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CAIR-Ohio Fires Executive Director For Allegedly Spying For An Anti-Muslim Hate Group

 Roman Iqbal, who has been fired by CAIR-Ohio for allegedly working with an anti-Muslim hate group, speaks at the Ohio Statehouse on Sept. 17, 2019.
WOSU file photo
Romin Iqbal (right) has been fired by CAIR-Ohio for allegedly working with an anti-Muslim hate group.

Updated December 15th, 2021 at 11:05 a.m.

The Ohio chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations says it has fired its executive and legal director, citing what it says is evidence he'd been spying on the organization and working with an anti-Islamic hate group.

The Columbus-Cincinnati Board of Directors for CAIR-Ohio says it terminated Executive and Legal Director Romin Iqbal after being contacted by the national headquarters of CAIR. CAIR-Ohio says in a statement that a forensic investigation by an independent, third-party expert found "conclusive evidence that Iqbal had spent years secretly recording CAIR network meetings and passing confidential information regarding CAIR's national advocacy work to a known anti-Muslim hate group." The Columbus-Cincinnati Board of Directors for CAIR-Ohio passed a resolution to terminate Iqbal on Saturday. He was notified of his termination on Tuesday.

CAIR-Ohio says Iqbal admitted to working with the hate group when confronted with the investigation's findings. When reached Wednesday morning, Iqbal referred questions to his attorney Dave Thomas, who declined comment.

CAIR-Ohio declined to name the group that Iqbal allegedly worked with, saying they didn't want to "elevate their objective with publicity." But a later statement from CAIR's national organization identified a group named the Investigative Project on Terrorism, which the CAIR statement says was founded by Steven Emerson, "a far-right extremist described as an anti-Muslim activist by the Southern Poverty Law Center." A spokesperson for CAIR-Ohio said the Investigative Project on terrorism has been known for spreading hate, vitriol, and anti-Islamic rhetoric. CAIR-Ohio said the IPT has also shared unfounded conspiracy theories that blame Muslims for at least one attack on the U.S. and has previously referred to CAIR-Ohio as a terrorist group.

The national CAIR statement accuses Emerson's group of spending years trying to infiltrate and spy upon prominent mosques and Muslim American organizations using “moles” among their staff and volunteers and providing information to Israeli intelligence officials. The statement says one of the organizations targeted was the Columbus, Ohio, chapter of CAIR.

"The report confirmed that the key evidence we received was authentic and that an employee of a local CAIR affiliate had indeed been secretly working with a hate group. That employee was Romin Iqbal of CAIR-Ohio," the statement says.

The organization says the expert's investigation concluded Iqbal was not aided by anyone else in CAIR.

Iqbal has been with CAIR-Ohio since 2006 when he was hired as an attorney. He became the group's legal director in 2014. He was elevated to the top position of executive director in 2018.

After firing Iqbal, the Columbus-Cincinnati board reports it discovered suspicious purchases from weapons retailers on his company-issued credit card. Additionally, the organization says a package containing parts for an AR-15 was mailed to CAIR-Ohio's Columbus office.

A spokesperson for CAIR-Ohio said local law enforcement and the FBI have been notified, and that they plan on taking legal action.

When asked to confirm reports of changing the locks at the organization's headquarters, a CAIR-Ohio spokesperson said that the locks have been changed as per standard protocol for a change of leadership. CAIR-Ohio said they do not have any evidence that there is any type of direct threat to their community.

Nabeel Raazi, Columbus-Cincinnati board chair for CAIR-Ohio says in a statement, "We were shocked and saddened to learn about this betrayal and incredible violation of trust. Our first priority is the safety and security of our community. We are now even more committed to defending and protecting Ohio Muslims from the anti-Muslim extremists who will clearly stop at nothing to try to harm us."

CAIR's Cincinnati, Columbus and Cleveland chapters are incorporated under the umbrella of CAIR-Ohio, however, the Cleveland chapter operates independently under its own board.

The Cincinnati and Columbus chapters merged in 2020 and have one board that oversees Cincinnati, Dayton and Columbus.

Amina Barhumi has been appointed as acting executive director and Lina Abbaoui as acting legal director for the region.

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Tana Weingartner earned a bachelor's degree in communication from the University of Cincinnati and a master's degree in mass communication from Miami University. Most recently, she served as news and public affairs producer with WMUB-FM. Ms. Weingartner has earned numerous awards for her reporting, including several Best Reporter awards from the Associated Press and the Ohio Society of Professional Journalists, and a regional Murrow Award. She served on the Ohio Associated Press Broadcasters Board of Directors from 2007 - 2009.