WASHINGTON, Sept. 20 (JTA) – Several Jewish groups have protested a State Department decision to invite Muslim groups that support terrorist organizations to two events promoting religious freedom. The Anti-Defamation League, the Zionist Organization of America and some religious freedom advocates objected when they saw that the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the American Muslim Council and the Muslim Public Affairs Council were invited to participate in a ceremony inaugurating the State Department’s new office of international religious freedom, as well as a meeting of its advisory committee on religious freedom abroad. The ADL, which sent a letter of protest to the State Department, said it particularly objected to the invitation to CAIR, a group that it said has condoned terrorism and served as a propaganda arm for the militant Islamic group Hamas. The ZOA objected not only to CAIR, but to the inclusion of the other two groups, which it said have also championed terrorist groups and circulated anti-Semitic views. The State Department said the two events were open to the public and that a notice was sent out to some 200 individuals and organizations that had attended previous meetings of the advisory committee. “In a public event, you cannot exclude part of the public unless they violated the law,” a State Department official said. “Attendance by groups in meetings open to the public should not be interpreted to constitute an endorsement by the department of the views of those attending the meeting,” the official added. Jess Hordes, Washington director of the Anti-Defamation League, was not satisfied with that explanation, saying there should be “some obligation” for the State Department “to scrutinize these groups that it invites.” “If the department becomes aware that certain groups’ political views are inconsistent with the very notion of religious freedom and religious liberty and engages in ethnic stereotyping, then that ought to say something to the department,” Hordes said. Morton Klein, president of the ZOA, more strongly criticized the State Department’s decision. “One does not fight terrorism by inviting groups that publicly endorse groups on the State Department terror list,” said Klein, referring to the groups’ support for Hamas. “It is appalling that the State Department would give credibility to such groups by issuing them formal invitations to conferences.” The State Department has not yet formally responded to either letter.
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