Veteran Washington Post journalist Glenn Kessler, currently writing the paper’s popular “Fact Checker” blog, has written a piece for the blog purporting to fact check a recent series of claims about long-time Hilary Clinton aide Huma Abedin. The piece, titled “Does Huma Abedin have ‘ties’ to the Muslim Brotherhood?” is directed at claims about Abedin made by Roger Stone, a top adviser to GOP nominee Donald Trump and known for making irresponsible statements relating to the subject of the Muslim Brotherhood. In his blog, Kessler rightfully rebukes Stone’s exaggerations with respect to Abedin while at the same time failing to fact check his own, and often erroneous or misleading claims and/or omissions. Kessler begins with the undisputed fact that between 1996 and 2008, Abedin was listed as an assistant editor of the Journal of Muslim Minority Affairs, edited by Abedin’s mother, Saleha Mahmood Abedin, who as first reported by the GMBDW in February 2010 is a dean of Dar El-Hekma women’s college in Saudi Arabia that Clinton visited when she was secretary of state. As we noted at that time, and unreported by Kessler, is that among the “Establisher’s and Trustees” of Dar El-Hekma, and appearing only on a list published before the 911 attacks, was Yaseen Abdullah Kadi (aka Yassin Abdullah Kadi) who appears to have played an extensive role in Dar El-Hekma affairs. According to statements he made in December 2001 to the U.S. Treasury Department:
- “…in 1996 I founded and led a planning committee to establish higher educational institutions for women in Saudi Arabia. This ultimately led to the founding of a pioneering women’s college in Jeddah named Dar AI Hekma College in 1999.”
- “As well as leading the planning committee of the college, I am chairman of its academic committee.”
- “I have supported the college, not only ideologically by supporting the aims of the college, but also financially, by providing finance myself and raising funds for the college from others. Since 1996 I have personally contributed substantial sums to the college and have raised very substantial donations and scholarship funds from others. I am also a very active member of the Board of Trustees of the college and attend the college meetings and other functions one or more times per week throughout the year.”
On October 12, 2001, Kadi was added to the list of designated terrorists by the U.S.Treasury and our 2010 post discusses further ties of Kadi to the US Muslim Brotherhood as well as other individuals of interest on the Dar El-Hekma list that includes important Saudi bankers and members of the Bin Laden family.
Kessler goes on to cite Clinton campaign assertions that Huma Abedin “played no role in editing articles” for the Journal of Muslim Minority Affairs without any seeming effort to verify independently that this is true. However whatever her role at the journal, Kessler does not dispute that Huma’s mother, brother, and sister have all been listed as being involved with the journal and it would seem indisputable that at the very least the publication is a family enterprise. Kessler then tackles the question of whether or not the Journal can be described as a “radical publication.” While an analysis of the Journal content is beyond the scope of this post, the GMBDW does note that none of the authorities cited by Kessler in opposition to the “radical” notion can be described as objective since they are either members of the publication’s own advisory board or, in the case of Harvard Law’s Noah Feldman shows remarkably poor analytical skills as when in 2013 he called Tunisian Muslim Brotherhood leader Rachid Ghannouchi. “the the closest thing to an Islamic Nelson Mandela.” Kessler does take the New York Post to task for calling the journal a “Saudi propaganda organ.” He writes:
Oddly, the New York Post described the journal as a “Saudi propaganda organ” — even though the Saudi government has banned the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization. Presumably one cannot be both a Saudi propagandist and a Muslim Brotherhood operative at the same time.
This statement displays a profound misunderstanding of the Saudi relationship to the Muslim Brotherhood which has always been close, even according to Kessler’s own paper the Washington Post which explored this issue in detail in 2014. While it is true that in 2014 the Kingdom declared the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood to be a terrorist organization, the GMBDW has also extensively reported that the designation does not appear to have included important leaders of the wider Global Muslim Brotherhood and that under the new King, the relationship between the Kingdom and the Muslim Brotherhood may be “normalizing” again.
The next part of Kessler’s attempted rebuttal is his examination of the ties between the Abedin family and Saudi Islamist leader Abdullah Omar Naseef, best known as as Secretary-General of the Muslim World League (MWL) from 1983-1993. As we have noted in the past, the Journal of Muslim Minority Affairs founded by Syed Z. Abedin, Huma’s father, and has been described as having had “the quiet but active support” of Naseef, then General Secretary of the MWL, established in 1962 as a means for the propagation of Saudi “Wahabbi” Islam. Muslim Brothers played an important role in its founding and, to date, the League has been strongly associated with the Brotherhood. As we have also noted, US government officials have testified that the MWL has been linked to supporting Islamic terrorist organizations globally and the organization has a long history of anti-Semitism. While Kessler acknowledges the role that Nassef played with respect to the Pakistani charity called the Rabita Trust, designated as a terrorist entity shortly after 911, he writes “that distant connection, a quarter-century later, is now used to tar Abedin” clearly suggesting that the Abedin family ties to the MWL are ancient history. However, as reported by the GMBDW, the Abedin family ties to Naseef have continued into far more recent times.
Since March 2010, the GMBDW has been reporting on the International Islamic Council for Dawa and Relief (IICDR), an umbrella group for 86 Islamic organizations, many of which are associated with the global Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas fundraising, or support for Al Qaeda. The IICDR was banned by Israel in July 2008 as one of a group of organizations belonging to the Union of Good, a coalition of charities headed by Global Muslim Brotherhood leader Youssef Qaradawi that help to raise funds for Hamas. Since at least 2001, the IICDR website has been reporting that both Saleha Abedin and Naseef have been serving as members of the group’s Presidency Staff Council. In addition, in May 2013 we delved into the ties of Huma Abedin’s brother Hasan Abedin who was a fellow of the Oxford Center of Islamic Studies, known to have been chaired by Naseef at the same time. (Qaradawi was also listed as an Oxford Trustee at this time.)
Finally, Kessler calls any alleged ties from the Abedin family to the Muslim Brotherhood “obscure” and cites Journal of Muslim Minority Affairs Advisory Board member Ali Asani who claims:
…the alleged connections to the Muslim Brotherhood are “crazy” when you consider the stated purpose of the journal. “The Muslim Brotherhood was the last organization interested in this issue” of the rights of minority Muslims, he said. “Syed Abedin was far from the Muslim Brotherhood. It makes absolutely no sense.”
While GMBDW reporting has centered mainly on the family’s ties to Saudi Arabian Islamists, Saleha Abedin’s role at the IICDR does bring her into direct association with numerous Global Muslim Brotherhood groups. In any event, Asani’s statement above shows another staggering lack of understanding of the subject. While the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood may never have displayed any interest in the subject, Youssef Qaradawi the most important leader in the Global Muslim Brotherhood, has always had a profound interest in Muslim minorities in Europe, for example, once famously ruling that under certain circumstances, Muslims in the West were allowed to purchase property using mortgages. In fact, Qaradawi established his European Council for Fatwa and Research (ECFR) in 1997 precisely to address the issue of the presence of large numbers of Muslims in European countries and the ECFR is composedly largely of scholars with ties to the Global Muslim Brotherhood.
Kessler concludes by asserting “Vague suggestions of suspicious-sounding connections to her parents don’t pass the laugh test, even at the flimsiest standard of guilt by association.” In fact, it is Kessler’s own fact checking here that is laughable and, as noted, at times displays an astounding lack of knowledge of the subject he is writing about. The piece follows in the wake of other massacres of the Huma Abedin subject including the January 2016 Vanity Fair article which we called “one of the most egregious examples of poor reporting on the Global Muslim Brotherhood to date. The reporting on Huma Abedin, in turn, is part of the deafening silence of late by the US media on anything to do with the Muslim Brotherhood in the US. As we wrote earlier this month:
The GMBDW is aware of no US major media reporting on the subject of the US Muslim Brotherhood and/or Hamas infrastructure since Rod Dreher was reporting on the 2007 Holy Land Foundation trial for the Dallas Morning News. Before that, we are aware of only two major media articles on the subject both from 2004- the Chicago Tribune article on the Bridgeview Mosque and the Washington Post article on the Muslim Brotherhood in the US as well as elsewhere in the world. Since 2007, there has been a deafening silence from the US media on the Muslim Brotherhood in the US with the exception of pieces such as the recent Huffington Post article that attempted to ridicule the extensive evidence of ties between two Muslim Congressmen and the US Muslim Brotherhood and a Washington Post article from yesterday that debunked claims that the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) was connected to the Khizr Khan but, following the practice of all major US media, fails to even once identify the ties of CAIR to both the US and Global Muslim Brotherhood.
Since the GMBDW was the publication that first broke the story on Huma Abedin in 2010, long before she became of interest in the US, we wish to be very clear on what we believe the evidence shows. While we are aware of no direct evidence that Huma Abedin herself has in any way compromised her position with respect to her family connections, the GMBDW has long wondered how she could pass a routine US State Department background check given the department’s expressed interest in the subject of foreign influence. As part of the State Departments, “Adjudicative Guidelines for Determining Eligibility for Access to Classified Information”:
6. The Concern. Foreign contacts and interests may be a security concern if the individual has divided loyalties or foreign financial interests, may be manipulated or induced to help a foreign person, group, organization, or government in a way that is not in U.S. interests, or is vulnerable to pressure or coercioon by any foreign interest. Adjudication under this Guideline can and should consider the identity of the foreign country in which the foreign contact or financial interest is located, including, but not limited to, such considerations as whether the foreign country is known to target United States citizens to obtain protected information and/or is associated with a risk of terrorism.
Part of the criteria for assessing such influence include:
Conditions that could raise a security concern and may be disqualifying include:
(a) contact with a foreign family member, business or professional associate, friend, or other person who is a citizen of or resident in a foreign country if that contact creates a heightened risk of foreign exploitation, inducement, manipulation, pressure, or coercion;
(b) connections to a foreign person, group, government, or country that create a potential conflict of interest between the individual’s obligation to protect sensitive information or technology and the individual’s desire to help a foreign person, group, or country by providing that information;
Whether or not Huma Abedin was subject to and properly passed a security clearance investigation for her position as a top aide to Hillary Clinton, the subject of ties between her and her family and Saudi Arabian Islamists and/or the Global Muslim Brotherhood, would appear to be a valid concern in this day and age and a proper subject of public interest. The GMBDW only hopes, and our hopes are perpetually dashed, that the mainstream media in the US would once again assume its rightful role as the guardian of the public interest with respect to the topic.