There's a famously funny scene in the 1976 movie "The Pink Panther Strikes Again" in which Peter Sellers' bumbling Inspector Clouseau eyes a dog sitting near a hotel clerk. The Internet Movie Database cites the exchange as follows:
Clouseau: Does your dog bite?
Hotel Clerk: No.
Clouseau: [bowing down to pet the dog] Nice doggie.
[Dog barks and bites Clouseau in the hand]
Clouseau: I thought you said your dog did not bite!
Hotel Clerk: That is not my dog.
A recent article by Ohio blogger Patrick Poole reminded us of how Muslim American Society (MAS) Freedom Foundation director Mahdi Bray similarly told a lie while telling the truth. In December 2005, Bray issued a blanket denial that his organization's magazine, The American Muslim, published a fatwa in March 2002 condoning suicide bombings:
There is absolutely no such fatwa in the March 2002 edition of the American Muslim magazine. However, if one reads the fatwa section of our magazine, we have presented differing opinions, both literal and interpretive, by Islamic scholars throughout the world and provide a balanced view from all perspectives. In addition, the magazine carries our disclaimer that the views and opinions presented in the American Muslim magazine do not necessarily reflect the views of the magazine or the Muslim American Society.
Our views on suicide bombing are consistent, clear and unambiguous: We condemn it.
And he was right. The March 2002 printed edition of the American Muslim did not contain the fatwa. The June 2002 issue did.
In a section called "Fatwa Questions About Palestine," Sheikh Faysal Mawlawi was asked by a reader whether suicide bombings "are martyr operations and a kind of striving in Allah's Cause or not?" Mawlawi was deputy chairman of the European Council for Fatwa and Research. He cast suicide bombings as sacrificing one's "life for the Sake of performing a religious duty, which is Jihad against the enemy as scholars say…This means that martyr operations are totally different from the forbidden suicide."
Bray's disclaimer opens the possibility that this is not MAS-endorsed thinking. But their officials' own words say otherwise. Remember last fall, when MAS President Esam Omeish was forced to resign from a state immigration panel after IPT video of him from a 2000 rally showed him praising Palestinians for learning "that the jihad way is the way to liberate your land." Comments like that, in the midst of the second Intifadah, were in no way a reference to violence or terrorism, Omeish explained. He only meant "exerting full effort" and anyone who wondered otherwise was part of a smear campaign, he said.
Likewise, Mahdi Bray dismissed a videotape of him raising his fist triumphantly into the air as American Muslim Council Executive Director Abdurrahman Alamoudi acknowledged supporting both Hamas and Hizballah in 2000. It was all a big laugh, Bray claimed last fall.
You saw me pumping my fists. You didn't see me raising my hands. If they had shown the audience, you would have seen people in the audience raising their hands and falling out laughing. For him to come and make these kinds of radical rants, no one took him seriously.
No one who watched the tape linked above can take that claim seriously.
Just this month, Bray ventured to Egypt for a second time to stand in solidarity with members of the Muslim Brotherhood facing a military tribunal. He joined anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan in the protest.
"Bray's current visit to Cairo is the second," the Muslim Brotherhood reported on its own web page. "He came to Egypt several months ago to underscore his stance of rejecting referring Muslim Brotherhood leaders to the military tribunal and to monitor this military tribunal. He comes again to reiterate the same attitude while the trial is coming to a close."
MAS tries to deny that it was founded by Muslim Brotherhood members in the United States. In that 2005 Dallas Morning News op-ed denying the suicide bombing fatwa, Bray also claimed that a Chicago Tribune report that tied MAS to the Brotherhood was based upon the word of an elderly man suffering from dementia. Since then, however, we have learned that the three men who founded MAS were on the board of directors for the Muslim Brotherhood in America.
In December, federal prosecutors described MAS as "founded as the overt arm of the Muslim Brotherhood in the United States."
A trip to Egypt is a long way to go for the leader of an American civil rights organization that has no connection to the Muslim Brotherhood. But Bray isn't wavering in his denials, despite what internal Muslim Brotherhood records show.
"We are an American Muslim organization, and we don't take orders from anybody oversees," Bray recently told Cybercast News Service. "We were established in America, and we are not an overt or covert arm of the Muslim Brotherhood."
Just don't ask if his dog bites.