The Center for Security Policy Occasional Paper Series
DEBATING THE MUSLIM BROTHERHOOD IN AMERICA
An Interview with DHS Advisor Mohamed Elibiary
Ryan Mauro, The Clarion Project
Made possible through the Institute for Religion & Democracy
Part IV: “Islamophobia”
Here, Elibiary admits that the US Muslim Brotherhood existed in the late 1980s and early 1990s, but references its internal communications that complain about the group’s inability to control the Muslim-American community. After pointing out that these communications were decades ago, Elibiary says “the concept of a US Muslim Brotherhood becomes even more of an absurd overreach.”
Mauro: Why do you think concern about the US Muslim Brotherhood, whose existence was proven during the Holy Land Foundation trial, is “Islamophobia” and what do you think should happen as a result?
Elibiary: American Muslim Brotherhood leaders themselves, as far back as the late 1980s and early 1990s in publicly-available documents from the HLF trial, lament the fact that the American Muslim community had grown way too large for them to influence it. Add to that another nearly three decades of further growth and the concept of a US Muslim Brotherhood becomes even more of an absurd overreach.
In other words, Elibiary argues that the US Muslim Brotherhood essentially evaporated. The fact that the US Muslim Brotherhood network does not enjoy as much Muslim support as it would like is presented as proof that it doesn’t exist anymore at all. However, most of the organizations identified as US Muslim Brotherhood entities still exist, as do many of the officials that served during the time that Elibiary concedes they were Brotherhood groups.
A 2009 Hudson Institute study looked at the Islamic Society of North America, one such Brotherhood entity. It concluded, “All but one of the individuals listed on the ISNA founding documents remain active either in ISNA or one of its affiliated organizations” and that ISNA and other Brotherhood affiliates “continue to exist in their original form.” Furthermore, a 2004 Chicago Tribune investigation gave readers “a rare look at [the] secretive [Muslim] Brotherhood in America.”
Elibiary (cont’d): Plus, as part of my engagement with Muslim communities across the country, I have met privately with all the major national Muslim organizations regularly demonized as “front groups” for the Muslim Brotherhood and gained from them all a very clear understanding of their perspectives on Islamism/Political Islam in our country. In my opinion, these community organizations are in 2013 operating as American organizations fully within the bounds of US law for the benefit of the American Muslim community and broader American society.
If it’s a matter of recognizing and addressing legitimate security concerns about the “US Muslim Brotherhood,” you’d be hard pressed to find someone who’s done more substantively on the topic than I have over the past decade.
As the FBI’s own press release about some of my work stated, I’ve been building up community-based partnerships with law enforcement since 2003. One can’t do that in the Dallas-based environment where I grew up without first addressing the mess left behind by HLF. Therefore, it’s illogical to ever accuse me of being dismissive of legitimate “concerns about the US Muslim Brotherhood” as simply “Islamophobia.”
The most important part of this section is Mr. Elibiary’s comments suggesting that he has helped protect US Muslim Brotherhood entities. The language strongly infers that the US government was preparing to indict components of the US Muslim Brotherhood network besides the Holy Land Foundation—and, perhaps, he played a role in stopping it from happening. There are three quotes that stand out:
- “I helped my community pick up the pieces and safeguard its nonprofit organizations, in order to protect its liberties, after the HLF’s closure and eventual conviction.”
- “But the corollary to my position was that if the Muslim community leadership and the government can mutually reconcile and turn a new page, then the targeted national Muslim community organizations should be allowed to proceed anew.”
- “As has been reported in multiple conservative media outlets over the past few years, the long-desired HLF 2.0 trial for the unindicted co-conspirators isno longer going to happen.”
Elibiary’s efforts to “safeguard” American Islamists from prosecution substantiates the April 2011 reports by Patrick Poole that the Justice Department stopped planned indictments of HLF co-conspirators including a founder of the Council on American-Islamic Relations and several officials with the International Institute of Islamic Thought and the now-defunct SAAR Group.
Elibiary (cont’d): The bottom line is that my decade-plus track record is clear to anyone with an objective eye. In my career, I have both advocated in defense of the Muslim community as well as directly pioneered the at-times dangerous counter-ideological work associated with several of our nation’s biggest homegrown terrorism investigations.
Post-9/11, I decided to respond by assisting our government counter threats to the homeland from al-Qaeda and its associated allies. Simultaneously, I helped my community pick up the pieces and safeguard its nonprofit organizations, in order to protect its liberties, after the HLF’s closure and eventual conviction.
A segment of our fellow Americans see those two goals as mutually exclusive. I naturally disagree with that assessment and my track record indicates that. I staked out a flag early after HLF was closed that, due to some mistakes made before 9/11 by community members, the criminal trial should be allowed to proceed and the criminal justice system’s verdict respected. But the corollary to my position was that if the Muslim community leadership and the government can mutually reconcile and turn a new page, then the targeted national Muslim community organizations should be allowed to proceed anew.
The following passage is important, as Elibiary acknowledges America’s “legitimate security concerns about Muslim Brotherhood-associated networks.” While being candid, Elibiary recognition of these networks at all puts him at odds with most of his ideological allies in Muslim activism—and, indeed, the mainstream media and far-left activists as well—who disregard the mountains of court-admitted evidence of Brotherhood’s web of influence in America as little more than a conspiracy theory. Later in the interview, though, Elibiary seems to contradict himself and approve of this narrative, if only to use as a cudgel against his critics.
Elibiary (cont’d): Staking out that middle-of-the-road position that would satisfy all of the government’s legitimate security concerns about Muslim Brotherhood-associated networks providing material support to terrorism and the organized Muslim community maintaining certain nonprofits and their civic engagement capabilities, naturally was not acceptable to absolutists at both ends of the spectrum.
There were those voices in the Muslim community who wondered if I might be a sellout because I wouldn’t join the HLF’s Hungry for Justice Coalition and instead staked out an independent public messaging line in the media. Similarly, there were voices in the anti-Islamist advocacy community, including their law enforcement and media allies, who frankly continue to see that, because I won’t accept the marginalization and eventual indictment of the HLF unindicted co-conspirator community organizations, that I can’t be fully trusted in a post-9/11 Global War on Terror.
Naturally, I have been happy to see, by and large, the United States government arrive at a similar endpoint as I staked out a decade ago in Dallas. As has been reported in multiple conservative media outlets over the past few years, the long-desired HLF 2.0 trial for the unindicted co-conspirators is no longer going to happen.
So with the HLF 1.0 trial’s appeal process now complete and no more HLF-associated “US Muslim Brotherhood” trials coming, an honest and frank discussion should publicly happen between all the parties so our country can move forward.
As to the topic of “Islamophobia,” this term is too often used as a political weapon and fundraising plea. There have been incidents of discrimination and hatred towards Muslims, but the rapid-fire use of the “Islamophobia” term was being used by Islamists long before September 11, 2001.
A former member of the International Institute of Islamic Thought (a US Muslim Brotherhood entity), Abdur-Rahman Muhammad, recalls being at a group meeting in the early 1990s where they discussed using the term against their opponents. He later said, “This loathsome term is nothing more than a thought-terminating cliché conceived in the bowels of Muslim think tanks for the purpose of beating down critics.”
Elibiary (cont’d): Islamophobia or anti-Muslim bigotry as I prefer to call it, today in “God’s greatest nation” as Michael Medved says, to me comes in three varieties. The first form of Islamophobia is simply an irrational bigotry towards anything Islam- or Muslim-related, and that’s a very small percentage of our population that I don’t really worry about because it’s driven by a diminishing emotional radicalization dynamic.
The second form of Islamophobia is a Western civilization phenomenon, aptly coined “anti-Semitism on training wheels” by Suhail Khan, a former Bush White House official, during his debate with Frank Gaffney of the Center for Security Policy at the Harbor League years ago.
This form is strongly rejected by Jewish community leaders because it smacks of a “Protocols of Elders of Zion”-type narrative about Muslims trying to take over the world. It tells Americans that Islamic theology is uniquely a threat to our way of life and therefore needs special preventative legal measures, just as in centuries past, Western anti-Semites used to make the same arguments of Jews and their faith as being incompatible with enlightened European Christian values.
The third form of Islamophobia treats the 2013’s organized American Muslim community as a counter-intelligence subversive front group for the international Islamist movement known as the Muslim Brotherhood. This approach treats the American Muslim community with undeserved and unfair suspicion, and marginalizes a sizable portion of our fellow citizens out of the political mainstream, like a pariah.
I, more than most, have gone out of my way to sit down with fellow Americans who find themselves concerned about Muslim Brotherhood associations within the American Muslim community to help them find peace of mind after separating fact from fiction.
Unlike some other Muslim community leaders who’ve wholesale labeled all Americans in this category as similar to the “anti-Semitism on training wheels” second category of “Islamophobia,” I have privately gone out of my way to speak graciously with those who’ve most viciously attacked me publicly as a subversive threat myself to our national security and offered to clarify their misunderstandings in this area.
Patrick Poole broke the story that Elibiary was suspected of trying to leak confidential information for political purposes. Elibiary claims that Poole never contacted him before publishing the story, while Poole told me that Elibiary never responded to him.
As Poole previously pointed out, the Director of the Texas Department of Public Safety confirmed that Elibiary downloaded the documents in question. When Secretary Napolitano apparently denied Poole’s story, she was responding to a question about whether Elibiary tried to leak “classified” information. Poole never asserted that the documents were classified; he said they were marked “Law Enforcement Sensitive.”
In addition, Poole told the Clarion Project that the Department of Homeland Security: “At no time was I or my source ever contacted by anyone at DHS. How could they have done an investigation with only one side being heard?”
Elibiary (cont’d): For example, in early 2011, after completing my speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), I approached Patrick Poole, a terrorism investigative reporter, and handed him my business card offering to talk and explain things after his public broadside of me in Andrew Breitbart’sBig Peace news site for helping the Department of Homeland Security with its Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) policies.
I never heard from Patrick until 8 months later when he emailed me requesting my response to his charge against me of mishandling classified intelligence, a charge I would later be publicly cleared of a few months later in a congressional hearing after an investigation by our government.
Similarly with Texas Congressman Louie Gohmert, as he personally recalled our interaction on a conservative talk radio program, I privately walked up to him in June 2012 at the Texas GOP Convention and offered to answer any of his concerns about my work. Unfortunately, the Congressman declined my offer and proceeded to, within about a month in partnership with Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, Congressman Trent Franks and others, to fire off a letter to the Inspector General of DHS requesting I get investigated for Muslim Brotherhood influence.
Part I: The Holy Land Foundation
Part II: Elibiary & the Muslim Brotherhood
Part III: Elibiary’s Relationship with American Islamists
Part IV: “Islamophobia”
Part V: US Policy (To be published tomorrow)