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A leader of an Ohio Muslim organization was fired for spying for a hate group

Romin Iqbal (center) of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) attends a press conference at CAIR-Columbus headquarters in Columbus, Ohio, in 2018. Iqbal was terminated for sharing information about the organization to "a known anti-Muslim hate group."
Brooke LaValley
/
USA TODAY Network via Reuters
Romin Iqbal (center) of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) attends a press conference at CAIR-Columbus headquarters in Columbus, Ohio, in 2018. Iqbal was terminated for sharing information about the organization to "a known anti-Muslim hate group."

The Ohio chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations says it fired one of its top leaders after discovering he was sharing information about the organization to "a known anti-Muslim hate group."

The group's now-former Executive and Legal Director Romin Iqbal was terminated after national headquarters contacted the board of directors for CAIR-Ohio with information detailing his wrongdoing.

A forensic investigation by a third-party expert found "conclusive evidence that Iqbal had spent years secretly recording CAIR network meetings and passing confidential information regarding CAIR's national advocacy work to a known anti-Muslim hate group," CAIR-Ohio says.

"It is a complete act of betrayal," said Whitney Siddiqi, CAIR-Ohio community affairs director, said during a news conference Wednesday morning, according to WVXU. "He was sharing confidential information, audio recordings of meetings with our national leadership and emails."

When confronted with the investigation's findings, Iqbal confessed, according to CAIR-Ohio. He was allegedly working with the Investigative Project on Terrorism, an organization founded by Steven Emerson.

The group says it's focused on "radical Islamic terrorism."

But Emerson has "a history of promoting falsified information and conspiracy theories about Islam and Muslims," according to The Bridge Initiative, a Georgetown University research project on Islamophobia, and uses his group to further this effort.

Iqbal allegedly shared confidential information for years

Details of Iqbal's years-long work with Emerson's group was uncovered after CAIR's national office received information about the inner workings of the Investigative Project on Terrorism.

That information showed Emerson was monitoring remarks delivered by Muslim public figures and was still working to develop what CAIR's Executive Director Nihad Awad described as Islamophobic content.

The evidence also allegedly indicated that Emerson's group was "communicating with and providing assistance to Israeli intelligence with the office of then-Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu."

A representative for the Investigative Project on Terrorism said in a statement to NPR: "In recent days, CAIR's top executives have continued openly espousing antisemitic and anti-Israel sentiments that place the group completely out of step with American values and show that it does not represent the views of mainstream American Muslims."

The statement continued, "While the Investigative Project on Terrorism has never and will never monitor the wider American Muslim community, it will not hesitate to uncover and publicly expose radical Islamist activity on American soil by groups like CAIR, which threaten our national security."

CAIR says it received extensive evidence that Emerson and his organization had worked for years to spy on prominent mosques and Muslim American organizations by using internal staff and volunteers, the group said. That included CAIR's chapter in Columbus, Ohio.

The organization hired an outside law firm and forensic specialist to dig into the information shared with them and authenticate the evidence.

This effort uncovered Iqbal's work with Emerson and his group, CAIR's Awad said.

"For years, Mr. Iqbal was secretly sharing confidential information about our civil rights work—including surreptitiously recorded conversations, strategic plans and private emails—with anti-Muslim extremists," Awad said. "He did this in violation of his ethical duties to the organization and his moral duty to protect the Ohio Muslim community."

CAIR is continuing to investigate the situation and are potentially looking into pressing charges, Awad added.

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