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Why is Ohio Dem Hanging with Islamic Extremists?

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.

While the news this election cycle has been focused on horse races and high-wattage personalities like Sharron Angle and Christine O’Donnell, one of the most important races in the country has slipped below the national radar—despite the fact that one of the key figures involved has a nasty habit of mingling with Islamic extremists.

In the crucial bellwether state of Ohio, there are two up-and-coming candidates squaring off for state treasurer—and the stakes are very high. Democrats are desperate to defeat the Republican, state Rep. Josh Mandel, a Marine veteran whom many observers see as a major star-in-the-making after he helped spearhead the effort to divest Ohio’s pension funds from companies that do business in the Iranian energy sector.

But Democrats’ obsession with knocking off Mandel means that they are backing incumbent Treasurer Kevin Boyce, whose competence and ethics have been called into question by mainstream media outlets.

George Soros-backed Progressive Majority, a moveon.org-style group that focuses on state and local races, has looked past these problems and made Boyce its top candidate this cycle.

Backing Boyce means more than just supporting a flawed candidate, however, as he has handed control of his office over to his top staffer, Deputy Treasurer Amer Ahmad, who has a habit of hanging around people who are well-known for ties to Islamic radicals and terrorists. Ahmad does so in his professional capacity, as well as in his personal life, choosing to attend an infamous mosque near Columbus, Ohio.

Although Boyce’s name is the one voters will see next Tuesday, Ahmad will continue to be the one effectively running the office if the Democrat wins. Several former Ohio Treasury officials who spoke with this journalist on the condition of anonymity say that Boyce has given Ahmad “free reign” to run the office as he sees fit.

One of Ahmad’s most questionable decisions was to spend his July 4 holiday as the keynote speaker at a dinner sponsored by Amana Funds, a Sharia-compliant mutual fund company whose co-founder and current trustee Yaqub Mirza was targeted for terrorist connections in an FBI raid in 2002, as were two other longtime trustees, Iqbal Unus and Jamal Barzinji. (Barzinji left the board in 2001.)

According to an FBI affidavit, Amana’s co-founder Mirza was paymaster for an Islamic charity that funneled millions to Hamas. Mirza signed at least three checks totaling over $300,000 from the account of Safa Trust, which were given to the Holy Land Foundation. HLF was eventually shut down for supporting Hamas, and its founders were sentenced last year to lengthy prison terms for terrorism-related convictions.

Amana has shown itself to be radical in other ways. Its website, for example, approvingly cites the expertise of extremist cleric Yusuf al-Qaradawi, who is banned from the U.S. and the United Kingdom. Qaradawi has issued fatwas legitimizing terrorism against Israeli civilians, as well as approving the murder of Americans in Iraq.

Additionally, Amana has utilized a Qaradawi protégé, Salah Soltan, as a Sharia advisor for its funds, according to a 2006 SEC filing.

Echoing his mentor, Soltan has engaged in virulent anti-Semitism and promoted bloodshed. During a December 2008 interview on the Egyptian TV network al-Nas, Soltan called for the murder of Jews, and predicted that the “U.S. will suffer more deaths than all those killed in this third Gaza holocaust.”

Ahmad is likely well aware of Soltan, who earlier this year appeared on Hamas’ TV network. After all, the fiery cleric is the former resident scholar at the mosque Ahmad attends, the Noor Islamic Center. Although Soltan ended his regular role at the mosque before Ahmad arrived in mid-2008, documents filed by attorneys in an unrelated civil case last year showed that Soltan preached at Noor as recently as December 2008.

Noor’s radicalism goes much beyond Soltan, however.

The founder of the mosque, Dr. Hany Saqr, was listed in a leadership directory of the U.S. Muslim Brotherhood, which was submitted as a government exhibit in the successful Holy Land Foundation prosecution. “The Muslim Brotherhood is an international organization that seeks to spread a puritanical form of Islam, and it has served as the parent for every major Sunni terrorist group, from Hamas to Islamic Jihad to al Qaeda,” explains terrorism expert Steve Emerson, executive director of the Investigative Project on Terrorism.

Ahmad doesn’t just attend services at Noor Islamic Center, either. When he was looking for a receptionist, he shunned the common practice of publicly posting the opening and instead announced it only at his mosque. The woman he hired is the wife of his personal friend, Noure Alo.

As it happens, Alo scored a lobbying contract from State Street Bank this year shortly after the firm submitted bids for custodianship of Ohio’s massive pension funds. Alo—whose specialty as a lawyer is immigration, not banking—had never before had been hired as a lobbyist. State Street won three of the four bids, winning custodianship of over $32 billion in assets.

It is possible that Ahmad, who refused comment for this story, does not share the radical Islamic beliefs of the leading figures at Amana Funds and the Noor Islamic Center. But even assuming he doesn’t, Ohio voters must ask themselves: Why does he choose to associate with people whose troubling ties are so well-documented?

If Ahmad’s boss, Democrat Kevin Boyce, wins next Tuesday, Ohioans would be understandably concerned about what Ahmad would do over the next four years.

Although this race has not received its fair share of national attention, there are few clearer—or more important—choices that voters will face.

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