Politics & Policy

Why They Can’t Condemn Hamas

Rauf and his friends employ different methods, but they are on the same team.

Hamas is a shibboleth. If you want to know whether an ostensible Muslim “moderate” is really moderate, ask him if Hamas is a terrorist organization.

It is really not a hard question, even if Feisal Rauf can’t — or won’t — answer it. Rauf, the would-be imam of the controversial Ground Zero mosque, is also a stud in the State Department’s stable of ready-to-travel-on-your-dime “moderates.” That same State Department has branded Hamas a terrorist organization, and we can’t even get it to say that about the Taliban, the guys we’re fighting in the overseas contingency operation formerly known as the War on Terror.

During a WABC radio interview, Aaron Klein three times pressed Rauf to admit that Hamas is a terrorist organization. Rauf bobbed and weaved in classic Islamist style. “I’m not a politician,” he replied, as if only politicians trouble themselves over whether terrorists are terrorists. “I try to avoid the issues. The issue of terrorism is a very complex question.” Avoid the issues? You don’t say!

But it is not a complex question, no more complex than “Does Derek Jeter play for the Yankees?” It is a straightforward question that Islamists complicate with clever casuistry, carefully designed to ring all the right chimes for our opinion elites and their media pitchmen.


On Tuesday, I appeared on Scoreboard, a Fox Business Channel program, to debate the proposed mosque with Dawood Kringle, a prison imam who is a perfect fit for the correctional system in Michael Bloomberg’s New York City. Like the mayor, Imam Kringle knows and admires Imam Rauf, so it’s only natural that he supports the Ground Zero mosque. He reasons, in his best Rauf-speak, that it would be “a tangible manifestation and demonstration of the spiritual principles of Islam as applied to everyone’s lives.”

Exactly: The main problem with Islamists is that they want to apply the principles of Islam — which are far from limited to “spiritual principles” — to everyone’s lives. It never seems to register with Imam Rauf’s apologists that we already have thousands of mosques and Islamic centers in the United States, and no one is suggesting these should be shut down, even though many of them are hotbeds of rabidly anti-Western ideology that have not proved to be reassuring “tangible manifestations” of how Islam is lived.

Nor does it seem to matter that Rauf’s project is an exercise in self-absorbed indignation. Claiming to “build bridges,” Islamists demand that their First Amendment right to religious freedom (which no one has denied) be deferred to while urging that your First Amendment right to free speech be smothered by governmental scolds — including a preening president, a demagogic mayor, and a House Speaker who wants to use her public office to investigate the project’s opponents (i.e., 70 percent of the public). The anticipated “tangible manifestation” in question not only divides a nation still under jihadist siege; it deeply wounds the 9/11 families, the remains of whose slaughtered loved ones are still being retrieved from the vicinity of Ground Zero.

Still, even Kringle’s desultory case for the mosque paled in comparison with his adamant refusal to answer the question, “Is Hamas a terrorist organization?” You can watch the short debate for yourself here. There are long pauses, shucks, jives, and gibberish — but no answer:

Asman: Do you believe Hamas is a terrorist organization?

Kringle: [Pause] I would, um — [pause]

McCarthy: That’s not a hard question.

Asman: [To McCarthy] Hold on a second.

Kringle:  No, no, no. I –

Asman:  Is Hamas a terrorist organization? A simple question.

Kringle: I believe that there’s people, uh, connected with Hamas that are, uh — advocate terrorism –

Asman: Is Hamas, though, a terrorist organization, as the State Department says it is?

Kringle: I believe that the people — that people that, uh, that, uh, exist on the fringe of there — Hamas is a political party that, uh, that grew out of, uh, out of, uh, what happened to, uh, Palestine. Obviously, there’s going to be people that are, uh, that are going to twist up, uh, the religion to serve their political agendas.

This is just counterfactual bunk. It is served up by the imam and many likeminded apologists as though Hamas did not have a richly documented history, and as though Islamists did not reject the very premise that religious and political agendas can be distinguished.


The name “Hamas” is derived from the Arabic phrase for “Islamic Resistance Movement” (Harakat al-Muqawamah al-Islamiyya). It was established in late 1987, at the start of the Intifada, for the singular purpose of waging a violent jihad that, Hamas pledged, would continue until Israel’s annihilation. This is not my opinion. It is an undeniable fact — regardless of how often denied. Set aside its decades of barbaric attacks, its celebration of a death culture in which streets are named after “martyrs” and children are garbed in mock suicide belts at summer camp. Hamas proclaimed its existence in a formal charter that could not be more emphatic:

The Islamic Resistance Movement erupted in order to play its role in the path of its Lord. In so doing, it joined its hands with those of all Jihad fighters for the purpose of liberating Palestine. The souls of its Jihad fighters will encounter those of all Jihad fighters who have sacrificed their lives in the land of Palestine since it was conquered by the Companion of the Prophet, be Allah’s prayer and peace upon him, and until this very day. This is the Charter of the Islamic Resistance (Hamas). . . . Our struggle against the Jews is extremely wide-ranging and grave, so much so that it will need all the loyal efforts we can wield, to be followed by further steps and reinforced by successive battalions from the multifarious Arab and Islamic world, until the enemies are defeated and Allah’s victory prevails.

Self-consciously, Hamas cast itself as an Islamist alternative to Yasser Arafat’s comparatively secular/socialist Palestinian nationalism. Consistent with Islamist ideology, it rejects the separation of mosque and state, because its political objectives are Islamic imperatives: “Nothing is loftier or deeper in Nationalism than waging Jihad against the enemy and confronting him when he sets foot on the land of the Muslims,” the charter decrees. Jihad is an obligation of Islam to spread the faith until it is universally dominant. For Islamists, “Palestine” is “the land of the Muslims” — never mind that Israel was the Jewish homeland before there were Muslims. Thus, the charter explains, jihad — savage, bloody jihad — “becomes an individual duty binding on every Muslim man and woman.”

So unabashedly committed to violence is Hamas that it rejects peace negotiations and diplomatic settlements as a matter of principle. The charter avers:

The so-called peaceful solutions, and the international conferences to resolve the Palestinian problem, are all contrary to the beliefs of the Islamic Resistance Movement. For renouncing any part of Palestine means renouncing part of the religion; the nationalism of the Islamic Resistance Movement is part of its faith, the movement educates its members to adhere to its principles and to raise the banner of Allah over their homeland as they fight their Jihad.

Nor could it be clearer that the jihad is to continue until every last Jew has been killed or disappears. On this point, the charter asserts: “Hamas has been looking forward to implement Allah’s promise whatever time it might take. The prophet, prayer and peace be upon him, said: The time will not come until Muslims will fight the Jews (and kill them); until the Jews hide behind rocks and trees, which will cry: O Muslim! There is a Jew hiding behind me, come on and kill him!”

With due respect to Imam Kringle and Islam’s other American cheerleaders, this neither “twists up the religion to serve a political agenda” nor “hijacks” Islam. Hamas, to the contrary, accurately quoted Islamic scripture. As the scholar Andrew Bostom observes, the pronouncement by Mohammed about Muslims killing all remaining Jews on the Day of Judgment comes straight from a canonical hadith, Sahih Muslim, Book 41, No. 6985. Hadiths are collections of the prophet’s words and deeds, and the one in question flows seamlessly from the Koran itself, from verses like Sura 2:61, which condemns Jews for purportedly rejecting Allah’s signs and “slaying his Messengers.” That indictment, reiterated in Sura 3:112, is echoed in the Hamas charter’s opening passages: “They have incurred anger from their Lord, and wretchedness is laid upon them. That is because they used to disbelieve the revelations of Allah, and slew the Prophets wrongfully.” Thus, the charter warns, “Israel will rise and will remain erect until Islam eliminates it as it had eliminated its predecessors.”


This is why Imam Rauf and his friends get so tongue-tied when it comes to Hamas. Like many of Rauf’s principal supporters in the United States, Hamas is part of the Muslim Brotherhood; in fact, it is its Palestinian branch. Don’t take my word for it. Here’s what Hamas itself says, in the charter:

Article Two: The Link between Hamas and the Association of Muslim Brothers: The Islamic Resistance Movement is one of the wings of the Muslim Brothers in Palestine. The Muslim Brotherhood Movement is a world organization, the largest Islamic Movement in the modern era. It is characterized by a profound understanding, by precise notions and by a complete comprehensiveness of all concepts of Islam in all domains of life: views and beliefs, politics and economics, education and society, jurisprudence and rule, indoctrination and teaching, the arts and publications, the hidden and the evident, and all the other domains of life.

Again: no separation of the spiritual and the temporal, of Islamic and civil law. They are one. And, it turns out, the top priority of Rauf’s Cordoba Initiative is the Sharia Index Project, which is designed to plant and expand Islamic law in every country. Wonder of wonders, that just happens to be the Muslim Brotherhood’s top priority — the installation of sharia being the necessary precondition to the Islamicizing of a society. And, lo and behold, Rauf’s partners in the Sharia Index Project include Jamal Barzinji and his International Institute of Islamic Thought (IIIT).

As Zeyno Baran recounts in an essay for the Hudson Institute’s invaluable series, Current Trends in Islamist Ideology (available here, scroll to page 78), Barzinji is a pivotal figure in the construction of the Brotherhood’s American network. Barzinji formed IIIT as a think tank geared toward the “Islamicization of knowledge.” Later, perceiving the need to establish an “umbrella organization” for Islamist groups in the United States, Barzinji forged the creation in 1981 of the Islamic Society of North America. ISNA later funded Hamas, using its Illinois headquarters to house the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development (HLF) — an ostensible “charity” set up by the Brotherhood to underwrite Hamas’s operations. Thereafter, when the Brotherhood created the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) to be its public-relations arm (disguised as a civil-rights organization), seed money came from HLF.

In late 2008, IIIT and ISNA republished Rauf’s book, What’s Right with Islam, under the new title, What’s Right with Islam Is What’s Right with America. The book had been released in Malaysia, in 2004, under the more ominous title A Call to Prayer from the World Trade Center Rubble: Islamic Dawa in the Heart of America Post-9/11 — “dawa” being the stealth form of jihad by which the Brotherhood promises to “conquer America,” according to its spiritual leader, Sheikh Yusuf Qaradawi, a figure admired by Rauf. Barzinji personally chaired the meeting that launched the republication of Rauf’s book, and the IIIT subsequently hosted Rauf at a December 2008 event. ISNA and CAIR, meantime, have become leading advocates for the Ground Zero mosque. Both groups are enjoying a resurgence in the era of Obama’s “outreach” to Islam, notwithstanding their designation by the Justice Department as unindicted coconspirators in the recent HLF prosecution, in which several defendants were convicted for financing Hamas.

Barzinji has been involved in large-scale American mosque projects before. He is a founder of the Dar al-Hijra mosque and Islamic community center in Virginia (about which I’ve written here). His co-founders included Ismail Elbarasse, another Brotherhood heavyweight who helped his former business partner, Mousa abu Marzook, run Hamas from Virginia in the early Nineties. (Deported from the United States in 1994, Marzook is now the No. 2 Hamas official.) Besides being a hub of Hamas support, the Dar al-Hijra center is now infamous for having retained al-Qaeda recruiter Anwar al-Awlaki as one of its imams, as well as for ministering to some of the 9/11 hijackers, the Fort Hood assassin, and an al-Qaeda operative now serving a life sentence for plotting to murder Pres. George W. Bush.


In repeatedly refusing to condemn Hamas during the WABC radio interview, Rauf took pains to offer the caveat that “the targeting of civilians is wrong. It is a sin in our religion. Whoever does it, targeting civilians is wrong. I am a supporter of the state of Israel.” Nonetheless, the interview was a public-relations disaster. Attempting to contain the damage, Rauf’s office put out a statement: “Imam Feisal has always condemned terrorism (see his . . . hundreds of speeches). Hamas is both a political movement and a terrorist organization. Hamas commits atrocious acts of terror. Imam Feisal has forcefully and consistently condemned all forms of terrorism, including those committed by Hamas, as un-Islamic.”

These are clever assertions. They give Rauf’s admirers ammunition to plead his case but leave his Brotherhood friends pacified. Yes, Rauf now appears, finally, to concede that Hamas is a terrorist organization. Yet it is one he cannot bring himself to condemn because, voila, it’s also a “political movement” (just like the Muslim Brotherhood!). Rauf condemns “terrorism” in the abstract, but don’t ask him to condemn specific terrorists. Being against “terrorism” is safe: The Brotherhood does not consider attacks by Hamas to be “terrorism” — they are resistance (as in “the Islamic Resistance Movement” — Hamas). Rauf declares that “targeting civilians is wrong,” but when it comes to Israel, a country fighting for its survival, Brotherhood ideology emphasizes that all Jewish men and unmarried women are drafted into the armed forces, and most remain in the reserves for years thereafter; therefore, most Jewish Israelis are not considered civilians by Hamas.

But wait a second, you say: Didn’t Rauf declare outright that he is a “supporter of the state of Israel”? He certainly did, but he was careful not to say in what form. In fact, he supports a state of Israel stripped of its Jewish character. Earlier this week, a 2005 speech was uncovered in which Rauf explained that he sees Israel, with its growing Arab sector, becoming “post-Zionist,” “secular,” and “multicultural.” He perceives its “identity” as a Jewish state having “shifted enormously” since its founding. Consequently, he rejects the so-called “two-state solution” — the American government dream of a Jewish state and a Muslim state, co-existing side-by-side in peace. Instead, Rauf concluded, “My own personal analysis tells me that a one-state solution is a more coherent one than a two-state solution.”

One state, no longer a Jewish state, stretching from the Mediterranean to the Jordan River — you know it’s funny: That just happens to be Hamas’s plan.

— Andrew C. McCarthy, a senior fellow at the National Review Institute, is the author, most recently, of The Grand Jihad: How Islam and the Left Sabotage America.


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