Muslim Organization Fires Ohio Director Romin Iqbal Due to Work With Anti-Muslim Group

The Ohio chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) fired its director, Romin Iqbal, Tuesday after an investigation found he had been passing information about the organization to an anti-Muslim group.

At a Wednesday briefing, CAIR spokeswoman Whitney Siddiqi said the group Iqbal was working with was the Investigative Project on Terrorism (IPT), a group the Islamophobia Network describes as "presenting Islam as an inherently radical, violent and antagonistic religion"

According to a press release, a yearlong investigation from an independent forensic expert found "conclusive evidence that Iqbal had spent years recording CAIR network meetings and passing information regarding CAIR's national advocacy work" to the IPT.

CAIR-Ohio added that Iqbal admitted to his involvement once he was told of all the evidence against him.

CAIR spokesperson Edward Mitchell said the Muslim rights organization sent IPT members a message to let them know the information they found and to tell them not to destroy any evidence they might have.

"We know this is heartbreaking. We know it's shocking," Siddiqi said. "We know it is honestly a feeling that many of us can't describe right now. But our work to protect Muslims, to defend Muslims transcends any one individual and, if anything, this has motivated us, this has reinvigorated us to do the work that we do."

Council on American-Islamic Relations, Romin Iqbal
The Ohio chapter of the nation's largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization has fired Romin Iqbal for ethical and professional breaches that it says include a secret association with a group that has promoted anti-Muslim views. Above, Iqbal speaks during a news conference at CAIR-Columbus headquarters in Dublin, Ohio, on July 26, 2018. Brooke LaValley/The Columbus Dispatch via AP

Iqbal had been suspended since last week. He declined comment through his attorney, Dave Thomas.

Phone and email messages were left with IPT seeking comment.

Nabeel Raazi, who chairs the board of CAIR's Columbus-Cincinnati region, which Iqbal had overseen since 2018, called it a "betrayal and incredible violation of trust."

Siddiqi said IPT has a history of spreading "hate, vitriol and anti-Islamic misinformation," including calling CAIR itself a terrorist organization.

Siddiqi said local police and the FBI have been alerted to a package containing AR-15 rifle parts that was discovered to have been mailed to the group's Columbus, Ohio, office after Iqbal's firing on Tuesday. That package is being held in a secured location, she said.

The group further discovered a series of recent purchases from ammunition and gun retailers from a CAIR-Ohio credit card that Iqbal administered, she said.

Siddiqi emphasized that the group does not know who purchased the arms, what exactly was bought or where it was sent. They were able to see the vendors and dates of the transactions but aren't sharing those because of the prospect of future legal action.

The organization sent a letter to the state's Muslim community urging vigilance in the wake of its discoveries, encouraging mosques and community centers to review their security protocols "out of an abundance of caution." Ohio is home to an estimated 200,000 Muslims.

Requests for further information were sent to the Hilliard, Ohio, police department and the FBI.

The group's board of directors has appointed Amina Barhumi acting executive director and Lina Abbaoui acting legal director.

CAIR-Ohio said the probe determined Iqbal, who joined CAIR-Ohio in 2006, wasn't helped by any other employees. The group emphasized that its local assets, operations and infrastructure "are safe and secure."

Siddiqi said the locks have been changed at its Columbus office, as would happen after any change in leadership. She said CAIR knows of no imminent threats.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.