When my colleagues and I rolled out the Team B II report last week, Shariah: The Threat to America, in attendance at the Capitol Hill press conference was ThinkProgress.org blogger and Center for American Progress national security researcher Matt Duss, who unwittingly provided a live example for those present of how utterly clueless the political establishment is when it comes to the threat of Islamic terrorism and the cultural jihad.

During the Q&A, Duss asked which Islamic scholars we had consulted in preparing our report. He later slammed the report in a ThinkProgress post:

So there you have it. A report on the threat posed by Islamic law to the United States, one of whose leaders admits to having started studying Islam only three years ago, whose authors admit consulting with no actual Muslims…

Duss’s complaint is an exercise in question begging. It is precisely the recognized Islamic scholars who are the darlings of groups like the Center for American Progress, who are regularly featured at White House iftar dinners, and who have offered opening invocations before Congress, that are precisely the problem.

In our defense, the most distinguished Quranic scholar in America, who holds a doctorate in Quranic Studies from Al-Azhar University in Cairo – the most authoritative and globally recognized seat of Islamic learning – and who later taught at Aysut branch of Al-Azhar, was unavailable to offer suggestions on our report. That’s because Omar Abdel-Rahman (aka “the Blind Shiekh”) is currently serving a life sentence in federal prison following his 1995 conviction in the New York City “Day of Terror” plot. The Blind Shiekh and his terror crew were prosecuted by our Team B II colleague, former federal prosecutor Andrew McCarthy.

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In light of the Blind Sheikh’s incarcerated status, no doubt Duss would have had us consult the Fiqh Council of North America (FNCA), which bills itself as “Islam’s highest religious authority in North America.” But there too we find a virtual host of convicted terrorists, unindicted co-conspirators and terror cheerleaders:

  • FCNA founding trustee Abdurahman Alamoudi is currently serving a 23-year federal prison sentence for his role in a Libyan intelligence plot to assassinate then-Saudi Crown Prince (now King) Abdullah. In July 2005, the Treasury Department identified Alamoudi as atop Al-Qaeda fundraiser, saying that “the September 2003 arrest of Alamoudi was a severe blow to al Qaida, as Alamoudi had a close relationship with al Qaida and had raised money for al Qaida in the United States.” Alamoudi established on behalf of the Department of Defense their Muslim chaplain program, hand-picking the first dozen chaplains commissioned by our armed services, and was designated a good-will ambassador to the Middle East by the U.S. State Department. During the Clinton Administration, he repeatedly met with President Clinton, Vice President Gore, and was the most frequent Islamic leader invited to the White House. He also advised then-presidential candidate George W. Bush during his 2000 campaign.
  • Another FCNA founding trustee and former chairman Taha Jaber Al-Awani was named “Unindicted Co-Conspirator #5” by federal prosecutors in the trial of Palestinian Islamic Jihad leader Sami Al-Arian. As reported by the Wall Street Journal, Al-Awani wrote a letter to Al-Arian saying that he viewed his organization “as part of and an extension” of Al-Arian’s Palestinian Islamic Jihad front group in Florida. Al-Awani previously served as president of the Institute of Islamic and Arabic Sciences in America, an arm of the Saudi Embassy’s religious affairs department and a branch of the Imam Muhammad Ibn Saud University in Riyadh. But Al-Awani’s institute was raided by the FBI in July 2004 and eventually closed after the State Department revoked the visas of 16 Institute members of Al-Awani’s faculty. As reported by the Wall Street Journal, the Pentagon had accredited Al-Awani’s institute as the sole certifier of DOD Muslim chaplains.
  • Current FCNA chairman Muzammil Siddiqi previously served as Chairman of the Department of Religious Affairs at the Muslim World League Office to the United Nations. After the fatwa had been issued condemning author Salman Rushdie to death in 1989, Siddiqi told the Los Angeles Times that he was non-committal on whether the death sentence should be carried out, saying that the matter “would have to be determined in the due process of Islamic law.” As reported by the New Yorker, Siddiqi also dutifully served as translator for the Blind Shiekh just two months before the 1993 World Trade Center bombing as he harangued Siddiqi’s congregation about the necessity of violent jihad. And when questions arose about Siddiqi and his pal Alamoudi following their appearances with President Bush after 9/11, former Secret Service Agent Ron Williams told Fox News “the intelligence Community has known for sometime the association of Dr. Muzammil Siddiqi, and Mr. Alamoudi and their association with terrorist organizations.”
  • Another highly respected Islamic cleric and FCNA member is Mohammad Al-Hanooti, who has the dubious distinction of being named unindicted co-conspirator in both the 1995 Blind Sheikh prosecution and the 2008 Holy Land Foundation terrorism financing trial. A 2002 investigation by the Albany Times Union stated that several members of the cell that bombed the World Trade Center in 1993 attended Al-Hanooti’s mosque, with the mosque’s address being used to rent the truck used in the bombing. In August 1999, he testified on behalf of Al-Qaeda operative Ihad Ali saying that Ali’s refusal to provide information about the 1998 bombings of the American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania was authorized by Islamic law that prohibits a Muslim from testifying against another Muslim. A 2001 declassified FBI memorandum identified Al-Hanooti as a major Hamas fundraiser, saying that he had raised $6 million for Hamas in one year alone.
  • We could have consulted former FCNA “interfaith moderate” Fawaz Damra, but he wasn’t available either as he was stripped of his U.S. citizenship and deported in January 2007 after his conviction for lying on immigration forms about his ties to terrorism. What prompted the charges against Damra were videotapes of him leading a fundraiser with Sami Al-Arian to benefit Palestinian Islamic Jihad and federal wiretaps of Al-Arian and Damra discussing raising funds for the families of PIJ suicide bombers. Video also emerged of the “interfaith moderate” describing Jews as “the sons of monkeys and pigs.”
  • Replacing Fawaz Damra as FCNA’s “interfaith moderate” is Yusuf Kavakci, who who was criticized in an editorial by the Dallas Morning News for speaking at a Dec. 2004 Dallas conference honoring the Ayatollah Khomeini and for describing two of the world’s most renowned Islamic radical clerics, Yousef Al-Qaradawi and Hassan Al-Turabi, as “exemplary leaders.”
  • As noted by the Cleveland Plain Dealer, FCNA Executive Director Zulfiqar Ali Shah previously served as the South Asia director for designated global terrorist charity KindHearts, with much of the scrutiny by U.S. authorities coming from Shah’s activities in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Prior to that, Shah was chairman of a Florida foundation that came under fire for inviting notorious Saudi hate sheik Abdur-Rahman Al-Sudais to a conference dedicated to “Islam for Humanity”. As president of the Islamic Circle of North America, the Investigative Project on Terrorism videotaped Shah at the group’s 2001 conference praising jihadists in Kashmir and Chechnya, encouraging parents to send their children to jihad overseas, and leading attendees in chanting, “Our way, our way, is jihad, is jihad.” No doubt he meant jihad as internal struggle.
  • Yet another FCNA scholar unavailable to us is Salah Sultan, who has been banned from the U.S. after appearing at a June 2007 conference in Qatar with Khaled Mishaal, the head of Hamas – a designated global terrorist (in violation of the so-called FCNA “anti-terrorim” fatwa that proscribes such contact with terrorists – a document signed by Sultan). No doubt Sultan’s appearances on Middle East TV didn’t help him with U.S. authorities, where he has praised designated terrorist and Osama bin Laden mentor Abdul Majid Al-Zindani, threatened the coming destruction of America and the eventual extermination of Jews at the hands of Muslims, and most recently, appearing on Hamas TV saying that Jews make their Passover matzos with the blood of Christians and Muslims.
  • Certainly we could have received helpful insights on our report identifying the threat of Islamic law by consulting FCNA member Ihsan Bagby, who has said that “Muslims can never be full citizens of this country [America], because there is no way we can be fully committed to the institutions and ideologies of this country.”

Two other American Islamic scholars who could have vetted our report to assuage Matt Duss’ complaints areWagdy Ghoneim, one of the most visible Islamic preachers in the world, and Siraj Wahhaj, who has served in leadership positions for some of the most respected Islamic organizations in America and was the first Islamic cleric to offer opening prayers for the U.S. House of Representatives. But that too would have been problematic:

  • Wagdy Ghoneim agreed to leave the U.S. in December 2004 rather than face deportation by U.S. immigration authorities and is currently subject to a 10-year ban on reentering the country. One top U.S. immigration official explained to the Los Angeles Times why they took action against Ghoneim, saying, “Frankly, our task is not to sit and wait around for people to blow up buildings.” In 1998, Ghoneim was recorded at an Islamic conference in New York leading the audience in singing, “No to the Jews, descendants of apes.” Ghoneim has also been banned by Canada, Britain, Switzerland, and South Africa. He was also deported by Bahrain. Canadian immigration officials defended their ban on Ghoneim, saying, “Our (computerized information) system indicated he was a member of the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas – both known terrorist organizations.”
  • Siraj Wahhaj was named unindicted co-conspirator in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing trial and served as a defense character witness during the Blind Sheikh’s trial. As the New York Post has reported, Wahhaj has “defended the convicted WTC bomb plotters, called the FBI and CIA the “real terrorists,” and said he hopes all Americans eventually become Muslim.” In fact, as Wall Street Journal reporter Paul Barrett has noted, Wahhaj “has told his followers that a society governed by strict Islamic law, in which adulterers would be stoned to death and thieves would have their hands cut off, would be superior to American democracy.” In 2009, Wahhaj headed a fundraiser for convicted cop-killer Jamal Al-Amin, another top Islamic leader. After is was reported last year that Wahhaj had met with New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the Mayor’s office later apologized for the meeting.

It should be noted that these are not fringe figures in American Islam, but the top recognized Islamic authorities in the country and the longtime leaders of its most “mainstream” Islamic organizations – the same that Matt Duss criticized us for not consulting for our report. They are also the same individuals that government officials, Democrat and Republican alike, have repeatedly turned to for “outreach” and advice in tackling Islamic extremism.

My Team B II colleagues and I find that problematic as these Islamic leaders are part of the problem of such extremism, not the solution. Matt Duss, ThinkProgress.org and the Center for American Progress, on the other hand, demands that we continue this disastrous policy of consulting Islamic leaders who are active promoters of extremist and violent ideology, supporters of terrorism, and in the cases I’ve documented here, actual terrorists.

Meanwhile, Duss describes Team B II, including a former CIA director, former DIA director, former Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Policy, former Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence, retired US Navy PACOM Commander-in-Chief, former Defense Department Inspector General, former US Ambassador and Chief Negotiator of Defense and Space Talks, former Assistant U.S. Attorney and federal prosecutor, former retired CIA case officer, former Joint Chiefs of Staff senior consultant, former FBI counterterrorism agent, among others, as “a bunch of birthers, Christian holy warriors, and conspiracy theorists.”

On behalf of my Team B II colleagues, I would like to thank Matt Duss, ThinkProgress.org and the Center for American Progress for making our point for us.

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