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(Washington, D.C.): President Bush has characterized the choice to be made in this war on terror: “Either you are with us or you are with the terrorists.” The stark clarity of this binary decision has served the United States well in marshaling a large number of nations in the fight against al Qaeda and a smaller, but still ample, number for the next phase of this war: the liberation of Iraq.

Embracing the Wrong Sorts of Muslims

Regrettably, in the months since September 11, 2001, people who have made no secret of their sympathy for terrorists, provided them financial support, excused their murderous attacks and/or sought to impede the prosecution of the war against them have repeatedly been put in the company of the President. In other words, individuals and organizations who appear to be “with the terrorists” have time and again been allowed to be with the President in the White House and elsewhere. For example:

  • On September 20, 2001 — just nine days after the deadly attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon — Shaykh Hamza Yusuf was the Muslim representative in a small ecumenical gathering held in the Oval Office. At the same time, FBI agents were trying to interview him at his house in California since he had declared two days before the attack: “This country is facing a terrible fate….This country stands condemned. It stands condemned like Europe stood condemned because of what it did — and lest people forget that Europe suffered two world wars after conquering the Muslim lands.” His wife told the incredulous agents Yusuf wasn’t home, he was with the President.
  • Six days later, President Bush met in the Roosevelt Room with a Muslim imam by the name of Muzammil H. Siddiqi. Siddiqi is a long-time board member of several organizations in the United States funded by, and closely tied to, Saudi Arabia’s radical state religion known as Wahhabism. Two of these groups, including one where Siddiqi still sits on the board, were raided in March 2002 by Federal authorities in pursuit of terrorist financing.

    This presidential meeting was all the more puzzling since the imam had shown his true colors by claiming, at a rally the previous October: “America has to learn…If you remain on the side of injustice, the wrath of God will come. Please, all Americans. Do you remember that? Allah is watching everyone. God is watching everyone. If you continue doing injustice, and tolerate injustice, the wrath of God will come.”

  • On September 17, 2001, President Bush paid a visit to the mosque in Washington. There he was photographed flanked by Nihad Awad, the executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR). CAIR has long been an admirer and public defender of terrorist organizations whose attacks against even innocent women and children it sees as legitimate acts of “liberation.” Awad has personally declared, “I am a supporter of the Hamas movement.”
  • Also in the picture with President Bush at the mosque was Khaled Saffuri, currently chairman of an organization called the Islamic Institute, which he co-founded with conservative activist Grover Norquist. Saffuri previously served as the development director of the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, a supporter of the Palestine Liberation Organization when it made no bones about using terrorism for political purposes. He went on to become deputy director of the radical ,b>American Muslim Council (AMC), under then-director Abduraman Alamoudi — a publicly declared supporter of Hamas and Hezbollah, whose statements of solidarity with these groups prompted the Bush 2000 campaign to return his contributions.

    Under Saffuri’s leadership, the Islamic Institute has attacked the Bush Administration’s investigations of radical Muslim groups and closures of organizations suspected of funding terrorists. The Institute has been funded by groups raided in the above-mentioned terrorist financing investigations. It lobbied intensively against portions of the USA Patriot Act. And Saffuri has personally denounced the President’s listing of the Holy Land Foundation as a charity that supported terrorist organizations. He has acknowledged sponsoring the children of suicide bombers through the Foundation, even after its closure by the government.

Its Not Just the President

In addition to the President, a number of his senior subordinates — including Cabinet officers — have met, in some cases more than once, with members of the aforementioned and other organizations with troubling attitudes towards jihadist terrorists. A particularly bizarre instance was FBI Director Robert Muellers keynote address last year to the American Muslim Council.

The AMC has a long record of activities hostile to the Bush Administrations prosecution of the war on terror. It has even urged Muslims not to cooperate with the FBI! Nonetheless, according to a press release dated last Thursday, Mr. Mueller has invited the AMCs chairman, Dr. Yahya Mossa Basha, to attend an upcoming meeting with him and leaders of major Muslim and Arab-American organizations.

As recently as January 16, 2003, White House officials engaged in a “dialogue” with representatives of the AMC and CAIR, among others opposed to the Administration’s efforts to register aliens from terrorist-sponsoring and -harboring nations. In a press release issued the next day, the American Muslim Council’s executive director, Eric Vickers (who has called al Qaeda “a resistance movement” and repeatedly refused to denounce Hamas or Hezbollah), thanked the Associate Director for Cabinet Affairs, Ali Tulbah, for ensuring that AMC and CAIR were included.

As it happens, Mr. Tulbah’s father was as recently as 2001, treasurer of a large Wahhabi center in Houston. This may have influenced his judgment about the advisability of bringing people who sympathize with terrorists into the White House complex. Suhail Khan, the son of another prominent Wahhabi (who hosted bin Laden deputy Ayman al-Zawahiri on two fundraising tours in the 1990s), was the man first charged by the Bush Administration with Muslim “outreach.” He was in place in the White House’s Public Liaison Office when several of the meetings described above were arranged during the months after 9/11.

Its Not the Secret Services Job

One might be forgiven for assuming that, even if political appointees failed to understand the folly of bringing people who are not with the President on the Islamist terrorist threat into the White House, the Secret Service would. Unfortunately, Mr. Bush’s spokesman excoriated the Secret Service in June 2001 after it expelled from a meeting in the complex the son of Sami al-Arian, another Islamist who helped raise funds for Palestinian Islamic Jihad. The guys protecting the President got the message: It is not the Secret Service’s job to protect his Administration from making the mistake of embracing its foes.

Why It Matters

That mistake has two possibly far-reaching strategic repercussions. First, making no distinction between peaceable, pro-American Muslims and those with ties to radical, anti-American Islamism affords the latter opportunities to exercise undesirable influence over U.S. policy. In the United States, they have ample legal means to try to undermine the President on waging war with Iraq, strengthening law enforcement tools and intensifying surveillance of hostile groups and facilities (including mosques). These groups are making full use of such techniques. They should not, however, be granted the opportunity also to advance this agenda by pressuring Administration officials behind closed doors.

Second, photographs with the President and press releases exulting over access to the White House enable radical Islamists a further windfall: With the exclusion of moderates, it increases the radicals’ stature within the Muslim community and facilitates their efforts to dominate and claim to represent the larger and surely less anti-American portion of that religious population.

The Bottom Line

It is very much in the President’s interest — and the Nation’s — that moderate, law-abiding, peace-loving and patriotic American Muslims be embraced and empowered by the Bush Administration and by all those who support it in waging a war on terror, not on Islam. To do so, however, the Administration must not allow those who are with its enemies in that struggle to continue being with the President and his team.

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