The Muslim Public Affairs Council and the Council on American-Islamic Relations each have a problem. As perhaps the most prominent and effective Islamist organizations in the United States, they have distinct stylistic and ideological characteristics but work together effectively as a one-two punch. Their problem concerns two of their most prominent staffers, Edina Lekovic of MPAC and Hussam Ayloush of CAIR.
Lekovic, who serves as MPAC's communications director, appeared on CNBC's Kudlow & Company with counterterrorism specialist Steven Emerson on May 23, where they discussed a Pew Research Center poll on U.S. Muslim attitudes. The following exchange took place at the end of their segment (which can be viewed here):
STEVEN EMERSON: … this [text] is something that Ms. Edina Lekovic should be very familiar with. "When we hear someone refer to the great Mujahid …, Osama bin Laden, as a ‘terrorist,' we should defend our brother and refer to him as a freedom fighter; someone who has forsaken wealth and power to fight in Allah's cause and speak out against oppressors." This statement was made after the '98 bombing [in Kenya and Tanzania], and this was made in Al-Talib magazine.
EDINA LEKOVIC: That's absolutely absurd.
EMERSON: And that was Edina's—she was editor of the Al-Talib magazine when this statement was made.
LEKOVIC: Absolutely no. No, I was not. These are lies.
EMERSON: That's not a lie! You were an editor.
LEKOVIC: No, these are absolute mischaracterizations. Mr. Emerson, your research is—your research is sloppy.
EMERSON: No, you were managing editor of the newspaper.
LEKOVIC: Your research is sloppy.
EMERSON: No. Were you not a managing editor of that newspaper?
LEKOVIC: And for you to—no. No, I was not.
EMERSON: You were not?
LEKOVIC: For your research...
EMERSON: You were not on the byline as a managing editor?
LEKOVIC: For your research—for your research to point out and to conduct this kind of character assassination is quite ridiculous.
EMERSON: Wait. Edina, were you a managing editor?
LEKOVIC: What we are talking about here...
EMERSON: Edina, were you a managing editor of Al-Talib magazine?
LEKOVIC: I was a student at UCLA and I was the editor of the Daily Bruin.
LAWRENCE KUDLOW: All right, we're going to have to leave—we ‘re going to have to leave it there.
LEKOVIC: So that was the campus newspaper. What we're talking about here. …
Later in the day, Emerson provided evidence of his claim at "MPAC in Denial about Radicalization of Muslim Youth?":
in July 1999, she is clearly listed as the Managing Editor of Al-Talib, in the upper right hand corner. This column was published almost a full year after the Embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania. At this point, the role of Bin-Laden in these bombings was widely and publicly known.
Do click on the link to the July 1999 issue of Al-Talib: The Muslim Newsmagazine at UCLA. The masthead clearly lists Edina Lekovic as one of its two managing editors. And the text, written by "The Al-Talib staff," contains the passage Emerson quoted: "When we hear someone refer to the great Mujahid …, Osama bin Laden, as a ‘terrorist,' we should defend our brother and refer to him as a freedom fighter."
Left, the mastehead of Al-Talib's July 1999 issue. Right, the section of text praising Osama bin Laden.
Such sentiments come as less than a total surprise, for Al-Talib has linked to an Al-Qaeda website, http://www.qoqaz.com/, and is published by the branch of the Muslim Student Association at the University of California at Los Angeles. (Writing in the Middle East Quarterly, Jonathan Dowd-Gailey called the MSA a voice "espousing Wahhabism, anti-Americanism, and anti-Semitism, agitating aggressively against U.S. Middle East policy, and expressing solidarity with militant Islamist ideologies.")
Two days after the CNBC show, Lekovic sent a long, angry e-mail to Emerson in which she announces that in "no way" does she now support the sentiments in that editorial, concedes having "briefly" worked for Al-Talib, and claims her name appears on that masthead due to a "printing mistake."
Oh really? Unfortunately for Lekovic, Emerson has a back run of Al-Talib issues. Between October 1997 and May 2002, it turns out, her name appears at least eleven other times on the masthead, in such capacities as "managing editor," "assistant editor," "copy editor," "writer," or the recipient of "special thanks." And some issues of the magazine, it turns out, contain other noteworthy views.
- Lekovic is listed as assistant editor of the September 1999 issue in which an article, "Shaykh ‘Umar ‘Abd al-Rahman – Tortured in Prison Cell," claims the Blind Sheikh was "falsely accused" of having a role in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.
- She is listed as managing editor of the May 1999 issue in which an article on "Commercialization of the Holocaust" states that "of course there are libraries of compelling evidence to indicate that the numbers, accounts, and narratives [of the Holocaust] are either exaggerated, or in some cases, wholly imaginary."
The mastheads reveal further connections between MPAC and Al-Talib. The December 1997 issue, for example, lists Aslam Abdullah, MPAC's former vice chairman, as a writer while extending "special thanks" to Maher Hathout, MPAC's senior advisor.
So, MPAC, what now? After Edina Lekovic's disgrace, her remaining on your staff means you implicitly endorse her fabrications, you call Osama bin Laden a "freedom fighter," you exonerate the Blind Sheikh, and you promote Holocaust minimization.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations comes into the picture because that July 1999 Al-Talib masthead also conveys "special thanks" to Hussam Ayloush, long-time head of its southern California office. What now, CAIR? This information connects you too to denying bin Laden's terrorism; do, please, explain Ayloush's role in the July 1999 issue.
That these two individuals work in leading positions for MPAC and CAIR reveals those organizations' true nature, one usually hidden from gullible Westerners. Now exposed, if these tainted employees stay on, they implicate their institutions in lies, in bin Laden adulation, Blind Sheikh exculpation, and Holocaust minimization. Let us watch to see the next moves.
June 4, 2007 update: Far from disassociating itself from Edina Lekovic, MPAC defends her and attacks Emerson (and peripherally me) for impugning her integrity in a reply posted on its website, "Stop Changing the Subject, Mr. Emerson." The MPAC defense consists of justifying Lekovic's falsehood on television and then establishing how she was not responsible for the contents of Al-Talib during the years she was associated with that magazine.
Lekovic denied being editor of Al-Talib and then denied being managing editor of Al-Talib. In point of fact, Lekovic never served as editor but did serve as managing editor for three quarterly issues during her senior year at UCLA (Sept 1998 - June 1999). The role Lekovic played at Al-Talib was peripheral at best, insignificant enough that she simply did not recall it when she was asked about it on CNBC. How many people can recall with clarity all the things they did while they were in college? Her greatest mistake - an embarrassing memory lapse after having mud slung at her by Emerson on national television.
Put differently, how many of us remember if we were editor of a journal in 1998-99? Actually, I rather vividly remember that I was editor of the Middle East Quarterly during that year. Denial makes much more sense to me than forgetfulness.
Lekovic served as managing editor during her senior year in order to provide advice and input that could improve the quality of the publication, and to push for more productive discourse in its editorial content. She did not play a significant role in the day-to-day operations of the magazine. As any journalist knows, a managing editor does not have final say in any editorial decisions.
No, but she was associated with a magazine that was writing eulogies to bin Laden, and did not disassociate herself from it.
Cutting through the hyperventilation, MPAC wants to have its cake and eat it too - hire an editor from a pro-bin Laden magazine and profess itself and her to be moderates. I find that unacceptable.
Incidentally, there's been no word from CAIR in response to my article, but given the news today of its being listed as an unindicted co-conspirator in a criminal case concerning the funding of Hamas, its hands are understandably full.
June 8, 2007 update: In "MPAC: Who's Changing the Subject?" Steven Emerson shreds MPAC's attempt to minimize what role Lekovic had at Al-Talib by
claiming that, despite her position as managing editor, she had no control over the published articles. While this could be true, what is undeniable is that Mrs. Lekovic never publicly distanced herself from either the article glorifying Bin Laden or from the publication itself. If Ms. Lekovic was genuinely outraged by the article she should have resigned from the paper and made her disagreement with such outrageous views public either in al Talib itself or in any other venue. Of course, none of that happened. To remind you, she even proudly proclaimed her affiliation with al-Talib in an official MPAC bio a few months after 9-11. (See page 6) Ms. Lekovic continued to be involved in the activities of al Talib for three more years after her graduation, yet never condemned the al Talib articles until publicly challenged by me.