On Feb. 20, 2003, Professor Sami Al-Arian of the University of South Florida was arrested by the Department of Justice for his leadership of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, a designated terrorist organization. Al-Arian was a radical supporter of Islamic terrorism, a man who announced at rallies that he sought "victory to Islam" and "death to Israel." He created the organization in America, designed, at least in part, to bring terrorists to U.S. soil.
On Sept. 5, 2004, law student Rashad Hussain spoke at a Muslim Student Association (MSA) conference. The MSA is in and of itself a troublesome organization, which has been repeatedly linked to terror -- but that wasn't the main problem. The main problem was Hussain's speech, in which he explicitly defended Al-Arian, calling his prosecution "a sad commentary on our legal system … a travesty of justice … [one incident in a] common pattern … of politically-motivated prosecutions."
On Feb. 28, 2006, Sami Al-Arian pled guilty to conspiracy to help Islamic Jihad.
And on Feb. 14, 2010, President Barack Obama appointed Rashad Hussain to his Special Envoy to the Organization of Islamic Conference.
When news broke of Hussain's 2004 statements, Hussain immediately called reports mistaken, explaining that he had not uttered those words. Unfortunately for Hussain, Politico.com quickly recovered a tape of the MSA conference. Hussain then backtracked, stating, "I made clear at the time that I was not commenting on the allegations themselves. The judicial process has now concluded, and I have full faith in its outcome." Very reassuring.
Unsurprisingly, the Obama administration is standing by its man, the same way they originally stood by communism-friendly Green Czar Van Jones. This is troubling not only because Obama consistently elevates those who champion anti-American causes, including Jones and Hussain, but also because of his original selection of these people for powerful posts.
The simple fact is that Hussain is not a problem merely because of his 2004 comments. He is a problem because of what he believes about the Muslim world in general.
His views are laid out in a report he did for the Brookings Institution, entitled "Reformulating the Battle of Ideas: Understanding the Role of Islam in Counterterrorism Policy." First, he states that those in the United States ought to drop the term "Islamic terrorism." "The terms 'Islamic terrorism' and 'Islamic extremism' validate the terrorist claim that their ideology is, in fact, rooted in Islam," Hussain writes. For the same reason, he wants to end the use of the terms "jihadist" and "Islamofascist." This is pure bunkum, implying as it does that the Muslim world takes its cues on how to interpret Islam from Christians in the United States. But Hussain knows that. His intent isn't to protect the United States -- it's to protect Muslims globally (including radical Muslims) from having to face additional scrutiny at the airports or in the press.
Hussain's argument quickly becomes more pernicious. He argues that Americans should quit asking the Muslim world to value freedom and democracy, and instead focus on working with non-terrorist imams to convert Muslims to a non-terrorist version of Islam. In practice, this means that the U.S. should "work with Muslim governments, religious leaders … on the ground in the Muslim world." In short, cash and public relations help for governments like the Saudis, and imams sponsored by those governments. Again, this is ludicrous on its face -- the idea that Muslims around the world will accept American non-Muslims or Christian-backed Muslims preaching about the true meaning of Islam is laughable. We don't have the legitimacy to preach about Islam. We do have the legitimacy to preach about freedom and democracy.
Putting the most benign spin on Hussain's writings, he is a Muslim who hopes to convert terrorist-leaning Muslims to non-terrorist Islam. But it is not enough to convert them to non-terrorist Islam if that version of Islam is also antidemocratic and fascistic. It is far too easy for non-terrorist, freedom-and-democracy-rejecting Muslims to slip over into terrorist Islam. Hussain provides the best example of that -- after all, he himself slipped over that line in 2004 by endorsing the terrorist Al-Arian and ripping the U.S. justice system.
President Obama clearly agrees with Hussain's plans for the Muslim world. But we in the real world do not have the luxury of pretending that such plans are either realistic or morally righteous. They are neither. They justify continued repression and evil in the Muslim world, and they leave us wide open to attack in the Western world by failing to properly recognize the enemy.