When Fox News reported last month about a lengthy laundry list of terror-tied individuals, and in several cases actual terrorist operatives (with at least one currently serving a 20 year prison sentence on terrorism support charges), had been attending and leading prayers on Capitol Hill for the Congressional Muslim Staff Association (CMSA), the group trotted out GOP activist Suhail Khan to attack its critics.
The investigation into the U.S. Capitol’s terrorist turnstile began when I reported here at HUMAN EVENTS about video showing wanted al-Qaeda cleric Anwar al-Aulaqi, currently subject to a kill or capture order signed by President Obama, leading Friday jummah prayers for the congressional Muslim staffers in 2001. Several weeks later I noted that another al-Qaeda official, Anwar Hajjaj, who was the head of the Taibah International Aid Association listed by the U.S. government as a designated global terrorist organization in 2004, had been videotaped by Roll Call leading prayers for CMSA just this past April.
When several media organizations, including Fox, began looking into the speakers the group was bringing into the U.S. Capitol every Friday and contacted CMSA officials for comment, CMSA promptly took down their entire website and ordered CMSA members not to respond to the media.
In an interview with the San Francisco-based Religion Dispatches, Suhail Khan condemned the Fox News investigation as “anti-Muslim bigotry”. Apparently asking questions why terror-tied individuals had been leading prayers for the group inside the home of America’s top legislative body is inherently discriminatory.
Attempting to deflect the impact of these media reports, Khan immediately attacked a whole host of “anti-Muslim” bogeymen whom he accused of dredging up evidence unflattering to his associates:
Since 9/11 there have been a couple of individuals that have been spending a lot of money to cull through tapes and videos of conferences and TV programs and the Internet to look for information that is critical of Muslims and Muslim-Americans getting involved in public policy. They compile that into a guilt-by-association Powerpoint and then shop it to reporters.
He then identified a long list of suspected individuals, curiously, none of whom were quoted in the Fox News article he was condemning.
Khan then turned to the real sticking point: the video of Anwar al-Aulaqi on Capitol Hill:
If al-Awaki [sic] came, we would condemn that. If he came, it was years before anyone knew who he was and before he had an association with al Qaeda,” adding “it was not like he was invited after he went to Yemen and became an al Qaeda leader.”
There is no question that Aulaqi “came” as there is video of him at the event that was included as part of the PBS documentary, Muhammad: Legacy of a Prophet (is PBS also part of Khan’s “anti-Muslim bigots” brigade?). And contrary to his representations, Aulaqi was invited to preach on Capitol Hill in 2001 – two years after the FBI began its investigation into the cleric’s terrorist ties and while he was serving as the spiritual mentor for at least two of the 9/11 hijackers as reported by the 9/11 Commission.
Khan also tries to beg off the reality of Aulaqi’s presence at the meetings by representing that the al-Qaeda cleric merely “came” to the prayer meetings, presumably leading us to believe that he wandered off the streets into this public meeting. But what the video shows is that Aulaqi was delivering the sermon and leading the prayers at the event.
Khan failed to acknowledge or provide any explanation why Anwar Hajjaj was similarly asked to lead prayers for CMSA just this past April. He also failed to acknowledge another recent CMSA prayer leader reported by Fox, Esam Omeish, who was forced to resign from the Virginia Commission on Immigration in September 2007 just days after his appointment by VA Governor Tim Kaine when video emerged of Omeish speaking to a rally encouraging violent jihad (as reported by those “anti-Muslim bigots” at the Washington Post).
Khan also takes a pot-shot at myself:
He also said that the claim in the Fox piece by Patrick Poole that Council on American Islamic Relations plays a big role in choosing speakers “is not true. . . . they have absolutely no hand in choosing anybody.”
The problem is that I made no sort of claim about CAIR’s involvement in selecting CMSA speakers – something which could have easily been verified by Religion News by reviewing the Fox News article (I have emailed Religion News requesting a correction, which they have yet to make).
I can understand Suhail Khan’s discomfort in having to answer tough questions about an organization he admits he had a hand in founding and continues to be active with. And admittedly, Khan has a long history of throwing out “anti-Muslim” charges against anyone critical of his terror-tied friends and associates to avoid answering hard questions.
But rather than directing his rage at anyone who dares ask why al-Qaeda-linked individuals and terrorist supporters are leading prayers in the halls of Congress as “anti-Muslim bigots” and complaining of guilt-by-association, Khan should be asking his friends who lead the CMSA exactly how their system has so glaringly broken down. If his interview defending the U.S. Capitol’s terrorist turnstile is any indication, that isn’t going to happen anytime soon.
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