By Maya Rhodan
December 15, 2015

In September, a leading Muslim-American civil rights group called for Ben Carson to drop out of the presidential race. On Tuesday, he returned the favor by calling for the State Department to investigate it as “a supporter of terrorism.”

The retired neurosurgeon first tangled with the Council on American-Islamic Relations when he said on “Meet the Press” that he does not think a Muslim should be president because Islam is incompatible with the Constitution. The group called on him to withdraw the next day.

At that time, Carson’s campaign said it was willing to meet with the group, but he took a different tack this week when he released a seven-point national security plan for defeating the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria and protecting the U.S.

The plan’s final point calls for the State Department to designate the Egyptian group the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization. Another GOP contender, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, introduced a bill in Congress that would call on the Obama Administration to do the same.

But Carson’s plan goes a step further in linking CAIR to the Muslim Brotherhood:

7. The Department of State should designate the Muslim Brotherhood and other organizations that propagate or support Islamic terrorism as terrorist organizations, and fully investigate the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) as an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood and a supporter of terrorism.

A spokesman for CAIR called Carson’s plan a desperate move, noting that he is dropping in the polls.

“Ben Carson is a failing candidate grasping at straws and seeking payback for CAIR’s previous criticism of his anti-Muslim bigotry and his lack of commitment to uphold the Constitution,” said Ibrahim Hooper, CAIR’s national communications director. “He found that Islamophobia gave him a boost in the past, so he is trying it again.”

The rest of Carson’s plan calls for Congress to formally declare war against ISIS, form a “military coalition” to fight it, establish a refugee safe zone in northeast Syria, create “a war-time emergency visa and immigration policy” and deploy the National Guard to the borders with Mexico and Canada.

Carson’s plan was released just hours before a Republican presidential debate likely to center on foreign policy questions, which some say have caused his poll numbers to drop. A recent Wall Street Journal/NBC poll found Carson had fallen from 29% support in October to just 11% on Monday.

Read Next: 8 Things to Watch for at the Las Vegas Republican Debate

 

Write to Maya Rhodan at maya.rhodan@time.com.

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