Don't go there, Mrs. Hughes

Posted: Aug 29, 2005 12:00 AM
Karen Hughes, confidant to George W. Bush and master political strategist, has recently returned from Texas to take on one of the most important and heretofore thankless tasks in Washington: Waging the “War of Ideas” component of the present global conflict against the “evil ideology” best described as Islamofascism.

The starting point for Mrs. Hughes’ vital work has to be an understanding that not all Muslims are adherents to this virulently intolerant ideology. Strategies for defeating the latter must, of necessity, involve reaching out to those Muslims who genuinely reject the Islamists and their goal – the violent imposition of a world-wide “caliphate” subject to a Taliban-like religious code, Shari’a.

In the wake of July’s London transport bombings by home-grown British Islamists, the dangers of mistaking one type of Muslim community for another have become obvious. Prime Minister Tony Blair’s government has gone from ignoring Islamofascists in its midst – if not actually accommodating their efforts to proselytize and recruit in Britain – to cracking down forcefully on their activities and presence in the United Kingdom.

Unfortunately, in the past – and most especially after the 9/11 attacks, the Bush Administration’s efforts to engage in such outreach have been characterized by a similar unfamiliarity with the distinctions between Muslim organizations that profess hostility to Islamofascists and their causes, and those that actually reject the terrorism and ideology of groups like al Qaeda, Hamas, Hezbollah and Islamic Jihad.

For example, the Administration initially embraced Abdurahman Alamoudi and his American Muslim Council (AMC) as go-to intermediaries for their outreach to the Islamic community in this country. Numerous officials met with Alamoudi and his subordinates and the Bush team continued the practice begun during the Clinton presidency of having AMC-affiliated organizations select, train and certify chaplains for the U.S. military. When FBI Director Robert Mueller was criticized for attending the American Muslim Council’s annual convention a few years back, his spokesman insisted this was appropriate since the AMC was “the most mainstream Muslim organization in America.”

Mr. Alamoudi is currently serving a 23-year sentence in federal prison, having pled guilty to charges of trying to kill the then-Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia on behalf of terrorist-sponsor Moammar Gaddafi, the dictator of Libya. The U.S. government has subsequently identified him as a financier for al Qaeda.

Even before it came to office, the Bush team was also induced to reach out to Sami al-Arian, a leading Muslim “activist” who was a computer science professor at South Florida University. Mr. al-Arian got Candidate Bush to promise to prohibit the use of secret evidence, a practice law enforcement uses sparingly in deportation and criminal proceedings in order to protect intelligence sources and methods.

Today, Sami al-Arian is on trial on over 40 counts of financing and running one of the most violent Islamofascist organizations in the world, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, from his professor’s post in Tampa. In a particularly ironic twist, secret evidence of his organization’s intent to conduct attacks against Americans is being used by the prosecution. For his part, Al-Arian is using as part of his defense his past ties to Mr. Bush and his associates.

Now, Karen Hughes is set to address – and, thereby, to provide political cover to – yet another problematic Muslim-American organization, the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), at its large annual convention in Chicago over Labor Day weekend. As with the Bush Administration’s outreach to Alamoudi and the AMC and its endorsement of al-Arian’s campaign against secret evidence, Mrs. Hughes would make be making a first-order strategic error were she to embrace ISNA.

This is because the Islamic Society of North America is a front for the promotion of Saudi Arabia’s Wahhabi political, doctrinal and theological infrastructure in the United States and Canada. Established by the Saudi-funded Muslim Students Association, ISNA has for years sought to marginalize leaders of the Muslim faith who do not support the Wahhabists’ strain of Islamofascism, and, through sponsorship of propaganda and mosques, is pursuing a strategic goal of eventually dominating Islam in America.

ISNA provides indoctrination materials to about 1,100 of an estimated 2,500 mosques on the North American continent. Through its affiliate, the North American Islamic Trust (NAIT) – a Saudi government-backed organization created to fund Islamist enterprises in North America – it reportedly holds the mortgages of between 50 and 79 percent of those mosques. Through this device, ISNA exerts ideological as well as theological influence over what is preached and taught in these institutions and their schools.

In December 2003, the chairman and ranking Democrat of the Senate Finance Committee, Senators Charles Grassley and Max Baucus, respectively, listed ISNA as one of 25 American Muslim organizations that “finance terrorism and perpetuate violence.”

The danger is that, if Karen Hughes attends the ISNA convention, she will not only be endorsing a deeply problematic organization. She will be continuing – and compounding – the Bush Administration’s regrettable past practice of discouraging, if not actually alienating, genuinely non-Islamist Muslims by reaching out to those who aren’t.

Like most other types of combat, a war of ideas requires clarity about who the enemy is. Mrs. Hughes would be well advised to seek the counsel of authentically peaceable, pro-American and anti-Islamist Muslim leaders – like Sheikh Hisham Kabbani, the spiritual leader of the Sufi sect in America – to determine the true nature and ideological alignment of the allies we seek in this war.

As to the ISNA convention, three words of advice are in order for Mrs. Hughes: Don’t go there.