The Bin Bayyah Bungle

by Andrew C. McCarthy
Obama seeks advice from another “moderate” terrorist supporter.

‘Who is a civilian?” The Muslim Brotherhood’s chief jurist, Yusuf al-Qaradawi, was asking the question rhetorically. It was 2004 and the sheikh, globally renowned as Sunni Islam’s most influential sharia scholar, felt obliged to dilate on Muslim law’s distinction between civilians and combatants. After all, a couple of his edicts had caused some confusion.

Two days after the atrocities of September 11, 2001, Qaradawi declared, “We, in the name of our religion, deny the act and incriminate the perpetrator.” Although he expressed skepticism that Muslims were behind the attacks on the United States, his pronouncement was taken as an implied condemnation of al-Qaeda.

An apparent rebuke from a figure of such stature elated American progressives, who look upon the Brotherhood as a cure, rather than an incubator, for violent jihadism. For once, the Left could feel comfortable forgetting that Qaradawi is a rabid anti-Semite whose gory enthusiasm for the Brotherhood’s Palestinian branch, the Hamas terrorist organization, is most notable for its paeans to suicide bombing — or what the sheikh prefers to call “martyrdom operations.”

But the treacle that Brotherhood eminences serve up for voracious Western consumption is rarely repeated in speeches to their core Arabic audience, swelled to the millions by the popularity of media mogul Qaradawi’s weekly al-Jazeera program, Sharia and Life. This is the audience to which Qaradawi typically spouts such venom as: “The Israelis might have nuclear bombs but we have the children bomb, and these human bombs must continue until liberation. Calling for peace at this time is treason.”

It was to this audience that Qaradawi and one of his esteemed creations, the International Union of Muslim Scholars, directed their 2004 fatwa calling for the killing of American troops in Iraq. “Resisting occupation troops in Iraq is a duty on able Muslims in and outside the war-torn country,” proclaimed the IUMS.

Qaradawi’s starkly different treatment of the two episodes — 9/11 and the Iraq invasion — was easy enough to reckon if one grasped his sharia calculus. The U.S. is not a Muslim country and Iraq is; attacks on the former are to be discouraged unless they help the cause of global Islamization, while driving infidel invaders from the latter is compulsory.

What generated confusion, though, was Qaradawi’s position on civilians. The rationale for his 9/11 condemnation seemed to center on the mass killing of civilians at the World Trade Center. But Iraq, where Qaradawi and his fellow sharia scholars were urging jihadist terror, had been entered not only by American troops but also by legions of civilians supporting the democratization mission. Did the fatwa apply to them, too?

It most certainly did. As Qaradawi had emphasized in 2003, right after the invasion of Iraq and the toppling of Saddam Hussein’s regime, it was not merely the American fighters but the American presence in an Islamic realm that caused offense. “The American aggression on the whole region,” he claimed, was designed “to impose the total American hegemony on us.” Consequently, a Muslim “who launches attacks against the American presence is really carrying the spirit of true defenders. When one dies while carrying out such attacks, then he is a martyr.” Thus, as Qaradawi now clarified, there are no American “civilians” in Iraq:

I said that I forbid the killing of civilians. I said that it is permitted to kill only those who fight. Islam forbids killing women, youth, and so on. I said so openly, but I asked, “Who is a civilian?” When engineers, laborers, and technicians enter with the American army, are they considered civilians? Is a fighter only the one inside the tank or also the one servicing it?  I am speaking of the interpretation of the word “civilian.”

As if these questions did not answer themselves, Qaradawi made the obvious explicit in speaking for the IUMS on the eve of the third anniversary of the 9/11 attacks: “Fighting American civilians in Iraq is a duty for all Muslims. . . . Americans in Iraq are all fighters and invaders. There is no difference between a civilian and a military American in Iraq.”

The calls by Qaradawi and his IUMS for the killing of American soldiers and civilians are worth remembering. At the time of the 2004 IUMS fatwa, the organization’s vice-president was Qaradawi’s longtime confidant, Sheikh Abdulla bin Bayyah. Today, in addition to his IUMS labors, it turns out that Sheikh bin Bayyah has a new position: Obama-administration adviser.

This week, the Investigative Project on Terrorism’s Steve Emerson and John Rossomando broke the news that the Obama administration issued a visa to bin Bayyah and hosted him at the White House on June 13. We learn about this not from the most transparent administration in history but because bin Bayyah posted an account of the meeting on his website — complete with a photograph of bin Bayyah holding court at a long table surrounded by Obama’s raptly attentive national-security staffers.

While Obama officials refused for nearly two weeks to confirm the meeting or comment on its substance, Qaradawi’s deputy took pains to expunge his mention of national-security adviser Tom Donilon’s presence at the session. But the administration finally acknowledged the meeting to Fox News on Thursday. Bin Bayyah had emphasized that it was the administration, not he, who sought the confab — to seek “new mechanisms to communicate” with the IUMS, as Gayle Smith, Obama’s national-security counsel, reportedly put it. Ms. Smith is also said to have thanked the co-author of the 2004 fatwa for “his efforts to bring more understanding amongst humanity.”

Recall that Obama’s crack national-security team previously issued a visa to Hani Nour el-Din, a member of the Blind Sheikh’s Egyptian terrorist organization, so he could come to the White House for consultations. Remarkably, the administration defended huddling with bin Bayyah on the ground they were trying, as Fox News reported, “to counter the al Qaeda narrative.” Al-Qaeda, of course, supports suicide terrorism against Israel and violent jihad to drive American troops out of the Middle East, just like Qaradawi and the IUMS. Indeed, in principle, there is no difference between al-Qaeda’s rationale for the mass murder of civilians on 9/11 and Qaradawi’s support for murdering American civilians in Iraq. Osama bin Laden explained it this way:

The American people should remember that they pay taxes to their government, they elect their president, their government manufactures arms and gives them to Israel and Israel uses them to massacre Palestinians. The American Congress endorses all government measures, and this proves that all of America is responsible for the atrocities committed against Muslims. All of America, because they elect the Congress.

As one would expect, bin Bayyah lobbied his hosts to “take urgent action” to help Syrian opposition forces backed by the Brotherhood and al-Qaeda in their jihad against the Assad regime — something that no one except John McCain has demanded more ardently than Qaradawi. Administration officials have told media outlets that the president has indeed decided to provide weapons to the Syrian “rebels.”

It is not known whether Donilon, Smith, Rashad Hussein (Obama’s envoy to the 57-government Organization of Islamic Cooperation), and the other administration officials on hand congratulated bin Bayyah and the IUMS on recently welcoming Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh as a member of the organization. Yes, Hamas is still a terrorist organization. And yes, it is still a federal crime to promote terrorism — at least nominally. But when it comes to the Brotherhood, our president is obviously of a mind to let bygones be bygones, insha Allah.

Taking cues from the Brotherhood is working out well, wouldn’t you say? Iraq and Libya are imploding; the Obama-backed Islamic-supremacist regimes in Egypt and Turkey are brutally repressing authentic democratic revolts; the Taliban is poised to retake Afghanistan; and now, we’re off to Syria. Meanwhile, the few brave House conservatives who have the temerity to raise questions about Brotherhood infiltration of our government are run out of town by a bipartisan posse; the materials used to train our agents are purged of references to the enemy’s ideology; and the White House rolls out its red carpet for terror promoters who urge the murder of our troops while promising to conquer America, Europe, and Israel.

Not to worry, though. Obama’s got just three and a half years to go. How much damage could he do, right?

— Andrew C. McCarthy is a senior fellow at the National Review Institute. He is the author, most recently, of Spring Fever: The Illusion of Islamic Democracy.

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