The resignation two weeks ago of Mazen Asbahi, Sen. Barack Obama's Muslim outreach coordinator, sparked outrage among several self-appointed leaders of the "organized" Muslim and Arab community. Ahmed Rehab, mouthpiece for the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), claimed Asbahi was "a victim of what I would call the anti-Muslim smear and fear campaign." Not to be outdone, the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC), issued a press release titled, "In Atmosphere of Islamophobia, Obama Volunteer Steps Down Amidst Personal Attacks," which "urged both presidential campaigns to rise above post-9/11, anti-Muslim hysteria."
Now comes James Zogby, president of the Arab American Institute (AAI), on the Huffington Post website, in a post titled, "It's a Damn Shame," to make similar charges.
Zogby mentions Asbahi's connections to various organizations, ignoring the fact that they are Muslim Brotherhood-linked groups (including Asbahi's time on the board of directors of a fund operated by an unindicted co-conspirator in a Hamas-fundraising case) and laments:
This brief association appears to be the main "allegation" against Mazen. The other charge is that he, like thousands of other Muslim American students, was a student body leader of the Muslim Students Association - an established and respected religious/social group found on most U.S. campuses. But because an anti-Muslim blogger with a marked penchant for exaggeration and error has called the Muslim Students Association a "wahhabist front" - this charge against Mazen was thrown into the mix. … The combination of bigoted websites, their echo-chamber bloggers, irresponsible mainstream media outlets, and fear and ignorance about all things Arab and Muslim have produced an oppressive environment detrimental to the full political participation and empowerment of the Arab American and American Muslim communities.
For the moment, never mind that Zogby's post was picked up verbatim by the official website of the Muslim Brotherhood, http://www.ikhwanweb.com/, (see: It's a Damn Shame). In a better world, that fact alone should trouble the editors of the Huffington Post.
Also ignore for the moment Zogby's complete whitewash of the Muslim Students Association (MSA), the first organization in the U.S. founded by the Muslim Brotherhood. While obviously not every member of the MSA is radical, the MSA is certainly not merely an "established and respected religious/social group." For a sampling of what's heard at MSA conferences, see what an MSA leader told his audience at an event at Berkeley last year:
War in Iraq or Afghanistan or Osama bin Laden or Saddam Hussein. Don't ever compromise on Islam! And don't ever compromise on your Muslim brothers and sisters in which you have no evidence. Osama bin Laden- I don't know this guy. I don't know what he did. I don't know what he said. I don't know what happened. But we defend Muslim brothers and we defend our Muslim sisters to the end. Is that clear? I am not saying support terrorist acts. I am not saying any of that. I am saying generally speaking. If a man comes and robs a store – if you're going to rob the store, go ahead and rob the store, are we going to condemn him? No, you support your Muslim brothers whether it is right or wrong. When they do wrong you grab them and you slap some sense into them, you're doing wrong. You see what I am saying.
So you never compromise on your faith. You be confident in every aspect of life. In every aspect of Islam you are confident. Four wives? Yes men are allowed to have four wives within this context. Jihad? Yes Jihad! Jihad is the tightest thing in Islam. Don't compromise on these little things. Be proud of it. Why? Because Islam is a perfect religion. If you sit here and you start saying, 'Jihad is only an internal this and that,' you are compromising on your faith. (emphasis added)
Established and respected indeed. But back to Mr. Zogby. Let's take a look at his track record in a very similar case. Before 9/11, various leaders of the "organized" Muslim community had become very politically active, notably Abdurahman Alamoudi of the American Muslim Council.
In October 2000, the IPT video taped Alamoudi at a rally across the street from the White House where he announced his support for Hamas and Hezbollah. Naturally, politicians who had received campaign contributions from Alamoudi immediately returned it.
Zogby, for his part, cried foul. According to a report at the time in the New York Daily News:
Leaders regarded in some circles as moderate, such as Zogby, are labeled by some Israel supporters as radical and dangerous - little different than Hamas associate Abdurahman Alamoudi, who is about to get a refund check from the Clinton campaign - and from the Bush campaign, to which he contributed $1,000. "What's going on is a shameful hysteria campaign of McCarthyism," Zogby charged.
So according to Zogby, returning money from a supporter of Hamas and Hezbollah is "shameful hysteria," and, of course, "McCarthyism." Maybe the term "Islamophobia" wasn't invented at the time, but Zogby's remarks back then track what he's saying now, and are in line with Rehab's "anti-Muslim fear campaign" comments as well.
Of course, Alamoudi, despite Zogby's vocal support, and despite being a victim of "shameful hysteria," is serving a 23 year prison sentence for terrorism-related crimes including recruiting operatives to assassinate the then-Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia.
No one is comparing Mazen Asbahi to Alamoudi, but Zogby's reaction to both cases is highly instructive. Rather than take a critical look at Muslim Brotherhood-linked groups like the MSA or AMC, Zogby just screams "racist" and "bigot," and then prays that the person he's publicly defending isn't a bagman for a Libyan dictator or associated with an Al Qaeda assassination plot.
It's up to the editors of the Huffington Post if they want to publish material that the editors of the Muslim Brotherhood's website find appealing and useful. But Zogby's shameless propaganda and, yes, hysteria, were exposed during the Alamoudi affair. Why should anyone listen to him now?