Photo Credit:
Jeff Rathke, U.S. State Department Press Office Director.

The U.S. State Department acknowledged that it has asked the United Arab Emirates to explain why the Emirati Authority recently designated two American-based Muslim entities as terrorist organizations.

The admission was made by state department spokesperson Jeff Rathke, who said that “we are trying to get information on the reasons behind this decision.”


At the same time that the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) and the Muslim American Society (MAS) were placed on the list of official terrorist organizations by the UAE, another 81 other groups were similarly designated.

In a statement, CAIR said it and MAS “peacefully promote civil and democratic rights and … oppose terrorism whenever it occurs, wherever it occurs and whoever carries it out.”

And then the following exchange took place during the daily state department press briefing on Wednesday, Nov. 18:

MR. RATHKE: Yes, Arshad.

QUESTION: Can we follow up on yesterday’s question about the Council for American-Islamic Relations —


QUESTION: — and its being designated as a terrorist organization?

MR. RATHKE: That’s right. There was a question yesterday about this. So just to pick back up where we were, we have seen the report of the United Arab Emirates of a list of terrorist organizations that they have published, and we are aware that two U.S.-based groups were included on that list. The United States does not consider these U.S. organizations to be terrorist organizations. And – but we are seeking more information from the Government of the UAE about why that designation was made by them and what their background – what their information is.

QUESTION: On this point —

MR. RATHKE: Yes, Said.

QUESTION: — I know you said that you are – you’re following up with the Government of UAE. But the head of the organization is someone who really does frequent the State Department and gets invited to the White House and so on. So that basically puts them in a very difficult situation. So are you asking for an immediate kind of response as to why they were placed?

MR. RATHKE: Well, we are approaching Emirati authorities, asking for more information. I’m not going to put a timeline on it, but clearly we’ve seen this report and we’re engaging. Now, as part of our routine engagement with a broad spectrum of faith-based organizations, a range of U.S. Government officials have met with officials of the Council on American-Islamic Relations and the Muslim American Society. We at the State Department regularly meet with a wide range of faith-based groups to hear their views, even if some of their views expressed are at times controversial.

QUESTION: Okay. So I know from reports that the head of the organization, or the director of the organization, has actually traveled overseas. Is he likely to face any kind of difficulties getting back into the country because of the designation? No?

MR. RATHKE: Well, again, the United States Government does not consider these organizations to be terrorist organizations. In the exchange, Arshad is Arshad Mohammed, from Reuters, and Said is Said Arikat of Al Quds newspaper.

If that was all the U.S. State Department had to go on, it might make sense to seek clarification from the UAE as to why it felt the need to place two American entities on its official list of terrorist organizations.

But the U.S. did essentially the same thing to CAIR, at least, several years ago. In fact, two different branches of the U.S. government have already recognized that both CAIR has proven terrorist connections. It happened in the Holyland Foundation trial, in a 2009 ruling, later released to the public. In that case, a federal law enforcement officer explained, and a federal judge ultimately ruled, that CAIR was an unindicted co-conspirator with Hamas, another Muslim Brotherhood front group.


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Lori Lowenthal Marcus is a contributor to the A graduate of Harvard Law School, she previously practiced First Amendment law and taught in Philadelphia-area graduate and law schools. You can reach her by email: