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Polling for Islam

The Council on American Islamic Relations has a poll on its website. But only when people answer the way they want them to.

1:30 PM, Apr 16, 2002 • By JONATHAN V. LAST
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THE COUNCIL ON AMERICAN ISLAMIC RELATIONS had a poll on its website earlier this week. The query put to viewers was whether or not Ariel Sharon should be tried from war crimes. As you can imagine, the folks at CAIR regard this as an open and shut question.

On Monday night at 10:48 P.M., Glenn Reynolds noted the poll on his blog, Instapundit. He linked to the CAIR site and noted that 513 votes had been collected and that the numbers were running against the Israeli PM--94 percent of the respondents wanted him tried for war crimes.

And then the power of the blogosphere kicked in. By 6:50 A.M. on Tuesday, 11,951 votes had registered on CAIR's poll. And now 94 percent of the votes were against trying Sharon for war crimes. Reynolds wryly noted, "I'm predicting a sudden onset of 'technical problems' in an hour or two, but I could be wrong."

He wasn't. A few hours later, the CAIR poll actually lost votes, going from more than 13,000 votes to 2,083 votes. And the results changed accordingly. From 94 percent saying "No," the new vote total had 93 percent saying "Yes."

And then, a few minutes after that, the poll disappeared from CAIR's site altogether.

Why? A CAIR spokeswoman explained that "Last night someone hacked into the site, and there was something like 11,000 entries from 1 computer." The webmaster, she continued, had purged all but one of those duplicate entries and would soon re-post the poll.

But a message posted on the CAIR site gave a grimmer accounting:

"CAIR is investigating several nefarious attempts by users trying to manipulate the votes. Thank you for your patience while we isolate and correct the problem. Please be advised that such systems that help in weighing public opinion should not be misused."

No matter which one is true--my guess is neither--their response is preposterous. No one who wants to "weigh public opinion" uses a website poll. At best, these polls are like parlor games--a way for the regular devotees of a site to get to know one another better, at worst they are tools for demagoguing--something CAIR is expert at. In fact CAIR has an entire section of their website devoted to "Action Alerts" where they inform their viewers to mass e-mail people who say things they find objectionable. They give out e-mail addresses and telephone numbers and encourage people to swamp elected officials and members of the media.

In its mission statement CAIR says that they are "dedicated to presenting an Islamic perspective on issues of importance to the American public." And with their little poll fiasco, they've certainly given us all a lesson in the "Islamic perspective."

Like Yasser Arafat, the folks at CAIR are happy to bully others with loud protests against discrimination and humiliations. Like the Saudis, they're intolerant of dissenting viewpoints. Like the Taliban, they're willing to create an "official" version of the truth to bury opinions and beliefs they don't like. And just like the Arab Muslims who believe the Mossad was behind September 11, they're nestled deep in conspiracy theories.

The Islamic perspective indeed.

Jonathan V. Last is online editor of The Weekly Standard.