Recently, the local chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations sent a letter to all the state's school superintendents. In it, CAIR suggested that school leaders "invite members of our diverse and dynamic speakers' bureau to conduct a 'show & tell' for your class about the month of Ramadan and Eid Al-Fitr," at which the organization would gladly "provide treats to entertain and educate your students about the cultural diversity that exists in the world and in their own classroom."
When Kerry Hooks caught wind of the offer, she knew she couldn't let such an act of aggression stand.
Hooks is the Pierce County point-person for ACT! for America, a pro-Western values group founded by a Christian Lebanese lady named Brigitte Gabriel who hates Arabs almost as much she hates ACT! for America being labeled a hate group.
CAIR, the largest organization of its kind in the country, has been accused of ties to the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas. An organization with such alleged affiliations, Hooks says, has no business suggesting who gets to make guest presentations in public schools.
"This group is not acceptable to have around schoolchildren," Hooks says. "I wouldn't want a member of the Klan coming in talking about Christianity, or a Neo-Nazi coming in talking about Lutheranism."
In order to get her point across (as well as to spread alarm about, among other things, the fact that Islam gets lavish mention relative to other world religions in textbooks used in some Washington state schools), Hooks organized a town-hall meeting on Tuesday in Puyallup, attended by about 100 people. With representatives from CAIR present to take questions from the audience, Hooks magnanimously instructed those in attendance to remain "respectful and peaceful" toward their guests.
Jennifer Gist, civil-rights coordinator for CAIR in Washington state, says of the meeting that "it felt like I was in a Southern Baptist church on a Sunday. There was a lot of murmuring and amens during the presentation. And when we would speak there would be a rush of commentary."
Some in the crowd were friendly, Gist says, but others insisted that she was part of a Muslim plan to have a lot of babies and take over the country--a claim not strengthened by the fact that Gist is not herself Muslim.
The letter to the schools, authored by Gist, began by asking that Muslim students fasting for Ramadan be permitted to spend their lunch breaks in the library, and that schools refrain from scheduling exams on holidays marking the end of Ramadan and the Hajj. Gist says her group hasn't received any requests for classroom speakers--whom she points out are not paid by or officially affiliated with CAIR--but has been taken up on an offer to provide sensitivity training to school staff in Vancouver public schools.
"As we continued to reiterate in [the Puyallup] meeting," she says, "we're not requesting any kind of inequality, but that Muslims be accommodated."