Sami al-Arian was the tenured professor at the University of South Florida in Tampa who held himself out as a pro-Palestinian activist. In the name of civil liberties, he was a celebrated opponent of Clinton-era anti-terrorist legislation. Among the organizations supporting al-Arian’s “civil liberties” crusade against the anti-terrorist legislation, David Horowitz notes, were the National Lawyers Guild, the Center for Constitutional Rights, the ACLU, the American Muslim Council and CAIR.
Palestinian Islamic Jihad was a designated terrorist organization under the law that al-Arian opposed. Al-Arian spent more than a decade lying about his involvement with the PIJ.
After the enactment of the PATRIOT Act, al-Arian was indicted as an active leader of the PIJ. The government’s 120-page indictment of al-Arian was astounding. It revealed that Al-Arian was the North American head of Palestinian Islamic Jihad and that al-Arian had been under surveillance for seven years before he was indicted. It quoted his communications with his colleagues discussing terrorist operations. Among the victims of these operations in Israel were several American citizens identified in the indictment.
Then-Attorney General John Ashcroft’s press conference announcing the indictment is accessible here. Ashcroft’s comments are a model of propriety and restraint.
The indictment itself provided an education in the modus operandi of terrorist groups such as PIJ. Yet until the reforms effected by the Patriot Act, the government had tied its hands to prevent the use of this intelligence for prosecutorial purposes.
Al-Arian’s prosecution was decried by supporters of radical Islam and by the left. Al-Arian was portrayed as a victim of political persecution by the Bush administration. His case vividly illustrated what David Horowitz calls the unholy alliance between the left and radical Islam.
Following trial the jury acquitted al-Arian on several counts and hung on the remainder. In 2006 al-Arian pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to support PIJ and was was sentenced to 57 months in prison. The unamused judge who presided over the trial and sentenced al-Arian called him a master manipulator who had looked his neighbors in the eyes and said he had nothing to do with the Palestinian Islamic Jihad: “This trial exposed that as a lie.”
In September 2004 Rashad Hussain spoke at a Muslim Student Association conference in Chicago at which he castigated al-Arian’s prosecution. Hussain condemned al-Arian’s prosecution as “a sad commentary on our legal system … a travesty of justice … [one incident in a] common pattern … of politically-motivated prosecutions.” He also characterized Hussain as the victim of “politically-motivated persecutions.” According to the Hussain, “the process that has been used [to bring the indictment] has been atrocious.”
President Obama has now designated Hussain to be his envoy to the Organization of the Islamic Conference. The OIC holds itself out as a 57-state organization (hey, that number rings a bell). Among the 57 states claimed by the OIC is the non-existent state of “Palestine” that Obama counterterrorism adviser John Brennan claims to have visited. What is the United States doing legitimizing this nefarious organization? (Bush did it!)
Confronted with a report on his comments at the conference, Hussain claimed a hazy memory and the White House issued a denial. When Josh Gerstein turned up a tape of Hussain’s comments, Hussain admitted that he himself had sought to airbrush an account of his comments from the public record and pleaded that his comments had been ill conceived or poorly formulated; he apparently wasn’t sure which. He now pronounces himself satisfied with the outcome of the al-Arian case.
It is reasonable to conclude that Hussain remembered the comments perfectly and sought to shield himself from accounting for them when they became inconvenient to him. Daveed Gartenstein-Ross argues to the contrary (and otherwise mounts a general defense of Husain). I’m with J.E. Tabler on the question of Hussain’s veracity, or lack of it. You be the judge.
When President Obama touted his appointment of Hussain to the U.S.-Islamic World Forum in Doha, Qatar, Obama expressly invoked Hussain’s devout religious adherence. Obama described Hussain as “a hafiz of the Qur’an” who “is a respected member of the American Muslim community.” (A hafiz of the Koran is someone who has memorized the Koran in Arabic.) Like Minnesota’s own Rep. Keith Ellison, Rashad Hussain embodies a variety of Islam that accommodates itself to the stringent dogmas of the left.
I thought that Hussain’s lack of veracity would cause the Obama administration to chuck him, but I was wrong. The White House stands by its man. As I wrote the last time around, however, the case of Rashad Hussain signifies. It is important in itself and for what it reveals about the Obama administration.
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