ANALYSIS: Some Reflections On The Rashad Hussain Affair

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Now that the controversy over Rashad Hussain, the newly appointed U.S. envoy to the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), seems to have died for lack of further interest, it may be useful to reflect on how in the words of one of Mr. Hussain’s supporters,”an all-too-familiar script began to play out.” Indeed there was such a script, but the performance looked quite different to us from where we sit as the source of the reporting that began the controversy. To better understand these events, we will briefly review how we came to the decision to do the post on Mr. Hussain.

  • Shortly after he was appointed, we reviewed the public record and found that Mr.Hussain had been a speaker at four events connected to the U.S. Muslim Brotherhood (USMB). That there is a USMB should no longer be in doubt as it has been identified as such by federal prosecutors, by historical studies, and in documents found in the homes of USMB leaders. It should be noted that while we found only these four USMB speaking appearances by Mr. Hussain, in our experience this is usually an indication that more such activity had likely taken place.
  • We saw further that Mr. Hussain had complained of “political prosecutions/persecutions” of U.S. Muslims including Sami Al-Arian, the leader of Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) in the U.S. who was later convicted of supporting the PIJ. Complaining of such politically motivated prosecution and defense of Mr. Al-Arian are common themes of the USMB. USMB organizations have frequently said that various forces, often referring or alluding to the U.S. Jewish community, wish to deny Muslims the right to participate in the political process. We also noted that the sentences reporting Mr. Hussain’s comments on Al-Arian appeared to have been deleted from the later online versions of the article in which they first appeared in 2004.
  • Finally, we saw that Mr. Hussain had written an article which advances themes common to the USMB- eliminating references to “Islamic extremism”, advocating relationships with “mainstream” U.S. Islamic organizations that are actually part of the USMB, asserting that U.S. foreign policy is at the root of terrorism, etc.

Given this history, we posted on Mr. Hussain as we would on any other figure of public importance with this kind of history relating to the USMB. However, as it says on our masthead, we are an “intelligence digest,” not a newspaper or magazine. Our goal is provide open source intelligence for use by those interested in the global Muslim Brotherhood. While we sometimes provide further analysis, we also assume that others will make their own interpretations and further enhance or amplify what is reported here. As one supporter of Mr. Hussain wrote:

Rashad’s attendance may or may not give an observer reason to be suspicious, and to desire more information — but if red flags are indeed raised, the next step should be pursuing that additional information.

Instead, almost the entire U.S. media/blogosphere was focused solely on the issue of Mr. Hussain’s comments about Al-Arian and the missing sentences. This was very similar to what happened after we reported on Mazen Asbahi, the Muslim outreach coordinator appointed in 2008 by then candidate Obama. At that time, the entire focus of media attention was on Mr. Asbahi’s presence on the board of an organization along with an imam at a controversial mosque which had been tied to Hamas fund raising. Just as almost nobody appeared to have read the original post on Mr. Asbahi, nobody now appeared to be reading the original post on Mr. Hussain (in part because FOX, ABC, and other blogs either never referred to our original report or gave us only very sparse credit).

In response to the controversy, the White House, Mr. Hussain, and the magazine that reported his comments first asserted that Mr. Hussain’s comments had actually been made by Al-Arian’s daughter until Mr. Hussain was confronted with a tape recording of the event which confirmed the original report. That didn’t stop Mr. Hussain’s defenders who attempted to construct preposterous defenses for him such as suggesting he couldn’t remember what he said about Al-Arian because he only said “prosecutions” not “persecutions” (he used both terms) or implying that he could not be an extremist because he was such a “fantastic human being.” Well-known critic of Islamism Daniel Pipes weighed in to say that he believed Hussain’s assertions of being misquoted because he himself had been misquoted by the same magazine. Senior ABC correspondent Jake Tapper, who in 2008 also accused the GMBDW of “playing the guilt by association game” in the Asbahi affair, wrote in his blog “Hussain’s scholarship…does not reflect the thinking of someone who excuses terrorist acts in any way.”

His defenders also alluded to the fact that Mr. Hussain’s comments on Al-Arian and two of his speaking appearances occurred when “Rashad was quite young” (actually only six years ago). This defense ignores Mr. Hussain’s speaking appearance at the recent 2009 Summit of the Council for the Advancement of Muslim Professionals (CAMP), occurring after Mr. Hussain had already become a White House attorney. Although CAMP bills itself as a networking group, it was actually created

….to educate and activate the community on issues of political significance at home and abroad. CAMP organizes activities and lectures, seminars and discussions on political activism to get the membership and the community involved in the political process to better ourselves and our communities at home or abroad.

CAMP has multiple ties to the North American Muslim Brotherhood. At one point, current Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) President Ingrid Mattson was listed by CAMP as an adviser and Zeba Iqbal, the Vice-Chair of CAMP International, is also on the board of the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC-NY). At least one of the CAMP chapters, CAMP Toronto, has joined with other USMB organizations such as CAIR, ISNA, and ICNA to issue protests at Israeli actions in Gaza and against the Niqab (full face veil) ban (a CAMP VP wears it) and in support of Omar Khadr, being held in Guantanamo on charges of killing an American solder in Afghanistan. A number of the speakers at the 2009 CAMP Summit had clear and obvious connections to the USMB including

  • Haaris Ahmad (Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), American Learning Institute for Muslims (ALIM)
  • Sherman Jackson (ALIM, former North American Islamic Trust (NAIT), former Fiqh Council of North America (FCNA)
  • Suhail Khan (the son of ISNA/CAIR leaders, one-time ISNA Committee member)
  • Saeed Khan (Institute for Social Policy & Understanding (ISPU)

It should be noted also that CAMP has listed Islamic Relief USA as a major sponsor and supporter. As previous posts have discussed, Islamic Relief USA and its parent organization are closely associated with the global Muslim Brotherhood and have been tied to Hamas fund-raising. Other CAMP Summit sponsors included the Amana Funds , CAIR, MPAC, and the ISPU, all part of or close to the USMB.

A few of Mr. Hussain’s supporters got around to attacking the GMBDW, including one well-known academic sympathetic to the Muslim Brotherhood who said that we wrote a “hit piece” as part of a rightwing smear campaign against Mr. Hussain, among other things “damning him by association for appearances at various events sponsored by Muslim organizations.” These accusations are almost identical to those leveled at the GMBDW during the controversy over Mazen Asbahi. We responded in depth to these charges previously, but we will repeat briefly that because the global Muslim Brotherhood is essentially a covert organization, albeit with a public face, the task of identifying affiliated individuals and organizations falls on the analysts who are forced by necessity to use a variety of tools, including speaking appearances, to make such a determination. In the case of Rashad Hussain, we simply did what we have done in thousands of other posts which is to examine the public record and document known relationships with global/USMB entities.

The debate over what Mr. Hussain did or didn’t say about Al-Arian, the preposterous defenses, and the attacks on the GMBDW have, however, managed to obscure the larger issue which should have been an effort to understand how Mr. Hussain is related to the USMB and how that relationship would impact his appointment to a quasi-ambassadorial position to arguably the most important Islamic organization in the world. The GMBDW has documented the increasing visibility, and one assumes influence, of the USMB within the Obama Administration. A recent post, for example, notes that global Muslim Brotherhood leader Tariq Ramadan and other individuals tied to Middle Eastern Brotherhood entities are scheduled to appear at a conference in April alongside State Department representatives and, possibly, even Senator John Kerry. The conference itself is sponsored by an organization that is closely associated with both the USMB and the State Department and which has long argued that the U.S. government should support Islamist movements in foreign countries. Is it Mr. Hussain’s ties to the USMB, which warmly welcomed his appointment, that played a role in the appointment of this 31-year old individual perhaps only four years out of law school and with no diplomatic or other experience that would seemingly qualify him for this important post?

Perhaps an even larger question is the role of the U.S. news media in covering the USMB and global Muslim Brotherhood. In the Hussain affair, with the notable exceptions of FOX News and a column by Cal Thomas, no national or local news sources even mentioned the controversy. In fact, aside from a recent Dallas Morning News article on the subject, recent years have seen virtually a complete dearth of reporting by the U.S. media on the Muslim Brotherhood in Western societies or its constituent organizations and leaders. Since June 2007, the GMBDW has done some 2300 posts on the global Muslim Brotherhood with only the posts on the two Obama appointees finding their way into the “mainstream” media. For example, that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton recently spoke at a Saudi college associated with a designated terrorist with ties to the USMB or that the most popular and influential Muslim cleric in the world (and also a leader of the global Muslim Brotherhood) just reaffirmed his support for suicide bombings in Israel would appear to be of no interest to the media.

The GMBDW will continue to provide open source intelligence on the global Muslim Brotherhood, but until media attention on the subject becomes more common and shifts focus solely from terrorism to the larger question of the role and influence of the global Brotherhood in our societies, its sympathizers and defenders will continue to succeed in diverting attention from important questions of national security as well as social policy.

(Additional Source: Zoom People Information October 2009 Dawa Net Canada CAIR-CAN Press Releases Published on: 3/22/2007 “Canada must assist stranded Canadians and Demand End to Gaza attacks”)

Discussion1 Comment

  1. GlobalMB

    The Washington Post published a highly favorable portrait of Mr. Hussain today, briefly mentioning his statements about Al-Arian and quoting Mr. Hussain as follows:

    “My extensive writings on this topic make it clear that I condemn terrorism unequivocally in all its forms,” Hussain said. “I’d be happy to put that against one sentence from 2004 that I believe was taken out of context.” Mr.Hussain had said earlier:

    “I made statements on that panel that I now recognize were ill-conceived or not well-formulated,”