Event Attended by Obama’s Muslim Envoy Was Held by Group With Troubling Views, Ties

By Patrick Goodenough | February 18, 2010 | 2:44 AM EST

The new MSA logo, unveiled in 2007, features the Arabic word ‘salam’ (peace), and five stars representing MSA’s five regional zones covering the U.S. and Canada. (Image: MSA Web site)

(CNSNews.com) – The Islamic organization whose event was attended by President Obama’s new envoy to the Muslim world six years ago has a history of radical stances, and at the time of the event it was urging members to support incarcerated Muslims including terror suspects and a convicted cop killer.

The event in Chicago over the Labor Day weekend of 2004 was a conference of the Muslim Students Association (MSA), an organization with several hundred affiliated chapters on campuses across the U.S. and Canada.

Rashad Hussain, a deputy associate counsel at the White House who has been appointed Obama’s envoy to the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), took part in a session on Sunday, September 5, entitled “Get up, Stand up, Stand up for your Rights: The State of Contemporary Civil Liberties.” Hussain was a Yale law student at the time.

Controversy erupted this week over a news item in the Nov. 2004 edition of the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs (WRMEA), which quoted Hussain as saying during the MSA event that Sami al-Arian, a man then facing trial for supporting a Palestinian terrorist group, was being persecuted for political reasons.

The WRMEA later edited the story to remove the remarks, claiming a reporter had mixed up her quotes. The reporter denied having done so, and the WRMEA has been unable to provide a detailed explanation of the circumstances around its decision to alter the archived story more than four years after it was written – although it denies a cover-up.

White House officials have told media organizations that Hussain does not recall making the comments attributed to him in the original WRMEA story. They said he took part in the MSA event to dicuss civil liberty-related issues.

Concerns raised during the session, according to the WRMEA account, dealt with issues like FBI powers to question students under the PATRIOT Act.

But MSA views on civil liberties included considerably more controversial positions.

That same year, 2004, the MSA Web site carried an appeal for members to “send letters of support, encouragement and kind words to our Muslim political prisoners.”

(The MSA article calling for support for the incarcerated men has been removed from the Web site, but an excerpt from the archived page is replicated here.)

The “political prisoners” listed included a man who gunned down a police officer, and others charged with terrorist-related offences. They are listed at the end of this report.

Seal of the Muslim Brotherhood (Image: Ikhwan Web site)


Some researchers consider the MSA’s establishment in the early 1960s to have been a key moment in the introduction of Islamic radicalism in the U.S.

“Radical Islam made its first appearance in America in 1963 at the University of Illinois with the founding of the Muslim Student Association (MSA) by group of Muslim Brotherhood immigrant activists with money from the Saudi front organization Muslim World League,” Hudson Institute visiting fellow Alex Alexiev wrote last November.

(As Cybercast News Service has reported, the MWL has a history of promoting shari’a and religious intolerance, and links to charities that are subject to U.S. government sanctions for clandestine funding of terror groups.)

Alexiev reported that other organizations, including the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), spun off from the MSA over the following years, acting independently but never severing their ideological or organizational ties to the Muslim Brotherhood.

The Muslim Brotherhood (Ilhwan) is a veteran Sunni Islamist group formed in Egypt in the 1920s, and which later became active in Jordan, Saudi Arabia and other Arab nations.

It promotes the establishment of a caliphate and sometimes preaches non-violent resistance and a focus on dawa – Islamic outreach – but its association with terrorism run deep.

The Brotherhood was the organization that spawned Hamas in Gaza in 1987, and top terrorists with Brotherhood ties include 9/11 architect Khalid Sheik Mohammed, who joined the organization in Kuwait; al-Qaeda number two Ayman Zawahiri, a former top member of the Brotherhood in Egypt; and the jailed World Trade Center bombing plotter sheik Omar Abdel Rahman, also an Egyptian.

But the Brotherhood also has an expanding presence beyond the Islamic world.

Researchers at the Global Muslim Brotherhood Daily Report, the Investigative Project on Terrorism and elsewhere track the Brotherhood’s global network, including prominent Islamic organizations in Europe and the U.S., like the MSA.

In a 2003 Front Page magazine article, Investigative Project analyst Erick Stakelbeck listed some of what he called the MSA’s “more notable transgressions.” Among them:

A 1995 rally in support of Hamas, sponsored by the MSA branch at UC Berkeley. “During the event, students carried a sign depicting an Israeli flag with a swastika through the middle and pledged to serve as future suicide bombers,” Stakelbeck wrote.

At an Oct. 2000 anti-Israel rally in Los Angeles, MSA West president Sohail Shakr was quoted as telling protestors that true peace would require “the elimination of the Zionist entity in the middle of the Muslim world.”

, the newsmagazine of the MSA branch at UCLA, carried an editorial extolling al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden: “When we hear someone refer to the great mujahideen Osama bin Laden as a ‘terrorist’ we should defend our brother and refer to him as a freedom fighter; someone who has forsaken wealth and power to fight in Allah’s cause and speak out against oppressors.” The column was published before 9/11 but after al-Qaeda attacked U.S. embassies in Africa, killing more than 200 people.

‘Political prisoners’

The “political prisoners” MSA was urging its members to support in 2004 were:

-- Jamil al-Amin, a former Black Panther and convert to Islam also known as H. Rap Brown, sentenced in 2002 to life imprisonment for shooting dead Atlanta police officer Ricky Kinchen  in 2000.

-- Abdurahman Al-Amoudi, a former MSA activist and the founder of the American Muslim Council, who pleaded guilty in July 2004 on charges relating in part to financial transactions with Libya. In October of that year he was sentenced to 23 years in prison.

-- Randall Ismail Royer, a former Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) civil rights coordinator. In April of that year he was sentenced to 20 years’ imprisonment after pleading guilty to aiding four co-defendants – members of a Northern Virginia “jihad network” – to undergo training with Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT), a Pakistan-based group which the State Department designated a foreign terrorist organization in late 2001.

-- “Jihad network” member Masoud Khan, convicted of conspiracy to wage war against the United States and provide to support to the Taliban, and sentenced in 2005 to life imprisonment. He was accused ot traveling to Pakistan just days after 9/11 to train with LeT, and that he planned to fight alongside the Taliban in neighboring Afghanistan.

-- Fellow “jihad network” member Ibrahim Al-Hamdi, who was sentenced on the same day as Royer, to 15 years in prison. He admitted possessing a rifle and ammunition and carrying a rocket-propelled grenade, for the purpose of training “for violent jihad in Chechnya, Kashmir or other places outside of the United States,” according to the Department of Justice.

-- Sami al-Arian, a Kuwait-born former University of South Florida professor who at the time was in custody, accused of being the North American leader of Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), a violent group responsible for more than 100 deaths in Israel, including those of two American citizens. The State Department designated it a foreign terrorist organization as long ago as 1997. Acquitted on a number of counts, Arian was sentenced in 2006 to more than four years’ imprisonment after pleading guilty to conspiring to aid the PIJ.

-- Sameeh Hamoudeh, a Palestinian arrested with al-Arian and charged with raising funds for the PIJ. He was acquitted in Dec. 2005 and deported to the West Bank five months later.
Patrick Goodenough
Patrick Goodenough
Spencer Journalism Fellow