Sen. Boxer Pulls Award to Muslim Leader

The Associated Press
Thursday, January 4, 2007; 10:56 PM

SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Sen. Barbara Boxer rescinded a certificate honoring a member of a Muslim advocacy group after his national organization was accused on conservative Web sites of supporting terrorism.

"We made a bad mistake not researching the organization," the California Democrat said. "My organization created this problem. I caused people grief, and I feel terrible. Yet I need to set the record straight, and I'm setting the record straight."

A leader of the group, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said the organization did not support terrorism and was being misrepresented because of the actions of a couple of former officials.

"Anyone who doubts where we stand on the issue of terrorism does not understand Islam, the Muslim community or CAIR," said Nihad Awad, the group's national executive director.

Basim Elkarra, executive director of the council's Sacramento chapter, received a certificate from Boxer's office in November "in recognition of (his) outstanding service." Elkarra said the award reflected his group's bridge-building efforts with Christians, Jews, minority groups and the FBI.

But Boxer's communication's director, Natalie Ravitz, sent a letter Dec. 21 withdrawing the certificate after the senator was criticized on conservative Web sites. Ravitz said that former members of the council had been sentenced to prison and that CAIR had refused to label Hamas and Hezbollah terrorist organizations.

Awad told the Sacramento Bee that the group condemns all attacks on civilians and it is unfair to hold the entire organization responsible for the actions of individuals.

David Horowitz, editor-in-chief of the Web site that first criticized Boxer, was pleased with the senator's decision. "The fact that Democrats are finally waking up is good," he told Newsweek.

© 2007 The Associated Press