Dr. Sami Al-Arian of the University of South Florida stands accused of being a member of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ). According to the indictment that was unsealed on 20 February 2003, the PIJ "is a criminal organization whose members and associates engaged in acts of violence including murder, extortion, money laundering, fraud and misuse of visas, and operated worldwide…"
But, how can a man who has denounced terrorism repeatedly and openly be a terrorist himself? Many Muslim-Americans and Al-Arian supporters are contemplating this very question.
On the day of his arrest the Cox News Service reported that professor Al-Arian made the following statement: "I'm against targeting any civilian of any faith and any background. My opposition (to this) is strong on ethical, moral and political grounds and whoever does it -- Islamic Jihad, Hamas -- I condemn that and I would never accept that."
Does this sound like a man who is involved in terrorist activities? To many of his supporters it does not. And that is the point.
Dr. Al-Arian’s statement is structured deliberately so as to appear condemnatory. If he were truly sincere, however, he would not have focused solely on "that" – the act of targeting civilians. Instead, he would have excoriated "them" – the Islamist terror groups that target or make no effort to avoid killing innocents. He utilizes a deceptive strategy that is constrained only by the desire to support implicitly and covertly the Islamist agenda. In other words, Dr. Al-Arian continues to lie to a point short of openly condemning PIJ and Hamas. His mendacity serves to dispel any notion that he is a terrorist devotee, while he remains faithful to the agents who are responsible for these ignoble means.
It is unfortunately the case that there are many other Muslim-Americans who share Dr. Al-Arian’s visceral sympathy for Islamists and who employ similar linguistic tactics to mask their loyalties.
Representatives from organizations such as the American Muslim Council (AMC) and the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) have, like Dr. Al-Arian, assiduously and successfully courted political elites on both sides of the aisle by constructing a "moderate" façade to disguise their radical views. Surprisingly, each counts among some of its accomplishments numerous visits to the White House and private meetings with high-level Bush Administration officials.
These two organizations have masterfully embraced the dishonest technique of publicly diminishing their radical credentials by repeatedly denouncing terrorism and its various means. As a result, these Muslim-American organizations have acquired legitimacy despite serious evidence of extremist Islamist beliefs.
For instance, the AMC’s former executive director Eric Vickers (he resigned on 2/28/03) insists that the AMC does not support the use of terrorism – including suicide bombings. On 26 June 2002, Mr. Vickers told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer "We have consistently condemned acts of terrorism by any organization, whether it's by al Qaeda, [or] by Hamas… We stand opposed to that.
As is the case with Dr. Al-Arian, a declared "moderate" Muslim cannot seem to denounce "them"—i.e. groups like Al Qaeda or Hamas. In fact, Mr. Vickers appeared on MSNBC’s "Hardball with Chris Matthews in June 2002 and told host Mike Barnicle that Hamas, Hezbollah, and even Al Qaeda are involved in a "resistance movement."
In the case of MPAC, it reaffirmed on 25 February 2003 that it has "a long track record of condemning terrorism of all kinds against all people." According to MPAC, this record "has ranged from condemning an attack on a synagogue in Turkey in the 1980's to issuing several statements condemning the practice of suicide bombing, to condemning the violence at the El Al counter at LAX on July 4, 2002…"
So it should come as a surprise to some that MPAC’s executive director Salam Al-Marayati wrote the unconscionable in a June 1999 "Position Paper on U.S. Counterterrorism Policy" (Multi Media Vera International): "Hezbollah organized the bombing of the Marine barracks in Beirut in October 1983 killing 241 marines, largest number of American troops killed in a single operation... Yet 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."
Notice a pattern? It can be demonstrated quite effortlessly that Islamist after Islamist is willing to condemn forcefully: "acts" of terrorism, suicide bombings, and the targeting and killing of civilians. But nary does one witness an assault on the source of the problem: the terrorist groups that carry out such acts. Even if one were to hear such a declaration from Dr. Al-Arian and company it would not be a sufficient gesture unless it were to reinforce efforts already underway to actively support President Bush in the war on terror.
The Bush Justice Department indicted Dr. Sami Al-Arian in part for concealing his association with the PIJ in order "to obtain support from influential individuals in the United States under the guise of promoting and protecting Arab rights (Count 42)." Dr. Al-Arian was able to veil his relationship to the PIJ behind a well-manicured public patina that rested upon the acceptance of his ostensibly compassionate statements denouncing terrorism writ large.
The AMC and MPAC are engaging in a comparable strategy. It is not enough for American citizens – and one would think that Muslim-Americans would be even more sensitive to this issue -- to distance themselves rhetorically from the means employed by various terrorist entities. It seems reasonable to demand that all peace loving, loyal American citizens be willing -- at a minimum -- to denounce terrorism and specifically the purveyor’s of such evil. Anything less than that is suspect!