It might be one of the few things on which Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton agree: President Obama was wrong Friday when he vetoed the "Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act."
The bill, which passed the U.S. House Sept. 9 after passing the Senate May 17, would allow Americans victimized by foreign terrorist attacks to sue countries responsible. Specifically, 9/11 victims could sue Saudi Arabia, which generated 15 of the 19 hijackers who struck the World Trade Center, Pentagon and Flight 93, which crashed in a Pennsylvania field after passengers fought back.
But in an interview with the Arabic-language Al Sharq Al Awsat, Council on American-Islamic Relations Executive Director Nihad Awad cast the legislation as an anti-Muslim attack.
The bill "is a continuation of the series of [actions] attaching terrorism to Islamic societies, the Islamic world and Islamic countries, as well as Islamic personalities, since it aims to demonize Islam," an Investigative Project on Terrorism translation of Awad's remarks said. "... so that things have reached the point of attaching the accusation of terrorism against Saudi Arabia, which is the heart of the Muslim world, and accusing it is an accusation of Muslims all over the world."
He compared the bill to campaigns against mosque construction in the United States and said it is pushed by the same ideology that "supports the campaign of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, saying that those who voted for the resolution in the Congress are those waging war on Islam and they always vote for wars and conflicts, and are exploiting the families of the victims in this crisis."
Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., co-sponsored and advocated for the bill, which enjoyed bipartisan support. In a statement, he pledged to make this President Obama's first veto to be over-ridden by Congress.
More importantly, Awad's description that the bill's supporters "are those waging war on Islam" is especially dangerous and reckless. That message, that the West is at war against Islam, is considered the most effective at radicalizing Muslims.
CAIR officials used to repeatedly invoke that message, but seemed to have backed away from it in recent years. Awad's revival was directed at an Arabic-speaking audience.
Former U.S. Sen. Bob Graham, who served as co-chairman of a congressional 9/11 inquiry, has long advocated for the release of 28 pages of his committee's report focusing on the hijackers' connections to Saudi government officials. Those pages were released in July. In a New York Times oped earlier this month, Graham said they raise more questions and advocated for the release of more investigative material still deemed classified.
His motivation for this campaign, and for supporting JASTA, had nothing to do with Muslims, he explained.
"It can mean justice for the families that have suffered so grievously. It can also mean improving our national security, which has been compromised by the extreme form of Islam that has been promoted by Saudi Arabia," Graham wrote.
President Obama claims he vetoed the bill out of concern for unintended consequences, that it might open the door to similar litigation against U.S. military and government officials in other countries and "would neither protect Americans from terrorist attacks nor improve the effectiveness of our response to such attacks."
Both Trump and Clinton said they would sign the bill if elected president, CNN reported.