U.S. Muslim leaders must take stand

When a suicide bomber from the Islamic Jihad killed five Israelis and wounded dozens more in the coastal town of Hadera earlier this fall, the silence from America’s Muslim leaders was deafening.

There was no statement of denunciation or even regret from the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the most influential Muslim American organization; nor was there one from the American Muslim Council, the Muslim Public Affairs Council or the Islamic Society of North America.

Unfortunately, this silence was not surprising. When it comes to terrorism – that is, the indiscriminate murder of innocent men, women and children to advance a political agenda – time and again the most influential of America’s Muslim groups and leaders have been quiet.

The roots of the problem are two-fold: First, some Muslim American leaders simply do not oppose terrorism. They have proclaimed support for some of the world’s most lethal terrorist organizations and they have cavorted with prominent advocates of terrorism. Second, and worse, some of those leaders have been linked to, charged with or convicted of illegal activities related to terrorism.

Consider the way some American Muslim leaders have spoken about terrorism and its manifestations:

One of CAIR’s founders, Nihad Awad, called himself a supporter of Hamas, the Iran-backed group that has waged a long campaign of terror against Israel. He also called the trial over the 1993 World Trade Center bombing “a travesty of justice” and suggested that Mossad, Israel’s intelligence agency, and Egyptian intelligence agents played a role in the bombing. In recent years, a CAIR spokesman repeatedly refused to condemn Hamas, Hezbollah or Islamic Jihad.

Even condemnations of terrorism from America’s Muslim leaders seem lukewarm at best. After this year’s bombings in London, the Fiqh Council of North America issued a fatwa, endorsed by 140 Muslim groups and leaders, against terrorism directed at civilians. But, as Judea Pearl, the father of murdered journalist Daniel Pearl, noted in The New Republic soon thereafter, the fatwa fell far short of a full-fledged condemnation of terrorism and was much weaker than one issued months earlier by the Spanish Muslim Council on the first anniversary of the Madrid train bombings.

Consider, too, the growing list of American Muslim groups and leaders with alleged or proven ties to terrorism:

After the Sept. 11 attacks, CAIR solicited donations for a charity whose assets were later frozen by the Treasury Department because it allegedly funneled funds to Hamas.

CAIR’s civil rights coordinator pleaded guilty to conspiring to help al-Qaida and the Taliban; its director of community relations was arrested for his alleged ties to groups that fund Islamic terrorism and agreed to be deported to Egypt; and a founding board member of CAIR-Texas and his two brothers were convicted of terrorism charges related to Hamas.

CAIR officials are not alone among American Muslim leaders, however. The Treasury Department announced this year that Abdurrahman Alamoudi, the founder of the American Muslim Council and American Muslim Foundation, facilitated the transfer of about $1 million to al-Qaida from a British-based group that the department had designated as a terrorist organization. Late last year, Alamoudi was convicted and sentenced to 23 years in prison for his activities with nations and organizations that have ties to terrorism.

This sorry record by America’s Muslim leaders has prompted well-meaning Muslims to seek their own platform. Kamal Nawash, a young Washington, D.C., lawyer, created the Free Muslim Coalition Against Terrorism last year to provide a Muslim voice of unalterable opposition to terrorism.

His efforts are laudable, but they highlight the larger problem: When it comes to combating terrorism by militant jihadists, America’s most influential Muslim organizations and leaders are doing far too little.