The primary season is in full swing, with the both parties seeing different winners in the Iowa Caucus and the New Hampshire primary. For the first time in more than a generation, both the Democratic and Republican party nominations are wide open. So it seems a good time to point out that what the eventual nominees say and do now in appealing to their respective bases can come back to bite them in November.
That's why it's curious to see some of the Democratic candidates courting support from Islamist organizations with a record of support for those who actively seek to thwart American interests in the Middle East.
There's no question Muslim voters should be heard in this campaign. The question is who is best to speak for them? Far be it from us to advise the candidates, but the record shows that while the Muslim American Society (MAS) may claim a deep list of registered voters—a claim we believe is highly suspect -- the baggage it carries with it can do a campaign far more harm than good.
According to the organization's Jan. 2 newsletter:
Democratic candidates Senators Joe Biden, Barack Obama, Chris Dodd, and Hillary Clinton, Cong. Dennis Kucinich, former Sen. John Edwards, and Gov. Bill Richardson, have all given MAS Freedom the opportunity for one-on-one meetings where they have expressed their solidarity with ending the wars, torture and rendition, and stated their proposed policies for immigration reform.
Biden, Richardson and Dodd no longer are candidates.
MAS was established by American-based members of the Muslim Brotherhood, a global Islamist movement with a stated long-range objective of making Shariah law "the basis controlling the affairs of state and society." As stated by Hassan al-Banna, the Brotherhood's founder, "It is the nature of Islam to dominate, not to be dominated, to impose its law on all nations and to extend its power to the entire planet." That helps explain the Muslim Brotherhood's motto: "God is our objective, the Quran is our Constitution, the Prophet is our leader, jihad is our way, and death for the sake of God is the highest of our aspirations."
While MAS officials deny any ongoing affiliation, a senior Brotherhood official played it coy just three years ago in an interview with the Chicago Tribune. "I don't want to say MAS is a [Brotherhood] entity," said Mohammed Habib in a Sept. 19, 2004 article. "This causes some security inconveniences for them in a post-Sept. 11 world."
This year, we learned what the Brotherhood sees as its ambitions in America. According to an internal memo written in 1991, "their work in America is a kind of grand Jihad 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."
It was introduced into evidence at the Hamas-support trial of the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development. The case ended in a mistrial when jurors failed to reach unanimous verdicts on most of the counts and will be retried later this year. Chances are, some cunning media consultant may remind voters about that memo as the election draws near, especially if one of the nominees is seen as cozy with a group that supports HLF and hailed the mistrial as a victory.
This kind of blind outreach already embarrassed Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine. In August, Kaine appointed MAS President Esam Omeish to a state board studying immigration reform. But Omeish was forced to step down after video shot by the IPT showed Omeish at a 2000 rally praising Palestinians for choosing "the jihad way" to liberation.
Omeish claimed the use of his own words, in full context, amounted to a smear campaign against him. But in August, Omeish wrote to a federal judge in Chicago urging leniency for a Hamas activist convicted of criminal contempt for refusing to testify before a grand jury investigating Hamas activities in the U.S.
Abdelhaleem Ashqar was defiant in advance of receiving an 11-year sentence. To testify truthfully, he said, would make him "a traitor or collaborator and that is something that I can't do and will never do as long as I live." Earlier, FBI Agent Robert Bray testified about a trove of internal Hamas materials seized from Ashqar's apartment during a raid.
In his letter, Omeish described Ashqar as "a folk legend" for his refusal to talk, even with a grant of immunity. In addition, "Never at any time did I sense a radical tone and an extremist agenda in his words or actions."
Let's be clear. Hamas is a designated foreign terrorist organization. Its ruthless campaign of suicide bombings prompted President Clinton to sign an executive order in 1995 banning any transactions with Hamas because the group was hell-bent on destroying efforts to peacefully resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
That's not the only time a senior MAS official stepped up for someone tied to Palestinian terrorist groups. MAS Freedom, the organization's political and public relations arm, is run by Mahdi Bray.
Bray was a character witness for former University of South Florida professor Sami Al-Arian who, through his attorney, acknowledges being a member of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, a smaller but equally bloodthirsty terrorist group. A jury acquitted Al-Arian on eight counts and was hung on the remaining nine counts in a 2005 trial. But he later pleaded guilty to conspiring to provide goods and services to the PIJ. Trial evidence showed Al-Arian was more than a mere PIJ member, but in fact served on its governing board.
Still, Bray called the acquittals (jurors hung on nine other counts including racketeering conspiracy) a "wonderful and tremendous victory for those of us who believe just because the government calls you a criminal and a terrorist, it does not necessarily make it true."
In addition, the MAS magazine, The American Muslim, has repeatedly published articles praising Muslim Brotherhood luminaries and referring to suicide bombings as "martyrdom operations." For example, the June 2002 issue cited Sheikh Faysal Mawlawi, deputy chairman of the European Council for Fatwa and Research saying "Martyr operations are not suicide and should not be deemed as unjustifiable means of endangering one's life."
Bray also opposed the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan following the murderous attacks of 9/11 and in 2003 said the U.S. is "the greatest purveyor of discrimination against Muslims." In 2005, Bray criticized the Philadelphia Inquirer for publishing Danish cartoons that was marked by threats against the West, Muslim riots and arson of Western embassies and even the killing of a Somali nun.
While the controversy was covered by most U.S. newspapers, the Inquirer was among few outlets to allow readers to see the images that triggered the affair. Bray called the move "pure sensationalism that reeks of religious disrespect" and had "nothing to do with free speech."
Republican candidates have lived to regret their own outreach efforts gone bad. As a presidential candidate in 2000, George W. Bush was photographed with Al-Arian even though questions about the professor's terror ties were well documented by then. And GOP operative Grover Norquist hoped to tap harness votes from the country's growing Muslim population by creating the Islamic Free Market Institute in 1998. He did so with significant financial help from Abdurahman Alamoudi, then one of America's most influential Muslim activists and head of the American Muslim Council.
Today, Alamoudi is serving a 23-year prison sentence after admitting to illegal transactions with Libya and being part of a plot to assassinate the then-Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia. Alamoudi was also found to be a long time secret financial courier for Al Qaeda while at the same time being routinely invited to the Clinton White House for receptions and meetings.
These are not isolated cases. In 2000, Tipper Gore and Hadassah Lieberman made a special last minute effort to seek Muslim votes by meeting with the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), another radical group that was derived from the Muslim Brotherhood. (In 2007, the Department of Justice designated ISNA an un-indicted co-conspirator in the case against the Holy Land Foundation, which was shut down in 2001 as a front for Hamas.
Political outreach can be a healthy thing. But there are other Muslim community leaders out there who don't take such consistent stands against American ideals and policies. Any candidate would do well to find them. To embrace the Muslim American Society and to appease their demands is the equivalent of legitimizing the Muslim Brotherhood, a group that gave birth to Al Qaeda. Hamas and the Islamic Jihad.
For more on the Muslim American Society, read the IPT's dossier.