When is a moderate Muslim not a moderate Muslim? How about if he is an employee of a Saudi Wahhabi organization that has been identified by the Senate Finance Committee as one of a long list of Islamic charities that “finance terrorism and perpetuate violence”?
Last month, the White House appointed Talal Eid, an imam from Quincy, Massachusetts, to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, a bipartisan panel that, according to the Boston Globe, “monitors religious freedom in countries around the world and recommends policies to the president, State Department, and Congress.” Eid is also participating in goodwill missions overseas for the State Department. Ishan Bagby, a University of Kentucky professor and member of the board of directors of the Islamic Society of North America, was pleased with the appointment: “It’s a very good sign that a mainstream, moderate Muslim leader like Imam Eid can be appointed to such a position.” Ibrahim Hooper of the Council on American Islamic Relations was pleased also, saying that Eid would bring “valuable perspective” to the Commission.
Eid was forced out of his position as imam of the Islamic Center of New England’s mosque in Quincy in July 2005, some said because he was too moderate. The Bush Administration has been determined since September 11, 2001 to find moderate Muslims with whom it could work and to whom it could show public support; unfortunately, however, in this quest it has sometimes been less discriminating than it should have been, and the case of Talal Eid is a prime example of this.
Talal Eid, reported the Globe in January 2007, “no longer has a mosque.” However, “he still has the original appointment from the Muslim World League, a theological and cultural entity in Saudi Arabia that certifies imams, that sent him to Boston in 1982.” The scrutiny from the Senate Finance Committee is just one of many things about the Muslim World League that should have raised red flags for the Administration when considering Eid’s appointment. Alex Alexiev of the Center for Security Policy told a U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Terrorism, Technology and Homeland Security in 2003 that “there is conclusive evidence from Saudi sources” that the League was “tightly controlled by the [Saudi] government.”
Given that the League’s stated purpose is to “to disseminate Islamic Dawah [proselytization] and expound the teachings of Islam,” this means that it is a vehicle for the propagation of the House of Saud’s Wahhabism, the virulent school of Islamic thought that teaches, in words that appeared on the website of the Saudi Embassy in Washington, D.C. until November 2003, that “the Muslims are required to raise the banner of Jihad in order to make the Word of Allah supreme in this world, to remove all forms of injustice and oppression, and to defend the Muslims.” Waging jihad in order to make the Word of Allah supreme in this world means fighting against non-Muslims in order to impose Islamic law, Sharia, over them. Evgenii Novikov of The Jamestown Foundation notes, moreover, that the League’s publications are “often radical and vehemently anti-American.”
Nor has the Muslim World League contented itself with promoting jihad by words alone. A jihadist who played a part in an al-Qaeda cell in Boston before 9/11, Nabil al-Marabh, claimed to have worked for the League in Pakistan; while this may have been his attempt to whitewash his record, also involved with the League in Pakistan was Mohammed Jamal Khalifa, Osama bin Laden’s brother-in-law and self-described “best friend,” who at another time worked to set up al-Qaeda front groups in the Philippines.
Does all this mean that Talal Eid is a jihadist and a supporter of Osama bin Laden? No, it doesn’t. But his connection to the Muslim World League is not the only troubling item on his resume. Eid has proposed “five solutions for the unique problems of Muslims in America,” including “the establishment of Sharî‘ah courts which would manage the family affairs of American Muslims and mediate their religious affairs within the scope of American law.”
A similar initiative to introduce Sharia courts for mediation of personal disputes and marriage cases into Canada was defeated in 2005; Muslim women’s groups spearheaded the opposition because of Sharia’s institutionalized subjugation of women. In the thick of the battle, Alia Hogben of the Canadian Council of Muslim Women declared: “We’ve had a flood of e-mails from people asking, ‘How can we help stop what is so dangerous to Muslim women?’” In introducing a motion to disallow Sharia in Quebec in 2005, legislator Fatima Houda-Pepin saw an even greater threat: “The application of Sharia in Canada is part of a strategy to isolate the Muslim community, so it will submit to an archaic vision of Islam. These demands are being pushed by groups in the minority that are using the Charter of Rights to attack the foundation of our democratic institutions.”
Will the U.S. now do what Canada drew back from doing, and introduce private Sharia courts, despite the harm they will cause Muslim women and the encouragement they will provide to establishing the Muslims in the U.S. as a separate, self-governing enclave? Apparently, if Talal Eid gets his way, yes. And that’s why he has no business being on the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom. The Bush Administration should reconsider this appointment, or at very least call upon Eid to renounce any desire to introduce Sharia in any form into U.S. law, as well as all ties to the Muslim World League. After all, George W. Bush said it best: You’re either with the terrorists or with us.