By Patrick Poole
President Obama hosted his annual iftar dinner in August to commemorate Ramadan, the list of invitees published by the White House was curiously missing the names of several attendees — all of whom are top leaders of organizations known to be purveyors of jihadist ideology. But it was not like they had crashed the party. One of the unlisted, Mohamed Magid, head of the Muslim Brotherhood-linked Islamic Society of North America, was photographed by Reuters sitting at the front table only a few feet from the president as he spoke.
This was just the most recent episode in the federal government’s disastrous attempts at outreach to the Muslim community since the 9/11 attacks. With the release of
President Obama’s new strategic plan to combat “violent extremism” by expanding outreach to these same terror-tied groups, the present administration seems intent on compounding the problems wrought by its predecessors.
Misguided outreach activities began long before 9/11, with the best example being the case of Abdurahman Alamoudi.
Alamoudi was the conduit through which much of the U.S. government’s outreach was pursued following the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. Not only was he asked by the Clinton administration to help train and certify all Muslim military chaplains, his organization being the first to do so, but he also was appointed by the State Department in 1997 as a goodwill ambassador to the Middle East, making six taxpayer-funded trips. It is fair to say that during this period, Alamoudi was the most prominent and politically connected Muslim leader in America.
As we now know, Alamoudi was indicted in October 2003 for moving money on behalf of Libyan intelligence in an assassination plot targeting Saudi Prince (now King) Abdullah. The U.S. government has admitted that at the time he was being courted by Democrats and Republicans alike, he was a major fundraiser for al-Qaeda.
However, it is not as if the U.S. government was unaware of Alamoudi’s attachments. As far back as 1993, an informant told the FBI that Alamoudi was funneling regular payments from Osama bin Laden to Omar Abdel Rahman, the “blind sheikh” who was convicted of authorizing terror attacks against New York landmarks. In March 1996, Alamoudi’s association with Hamas leader Mousa Abu Marzook was exposed in the pages of the Wall Street Journal. Two years later, the State Department came under fire by the New York Post for inviting Alamoudi to official events despite his known remarks in support of terrorism and terrorist leaders.
When President Bush took office, Alamoudi was quickly courted by the new administration. In June 2001, the Jerusalem Post reported that Alamoudi was going to be part of a White House meeting with Vice President Cheney despite the fact that Alamoudi was known to have attended a terror confab in Beirut earlier that year featuring representatives from virtually every major Islamic terrorist organization in the world, including al-Qaeda.
Yet just days after the 9/11 attacks, Alamoudi was one of the Muslim leaders asked to appear with President Bush at the Islamic Center of Washington, D.C. That same week, one of Alamoudi’s close associates, Muzammil Siddiqi, was asked to deliver an Islamic prayer and to represent the entire Muslim-American community at the national prayer service mourning the fallen.
The inclusion of Alamoudi and Siddiqi at the post-9/11 events was highly criticized, especially because Alamoudi had been videotaped in October 2000, as noted by the Los Angeles Times, expressing his support for Hamas and Hezbollah at a rally held just steps from the White House. At that same demonstration, Siddiqi accused the U.S. of responsibility for the plight of the Palestinians and warned that “the wrath of God will come.” One former Secret Service agent told Fox News that “the intelligence community has known for some time the association of Dr. Muzammil Siddiqi and Mr. Alamoudi and their association with terrorist organizations.”
The decision to continue doing business with Alamoudi and others like him was just one of many blunders made by the U.S. government in its eagerness to conduct Muslim outreach in the wake of 9/11.
Most embarrassing of all, one of the first Muslim leaders to whom the government turned after the attacks was none other than Anwar al-Awlaki, the al-Qaeda cleric who was in direct contact with at least three of the 9/11 hijackers and is currently on the CIA’s kill-or-capture list.
As the cleanup from the terrorist attack on the Pentagon continued, Awlaki was invited by the Pentagon’s Office of Government Counsel to speak at a lunch in the building’s executive offices as part of the government’s new Muslim outreach efforts. But a joint congressional inquiry into 9/11 found that law enforcement had been investigating Awlaki’s contacts with terrorism suspects as far back as 1999. Also, before his appearance at the Pentagon, the New York Times had noted Awlaki’s anti-American rhetoric prior to the attacks.
This dubious approach to outreach continued through the end of Bush’s second term, as seen in the egregious invitation by the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC) to Yasir Qadhi to speak on de-radicalization at a conference in August 2008. At that time too, Qadhi’s extremist views, such as his statements denouncing “the hoax of the Holocaust,” were well known. Furthermore, at a 2006 Muslim outreach event in Houston, Homeland Security official Daniel Sutherland was present, as reported by the Houston Chronicle, when Qadhi openly admitted that he was on the terror watch list.
No one at the NCTC bothered to question Qadhi’s “de-radicalization” credentials. By the time he was invited to speak at the NCTC conference, at least one of Qadhi’s Houston students, Daniel Maldonado, had been captured by Kenyan forces fighting with the Somali al-Shabaab terrorist group. A number of other students from Qadhi’s AlMaghrib Institute program have gone on to careers in terrorism, including Christmas Day underwear bomber Umar Farouk AbdulMutallab, who attended a two-week AlMaghrib training session in Houston and two other events in the UK.
If Yasir Qadhi is an expert in de-radicalization, one shudders to think what an expert in radicalization might produce.