The Cable

Mystery Substance Forces Evacuation of Muslim Advocacy Group Headquarters

The headquarter of the largest Muslim advocacy group in the U.S. evacuated after letter with suspicious substance arrives.


The Capitol Hill offices of the the nation’s largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy group were evacuated Thursday after a letter arrived containing menacing language and an unknown substance.

Test determined that the substance contained in the letter delivered to the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) home base was not dangerous. As a precaution, three staffers who were exposed to the envelope were quarantined inside the building, while the rest of CAIR’s staff was semi-quarantined outside, the group said in a statement. It also said the letter contained a “hate message.”

“We receive hate messages daily because of our advocacy on behalf of the American Muslim community. It’s frightening to experience the hate manifest itself to such a real level,” CAIR attorney Maha Sayed said in a Facebook post during the evacuation. “This will not deter us from continuing to protect the civil rights and liberties of all Americans.”

The evacuation comes at a time of heightened rhetoric against Muslims in the wake of last week’s San Bernardino attacks, which left 14 dead. The FBI is investigating the shooting as a terror act. On Wednesday, FBI Director James Comey said the perpetrators, U.S. citizen Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik, his Pakistan-born wife, were radicalized years before the attack at a holiday office party.

The loudest anti-Muslim voice is Donald Trump, the 2016 Republican presidential front-runner. He’s called for a ban on Muslims entering the United States, an idea that has broadly been criticized by both Republicans and Democrats.

American views toward Muslims are divided along partisan lines. A poll released Wednesday by the Brookings Institute shows that 67 percent of Democrats have favorable views of Muslims, while only 41 percent of Republicans shared that sentiment.

The incident is reminiscent of the 2001 anthrax attacks, when letter laced with the deadly substance were sent to media organizations and congressional staffers; five people died due to anthrax exposure. On Thursday, the D.C. Fire Department responded to the scene.

According to CAIR, the letter is now in the hands of the FBI. The content of the missive is unknown, and the organization did not return a request for comment.

Photo Credit: Allison Shelley/Getty Images

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