On Wednesday, October 3rd, the New Jersey Department of Homeland Security is hosting its "5th Annual Counter-Terrorism Conference" titled, "Radicalization: Global Trend, Local Concern?" The conference is part of the agency's "First Responder Training" and speakers and experts are brought in to instruct department employees on various topics related to security and counter-terrorism.
In a decision that defies reason, slated to speak on a panel called "To What Extent is Radicalization a Concern in the U.S.?," is none other than Georgetown University's John Esposito, a man who has never met a radical Muslim he didn't like.
At a banquet held by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) in Dallas in August of this year, Esposito stated:
I've got to tell you, you know, I mean, Sami Al-Arian's a very good friend of mine. I remember that when his kids told me that he was supporting a Republican I just said, 'Tell your dad, as a lifelong Democrat, even though I don't always vote Democrat, he's 'gonna regret voting for a Republican. And you know, God help Sami Al-Arian in terms of this administration and any others who have to live through this.
Esposito finished his speech, telling the crowd, "One of the most impressive people I have met under fire is Sami Al-Arian." Incidentally, the banquet was in large part held to support the defendants in the current trial against the Holy Land Foundation for Relief in Development (HLF), in which the closing arguments are underway. The charity stands accused of diverting over $12 million to the terrorist group Hamas. And Esposito told the audience that his appearance at the banquet was intended to "show solidarity not only with the Holy Land Fund, but also with CAIR," and started his speech by saying, "let me begin by saying that CAIR is a phenomenal organization."
At the banquet, CAIR Chairman Parvez Ahmed unleashed the following corker, in a typical effort to conflate his organization and his favored causes as representative of all American Muslims:
It is not the Holy Land Foundation that is under fire, but it is the entire American Muslim community is under fire.
But back to Esposito: His good friend Sami pled guilty in 2006 to a "conspiracy to make or receive contributions of funds, goods or services to or for the benefit of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, a Specially Designated Terrorist."
A notorious firebrand when speaking to perceived supporters, Esposito's buddy told a crowd of Muslim supporters both "Let us damn America, let us damn Israel, let us damn their allies until death" and "The Koran is our constitution… Jihad is our path … Victory to Islam… Death to Israel… Revolution… revolution till the victory" at meetings held in support of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad.
Esposito knows this, as these videos were entered into evidence into Sami's trial. Yet as recently as last month he still refers to Sami, in front of a crowd of American Muslims at a conference held by a Muslim Brotherhood/Hamas-front group, as his "very good friend."
Additionally, Esposito has praised Muslim Brotherhood spiritual leader Yusuf al-Qaradawi as a "reformer," interested in the relationship between Islam and "democracy, pluralism and human rights." The very same Qaradawi who has sanctioned suicide bombings against American troops in Iraq, calling those who die fighting U.S. forces "martyrs," and civilians in Israel, referring to such terrorist acts as "just" and a "divine destiny."
In a perfect world, such praise and associations would be as damaging as they are damning, yet Esposito has profited tremendously from such views, endorsements and friends. In December 2005, Saudi "philanthropist" Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal donated $20 million to Georgetown University to "teach about the Islamic world to the United States." According to the Washington Post, this is what the Prince got for his money:
The Georgetown center, part of the university's School of Foreign Service, will be renamed the Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding. The $20 million will endow three faculty chairs, expand programs and academic outreach, provide scholarships for students and expand library facilities, Alwaleed said.
Center director John L. Esposito said in an interview that "a significant part of the money will be used to beef up the think tank part of what the center does."
Famously, money from Alwaleed Bin Talal comes with strings attached, not that Esposito would be bothered by such preconditions. After 9/11, then-NYC mayor Rudy Giuliani turned down a check for $10 million from the prince, after Alwaleed Bin Talal issued a press release stating that America had to "re-examine its policies in the Middle East and adopt a more balanced stance towards the Palestinian cause." Despite the prince's "generous" gift to Georgetown, his money is probably better spent elsewhere, as anyone who knows anything about Esposito would understand he hardly has to be bribed to parrot the radical Islamist/Saudi worldview.
And for those who insist that voicing skepticism and concern about the influx of Saudi money on institutions of higher learning is nothing more than "Islamophobia," not every one is fooled, including various leaders of the Australian Muslim community, as reported yesterday in The Australian, "Muslims attack $1m Saudi gift to uni":
UP to $1 million will be pumped by Saudi Arabia into an Australian university, sparking fears the money will skew its research and create sympathy for an extremist Muslim ideology espoused by al-Qai'da.
Muslim leaders and academics have attacked Queensland's Griffith University for accepting an initial $100,000 grant from the Saudi embassy, which they accused of having given cash in the past to educational institutions to improve the perception of Wahhabism - a hardline interpretation of Islam.
The Australian understands the Griffith Islamic Research Unit will in coming years receive up to $1 million from Saudi Arabia, which has injected more than $120 million into Australia's Islamic community since the 1970s for mosques, schools, scholarships and clerical salaries.
A former member of John Howard's Muslim reference board, Mustapha Kara-Ali, accused the Saudis of using their financial power to transform the landscape of Australia's Islamic community and silence criticism of Wahhabism. "They want to silence criticism of the Wahhabi establishment and its link to global terrorism and national security issues," he said.
Esposito does not share Kara-Ali's fears and wholeheartedly embraced his Saudi gift horse. But the New Jersey Department of Homeland Security should know better. During his August 2007 CAIR speech, Esposito stated, "The reality of it is there is no major significant threat in the mosques in America," and no one should expect anything other than his continued downplaying of the threat posed to the U.S. by radical Islam and its adherents. Inviting the self-described "good friend" of a convicted terrorist operative, a man who praises as a "reformer" the pro-suicide bombing spiritual head of the Muslim Brotherhood, a bought and paid for spokesman for the Wahhabist, Saudi worldview, to discuss the issues and problems associated with Islamic radicalization in the U.S. is very likely the most counter productive and wrongheaded approach yet devised by a government agency dedicated to protecting the United States.