Hussam Ayloush, the longstanding leader of the Greater Los Angeles chapter for the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-GLA), wrote a blistering attack against the American government on Friday, a day after Independence Day, before flying to Turkey to begin a whitewashed spiritual social media travelogue.
Ayloush published to his Facebook page, “As someone who grew up through wars, occupation, loss of loved ones, being displaced, and enduring bloody dictators, I truly appreciate freedom. But how can I celebrate our Independence Day when migrants and their children are abused in our US concentration camps and denied freedom? Or when our tax money funds the denial of freedom to Palestinians and Egyptians? Or when our weapons wage the UAE/Saudi war on Yemeni lives and freedom? My freedom is not complete until everyone else is free.”
Ayloush curiously did not mention Turkey among the list of repressive Middle Eastern states, despite Ankara’s growing reputation for jailing journalists and political prisoners.
Two days later on July 7, Ayloush played tour guide, streaming live on Facebook for just over two-and-a-half minutes outside at “Istanbul's newest and one of its most beautiful mosques, Camlica Camii.”
Ayloush then streamed another minute-and-a-half once inside the mosque, declaring, “The inside of the new Camlica Masjid in Istanbul is just breathtaking. Masha Allah. May Allah bless everyone involved in making that amazing project possible.”
Ayloush would later report that one of his taxi drivers claimed to love an American leader. He reports, “I cringed, thinking: Please don't make it be Trump.” The driver then supposedly said, “Malcolm X, A brave and principled leader.”
If Ayloush is really as committed to the principle that “freedom is not complete until everyone else is free,” then how can he be idyllically chronicling his mosque tour while the state he is in engages in appalling torture and rape of its political prisoners?
In 2016, The Independent published an article claiming that “Torture has returned to Turkey under Erdogan.” Ann Hannah wrote, “The European Court of Human Rights has frequently found Turkey to be in breach of the absolute ban on torture and our clients at Freedom from Torture are living proof that it continues to take place under Erdogan’s government.” Hannah revealed that doctors with Freedom from Torture had documented beatings, electrocutions, rape, and sexual torture — all utilized during interrogations about political activity.
In 2017, Safak Pavey, a member of the Turkish Parliament and the Republican People’s Party, wrote in The New York Times about what he’d discovered since having to become “a specialist in the Turkish prison system.” He noted that 38,000 real criminals — fraudsters, rapists, and thieves — had to be released to make room for journalists and political prisoners. He describes coerced interrogations, where prisoners are beaten with batons until signing confessions.
On July 9, Ayloush made clear his support for the Erdogan regime and his lack of concern for those oppressed within it: “Appreciating Turkey's beauty and stability cannot be complete without recognizing the brave citizens who sacrificed their lives to oppose the military coup attempt and protect their country's freedom and democracy in July of 2016. May Allah accept them as Shuhada'.”
Ayloush’s whirlwind tour again shows the increasingly cozy relationship demonstrated in recent years between American Islamists and the Muslim Brotherhood-backing Erdogan regime. Other noteworthy examples include Turkey pushing propaganda at last year’s Muslim American Society West Coast convention and Turkey indoctrinating California Muslim children with an Erdogan political campaign song.
Ayloush’s decision to criticize the U.S. the day after Independence Day while celebrating the increasingly authoritarian Turkey once again raises serious questions about Ayloush and CAIR’s commitment to freedom and human rights.