Rubin’s Fair Objections to Tawakkul Karman

by John Rosenthal

Today on Commentary’s blog Contentions, Michael Rubin has published a post defending a prior post in which he raised the issue of Nobel Peace Prize winner Tawakkul Karman’s membership in the al-Islah party. Al-Islah is the Yemeni branch of the Muslim Brotherhood. Its leader, Abdul Majeed al-Zindani, has been identified by the U.S. Treasury Department as a collaborator with Osama bin Laden and designated as a “specially designated global terrorist.” The Treasury Department designation is available here. On al-Zindani’s association with bin Laden and al-Qaeda, it reads:

AL-ZINDANI has a long history of working with bin Laden, notably serving as one of his spiritual leaders.  In this leadership capacity, he has been able to influence and support many terrorist causes, including actively recruiting for al-Qaeda training camps. Most recently, he played a key role in the purchase of weapons on behalf of al-Qaeda and other terrorists.

Perhaps the most remarkable thing about this controversy is that Michael Rubin would even need to defend himself for having pointed out an association that, once upon a time, would have raised massive red flags for virtually any Western observer of Middle Eastern politics. As Rubin notes, part of the point of Karman’s being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize appears to have been to “rehabilitate” the Muslim Brotherhood. From the reaction to his original post, it would seem that American foreign policy wonks have gotten the memo.

But there is a further detail about al-Zindani that should be mentioned. Not only has he been designated as an al-Qaeda associate by both the U.S. government and the United Nations Security Council, but, as reported in March 2007 in The Virginian-Pilot, he has been named in a U.S. lawsuit as the coordinator of the October 2000 suicide attack on the USS Cole, which took the lives of 17 American sailors. According to the Virginian-Pilot report, al-Zindani himself is supposed to have “selected the two bombers.”