Politics & Policy

Sami’s Still Their Man

AMC continues to defend an alleged terrorist.

On June 2002, FBI Director Robert Mueller spoke at the American Muslim Council’s 11th annual convention, despite the group’s vocal support for terrorism. At the time, Mueller defended his decision, describing AMC through a spokesman as “the most mainstream Muslim group in America.” In fact, AMC has consistently opposed U.S. counterterrorism efforts, and has defended terrorists.

AMC’s latest project in support of terror is its defense of South Florida Professor and Palestinian Islamic Jihad leader Sami al-Arian. Last month, AMC president Aly Abuzaqouk and former executive director Eric Vickers testified as character witnesses on al-Arian’s behalf at his bond hearing. Judge Mark Pizzo rejected al-Arian’s defenders. Denying bail, Pizzo held that “the government’s case against al-Arian is both substantial and convincing.”

Undeterred, on April 18, AMC circulated a press release announcing the creation of the National Liberty Fund (NLF), a new group that “will focus its initial attention on the case of Dr. Sami al-Arian.” The NLF release says the government has “resorted more and more to opportunistic and politically-motivated prosecutions” because of its “failure to protect Americans from actual terrorist threats.” The release mocks the government’s charge that “Dr. Sami al-Arian is a dangerous terrorist,” and questions the integrity of the judicial process, challenging whether “[terrorism] defendants . . . are innocent until proven guilty.”

AMC board members Jamal Barzinji and Sayid Sayeed have actually been supporting al-Arian’s agenda for years. Through their International Institute of Islamic Thought (IIIT), Barzinji and Sayeed funded al-Arian’s front group, the World and Islamic Studies Enterprise (WISE). WISE financed and supported activities of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, allowing terrorist leaders such as Ramadan Shallah to operate out of the United States.

Defending Al-Arian and charging the government with bias are components of AMC’s overall rejection of U.S. counterterrorism policy. In October of 2000, AMC’s secretary and founding director, Abdurrahman Alamoudi, told a cheering crowd in Lafayette Park, “I have been labeled by the media in New York to be a supporter of Hamas . . . Hear that Bill Clinton? We are all supporters of Hamas. I wish they added that I am also a supporter of Hizbollah.” And again, in a June, 2000 interview for the Arabic paper al-Zaitonah, Alamoudi said, “[AMC’s] position with regard to the peace process is well known. We are the ones who went to the White House and defended what is called Hamas.” Hamas and Hezbollah are both on the government’s list of officially designated terrorist organizations.

In a particularly outrageous effort to stymie federal terrorism investigations, AMC produced a pamphlet, “In the Case of the FBI: Know Your Rights!” In an attempt to scare law abiding Muslim Americans into silence, the handout reports that “the FBI is looking for information to use against you, your family and/or your community. The FBI has a history of harassing and harming minority and immigrant communities. Some people are spending a long time in jail because they or their friends talked to the FBI.” It comes as no surprise that Sami al-Arian’s National Coalition to Protect Political Freedom is a coauthor of the pamphlet.

AMC is constitutionally guaranteed the right to incite fear and hatred among its constituents, but the FBI’s lending legitimacy to the group is hardly in our national interest. No one would disagree that engaging Muslim Americans is critical if the FBI is to successfully protect the homeland from additional terrorist attacks. To do so by empowering an organization that defends terrorists is clearly counterproductive.

Jon Levin is a researcher at the Investigative Project.

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