Nihad Awad, the national executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), faces condemnation for justifying Hamas’s Oct. 7 terrorist attack on Israel.

Who is Nihad Awad?

The White House condemned Nihad Awad, CAIR’s national executive director, for statements justifying Hamas’s Oct. 7 terrorist attack on Israel. Awad asserted that the people of Gaza have the right to self-defense, while Israel does not. In response, White House spokesperson Andrew Bates strongly condemned these comments as antisemitic.

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Awad, in a speech that recently surfaced, expressed happiness about the people of Gaza “breaking the siege” on Oct. 7 when Hamas attacked Israel, resulting in the death of 1,200 people. The White House emphasized that such remarks were abhorrent and represented unadulterated evil, echoing President Biden’s earlier condemnation of the terrorist attacks.

Bates reiterated that leaders have a responsibility to call out antisemitism wherever it appears. The White House had previously included CAIR in a listening session on Islamophobia, but CAIR was removed from an online document listing organizations dedicated to fighting antisemitism.

Awad released a statement claiming his speech was taken out of context. He argued that he condemned violence and bigotry, including Islamophobia and antisemitism. Despite Awad’s clarification, the White House’s condemnation stands, emphasizing the shocking nature of the Oct. 7 attacks and the ongoing pain experienced by families with loved ones held as hostages by Hamas.

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The controversy adds to concerns about rising antisemitism and Islamophobia following the Oct. 7 attacks. The Biden administration has consistently called for leaders to address and condemn antisemitism, emphasizing the importance of protecting civilians amid the conflict in Gaza.