Muslim Groups Rally Behind Undisputed Cheerleader of Islamic Terrorism
When former college professor—and alleged terrorist—Sami
al-Arian was unexpectedly acquitted Tuesday on eight counts and
received a hung jury on the other nine, many leading Muslims could
barely contain their glee. “People are just jubilant,”
Ahmed Bedier, the Tampa chapter director of the Council on American-Islamic
Relations (CAIR), told the New York Times. The not guilty
verdicts were a “wonderful and a tremendous victory,”
according to a statement released by Muslim-American Society (MAS)
President Mahdi Bray.
many cases it might be reasonable to forgive a defendant acquitted
by a jury of his peers, it is not with al-Arian. Regardless of
whether or not the jury believed his actions constituted a specific
legal violation by acting “in furtherance of” terrorist
attacks, there is no mistaking what is in al-Arian’s heart.
As a result
of the trial, al-Arian has been forced to admit that he did, in
fact, have an intimate working relationship with Palestinian Islamic
Jihad (PIJ). Why? Because he was caught on tape coordinating with
them, again and again and again.
also admitted that he wrote a letter—which he allegedly
attempted to send, but could not do so successfully—to a
Kuwaiti legislator urging him to support the families of suicide
bombers in order to provide “support of the jihad effort
in Palestine so that [suicide] operations such as these can continue.”
He wrote the letter just weeks after President Clinton had signed
an executive order banning financial and material support of PIJ.
Again, this is only known because the government introduced it
as evidence during trial.
al-Arian, though, has long pre-dated the six-month trial. Then
again, so has the evidence against him.
to September 1995, the Tampa Tribune wrote dozens of
articles investigating al-Arian’s affiliations with terrorist
organizations and leading terrorists themselves. While the university
severed its relationships with the think tanks founded by al-Arian,
it did not attempt to fire him. That only happened after 9/11—in
a much different political environment.
the 90’s, the body of evidence against al-Arian grew. An
organization he founded, the Islamic Conference of Palestine (ICP)
hosted an annual conference that played host to what the Tampa
Tribune dubbed a “militant all-star team”: Islamic
Jihad founder Abdel Aziz-Odeh, Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman (spiritual
leader of the 1993 World Trade Center bombers), leading Hamas
official Mohammed Sakr, and high-ranking Sudanese terrorist Hassan
Turabi. The paper also reported that ICP publications had “articles
[that] solicited contributions for the Islamic Jihad and Hamas.”
At the 1990
ICP conference, Al-Arian addressed the crowd of 200 people in
St. Louis called for “true armed jihad against the enemy
in Israel.” At an ICP conference the next year in Chicago,
the supposedly mild-mannered professor riled the crowd with a
fiery rallying cry: “Advance, advance until Jerusalem! Victory
is to Islam!”
didn’t want to stop at Jerusalem. At a Cleveland ICP conference
in 1991, he exhorted the audience to accept nothing less than
a “Palestine” that spans from “from the river
to the sea”—meaning from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean
Sea, or all of the West Bank, Gaza, and Israel. And his
bloodthirst was not confined to Jews in the Middle East. His sights
were also set on his adopted home country. In that same speech,
he said, “Let us damn America. Let us damn Israel. Let us
damn their allies until death.”
None of this
has been denied. It can’t be. Al-Arian was on candid camera
at each of these conferences, courtesy of counterorrism expert
and former journalist Steven Emerson, who first exposed Islamic
militancy in the U.S. in his PBS documentary “Jihad in America.”
Al-Arian was one of the “stars,” yet he continued
to enjoy substantial support in the Muslim community.
didn’t have to do too much to mollify his boosters. When
confronted on CBS’ 48 Hours about his saying “Death
to Israel” on camera, he lamely responded, “‘Death
to Israel’ means death to the system. It’s like saying
‘death to apartheid.’”
in the jury box or in the deliberation room, there is no way to
determine exactly why the 12 men and women decided that al-Arian’s
actions did not constitute a violation of the law. But it wasn’t
because most of the allegations weren’t true; they were.
Al-Arian’s lawyers did not deny that he was an exuberant
cheerleader of murdering innocent Jews, nor did they deny that
his inner circle included many known terrorists.
this jury felt there wasn’t enough to convict al-Arian of
providing material support for terrorism, there is more than enough
evidence for leading Muslims to know better than to embrace him.
While some organizations have stayed silent or have not been as
exuberant in their support—Muslim Public Affairs Council
Executive Director Salam Al-Marayati said simply in a statement,
“We congratulate Mr. Al-Arian and his family for enduring
this painful ordeal”—others have been less restrained.
Muslim Alliance Chairman Dr. Agha Saeed hailed the verdicts as
“'a Great Day for Justice in America,” and claimed
that the entire trial was nothing more than a “witch hunt
against [a] legitimate Muslim leader.” Saeed’s giddiness
is particularly significant, as he is also the chairman of the
American Muslim Taskforce for Civil Rights and Elections, which
is comprised of 11 national organizations, including CAIR, MPAC,
MAS, and the Islamic Society of North America.
is the long-term reaction of the politically active Muslim community
and leaders of the prominent organizations. The obvious response
would be to shun al-Arian, but the early reaction to the verdicts
is not encouraging. Almost none of the leaders of Muslim organizations
stated the self-evident truth that no matter what the jury found,
al-Arian represents the very vitriol and thirst for violence that
must be condemned.
become a hit on the Muslim speaking circuit—and he may well—then
what should be made of those who attend and the public figures
who either support or at least condone his appearances? The answer,
much like the true nature of al-Arian’s character, is obvious.
Mowbray is author of Dangerous Diplomacy: How the State Department
Threatens America's Security.