesday. The Columbus Dispatch via AP
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An Ohio chapter of the nation's largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organisation has fired its leader for ethical and professional breaches that it says include a years-long secret association with an anti-Muslim group.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations-Ohio (Cair-Ohio) said executive and legal director Romin Iqbal was informed of his termination on Tuesday, following the conclusion of an investigation by an independent forensic expert ordered by its national headquarters. Mr Iqbal had been suspended since last week.

The probe found “conclusive evidence that Iqbal had spent years recording Cair network meetings and passing information regarding Cair’s national advocacy work to a known anti-Muslim hate group,” a release said.

During a Wednesday briefing, group representative Whitney Siddiqi identified the group as the Investigative Project on Terrorism (IPT), led by Steve Emerson.

Cair-Ohio said “after being confronted with clear evidence of misconduct”, Mr Iqbal admitted to secretly working for the group. He has declined to comment through his lawyer, Dave Thomas.

Nabeel Raazi, who chairs the board of Cair's Columbus-Cincinnati region which Mr Iqbal had led since 2018, called it a “betrayal and incredible violation of trust".

Ms Siddiqi said IPT has a history of spreading “hate, vitriol and anti-Islamic misinformation”, which includes calling Cair itself a terrorist organisation.

“We know this is heartbreaking. We know it's shocking,” Ms Siddiqi said.

“We know it is honestly a feeling that many of us can't describe right now. But our work to protect Muslims, to defend Muslims transcends any one individual and, if anything, this has motivated us, this has reinvigorated us to do the work that we do.”

Ms Siddiqi said local police and the FBI have been alerted to a package containing AR-15 rifle parts, discovered after Mr Iqbal’s firing on Tuesday, that had been mailed to the group's Columbus office.

The group further discovered a series of recent purchases from ammunition and gun retailers from a Cair-Ohio credit card that Mr Iqbal administered, she said.

She emphasised that the group does not know who bought the arms and declined to provide additional specifics on the purchases, including what was bought or where it is, because the group is contemplating legal action.

The organisation sent a letter to the state's Muslim community urging vigilance following the discoveries, encouraging mosques and community centres to review their security protocols “out of an abundance of caution".

Its board of directors has appointed Amina Barhumi as acting executive director and Lina Abbaoui as acting legal director.

Cair-Ohio said the probe determined Mr Iqbal, who joined Cair-Ohio in 2006, was not helped by any other employees. The group emphasised that its local assets, operations and infrastructure “are safe and secure".

Ms Siddiqi said the locks have been changed at its Columbus office, as would happen after any change in leadership and said Cair knows of no imminent threats.

Updated: December 15, 2021, 6:42 PM