THE COUNCIL on American-Islamic Relations is the largest civil-liberties group for U.S. Muslims. Based in Washington, D.C., it has about 30 chapters nationwide.

Three former officers of the Islamic Association of Palestine founded CAIR in 1994, concerned about anti-Muslim discrimination and media stereotypes.

Since then, the group has held voter registration drives,fought harassment and hate crimes, defended Muslims' right to wear head scarves and taken on retailers who sell offensive goods, such as a sneaker with a heel design similar to the Arabic word for "Allah," among other causes.

Critics claim CAIR has ties to terrorists, funds terrorism and encourages anti-American extremism. One FBI agent even called CAIR a "front group for Hamas," a Palestinian terrorist group.

CAIR and its defenders, meanwhile, deny such claims and liken the criticism to McCarthyism.

- Dana DiFilippo