WASHINGTON (AP) - House Republicans said Monday that Democrats should retract an offer to let the nation's largest Islamic civil liberties organization use a Capitol conference room for a seminar.
The House Republican Conference referred to the Council on American-Islamic Relations as "terrorist apologists" and called on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to cancel the forum scheduled for Tuesday.
"Democrats arrange official meeting with pro-Hamas, pro-Hezbollah group in U.S. Capitol," headlined a Conference press release carrying a Washington Times article on the planned meeting.
"It's really disappointing," said CAIR national communications director Ibrahim Hooper, that whenever there's an attack from elective officials "we don't even ask any more which party it is. It should be a concern to ordinary Republicans that the party is being viewed as a reservoir of anti-Muslim hate."
CAIR has 32 offices and chapters nationwide and in Canada and says 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."
Tuesday's seminar takes up global attitudes on Islam-West relations. It's common practice for lawmakers to authorize use of rooms in the Capitol for advocacy group meetings. The CAIR meeting was arranged by Rep. Bill Pascrell, D-N.J., in a room used by the Ways and Means Committee. The Speaker's office said it has no direct say over the room's use.
Pascrell said in a statement, "The Capitol Building is open to all Americans and should be available to encourage dialogue on the most relevant domestic and international issues of the day. My services are available to individuals and organizations that will advance productive debate regarding our nation's policies."
The Republican Conference also put out past statements by CAIR officials and several Democrats suggesting support of or links to terrorists.
But Hooper noted that the organization had launched public service ads on TV against terrorism and had worked closely with the FBI and other government agencies. CAIR officials joined President Bush in a visit to Islamic centers after the Sept. 11 attacks, he said.