No one can deny that Ahmad Al-Akhras, CAIR National Vice Chairman and Columbus, Ohio-area resident, is connected. He is one of Columbus Mayor Michael Coleman’s closest advisors, which no doubt has helped Al-Akhras get appointed to the city’s Community Relations Commission, the Street Car Working Group, and named chairman of the Transportation and Pedestrian Commission. Al-Akhras makes his living working for the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission. And as one of the first five inductees to the Leadership Columbus Hall of Fame, he circulates among the rich and powerful of the Central Ohio elite.
Some of his other friends, however, are not so fashionable; for instance, his friend Christopher Paul, who was indicted in April as part of an active al-Qaeda cell in Columbus. Paul was planning to kill Americans at European resorts and attacking US military installations overseas. Immediately after his arrest, Al-Akhras rose to Paul’s defense, as reported by the Associated Press:
“From the things I know, he is a loving husband and he has a wife and parents in town,” Al-Akhras said Thursday. “They are a good family together.”
He also told reporters that he knew Christopher Paul and that the “charges are out of character”, saying that CAIR would work to ensure that Paul’s constitutional rights were preserved. Al-Akhras may have spoken to reporters before getting the CAIR “Hey, we’re denying this time that we know the al-Qaeda guy” memo, because when CAIR-Columbus Executive Director Adnan Mirza spoke with the local NBC affiliate, mum was the official word:
Mirza said he did not know Paul, and that it’s likely that most other Muslims who attend his mosque [like Al-Akhras] don’t know him either.
This wasn’t the first time, however, that Al-Akhras had spoken publicly as a character witness for a Columbus al-Qaeda cell member. In June 2004, it was al-Qaeda operative Nuradin Abdi that Al-Akhras was defending. He told the Associated Press:
"What we know about him is unlike how he is portrayed," said Ahmad Al-Akhras, president of the Ohio office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations
Al-Akhras’ friend Abdi was charged with plotting to blow up a Columbus-area shopping mall, providing material aid to al-Qaeda, and falsifying virtually every element on his asylum application. Abdi is also accused on lying on a 1999 visa application to fly to Germany and Saudi Arabia, when in fact he was traveling to Ogaden, Ethiopia for terrorist training. Abdi’s trail on terrorism charges is scheduled for later this year.
But Ahmad Al-Akhras was ready in 2004 to issue his verdict in his friend’s case:
The (CAIR) group's leaders questioned the evidence and the timing of the announcement of charges against Abdi, noting that the FBI has dropped charges accusing others of terrorism.
"This may be one of the cases also that may not have enough evidence or there's no evidence at all," Al-Akhras said.
If Ahmad Al-Akhras’ record of standing up for his terror-linked friends is any indication, both Nuradin Abdi and Christopher Paul should be worried. Just ask Fawaz Damra, a former Cleveland-area imam who was deported to Israel earlier this year after being convicted in 2004 of deliberately concealing his ties to the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorist group and two other terrorist organizations. During Damra’s trial, prosecutors showed a video of the imam raising money for Islamic Jihad.
That video evidence notwithstanding, Al-Akhras recently said in defense of his “longtime friend” Damra:
"We do not believe a word of what the government has said," said Ahmad Al-Akhras, Damra's longtime friend and a leader among Ohio's Muslims.
Then again, Ahmad Al-Akhras is the kind of guy willing to overlook someone’s faults and forgive past excesses, like planning to wage jihad against America and killing non-Muslims. In fact last September in his role as CAIR National vice chairman, he played host to former Iranian dictator Mohammed Khatami at an invitation-only CAIR dinner held in Washington DC in honor of Khatami.
The CAIR 2006 Annual Report features a picture of Al-Akhras and CAIR Executive Director Nihad Awad giving Khatami a warm reception, despite the fact that Khatami was responsible for the torture and murder of Iranian pro-democracy activists and student demonstrators in response to the July 9, 1999 protests at Tehran University. As noted by Kenneth Timmerman here at FrontPage (“Just Say No to Khatami”), as Ayatollah Khomeini’s Minister of Culture and Islamic Propagation in 1984, Khatami oversaw the creation of the terrorist group, Hezbollah. Ironically, Khatami was in the US to deliver a speech at Harvard on the “Ethics of Tolerance in the Age of Violence”. (Did I forget to mention that Al-Akhras also sits of the board of ACLU-Ohio?)
With such a high-profile social network, Al-Akhras wonders why he is a victim of harassment by the US government. He recently complained to the Cleveland Plain Dealer (“Do guards at the border cross a line?”) that he regularly gets stopped when he crosses the border:
"Either the government is wasting all this money or they really want to harass me. Either way it is sad," he said.
Well, if it isn’t because he maintains friendships with members of al-Qaeda, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, or Iranian dictators responsible for the creation of Hezbollah, perhaps his troubles with immigration authorities might be due to being the second-highest official in an organization recently named as unindicted co-conspirator by federal prosecutors in a HAMAS terrorism financing trial in Texas (see my recent article “CAIR Fingered by Feds”).
Or it might be his public praise of the al-Qaeda-backed Islamic Courts Union terrorist organization, which when they took over Somalia last year and imposed a Taliban-style Islamization program, Al-Akhras wrote a letter to the Columbus Dispatch saying that such was a “positive change”. In that same correspondence he also stood up for HAMAS, decrying US sanctions against the terror group, saying:
Imposing unlawful, punitive and inhumane sanctions on the whole Palestinian population for electing their own government breeds terrorism.
The government they had elected at that time, of course, was HAMAS, which just launched a blitzkrieg strike against rival Fatah last week in Gaza and declared an Islamic state.
No one doubts Al-Akhras’ finely-honed public relations skills, however, such as his videotaped assault last summer of a Columbus-area independent journalist recording his speech in support of Hezbollah’s war against Israel in front of the US Courthouse in downtown Columbus (a story I covered here at FrontPage, “CAIR: Assault and Videotape?”). Even though the journalist twice assaulted by Al-Akhras pressed charges and provided video evidence, the Columbus City Attorney Richard C. Pfeiffer curiously decided not to pursue the case. I guess it pays to have friends in high places.
Maybe Ahmad Al-Akhras’ rich and powerful friends in the Columbus political circles could answer why he continues to be harassed by the US government. I’m sure it has nothing to do with his friends in al-Qaeda and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, his hosting a former dictator of an “Axis of Evil” terrorist state, his public statements praising the Islamic Courts Union, or his leadership in a HAMAS front group.
Meanwhile, the political persecution of Ahmad Al-Akhras mysteriously continues. He must get by with a little help from his friends.