CAIR's Leaders Hit With Sexual Harassment Allegations

Nihad Awad (Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images)
January 25, 2024

A former employee of a controversial anti-Israel group is suing the organization and alleging its leaders engaged in sexual harassment.

Lori Saroya, who worked for the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) in Minnesota, filed a defamation lawsuit last week against the organization in which she claimed she brought forth complaints of sexual assault and harassment against CAIR leaders, the New York Post reported Thursday. She claimed that one leader "engaged in a pattern of unwelcome and highly inappropriate conduct" toward her and that she left CAIR after asking the group to look into the complaints.

Saroya, who now serves on the city council in Blaine, Minn., filed the suit in response to a January 2022 press release from CAIR that accused her of "cyberstalking." In response to the alleged misconduct, the group had filed a 2021 suit against her.

"After enduring this obsessive and destructive cyberstalking for years, we decided to file a defamation lawsuit against Lori in 2021 to expose the truth and protect our team in a court of law, where the truth matters," CAIR's board of directors wrote in the lengthy message.

The group eventually dismissed the suit almost two years ago, according to the Post. Saroya claimed that the press release from CAIR appeared in job interviews, resulting in her not receiving offers.

"CAIR’s defamatory statements about me were intended to intimidate not just me but others like me. The purpose of this lawsuit is to hold CAIR and its leadership to account—something which has been much too long in coming," she told the outlet, adding that she could not comment on much else while her legal case was pending.

She added that the organization has an "unfortunate record of sanctioning and indulging serious allegations of sexual harassment and discrimination within its organization, retaliating against women who raise these issues and engaging in profoundly dishonest conduct vis a vis the public, the Muslim-American Community and even its own Board."

CAIR forwarded the January 2022 statement to the Post when reached for comment.

Saroya's lawsuit comes months after CAIR executive director Nihad Awad said he was "happy to see" Gazans "break the siege" on Oct. 7, arguing that "the people of Gaza have the right to self-defense, have the right to defend themselves." After Awad's November remarks surfaced the next month, the White House disavowed the organization and removed its name from a fact sheet discussing the administration's strategy to fight anti-Semitism.