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Jihad in California By: Steven Emerson
FrontPageMagazine.com | Friday, January 16, 2004

For years, the Democratic Party, in California and across America, stood for justice and decency and fairness and equality and peace. For years, the Democratic Party embodied principles and beliefs that define America, and led our nation to a better, stronger, freer day. Thus, it is deeply troubling to find that the leader of the Democratic Party in California, Art Torres, has chosen to engage in the most vicious form of demagoguery in his recent appearance before the annual convention of the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) held in Long Beach, California on December 20-21, 2003.

This is not a charge I choose to make casually. But don't take my word -- judge for yourself. So, here are Mr. Torres’ own words, quoted verbatim:

"... there has been a steady stream of attacks in the Qu'ran including specific verses taken out of context and on the Prophet. These attacks are vicious. They're mean spirited and politically motivated."

Sounds familiar, the notion of twisting the Qu'ran and attacking the Prophet Mohammed for evil purposes? This is exactly what Salman Rushdie was accused of; and as a result, a fatwa calling for Mr. Rushdie’s death was issued by Iran and supported by militant Islamic groups around the world. Bookstores were bombed. Translators of Mr. Rushdie’s book were stabbed and assassinated. Mr. Rushdie was consigned to live under the permanent threat of being executed.

But here we have the head of the Democratic Party issuing the exact same language issued by radical Islamic groups against Salman Rushdie.

And, according to Mr. Torres, who are those carrying out the attacks on the Qu'ran and the Prophet Mohammed? Well, to my unpleasant surprise, he named me and Daniel Pipes. Mr. Torres’ comments were rather chilling:

"And a second stream of attacks have been against American Muslims in particular – and this type of attack is focused on tarring the community with the label Islamist, and these attacks have been led by Daniel Pipes and Steve Emerson. We need to remember these names because they’re getting away with it, because we don’t confront them with their vitriolic hatred as implemented in our media waves…in America."

So here we have the head of the Democratic Party in California using the same exact tactics as Islamic militants used in claiming that Salman Rushdie defamed Islam. In the typically inverted and conspiratorial logic of Islamic extremists in which they are self-portrayed as the "victims" of hate crimes, Rushdie was deemed the proponent of "hatred" against Muslims. Mr. Torres invokes the exact same murderous conspiratorial logic in claiming that Daniel Pipes, a noted scholar and expert on Islamic fundamentalism, and I have been engaged in a campaign of hatred against Islam.

Indeed Mr. Torres’ demagoguery was lifted straight out of the pages of the campaign by militant Islamic groups in the United States that have attacked me ever since I produced the PBS documentary "Jihad in America" that aired in 1994. The film exposed the threat of radical Islamic groups operating under the radar screen in the United States under the guise of being Islamic "religious," "human rights" or "humanitarian" groups. Of course, it was this very deception—the ability of militant Islam to hide under the radar screen in the United States--that resulted in the mindset that allowed the devastating attacks of 9/11.

The post-9/11 designation of various Islamic "humanitarian" groups, which had previously raised more than $100 million tax-free for terrorist groups, as terrorist fronts and the post-9/11 indictments of various "mainstream" Islamic leaders for secretly operating terrorist organizations in the United States demonstrated how Islamic extremists had murderously immersed themselves for years into American society. The veneer used by Islamic terrorists and militants was the equivalent of a perfect crime: the militants and terrorists publicly claimed themselves to be the victims of "hate crimes" and of "human rights violations."

And so, whenever Islamic militants were exposed, as they were in my film, radical groups claimed that it was Islam that was under attack. It represented a deliberate deceit to have the public believe that criticism of militant Islam was the equivalent of criticizing mainstream Islam.

And so, after my documentary aired in 1994, I found myself the subject of constant attacks by militant Islamic groups that I had tarred all Muslims, that I defamed Islam, etc. Within a year after the documentary was broadcast, I was forced to go in hiding because I was informed by federal law enforcement officials of an assassination plot against me.

The incendiary language and the fabricated allegations used against me since 1994 by various radical Islamic groups were chillingly reminiscent of the language used by Art Torres. In fact, the incitement by Torres was lifted directly from the attacks against me by the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), a group created by Hamas front groups in the United States, the American Muslim Council (a Saudi created group whose leader was just indicted on secretly working for Libya in the US and who had been secretly affiliated with Hamas and Al-Qaeda leaders) and the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC).

MPAC? The very group that Mr. Torres addressed. And if anyone has even the smallest doubt as to what MPAC stands for, well then, just as Mr. Torres’ words speak volumes, so do the words by MPAC and its officials.

On September 11, 2001—the day of the devastating terrorist attacks on the Pentagon and World Trade Center—Salam al-Marayati, Executive Director and one of the Founders of MPAC, stated during an appearance on KCRW-FM's "Which Way, LA?" program that "we should put the State of Israel on the suspect list":

"If we're going to look at suspects, we should look to the groups that benefit the most from these kinds of incidents, and I think we should put the state of Israel on the suspect list because I think this diverts attention from what's happening in the Palestinian territories so that they can go on with their aggression and occupation and apartheid policies." [1]

Al-Marayati has also maintained that al-Qaeda has no American supporters. In reality, numerous American citizens have been found working with al-Qaeda, including Ali Mohammed, who worked for the American army, and Wadih El-Hage, who was Osama bin Laden’s personal secretary and was convicted for the U.S. Embassies bombing plot in Africa:

"The only known American supporter of al-Qaeda and bin Laden is John Walker Lindh…If the attorney general has any evidence that there are other supporters of al-Qaeda in our community, then that should be disclosed immediately and due process should be followed in order to preserve the civil liberties we all cherish and aim to protect. This fishing expedition will not help the war against terrorism. It will only hurt America's image abroad."[2]

In February 2003, Aslam Abdullah, Vice Chairman of MPAC , was asked about the authenticity of a threatening audio tape containing the voice of Osama Bin Laden:

"No one knows the origin of this or any other tapes. Al-Jazeera says that it received those tapes and the CIA analysts say that they have verified Bin Laden's voice. But no one gives accurate and factual information about these tapes. The world wants to know the reality of these and many other tapes. The world wants to understand the origin the validity of his statements and the legitimacy of his ideas. Moreover, the world wants to know his whereabouts.

"The US has spent billions of dollars on its war on terrorism. Yet it has so far not been able to find out the whereabouts of Bin Laden. Why? That is a big question…..

"It seems that Bin Laden serves a useful purpose for the CIA planners and Pentagon officials. They use his so-called tapes to create panic and initiate legislative or policy issues. One does not really know if these tapes are real. Technology has advanced to such an extent that everything is possible."[3]

On November 30, 2002, Aslam Abdullah participated in a question and answer session on IslamOnline.net entitled "The Truth Behind America’s War on Terrorism." His conspiratorial views on Zionism and Israel were telling:

"Those who are part of the political Zionist movement in America want to ensure that no one ever comes close to challenging their power in Washington. They want to intellectually destroy everything that endangers their interests. They know it very well that without the support of the United States or any of the world superpowers, their country, namely Israel, would not be able to pursue its apartheid and racist policies in the Middle East. They will use every means possible to ensure that American administration stays on their side. They will create false enemies, they will distort facts, they will manipulate events; and they will concoct and fabricate lies. They have taken America hostage. Americans realize that, and many in the country have started speaking up. The political Zionists want to silence them before they become louder. They realize that young Muslim Americans are in the forefront of this movement of liberating America from the influence of racist policies of political Zionists. They want to silence them. The best way to discredit Islam and Muslims and use all the propaganda tools against them."

The MPAC 2002 Annual Banquet featured Ali Mazrui, a SUNY-Binghampton professor who said:

"There is also suspicion that some members of the Bush administration in collusion with Israel are more than ready to plunge the Middle East into turmoil in the hope that the final outcome would be to the territorial advantage of Israel and the strategic advantage of the United States. All this is part of the emerging external sadism of the United States, a readiness to hurt others abroad."

In a 2001 press release, MPAC justified a Palestinian suicide bombing in Jerusalem that killed 16, including 6 children:

"[The Jerusalem bombing] is the expected bitter result of the reckless policy of Israeli assassination that did not spare children and political figures.... MPAC holds Israel responsible for this pattern of violence."[4]

Maher Hathout, MPAC’s Senior Advisor, justified the very same suicide bombing, stating:

"What happened in Jerusalem is very regrettable. It is the bitter result of the reckless policy of (Israeli Prime Minister Ariel) Sharon. And it is about time that the Israeli public should exert some pressure on their government."[5]

In a 1999 position paper, MPAC justified Hizbollah’s 1983 bombing of the Marine barracks in Lebanon (which killed 241 Marines) as a "military operation" rather than a terrorist attack:

"…this attack, for all the pain it caused, was not in a strict sense, a terrorist operation. It was a military operation, producing no civilian casualties -- exactly the kind of attack that Americans might have lauded had it been directed against Washington's enemies."[6]

In a November 1997 speech at the University of Pennsylvania, MPAC Co-Founder and Executive Director Salam Al-Marayati, refused to call Hizbollah a terrorist organization:

Question: "You mentioned Hizbollah, do you consider it to be more of a, I guess a national liberation movement or a terrorist group?"

Al-Marayati: "… I don't think any group should be judged 100% this or that, I think every group is going to have, um, its claim of liberation and resistance …there's the part that deals with the military confrontation with Israel and if you look at the numbers though, Hizbollah attacks against Israeli civilians are like a fraction of Israeli attacks against the Muslims."

During the same speech at the University of Pennsylvania in 1997, Al-Marayati justified Hamas’ existence as a political entity, and equated Hamas with the PLO in terms of social programs and "educational operations":

"Yesterday's terrorists in the Middle East are today's leaders. The PLO is the number one example of this [unclear word]. The PLO 35 years ago was considered a terrorist organization, nobody should deal with them, no terrorists can hide, so on and so forth. But they became the people in authority, in Palestine, today. So Hamas today, the way it's being viewed, is exactly how the PLO was viewed 30 years ago. And in fact, even Hamas in terms of its social and educational operations is doing exactly what the PLO was doing 35 years ago, as well as its quote unquote military operations."[7]

Finally, at the University of Pennsylvania speech in 1997, Al-Marayati equated "jihad" to the statements of Patrick Henry:

"And, the person who we think in America would epitomize jihad would be Patrick Henry, who said, ‘Give me liberty or give me death.’ That is a way of looking at the term jihad from an American perspective."[8]

MPAC Senior Advisor Maher Hathout has also supported Hizbollah attacks, calling the group’s activities "American" and apologizing for Hizbollah terrorists as simply "freedom fighters":

"Hizbollah is fighting for freedom, an organized army, limiting its operations against military people, this is a legitimate target against occupation. The whole country keeps condemning Hizbollah; I disagree with them on other issues, but on the issue of fighting to liberate their land and attacking only armed forces, this is legitimate, this is an American value - freedom and liberty."[9]

MPAC Senior Advisor Maher Hathout condemned the 1998 strike ordered by President Bill Clinton against Sudan and Afghanistan, in response to the attacks by Osama bin Laden on the US Embassies in Kenya and Tansania:

"Our country is committing acts of terrorism according to the definition. What we did is illegal, immoral, inhuman, unacceptable, stupid and un-American."[10]

MPAC signed and sponsored a petition to reinstate the assets of Hamas’ charitable front, the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development, after it was designated as a front for terrorist financing. MPAC’s petition stated:

"The Holy Land Foundation has an impeccable reputation in aiding refugees not only in Palestine, but worldwide."[11]

On October 28, 2000 rally, co-sponsored by MPAC, in Washington DC, Maher Hathout spoke:

"We did not come here to condemn the condemned atrocities committed by the apartheid state of Israel. Because butchers do what butchers do. And because what is expected from a racist apartheid is what is happening now."

While that is but a very, very small sample, you get the idea, even if, perhaps, Mr. Torres does not. Those few quotations tell us all we need to know about MPAC - and also about Mr. Torres.

What is left to be said? What can be said? That Mr. Torres chose to legitimize a group that supports Islamic terrorism and that he himself parroted the same incendiary rhetoric issued by MPAC and other extremist organizations shows that the murderous deceit that led to 9/11 is still alive and well, at least in California.

Steven Emerson is the Executive Director of the Investigative Project, the largest counter-terrorist archival data center on militant Islamic groups in the world, and the author of 5 books, the most recent (2002) being "American Jihad: The Terrorists Living Among Us." (Free Press.)


[1] Larry Stammer. "AFTER THE ATTACK. Jewish-Muslim Dialogue Newly Tested." Los Angeles Times. September 22, 2001.

[2] Lenny Savino. "Justice Dept. orders sharing of suspected terrorist list." Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service. April 13, 2002.

[3] IslamOnline interview. February 15, 2003.

[4] MPAC Press Release, "MPAC Issues Statement on August 8 Bombing in Jerusalem." August 9, 2001.

[5] "Southland man loses daughter in Jerusalem blast." NBC4.TV. Los Angeles. August 9, 2001

[6] Salam al-Marayati, "A Position Paper on U.S. Counterterrorism Policy." Page 58. Multi Media Vera International. June 1999

[7] Confidential source

[8] Salam al-Marayati at the University of Pennsylvania, November 1997 [In his speech, Marayati defined jihad as follows: "…jihad is not holy war, jihad means struggle or striving, and it has to be a legitimate struggle, a legitimate form of striving."].

[9] Maher Hathout, Speech at the National Press Club, "Afternoon Newsmakers." Event, June 18, 1998

[10] Maher Hathout, "An Immoral Response." Friday sermon at the Islamic Center of Southern California (ICSC), August 21, 1998, posted on the Voice of Islam Website.

[11] "Petition to the US government to reverse its action against Palestinian Charity." Online Petition. http://www.petitiononline.com/hlf2001/petition.html

Steven Emerson is the author of Jihad Incorporated: A Guide to Militant Islam in the US.

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