Friday, February 25, 2011

CAIR Asks Rep. King to Drop Witness Linked to Massacre Group

Walid Phares is 'former official' of group implicated in 1982 massacre of Palestinians

(WASHINGTON, D.C., 2/23/2011) -- The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) today called on Rep. Peter King (R-NY) to drop a witness from upcoming congressional hearings on Muslim "radicalization" because he is a "former official" of a group implicated in the 1982 massacre of civilian men, women and children at the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps in Lebanon.

CAIR said the witness, Walid Phares, is named in an article highlighted on the website of the House Committee on Homeland Security that King chairs and which will hold next month's hearings.

In a letter sent today to Rep. King, CAIR National Executive Director Nihad Awad wrote:

"Mr. Phares is a 'former official with the Lebanese Forces, a Christian militia.' This militia was implicated, by Israel's official Kahan inquiry and other sources, in the 1982 massacre of civilian men, women and children at the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps in Lebanon. Regarding the massacre, the French news agency Agence France Presse (AFP) reported that, 'Lebanese militias, notably the Lebanese Forces, went on a killing spree.'

"In 1999, Phares' World Lebanese Organization included among its 'leading members' both 'Col. Sharbel Baraket, former deputy commander of the [South Lebanese Army], and Etienne Sakr, head of the radical Guardians of the Cedars group.'

"Until its closure in 1999, the South Lebanese Army (SLA) controlled the notorious Khiam Prison. Human Rights Watch has stated, 'It is indisputable that systematic torture occurred in Khiam.' The SLA also perpetrated atrocities such as the 1984 massacre in which its members 'fired guns and hurled hand grenades at men rounded up for questioning.'

"Similarly, Sakr's group earned 'a reputation for atrocities' during the Lebanese civil war. Responding to questions about his group's role in the Sabra and Shatila massacres, Sakr said, 'We have the full right to deal with our enemies in Lebanon in the manner we find suitable.'"

After raising concerns about another proposed witness and King's unsubstantiated allegations against the American Muslim community, Awad concluded:

"The threat of violent extremism to our nation is a profoundly serious issue. We agree with you that political correctness should not interfere in any serious investigation of threats to our nation. However, we do believe that reliable witnesses and verifiable information are crucial to properly evaluating the threat.

"We therefore respectfully request that you drop Walid Phares as a witness for your planned hearing and reiterate our request that you meet with national leaders of the American Muslim community to discuss the negative impact your hearings could have on ordinary American Muslims."

CAIR is America's largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization. Its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.


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