Interview with Ahmed Bedier - Fox News 2005
CAIR communications director claims that CAIR is "America's largest civil rights group"
Interview With Ahmed Bedier
Sean Hannity, Alan Colmes
COLMES: Welcome back to "Hannity & Colmes." I'm Alan Colmes. A Christian radio station in Florida has pulled an ad sponsored by the Muslim group, Council on American-Islamic Relations, or CARE [sic], claiming it didn't serve their listeners. The ad was for an event promoting dialogue between Christians and Muslims.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our world today is torn apart by mistrust and misunderstanding. We have a choice: live in ignorance much each other or work to create harmony and tolerance. The Council on American- Islamic Relations invites you to an historic dialogue between Christians and Muslims. Join us this Saturday, February 12, at USF, where renowned Christian and Islamic scholars will share their perspective about Jesus.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
COLMES: The station has declined to appear on the program but provided us with this statement: "This ad request was treated no differently than any other. It was received by a salesperson who listened to it with management and decided that it was not appropriate for our radio station audience."
Joining us now from Tampa is the Florida communications director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, Ahmed Dabir -- or Bedier, forgive me.
Mr. Bedier, thank you for being with us.
As I understand it, there was a contract signed, correct?
AHMED BEDIER, FLORIDA COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR, COUNCIL ON AMERICAN- ISLAMIC RELATIONS: Yes, that is correct.
COLMES: And they backtracked and decided not to air it. And they are claiming that it was because you were proselytizing and there was an attempt to get people to convert and that was the reason they did not want it on their air?
BEDIER: Well, that's unfortunate that they chose to do that. We explained to them that our mission and vision is not convert anyone or preach. We're not a missionary group. We're America's largest Muslim civil rights organization. And we work to foster understanding and build bridges between communities.
BEDIER: And we explained that information to them.
COLMES: Right. I looked at the mission statement, and I don't see anything that says anything about converting. And also, there are Christian and Muslim scholars, I understand, at this event to have this dialogue.
BEDIER: This event was a complete success. It was attended by hundreds of Muslims and Christians, who came together to dialogue and left with a spirit of -- a wonderful spirit of understanding. And that's what we were trying to do, foster that spirit.
COLMES: By the way, they have the right to reject an ad. It is certainly -- it is within their right. They can say, "I'm not going to take the ad" for whatever reason. They are a business. They have a right not to take it. I just don't understand their reasoning.
When CARE says the mission is to enhance understanding of Islamic -- Islam, encourage dialogue, and empower American Muslims, there's nothing in the statement about asking people to become Muslim. That's not your mission, correct?
BEDIER: No, it's not our mission, and that's what was confusing to us. And we explained that to them, and I don't really know where they're getting this idea from.
And we're trying to foster this understanding. We're America's largest civil rights group.
And we tried to let them know that we wanted them to join this effort to bring their constituents to this event so we can establish this dialogue at a time when there's a lot of misinformation going on.
COLMES: Wouldn't it be, I think, a Christian thing to do to have a dialogue to understand other faiths? What do you think their reason is, other than stated ones, for rejecting the ad?
BEDIER: Well, we live in trying times, and people have fear. And it's generated by ignorance. And that's what we wanted to reach across and try to eliminate that fear and ignorance.
And I told them, if Jesus was with us here today, he would want to talk to the Muslims. He would want to sit and eat with the Muslims and share his peace and love. And that's what's it means to be Christian. I think that's what it means to be American.
COLMES: Do you think you're being discriminated against?
BEDIER: I'm not necessarily sure if it's discrimination. I think it's really generated out of fear and ignorance. And I know that they mean well. However, again, fear can drive people to do irrational things.
HANNITY: It's Sean Hannity. I think you're jumping to conclusions here that you ought not jump to, because they've been very clear.
For example, the Church of Jesus Christ, the Latter Day Saints, LDS, they -- they said in statements that they or Jehovah's Witnesses or any other religion, they similarly would be rejected on the same grounds here. So it's because they have a particular faith.
Can you not respect their faith, their belief system and their value system they put on the radio? Why can't you just respect that and you can go elsewhere?
BEDIER: Oh, I respect that. However the situation here, they made the decision after they entered into an agreement, into a contract. They signed a contract.
HANNITY: And the contract was for $300?
BEDIER: Yes. And it's really irrelevant, the amount. It's the essence here, that they promised to commit to something. And people of faith should honor their promises.
HANNITY: Ahmed, I understand, but they didn't know the full context of your group. They feel -- their interpretation of your web site is that you're proselytizing.
Now, CARE has been known as a very controversial group over the years, correct? Didn't CARE take the position about Sheikh Rahman, the guy in the first World Trade Center bombing? Did you not take a strong position on that?
BEDIER: No, we didn't take such positions. CARE is known as America's largest civil rights organization. We're a mainstream organization. We work with all levels of the government, from the White House all the way down to the city council.
HANNITY: Did you not have a spokesman for your group at one time, a guy by the name of Royer (ph) that was on your staff that was convicted?
BEDIER: I think several years ago we had that individual in our group. And if you're inciting that somehow we're responsible for the actions or behavior of the individuals after they left our organization, that would be similar to somebody that worked for FOX five years ago and then commits a crime and FOX would be responsible for it.
HANNITY: I'm saying that the group has been known as a controversial group. You also have, and this has been well documented...
BEDIER: I would not say that we're controversial at all.
HANNITY: Well, documented, two ex-FBI counterterrorism chiefs have had some very bad things to say about your organization. I don't know them to be true.
But you cannot say that CARE is not a controversial group. It is a controversial group. The position that some had taken about Sheikh Rahman are controversial. Are you denying that?
BEDIER: I'm denying that -- what you're saying, that we're a controversial group. CARE is one of the fastest growing American organizations.
HANNITY: I don't want the spin. Did you not take controversial positions on these high-profile cases? Yes or no?
BEDIER: We are a civil rights organization, and we need to take positions...
HANNITY: You're giving me talking points. I don't want those.
COLMES: So what if you're controversial? So are we. Thank you very much for being with us tonight.
Coming up next, though, we'll bring you the very latest on a controversy that's tearing one California community apart.
Later, one former Clinton appointee has some harsh words for the former first lady. She'll be here to state her case.
And that is all coming up on "Hannity & Colmes."