The Corner

National Security & Defense

Find the ‘Countering Violent Extremism Summit’ at the Intersection of Islamists and Leftists

Salam al-Marayati (MPAC)

You may understandably think of it as an ISIS jobs fair, but the ongoing confab in Washington is officially known as President Obama’s “summit” on “Countering Violent Extremism.” That being the case, many Americans seem surprised at the appearance of Salam al-Marayati, leader of the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC). After all, the White House is having a public hissy fit over the upcoming speech to Congress by Obama’s bête noire, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. An odd time, one might think, for the POTUS to be so chummy with a Muslim activist best know for theorizing, right after the 9/11 attacks, that “we should put the State of Israel on the suspect list.”

But National Review readers will not be surprised. Marayati and MPAC figured in my 2010 book on the Muslim Brotherhood’s U.S. operations – The Grand Jihad: How Islam and the Left Sabotage America (“grand jihad” and “sabotage” are lifted verbatim from an internal Brotherhood memo that describes the Islamists’ objective to infiltrate and destroy our country). And three years ago, I profiled Marayati and MPAC in this NRO column.

There is a reason why Obama’s summit is striking all the wrong chords with the public: strangely sympathetic to Islamist sensibilities and grievances at the very time when rampaging jihadists, while quoting Islamic scripture, are barbarically slaughtering their enemies and conducting a pogrom against Christians (there being no Jews left to mass-murder in Syria, Iraq and Libya).

The reason is that the summit serves exactly the same purpose as is served by MPAC and Marayati: It is the nexus between Islamists and Leftists.

For the Left, radical Islamic terrorism cannot be called “radical Islamic terrorism”; it must be called “violent extremism,” to avoid offending the Left’s Islamist allies. Still, while the labeling of terrorism may be problematic, the fact of terrorism is an opportunity – a crisis that, like all crises, can be used to advance the “social justice” agenda.

Just have a look at President Obama’s op-ed in the Los Angeles Times this week. ISIS and al-Qaeda are on the march, so what does the president suppose this is the occasion for? “Our focus [in the “summit on countering violent extremism”] will be on empowering local communities.”

The public is worried about our national security because, after six years of Obama, jihadists have more safe-haven than ever to plot and train for attacks against America, Israel and Western Europe. Obama, however, sees the situation as grist for a large-scale exercise in community-organizing: A summit that gathers “governments, civil society groups, and community leaders from more than 60 nations” to address “the anger that festers when people feel that injustice and corruption leave them no chance of improving their lives.” By the president’s lights, what causes terrorism is not sharia supremacist ideology, something that is not to be discussed. Instead, “anger” over “legitimate grievances” — that always turn out to be the same grievances the Left grieves over – makes young Muslims vulnerable to “exploitation” by al Qaeda and ISIS.

For their part, Islamists share the Left’s affinity for muscular government that suffocates individual liberty. They are also anxious to gull Westerners into seeing their grievances as driven by wayward American policies rather than sharia principles. That makes an alliance with the Left a good fit – notwithstanding important differences on such matters as abortion and the rights of women and homosexuals (differences that allies can set aside when defeating a common opponent is the higher objective).

This is concretely seen in the history of MPAC, recounted in my aforementioned 2012 column:

Established in 1988 by followers of the Muslim Brotherhood and admirers of Hezbollah, MPAC styles itself a “moderate, inclusive and forward-thinking organization with a history of fostering a strong Muslim American identity, and combating terrorism and extremism.” In reality, MPAC is yet another Islamist wolf in the “social justice” clothing of the hard Left. Its founders include Hassan Hathout, the former MPAC president who has described himself as “a close disciple” of Muslim Brotherhood founder Hassan al-Banna. Hathout’s brother Maher, a senior MPAC adviser [who died in January 2015, was] lavish in his praise of both Hezbollah’s “freedom fighting” and the social-justice pioneering of Hassan al-Turabi, the leader of Sudan’s National Islamic Front — the genocidal junta that gave safe haven to al-Qaeda in the early 1990s while imposing sharia on that war-torn east African nation.

Their Islamist sympathies aside, Marayati & Co. are Democratic-party activists and programmatic leftists, championing Obamacare, condemning post-9/11 national-security measures, and demagoguing conservatives. Daniel Pipes has recounted that Marayati was a member of the Executive Committee of the California Democratic party and served as a Clinton delegate at the 1996 Democratic Convention.

As I outlined in The Grand Jihad: How Islam and the Left Sabotage America, such cross-pollination between Islamists and leftists is commonplace. The anti-Islamist activist M. Zuhdi Jasser, a staunchly pro-American Muslim, aptly describes American Islamist organizations like MPAC as “collectivist groups.” They fall in line with the Muslim Brotherhood’s leftist orientation, seeking to “increase the power of government through entitlement programs, increased taxation, and restricting free markets whenever and wherever possible.”

Marayati first came to public attention in the late Nineties, when the Democrats’ then-leader in the House, Richard Gephardt, nominated him to serve on the National Commission on Terrorism — a nomination that Gephardt later withdrew when it emerged that Marayati had spoken sympathetically of violent jihad. In 1993, for example, Marayati had proclaimed, “When Patrick Henry said, ‘Give me liberty or give me death,’ that statement epitomized jihad.” Equally absurdly, he later analogized Islamic terrorists to “American freedom fighters hundreds of years ago [who] were also regarded as terrorists by the British.” Obviously, as Pipes observed, Marayati’s intent was “to render jihad and terrorism acceptable to Americans.”

While Democrats had hoped to raise Marayati’s profile, the exposition of his track record raised too many questions about his judgment. That problem intensified as the record became better known. In 1996, for instance, a Palestinian terrorist named Muhammad Hamida plowed his car into a crowded Jerusalem bus stop, killing one Israeli and injuring 23 others as he screamed Allahu Akbar!” He was shot on the scene, before he could do any more harm. Immediately afterwards, while mum on the jihadist’s atrocity, Marayati demanded that the shooters of the jihadist be extradited to the United States to face trial on “terrorism charges” for this “provocative act.”

Meanwhile, in a 1999 PBS interview, Marayati portrayed Hezbollah attacks as “legitimate resistance” — a position that dovetailed perfectly with the sentiments of MPAC’s founders. In fact, in a position paper published around the same time, MPAC minimized Hezbollah’s murder of 241 U.S. military personnel in the 1983 terrorist suicide bombing of the Marine barracks in Lebanon: “This attack, for all the pain it caused, was not in a strict sense a terrorist operation. It was a military operation, producing no civilian casualties — exactly the kind of attack that Americans might have lauded had it been directed against Washington’s enemies.”

Nevertheless, Marayati and his wife, Laila al-Marayati (founder of the “Muslim Women’s League”), remained Clinton favorites. Mrs. Marayati served on the Clinton State Department’s advisory committee on Religious Freedom Abroad, was appointed by President Clinton to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, and was tapped by Hillary Clinton to join the then-first lady’s delegation to the Fourth World Conference on Women.

The Marayatis, moreover, helped Mrs. Clinton organize the original White House Iftaar dinner in 1996. The event, marking the end of Ramadan, has since become an annual gala to which invitations are coveted by bipartisan Beltway luminaries. In 2009, at the first Iftaar dinner held by the Obama White House, which is more unabashedly Leftist than its Clintonian predecessor, Salam al-Marayati was called on to close the program. “Ramadan,” he told the revelers, “is a time of preparation to work for social justice.”

It sure is . . . making it just like the president’s summit on countering violent extremism.

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