Louay Safi, executive director of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) Leadership Development Center, is lamenting the scrutiny on Hesham Islam, the special assistant to Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England.
Islam became embroiled in controversy for allegedly referring to Army Reserve Maj. Stephen Coughlin as a "Christian zealot with a pen" in response to some of Coughlin's research into radical Islamist Jihadi ideology. Coughlin, whose Pentagon contract originally was to expire next month, now will continue his research for the Secretary of Defense. Originally, it appeared Coughlin's contract would not be renewed due to Mr. Islam's influence with Deputy Secretary England.
In an article posted on the aljazeera.com, Safi describes the attention on Mr. Islam in McCarthyite parallels, saying bigots today "hide behind the language of patriotism, and freedom is curtailed in the name of security."
Ironically, he offers his own convenient bogeyman – the dreaded Neocon:
The neo-conservative pundits, who lead a smear campaign with the aim to marginalize Muslim Americans, read from McCarthy's manual. They have repeatedly painted Muslim Americans critical of their inhumane and exploitative foreign policy agenda as disloyal. They most recently chided Deputy Secretary of Defense Gordon England for attending the annual convention of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) in 2006 and for inviting ISNA officers to visit the Pentagon. They have accused ISNA, and every other Muslim American organization of repute, of being sympathetic to terrorism for the sheer fact that these organizations have been critical of human rights violations by friendly foreign countries, including Israel, and have defended the civil rights of minorities under occupation, including the Palestinians.
Members of the Muslim American community, including main stream Muslim organizations and leaders, have come under concerted and intense attacks by neo-conservative organizations because they have expressed concerns about the dire conditions of Palestinians under occupation. Although these organizations have been subject to close scrutiny by government agencies, and have not been implicated in any violation of anti-terrorism statutes, neo-conservative pundits and organizations continue to use innuendo, spin, haft truths, and unfounded accusations to cast shadows of doubt on their loyalty and their commitment to the rules of law, and to isolate them and cut them off of political debate.
That would be horrible if true. But that's not why the Muslim organizations Safi refers to are considered questionable. It is documented facts like this. Safi's organization, ISNA, is the first organization identified on the document's last page among "A list of our organizations and the organizations of our friends," by a secret Muslim Brotherhood committee created to advance the Hamas agenda in the United States.
And what is the committee's ultimate objective? See page 21 of the same document. Remember, these aren't some wild-eyed Neocon fantasies, but the words of the committee members themselves:
The Ikhwan [Muslim Brotherhood] must understand that their work in America is a kind of grand Jihad in eliminating and destroying the Western civilization from within and "sabotaging" its miserable house by their hands and the hands of the believers so that it is eliminated and God's religion is made victorious over all other religions.
That helps explain why some people raise questions about outreach and partnership efforts by the departments of Defense, Justice and Homeland Security to a group like ISNA.
In addition to ignoring vital facts, Safi's protestations suffer from his own resume and statements. Previously, he worked as research director at the International Institute of Islamic Thought, a Herndon, Va. think-tank that provided tens of thousands of dollars to the World and Islam Studies Enterprise, a Tampa-based think tank that housed at least four members of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) governing board during the early 1990s.
In 1992, IIIT President Taha Jaber Al-Awani wrote a letter to WISE founder Sami Al-Arian invoking the names of those PIJ board members "you, brother Mazen [Al-Najjar].. brother Bashir [Nafi], brother Ramadan [Shallah, the PIJ general secretary since 1995] and Sheikh Abdel-Aziz [Odeh, the PIJ spiritual leader]. Al-Awani went on to say money was never the foundation of their relationship, and "when we make a commitment to you or try to offer, we do it for you as a group, regardless of the party of the façade you use the donation for."
The IIIT remains under investigation in Virginia for alleged terror financing of its own.
While Safi has defended WISE founder Al-Arian as another victim, a 1995 conversation, recorded by the FBI, shows Safi knew of Al-Arian's Palestinian Islamic Jihad activities in February 1995. Two weeks after President Bill Clinton signed an executive order banning any transactions with, or support of the PIJ, Safi called Al-Arian and asked whether the order affected him.
Al-Arian laughed off the order as meaningless, saying it was part of "a war waged by the Zionists. They are controlling the White House and the State Department. They are in control in the era of the Democrats." Safi then agrees, saying "He just wants to please them." "He" being President Clinton and "them" being "the Zionists."
As for Safi's defense of Hesham Islam, no one - Safi included - has offered a credible explanation for the gaping holes in Mr. Islam's life story that were exposed by Claudia Rosett. Safi again tries to sweep the issue under the rug by describing Rosett as on "staff of another neo-conservative think tank with the name of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracy. Rosett castigated Mr. Islam, a retired Navy commander who served his adopted country with distinction and pride, basically for having the audacity to reach the position of special assistant to Secretary Gordon, having been born in Egypt and having expressed critical views about Israel's policies."
That's not even close to the mark, but rather it is a transparent and typical attempt to deflect his audience's attention from the truth. Rosett's article does cite Mr. Islam's thesis about oil supplies and Iraq, but she called him out on specific biographical claims that don't add up. The Pentagon subsequently removed Mr. Islam's profile from its web site.
Safi omits these facts because they interfere with his theory that Hesham Islam personally, and ISNA organizationally, are targets of a bigoted witch hunt. It's easy to say "the neo-cons are behind it" and hope no one scratches away at that thin veneer. But his organization wants unfettered access to the halls of power. What does it say about the merits of that effort when the truth takes such a clear backseat to such a misleading and emotional outburst?