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Deserting Darfur By: Steven Emerson
FrontPageMagazine.com | Thursday, February 08, 2007

As the genocide in the Darfur region of western Sudan continues unabated -- the United Nations conservatively estimates more than 200,000 dead and 2 million displaced in the conflict between the government-backed janjaweed militias and the mainly Muslim African tribespeople[1] -- the reaction of Western powers has been shamefully timid. But it seems downright heroic next to the disgraceful response of many self-proclaimed Muslim civil rights groups.

Although foreign military intervention seems highly unlikely given the current political climate, many individuals and governments are taking steps to pressure Khartoum to end the slaughter. One such step, taken by the Virginia State General Assembly, is the introduction of legislation to divest the state’s pension fund from companies conducting business with Sudan – a courageous, if only symbolic step that sends a clear signal to Sudan: no longer will genocide be tolerated, in Africa or anywhere else. Six other states have already passed similar legislation; twenty-five more are slated to introduce bills this year.

One might think that all Americans could support such a strategy. But one would be very wrong. A group calling itself the Virginia Muslim Political Action Committee (VMPAC) has already issued a press release opposing the divestment legislation on the grounds that such divestment campaigns are “exclusively use[ing] economic sanctions and military interventions against Muslim countries." Never mind the fact that similar tactics have been used to fight repression in such non-Muslim countries as Cuba and North Korea. The real irony here is that the targets of the Sudanese genocide are in the main innocent Muslims.

Politicians rarely publicly stand up to Islamist pressure groups like the VMPAC. Doing so, they fear, may cause such organizations to mobilize their constituencies with a combination of fear-mongering and disinformation. One who refuses to be browbeaten is Rep. Frank Wolf, a Republican from Virginia. In response to the VMPAC’s opposition to the divestment legislation, the congressman has courageously called on the group to defend its position. In a letter to VMPAC, Wolf writes:

Your plea to the Virginia General Assembly to ask Congress and the State Department to pursue a peaceful, diplomatic response to a situation like that in Darfur is misguided … While people bicker over numbers and definitions and diplomatic strategies, families die in Darfur. … It is time for other methods of getting at this regime to halt the unspeakable violence it is exacting on the Muslim African population in Darfur. … We need to send a signal to Khartoum that America and the West will not stand silent in the face of genocide. It is your undisputable responsibility to stand up for the people of Darfur and not the Government of Sudan.

It should come as no surprise that Congressman Wolf champions the cause of Darfur. He has a long history of standing up against violence towards Muslims around the world. As he further writes to VMPAC:

In Sudan, Chechnya, China, Bosnia and Kosovo, I have spoken out in defense of poeple of the Muslim Faith .. I have been to Sudan five times, including leading the first congressional delgation to visit Darfur. I was the only Member of Congress to visit Chechnya during the fighting in 1995. When I returned, I condemed the violence against the Chechen people and called for a ceasefire ... I was one of the only Members to visit Muslim men in a Serb-run prisoner-of-war camp in Bosnia where I saw evidence of a modern-day holocaust taking place. Very early on, I began speaking out against the ethnic cleansing and cultureal genocide against the Bosnian people.

Taking the lead on ending the genocide in Darfur, where Muslims are being slaughtered is a "no brainer" for Congressman Wolf. Curiously, his position finds its most vocal opposition in self-styled Islamic "civil rights" and political organizations like the VMPAC. Which raises the question: Why would the VMPAC and its officials oppose a move by the Virginia legislature to aid Sudanese Muslims? A look at the activists behind the organization provides an answer.

VMPAC is headed by a man named Mukit Hossain. Hossain is the founder of an organization called Foundation for Appropriate and Immediate Temporary Help (FAITH). In January 2006, Wachovia bank closed the accounts of FAITH,[2] stating that certain account activity "was significantly different from that which Wachovia would expect to see in an account established for a charity."[3] FAITH’s offices are located in an office complex in Herndon, Virginia,[4] which housed a series of organizations and charities linked to radical causes, including International Institute of Islamic Thought (IIIT) – the chief American sponsor of convicted Palestinian Islamic Jihad operative Sami Al-Arian’s Tampa think tank - as well as the “Safa Group” and the SAAR Foundation, currently under federal investigation.[5] M. Yaqub Mirza of IIIT, Safa and SAAR bankrolled FAITH to the tune of $150,000 in April, 2005.[6]

In 2004, another Hossain-led organization, the Muslim American Political Action Committee (MAPAC), received nearly $10,000 from Ahmad Totonji, also of IIIT, and his wife, Susanna. The Muslim Brotherhood-linked Muslim American Society (MAS) Freedom Foundation, who once lamented the death of Hamas founder Sheikh Yassin and referred to him merely as “a quadriplegic Palestinian religious leader,”[7] honored Hossain as the “Herndon Citizen Of The Year” in 2004.[8]

Bearing this background in mind, the fact that the VMPAC is attempting to stymie efforts to end the genocide in Darfur should come as no surprise. Radical Islamic groups and Islamist apologists have long tried to distract from the carnage in Sudan both by minimizing the deadly nature of the conflict and blaming the situation on their traditional bogeyman: the Zionists.

For example, influential Muslim Brotherhood cleric Yusef Al-Qaradawi told a newspaper in Qatar, “Look for the Zionists behind every disaster. We have found their fingers in Darfur.”[9]

The Khartoum regime itself has tried to spread such ideas throughout the Muslim world in an effort to shield itself from criticism and allow its vicious campaign against Darfuris to continue uninterrupted. The Washington Post reported on Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir’s efforts, writing[10]:

Bashir blamed unnamed Zionist Jewish organizations for stoking public opposition in the United States against his government, through the organizing of nationwide protests against the violence in Darfur.

"I'm not talking about Jews," he said. "I'm talking about Zionist organizations that have motives in Sudan. They have objectives in Sudan. They want to weaken Sudan. They want to dismember Sudan."

Taking their cues from Qaradawi and Bashir, Islamist organizations in the United States are doing what they can to protect Khartoum, which endorses continued violence and genocide.

Another Islamist group, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), also has a lengthy history of opposing action against Sudan’s atrocities. In particular, CAIR has sought to shift attention away from the core issue of the conflict -- namely, that the janjaweed militia and government forces themselves have conducted a brutal and bloody ethnic-cleansing campaign, burning villages and raping and murdering inhabitants along the way -- and focus instead on conspiracy theories.

Reacting to similar Congressional legislation in response to a bloody civil war and widespread slavery in Sudan, CAIR Executive Director Nihad Awad commented, “American Muslims have grown increasingly concerned that the issue of Sudan is being used by those with anti-Islamic political or religious agendas to stereotype Islam and Muslims worldwide.”[11] Similarly, after a large rally in April 2006 on the National Mall in Washington D.C. organized by the Save Darfur Coalition, Awad remarked in a press release, “It is unfortunate that the Save Darfur Coalition chose not to list any mainstream American Muslim groups in the rally program … This disturbing omission calls into question the coalition's true agenda at the rally.”[12]

CAIR spokesman Ibrahim Hooper had previously questioned the motives of the coalition seeking to end the genocide in Darfur, “cautioning” the coalition against “allowing exploitation of the suffering to promote political or religious agendas.”[13] Both Awad and Hooper were sending a message: the Zionists are exploiting the Darfur issue to harm Muslims, while ignoring the fact that activists are obviously seeking to stop the slaughter of Muslims in Sudan by the Janjaweed and the Khartoum government.

In public statements, U.S.-based Islamist groups often go to great pains to minimize the nature of the devastation in Darfur. In a joint press release, CAIR, the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) and the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) stated that while the U.S. government has referred to the situation in Darfur as a genocide, the United Nations and Amnesty International "disagree on this point," and they warned against the "politicizing" the conflict.[14] Never mind the fact that two years earlier, United Nations Sudan coordinator Mukesh Kapila had called Darfur "the world's greatest humanitarian crisis and possibly the world's greatest humanitarian catastrophe. There has been systematic burning of villages and displacement of the population.'' The New York Times reported that, "[I]n one attack, on Feb. 27, more than 100 women were raped in the northern town of Tawilaa, Mr. Kapila said," and that Kapila "accused Arab militia of systematically attacking villages and raping women."[15]

Unfortunately, the self-appointed leaders of the American Muslim community opt to expend their efforts minimizing the tragedy and accusing others of "politicizing" the crisis as people are raped, exterminated and displaced in astonishing numbers. It is both sad and unsurprising, given their track record and ties to extremists, that VMPAC, CAIR and other organized political leaders of the Muslim community in the United States cannot agree with the common-sense positions of Congressman Wolf and work towards ending the tragedy in Darfur once and for all.


[1] http://www.cnn.com/2006/WORLD/africa/12/19/darfur.un/index.html

[2] “Closing of Muslim Charity Bank Account Causes Tension,” OMB Watch, May 16, 2006. Available at  www.ombwatch.org/article/articleview/3424/1/407?TopicID=1 (accessed on January 31, 2007).

[3] Carlyle Murphy, “Wachovia Bank Action Riles Muslim Activists,” The Washington Post, May 6, 2006, D1. Available at www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/05/05/AR2006050501574.html (accessed on January 31, 2007).

[4] Foundation for Appropriate and Immediate Temporary Help Website, “Contact.” Available at www.faithus.org/contact.htm (accessed January 31, 2007).

[5] John Mintz and Tom Jackman, “Finances Prompted Raids on Muslims,” Washington Post, March 24, 2002, A1. Available at www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn/A8858-2002Mar23 (accessed January 31, 2007).

[6] John Mintz and Tom Jackman, “Finances Prompted Raids on Muslims,” Washington Post, March 24, 2002, A1. Available at www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn/A8858-2002Mar23 (accessed January 31, 2007).

[7] “MAS Condemns the Assassination of Sheikh Yassin, Calls for Congressional Action,”  March 22, 2004, http://www.masnet.org/pressroom_release.asp?id=1064.

[8] Muslim American Society, “MAS Freedom Salutes Mukit Hossain, Herndon Citizen Of The Year,” January 13, 2004. Available at www.masnet.org/takeaction.asp?id=2072 (accessed January 31, 2007).

[9] http://www.nysun.com/article/33624

[10] Colum Lynch, “Sudan Rejects Request To Allow U.N. Troops,” September 20, 2006, Washington Post, http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/09/19/AR2006091901427.html

[11] Gamal Nkrumah, “New Law, Old Enemies,” http://weekly.ahram.org.eg/2001/539/re8.htm, June 21-27, 2001.

[12] “CAIR Asks Why No Muslim Groups To Speak At Darfur Rally; Lack of Muslim speakers calls into question rally's 'true agenda',” CAIR Press Release, April 30, 2006, http://www.cair-net.org/default.asp?Page=articleView&id=2127&theType=NR (accessed May 3, 2006).

[13] “CAIR Joins ‘Call to Action’ on Darfur Crisis,” CAIR Press Release, August 3, 2004, http://www.cair-net.org/asp/article.asp?id=1147&page=NR (accessed August 11, 2004).

[14] "National Muslim Groups Offer Approach To Darfur Crisis" May 02, 2006, http://www.mpac.org/article.php?id=146

[15] "World Briefing: Africa: Sudan: 'Greatest Humanitarian Crisis,' March 20, 2004, http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9C07E5D81131F933A15750C0A9629C8B63

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

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