Updated May11: The Muslim American Society issued a statement retracting the comments detailed in the story below. The comments do "not represent in any way the position of the Muslim American Society and its leadership," the statement from MAS President Ahmed El Bendary said. "We are investigating the matter internally to prevent this from happening again. MAS apologizes to all for the confusion and aggravation this incident has caused."
A leader of a major American Muslim organization, the Muslim American Society (MAS), is arguing that there "was nothing wrong with" Osama bin Laden's dream of creating a renewed Caliphate. Khalilah Sabra's comments are the most recent and worrisome from the group, which has a long history of defending alleged terrorists.
Sabra, the director of the North Carolina branch of MAS' Freedom Foundation, made the statement in a sometimes disjointed article entitled "Agreeing to Disagree About the Death of Osama Bin Laden" that was released Wednesday under the MAS logo. The statement aligns more with a period of Sabra's life in the late 1980s, when she traveled to Afghanistan with bin Laden's predecessor, Abdullah Azzam, to provide aid to the mujahideen fighting the Soviet Union.
Her statement doesn't defend bin Laden's terror attack on 9/11. But it does laud his vision of an Islamic state and his desire to "liberate" the Afghani people.
"He was a visionary who believed in the possibility of an Islamic state in Afghanistan and the possibility that this thing might someday be," Sabra wrote. "There was nothing wrong with that dream, even if it differs from that one that all Americans have here for themselves."
In 1997, bin Laden described his vision of a Muslim leader "who can unite them and establish the 'pious caliphate.' The pious caliphate will start from Afghanistan" and spread from there.
Bin Laden "was not the same man who came to fight against the occupation" by the Russian army, she wrote, but still cast his example in positive terms: "With his wealth and ability, he could have done almost anything he wanted to do. At that time he supported the anti-occupation forces by providing housing for the thousands of volunteers who converged on the small border town on the edge of Pakistan. At that time, Osama Bin Laden cared unrelentingly about the Afghan Muslim children in the same way he cared about his own children, and believed in the right to liberate the Afghan people from their Russian aggressors, who raped innocent women and who tried to destroy the country in order to control a country they did not have rights over."
Other MAS officials have expressed more supportive statements about bin Laden's death.
"Bin Laden was not a Muslim leader; he was a mass murderer of Muslims," said MAS President Ahmad El Bendary. "Indeed, al Qaeda has slaughtered scores of Muslims in many countries, including our own. We concur with the president that his demise should be welcomed by all who believe in peace and human dignity."
MAS was founded as an arm of the Muslim Brotherhood in the United States and has a record of supporting alleged terrorists and terror financiers. Three of its founders were listed in a telephone book of American Muslim Brotherhood leaders.
Several Brotherhood leaders have denounced the U.S. raid killing bin Laden, referring to bin Laden with the honorary term "sheik," and defending "resistance" against American forces in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Other MAS leaders have defended violence. The Investigative Project on Terrorism captured former President Esam Omeish on videotape at a 2000 rally praising Palestinians for knowing "the jihad way is the way to liberate your land."
Similarly, the head of MAS's political wing, the MAS Freedom Foundation can be seen raising a fist in agreement at a separate 2000 rally in response to a call to show support for Hamas and Hizballah. In addition, Mahdi Bray traveled to Egypt in 2008 to attend a vigil in support of Brotherhood officials on trial.
Bray and his organization have backed a series of alleged terrorists and terror financiers over the years. Among them, Abdurrahman Alamoudi, who pleaded guilty to illegal financial transactions with Libya and aiding a plot to assassinate a Saudi crown prince; and Sami Al-Arian, a member of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad's governing board.
Both cases were dismissed by MAS as trumped-up cases of anti-Muslim bias by the government.
Sabra exhibited that reflexive response following the 2009 indictment of North Carolina Muslim convert Daniel Patrick Boyd and six other men. Boyd was accused of being leader the group – which included two of his sons – in a desire to wage jihad against American soldiers abroad and talked of striking targets in America when their original plan failed to materialize. Though officials had an insider and recordings, Sabra cast the case as "an illusion. Either the defendants have created an illusion, or the agents have created an illusion, but the reality has yet to be seen."
In February, Boyd pleaded guilty to conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists and conspiracy to murder, kidnap, maim, and injure persons in a foreign country.
Sabra has said she met Boyd in Afghanistan 20 years earlier, during the fight against the Russians. That's when bin Laden attracted the "thousands of volunteers" Sabra mentions in her article.
They became the core of al-Qaida and the leadership of terrorist organizations around the world. Sabra's connection to these volunteering mujahideen, or holy warriors, dates back to her own experiences working for bin Laden's predecessor, jihadist ideologue Abdullah Yusuf Azzam.
Azzam spoke at Sabra's mosque near UCLA in 1988, a 2008 article in Gulf Times reported. "Sabra was
impressed and eventually agreed to go with him to Afghanistan," the article said. "For about a year, Sabra lived in Peshawar, Pakistan, and made regular trips to nearby Afghan refugee camps."
Azzam is considered a founding father both of Hamas and of al-Qaida. The Gulf Times article describes him as "the godfather of jihad."
In her article, Sabra lamented the price Muslims have paid for bin Laden's terror, including a rise in anti-Muslim sentiment, the Patriot Act and the creation of the Department of Homeland Security.
"Osama Bin Laden singlehandedly undid some of the most significant Islamic work done in America," she wrote, "and disseminated the rights of Muslims here and forced the world to ignore the rights of our other brothers and sisters on the other side of the world. He knew there was a price to pay for his actions and ideas. He paid. I do not believe that any human being relished the terror and the loss of blood that came with his death, but most believe he would not have wanted to be arrested, brought to America and tried in our courts of law. In the end, he died on his own terms."