Lori Saroya is a veteran grassroots activist who co-founded CAIR’s Minnesota chapter and was then invited to join CAIR National’s board of directors and serve as National Chapter Development Director, working directly with CAIR chapters across the country.
A one-time true believer in CAIR’s mission, Soraya discovered upon moving to Washington that the civil rights organization’s national leadership was engaged in pervasive internal civil rights violations – and actively sought to suppress attempts to address abuses.
Driven by a religious duty to oppose corruption and a commitment to ensuring good governance, Soraya tried to sound the alarm to CAIR’s board and executive director. Instead she found herself ostracized and her efforts repressed – which led her to resign. CAIR refused to pay Soraya funds due to her unless she signed an agreement not to criticize the organization publicly.
Following a recent NPR article exposing CAIR’s failure to address sexual harassment and discrimination, CAIR suddenly filed a federal defamation lawsuit against Soraya, just a few weeks after she underwent brain surgery. Soraya has filed a response to the lawsuit detailing a pattern of corruption. Backed by documentary evidence, her response reveals:
- CAIR leaders repeatedly turned a blind eye to known serial sexual harasser and abuser Hassan Shibly (head of CAIR-Florida) and tried to silence Soraya when she raised concerns.
- Discrimination by CAIR leaders based on religion and gender, with female staff and religious minorities facing abuse – including CAIR’s national leaders directly intervening to fire a Christian staffer in CAIR’s Dallas chapter.
- Irresponsible and unethical legal practices by CAIR’s General Counsel in an attempt to seek publicity, as flagged by attorneys working for CAIR’s New York chapter.
- Dereliction and negligence in financial matters, including failing to file tax returns for several years and lying about receiving funding from overseas.
- CAIR’s Executive Director has engaged in sexual harassment.
- There is a network of aggrieved former CAIR staffers who are afraid to speak publicly because of fears of legal retaliation – like the defamation lawsuit CAIR filed against Soraya.
Soraya’s filing includes several exhibits:
- Exhibit 1: Draconian NDA designed to muzzle staffers in order to keep a lid on internal abuses
- Exhibit 2: Women Coalition made of former CAIR staffers demanding accountability and resignation of Executive Director Nihad Awad
- Exhibit 3: 2016 email showing how CAIR’s national executive director gave Soraya a raise, evidence of her bona fides as an effective employee
- Exhibit 4: Internal emails from CAIR colleagues including the national executive director telling Soraya how much they appreciate her work and regretting her departure after she resigned
- Exhibit 5: Internal email exchange regarding a female Christian employee who saw her work offer as executive director for CAIR-Dallas rescinded because of her being a non-Muslim
- Exhibit 6: Internal email asking to suppress an internal letter of dissent authored by CAIR’s New York’s executive director and legal director over ethical mishandling and potentially violations in handling of a lawsuit filed by CAIR. The letter warns of the risk of getting disbarred if no remedy was pursued of stated behavior by CAIR’s national litigation director – and the potential need to report the matter to the New York Bar Association.
It seems there are additional documents beyond those included in this legal filing. In any case, the material reveals serious abuse inside a nationally-recognized civil rights organization, which in turn engaged in a cover-up to intimidate employees and board members from addressing these abuses.
Read the full response here.