DHS Denies Grant to Islamic Radicalization Enabler MPAC

by John Rossomando
IPT News
June 23, 2017

The Department of Homeland Security has ruled that the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) will not receive the $393,800 Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) grant approved by Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson on Jan. 13, days before Johnson left office.

The DHS released its list of grant recipients on Friday. MPAC is not on it. The change came after “DHS utilized its discretion to consider other factors and information when reviewing applicants,” a spokeswoman said in an email to the Investigative Project on Terrorism. “The Department considered whether applicants for CVE awards would partner with law enforcement, had a strong basis of prior experience in countering violent extremism, had a history of prior efforts to implement prevention programs targeting violent extremism, and were viable to continue after the end of the award period. These additional priorities were applied to the existing pool of applicants. Top scoring applications that were consistent with these priorities remained as awardees, while others did not.”

In a statement, MPAC acknowledged that working with law enforcement isn’t a priority: “Our position on this issue has consistently centered on community-led initiatives that improve mental health resources, access to counseling, and a host of other social services without the involvement or spectre of law enforcement.”

Still, it disputed the loss of the grant, saying it would consider “all legal options…”

“The exclusion of groups like MPAC point to a DHS that is ineffective in coordinating with communities and unconstitutional in its treatment of a religious minority,” the statement said. “MPAC will continue challenging the trajectory of the Trump administration’s efforts in this space by advocating for a holistic approach that empowers rather than sidelines communities, focuses on all forms of violent threats, and fosters a climate of trust over fear.”

MPAC pledged to use the money for targeted interventions under its Safe Spaces program for people at risk for radicalization. Created in 2014, Safe Spaces aims to improve relations between Muslim institutions and law enforcement.

MPAC Executive Director Salam Al-Marayati introduced the program as an alternative to law enforcement agencies using informants to infiltrate mosques. The roll out meeting included Johnson, U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., Rep. Bill Foster, D-Ill., and other Muslim community groups including the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR).

Al-Marayati vehemently objects to anything that involves mosques or informants in terror investigations.

“Counter-terrorism and counter-violence should be defined by us,” he said at 2005 Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) conference in Dallas. “We should define how an effective counter-terrorism policy should be pursued in this country. So, No. 1, we reject any effort, notion, and suggestion that Muslims should start spying on one another. Everywhere I go either somebody tells me that officials have met with them publicly or they tell me that they know who those folks are that are representing law enforcement. So we know they have communicated one way or the other with the Muslim community.

“The question is how do you deal with it in a healthy, open, transparent manner? That is why we are saying have them come in community forums, in open-dialogues, so they come through the front door and you prevent them having to come from the back door,” Al-Marayati said.

Government agencies preferred CVE programs, especially during the Obama administration. But there’s no way to measure whether they work, a Government Accountability Office report issued in April said. The GAO “was not able to determine if the United States is better off today than it was in 2011 as a result” of CVE programs.”

The House Homeland Security Committee’s Subcommittee on Oversight and Management offered similar criticism during a hearing last September. The committee has “no way of gauging whether CVE efforts have been successful – or harmful – or if money is being spent wisely,” said U.S. Rep. Scott Perry, R-Pa.

MPAC may have won the grant simply because it is “the most organized group,” said Heritage Foundation counterterrorism scholar Robin Simcox. But that “is going down the wrong path. Often this means giving it to some very, very divisive voices who will play into the Islamist narrative; they will play off grievances. They will encourage a feeling of segregation and otherness, and we are promoting other problems for the future.”

MPAC promotes a narrative that Muslims are victimized by a hostile non-Muslim society, Simcox said. That message helps breed terrorists.

“I think it creates an environment where these radical ideas are in the ether, and it’s no surprise to me that somebody then [would] take that final step into violence,” Simcox said.

Research backs up Simcox’s assertion.

Grievances “framed around victimhood against Western foreign policy and military intervention” are among “a kaleidoscope of factors” in fueling extremism, Swedish jihad researcher Magnus Ranstorp has found.

MPAC’s recent messaging has emphasized threats to Muslim Americans’ freedom and security, including promoting a conspiracy theory that internment camps could be revived for them. In February, MPAC posted an image of Star Trek actor George Takei, on its homepage, with the heading “Stand Up for Muslims in the U.S.” The image linked to a petition in which Takei described his experience during World War II: “When I was just 5, my family was rounded up at gunpoint from our home in Los Angeles into an internment camp. We were prisoners in our own country, held within barbed wire compounds, armed guards pointing guns down on us.”

“A Trump spokesperson recently stated the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II “sets a precedent” for Trump to do the same today,” Takei wrote. [Emphasis original]

But that spokesman, former Navy SEAL Carl Higbie, had no role in the Trump transition and only spoke for himself. No one in the administration has endorsed such a scheme.

But Takei’s statement, which MPAC embraced, claimed that “Trump continues to stand by his plans to establish a Muslim registry and ban immigrants from ‘certain’ Muslim countries from the U.S. It starts with a registry, with restrictions, with irrationally ascribed guilt, and with fear. But we never know where it might lead.”

Takei didn’t start the internment analogy. “Challenging patriotis (sic) of AmMuslims is un-American – what happened to Japanese Americans-loyalty test, confiscating their wealth #CruzHearing,” Al-Marayati wrote a year ago, in a Twitter post he later deleted.

Promoting the internment conspiracy theory destroys the credibility of “soft Islamist” organizations like MPAC that don’t engage in terrorist acts themselves, yet validate the jihadist narratives, Simcox said.

Al-Marayati has long promoted the narrative that the U.S. is waging “war on Islam,” one of the most potent terrorist recruitment tropes.

He called U.S. counterterrorism policies a “war on Islam” in a 2009 interview with Al-Watan Al-Arabi. Al-Marayati also engaged in “war on Islam” rhetoric when he chided U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz a year ago for using the term “radical Islam” during a hearing about the Obama administration’s avoidance of using the phrase “So @SenCruz, do you want to have a war with Islam rather than a war on terrorists?” he wrote in a tweet he later deleted.

MPAC Whitewashes Jihad

Al-Marayati appeared on C-Span in 2014, and balked when asked why Muslims weren’t speaking up against jihadism: “Well I think we’ll call this violent extremism. And one thing we have to be clear about, we should not be countering jihad,” Al-Marayati said. “Jihad to the violent extremists means holy war. But jihad in classical Islam means ‘struggle.’ So let us at least not use religious terminology in fighting groups like ISIS. It just plays into their hands. They want this to be a war on Islam, a war on religion.

“We should be at war on criminal behavior, war against terrorism.”

Al-Marayati again rejected the connection between jihad and violence during a Jan. 25 debate with American Islamic Forum for Democracy founder and President Zuhdi Jasser. Jihad is not holy war, he said, but a struggle against oneself.

“We must allow the Muslims to reclaim their faith and not let Islam be defined by the extremist distortions of Islam,” Al-Marayati said.

Muslim Brotherhood founder Hassan al-Banna disagreed, writing that jihad only had to do with fighting and argued that purely spiritual jihad was spurious. MPAC co-founder Maher Hathout described himself as an al-Banna disciple.

“Many Muslims today mistakenly believe that fighting the enemy is jihad asghar (a lesser jihad) and that fighting one’s ego is jihad akbar (a greater jihad),” al-Banna wrote in his tract On Jihad. “This narration is used by some to lessen the importance of fighting, to discourage any preparation for combat, and to deter any offering of jihad in Allah’s way. This narration is not a saheeh (sound) tradition.”

Jasser sees a dichotomy between Al-Marayati’s public rejection of violent jihad and his group’s embrace of Tunisian Muslim Brotherhood-linked cleric Sheikh Rached Ghannouchi. MPAC hosted Ghannouchi at a 2011 dinner, and Al-Marayati flew to Paris in 2013 to attend a conference with Ghannouchi. The sheikh is a member of the International Muslim Brotherhood’s Guidance Bureau.

Back in 1990, Ghannouchi spoke at a conference in Tehran, Iran where he called for the “destruction of the Jews” and invoked Ayatollah Khamenei’s “call to jihad” against America, “the Great Satan.” Ghannouchi aspired to wage “worldwide jihad,” a 1991 State Department cable said. Ghannouchi still favors violent jihad, 5 endorsing the Palestinian knife jihad against Israelis in 2015.

“The central problem with MPAC … is the schizophrenia with which they deal with American issues versus how they deal with global issues,” Jasser said. “The Islamists assume Americans are not very smart, so they are going to listen to their apologetics about jihad and then not connect it to what happens when the Ghannouchis of the world get into power.”

MPAC leaders have made their own pro-terrorist and anti-Israeli statements.

Al-Marayati didn’t seem to have a problem with Hizballah calling its terror campaign against Israel “jihad” in a November 1999 interview with PBS’s Jim Lehrer.

“If the Lebanese people are resisting Israeli intransigence on Lebanese soil, then that is the right of resistance and they have the right to target Israeli soldiers in this conflict. That is not terrorism. That is a legitimate resistance. That could be called liberation movement, that could be called anything, but it’s not terrorism,” Al-Marayati said.

Similarly, MPAC Public Affairs Consultant Edina Lekovic served as managing editor of Al-Talib, the defunct newspaper of UCLA’s Muslim Student Association, when it published an editorial saying Osama bin Laden was not a terrorist in its July 1999 issue.

“When we hear someone refer to the great Mujahid (someone who struggles in Allah’s cause) Osama bin Laden 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 unsigned editorial said.

MPAC Defends Al-Qaida and Hamas Financiers

Another hit against MPAC’s credibility is its history of apologism for terrorist financiers.

Just after 9/11, Al-Marayati painted Muslims as victims after the federal government shut down the Benevolence International Foundation (BIF) on suspicion it provided material support to al-Qaida. Its leader, Enaam Arnaout, had close ties with Osama Bin Laden, court documents show.

He had similar reactions after Treasury Department asset freezes in December 2001 targeted the Holy Land Foundation (HLF), which illegally routed charity money to Hamas, and the Global Relief Foundation, which provided assistance to Osama Bin Laden and al-Qaida.

“Selective justice is injustice – it does not help us in the war on terror and continues to project the image that the U.S. is anti-Islam,” Al-Marayati wrote in July 2002 press release posted on MPAC’s website defending all three charities.

Closing these terror-linked charities could send the message to Muslims abroad that America is intolerant of religious minorities, Al-Marayati said that October in a New York Times op-ed.

When the Treasury Department shut down the Islamic African Relief Agency (IARA) in 2004, saying it “provided direct financial support for” Osama bin Laden, Al-Marayati described it as “a bit disturbing that the announcement of shutting down another charity… [took] place just before the month of Ramadan in the peak of the election season.”

Arnaout pleaded guilty to violating the Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) and acknowledged that his group hid the fact it used a portion of its donations to fund terrorists overseas.

HLF’s leaders were convicted of providing material support to Hamas in 2008.

MPAC’s magazine, The Minaret, cast these charity closures in an anti-Semitic light in a political cartoon it published in its March 2002 issue. It shows President George W. Bush doing the bidding of Israel and the Anti-Defamation League knocking down a building with a foundation labeled “Islamic Foundations (Holy Land, Global Relief, etc.” The top of the building being knocked down says, “Relief for Muslim Orphans” and “Support for U.S. Muslim Free Speech.”

This was not an isolated incident. A January 2000 Minaret cartoon showed “The West” apologizing for the Holocaust and handing over money to an old woman holding a cane with the label “Jewish holocaust.” At the same time, an Arab wearing a keffiyeh labeled “Palestine” says, “Ahem ‘scuse me” followed by a person with a crutch and bandaged foot labeled “Indian genocide” and a black person emblazoned with “African slavery.”

During the 2006 Israeli war with Hizballah in Lebanon Al-Marayati similarly diminished the Holocaust.

“And as far as the Holocaust is concerned, we’ve come out very clearly saying that the Holocaust is the worst genocide, war crime, in the 20th century. We’re against Holocaust denial, but we’re also against people who exploit that as a way of shoving this kind of war propaganda and dehumanization of the Arab peoples and the Muslim peoples as if they have to pay the price for what Nazi Germany did to the Jews back in the 20th century,” Al-Marayati said in an interview.

“MPAC’s default position is that the government is on a witch hunt against Muslims, and that any identification of organizations or non-profits doing quote end quote humanitarian work must be anti-Muslim if they are identified as a terror group,” Jasser said. “And if they are found to support terror, they say they are not the rule; they are the exception.”

MPAC’s statements and actions suggest that DHS’s decision to rescind Johnson’s decision to award the CVE grant was the right thing to do.

Major U.S. Muslim Brotherhood Leader Mohammed Al-Hanooti Dies

source: youtube

source: youtube

CSP, by Kyle Shideler, June 5, 2015:

Mohammad Al-Hanooti, a major leader in the U.S. Muslim Brotherhood, has died,according to funeral arrangement announcements released by Dar Al-Hijrah Mosque in Falls Church, Va. Al-Hanooti was an un-indicted co-conspirator in both the 2008 Holy Land Foundation Hamas Financing Trial and the 1993 World Trade Center Bombing plot. Hanooti was a member of the Palestine Committee, of the U.S. Muslim Brotherhood, which was established in order to support Hamas. As part of his role on the Palestine Committee, Hanooti was president of the Islamic Association Palestine (IAP). According to a 2001 FBI Memo, Hanooti had helped to raise $6 million for Hamas-linked entities.  Hanooti was also caught on a wiretap discussing raising funds for the defense of Hamas leader Mousa Abu Marzook. Hanooti was also a member of the Fiqh Council of North America (FCNA), and Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), and his Virginia office was located next door to the World Assembly of Muslim Youth (WAMY), and Muslim American Society (MAS),which Hanooti was the prayer leader at the Dar al-Hijrah Mosque, until 2000, when he was replaced by the now late Al Qaeda leader Anwar Al-Awlaki. Hanooti would come to be described as the Mufti of the Washington Metropolitan Area.

Hanooti was also an attendee of the 1993 Philadelphia Meeting, where Palestine Committee members discussed supporting Hamas, and discussed the establishment of an organization which would eventually become the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR).

The passing of Al-Hanooti is a reminder that a changing of the guard is underway regarding the Muslim Brotherhood in the United States. Increasingly the early members of the U.S. Muslim Brotherhood, such as Al-Hanooti, and others like Maher Hathout, are aging and passing away. As we get further away from the generation that produced the Muslim Brotherhood documents submitted in the Holy Land Foundation Trial, it will require increased effort to identify and track younger U.S. Brotherhood members. These younger Brothers will have risen to prominence with newly established organizations during a period where they were accustom to the risk of surveillance of their radical activities that the earlier generation had not experienced. As a result open source researchers into the Muslim Brotherhood’s U.S. networks will need to redouble their own efforts.

Also see:

‘Islamophobia’: A Strategy Devised Before 9/11

images (1)In a meeting in the 1990s, U.S. Muslim Brotherhood groups decided to ‘play victim’ for the purpose of ‘beating down critics.’

By Ryan Mauro:

Clarion Project reader sent us an intriguing article that shows how the cries of “Islamophobia” were used to win the affection of top officials as far back as 1996 — five years before 9/11.

In this case, Hillary Clinton became the first wife of a sitting President to address a Muslim organization outside the White House. Perhaps unbeknownst to her, the group she honored was founded by Muslim Brotherhood supporters, including one who said her name would be “written in history in letters of light to the deed.”

The Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC), the group that Clinton addressed, was founded by Hassan and Maher Hathout, two brothers that were imprisoned in Egypt for their membership in the Muslim Brotherhood. Hassan Hathout called himself  a “close disciple” of the Brotherhood’s founder and said they came to America to spread the “Islamic Movement” inspired by him.

Maher Hathout, currently MPAC’s Senior Adviser, has said that he has had no foreign links since arriving in the U.S. It is true that a 1991 U.S. Muslim Brotherhood memo does not identify MPAC as one of its fronts. However, a 1989 document from the U.S. Muslim Brotherhood Financial Committee refers to a man named “Hathout” that is “in the field,” likely referring to one of the Hathout brothers.

From the beginning, MPAC was working in unison with the identified U.S. Muslim Brotherhood entities. For example, in September 1993, MPAC signed a joint condemnation of the Oslo Accords with five other groups, each being one of the Brotherhood’s “organizations and the organizations of our friends.” The statement said that “to recognize the legitimacy of that crime [the creation of Israel] is a crime in itself…”

First Lady Clinton came to a joint event of MPAC and the Muslim Women’s League to give them the honor of being the first Muslim groups to be addressed by a First Lady outside the White House.

“When our country becomes what we dream and when our society becomes warmer and more inclusive … it will be written in history in letters of light that the first First Lady who took a major step to greet, include and to communicate with Muslims is First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton,” said Maher Hathout.

Interestingly, “Islamophobia” was used as a rallying cry even back then, five years before the 9/11 attacks: The article quotes MPAC’s leaders inferring that Muslims are a persecuted minority. Clinton herself even said Americans “[must] stand up against our own voices of hatred and division.”

Read more at The Clarion Project

 

Interfaith Event Teaches That U.S. Is ‘Aiding’ Oppression

mpacBy Ryan Mauro:

The Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) returned to All Saints Episcopal Church in Pasadena, California on May 5 to address the topic of radicalization in the wake of the Boston bombings. The church leader said there is a “crisis” of “Islamophobia” in America. MPAC denounced violence but said terrorism is a response to the U.S. “aiding and abetting oppression” at the behest of the military-industrial complex.

At the May 5 event, church leader Rev. Ed Bacon said that he “literally had my life changed and my thinking changed because of these two leaders,” referring to MPAC leaders Maher Hathout and Salam al-Marayati. He went so far as to say that the Islamic Center of Southern California, where Hathout is a spokesman and Muslim Brotherhood texts are used, is “my mosque.”

At the event, both MPAC leaders denounced terrorism and said Muslims must provide a counter-narrative to the violent themes that radicalize. Hathout said that too many Muslims are “soft” in confronting the radical ideas and have a “gang” mentality where they automatically side with other Muslims against non-Muslims.

However, Hathout said America is run by an elite minority beholden to lobbyists. He said that American democracy is threatened by “Islamophobia”  driven by supremacists who believe “the other” doesn’t deserve equal rights.

Al-Marayati rightly pointed out that there is an ideological struggle and reform in Islamic teaching is needed, but attributed the conflict to anger over the aggression of America and its allies.

“When a superpower is aiding and abetting oppression and there are grievances, and people react in a violent way, they [Americans] look at the violence and they say it is not time to deal with the grievances,” he said.

He claimed that there is a “cottage industry” of anti-Muslim activists that is part of a “larger machine,” including the military-industrial complex and special interests. These conspirators “want more contracts for more weapons to countries that only use these weapons against their own people or against civilians.”

MPAC held its last annual conference at this church, where Reverend Ed Bacon denounced “evangelical Zionism” as an evil on par with slavery. The church and MPAC held a press conference to declare their critics “right-wing extremists” who are “hateful.”

The critics noted that MPAC was founded by Muslim Brotherhood ideologues, including Senior Adviser Maher Hathout’s brother who was a “close disciple” of the group’s founder, Hassan al-Banna. Maher Hathout says he remains “very proud” of his time in the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, but emphasizes it was 60 years ago. His brother said they came to the U.S. to spread the “Islamic Movement” of al-Banna.

After coming to America, one or both of the Hathout brothers was connected to the U.S. Muslim Brotherhood, as a 1989 document shows. MPAC has maintained a close alliance with U.S. Brotherhood entities ever since. In 1997, Maher Hathout promoted Hassan al-Banna as one of the “reformists,” along with other Islamists like Rachid al-Ghannouchi, who MPAC still hosts. In 1998 and 1999, he and al-Marayati legitimized Hezbollah’s attacks on Israeli soldiers.

In 2000, Hathout said a “general intifada” would overthrow Arab governments guilty of “treason” for not confronting the “butchers” of Israel. Around this time, MPAC started becoming more conscious of the language it was using. Hathout said he regretted the “harshness of my remarks” when they received negative attention, but not the message. Tellingly, a radical named Mahdi Bray continued to serve as MPAC’s Political Director.

Read more at Front Page

Exposed Islamist Group Scrambles

Picture-32 By Ryan Mauro

The Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) held a press conference on December 6 about “right-wing extremists” in response to my article originally published here criticizing the All Saints Episcopal Church of Pasadena for hosting its convention. MPAC founder and senior adviser Maher Hathout admitted to having been a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, but said the relationship ended when he moved to the U.S. and he is on the side of the Egyptian opposition to Mohammed Morsi.

The press conference’s speakers relentlessly bashed the raising of legitimate concerns about MPAC as “Islamophobia,” hate-mongering and bigotry. The Center for American Progress report “Fear Inc: The Roots of the Islamophobia Network in America” was made available for attendees. Rector Ed Bacon said the church received dozens of hate-filled emails, resulting in sympathetic media coverage.

“Kudos to All Saints Episcopal Church in Pasadena and MPAC for the promotional savvy to exploit a handful of negative emails into a major media story showcasing their supposed victimhood,” said Mark Tooley, President of the Institute on Religion and Democracy, which sponsored the original article. His organization was the only one directly attacked in the press conference.

Maher Hathout said that he is “very proud” of his work with the Muslim Brotherhood “student movement” against the Nazis and British, but never dealt with any organization outside the U.S. since coming to the country about 40 years ago. In our debate the day prior, MPAC President Salam Al-Marayati repeatedly slammed mentions of a Brotherhood connection to his group as “lies” rooted in hatred. When I challenged MPAC to take an active stand against the Brotherhood, Al-Marayati said it was a “ridiculous suggestion” and “it’s not worth our time.”

Hathout said that he is against the anti-democratic “trend” in Egypt and is on the side of the opposition.  He still took a soft view of the Brotherhood, saying its “work is changing” and its critics “freeze a point in history and think this is the whole story.”

MPAC was created to advance the Brotherhood ideology. The late Hassan Hathout, former MPAC President and Maher’s brother, said that they came to the U.S. to start the “Islamic Movement” inspired by Hassan al-Banna, the founder of the Brotherhood. He described himself as a “close disciple” of al-Banna. A 1989 U.S. Muslim Brotherhood Financial Committee document talks about working with someone named Hathout “in the field,” demonstrating that the Brotherhood had ties to at least one of the Hathout brothers after they arrived. MPAC has long collaborated with known U.S. Muslim Brotherhood entities, as identified in the Brotherhood’s own documents, FBI investigators and the federal government during the trial of the Holy Land Foundation.

The privately expressed views of the U.S. Muslim Brotherhood match the publicly expressed views of Hassan Hathout. A 1991 U.S. Muslim Brotherhood document says, “its work in America is a kind of grand jihad in eliminating and destroying Western civilization from within.” In 1997, Hathout said the U.S. needs the “Islamic Movement” because “If you look objectively you will see that this current civilization harbors in its body the seeds of its own destruction.”

Maher Hathout says he did not continue working with the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood after he came to the U.S., but the Brotherhood is more than a political party. It is a movement based on Islamist ideology. In 1997, he praised Hassan al-Banna and two other Brotherhood-allied Islamists, Rashid Ghannouchi and Hasan al-Turabi, as “reformists.” Remember that when MPAC boasts that it is a voice of “reform.” Ghannouchi spoke at an MPAC event in 2011. Hathout is the spokesman for the Islamic Center of Southern California, which still suggests Brotherhood texts on Islamic law on its website.

A 2004 investigation into the U.S. Muslim Brotherhood by the Chicago Tribune makes this point. An official with the Muslim American Society admitted that it was created by the Muslim Brotherhood, but explained that it “went way beyond that point of conception.” It is not administrated by the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood but it follows its teachings. “We are not your typical Ikhwan [Brotherhood],” he explained.

This Islamist influence is apparent in MPAC’s history. In 1998, Maher Hathout said of Hezbollah: “I disagree with them on other issues, but on the issue of fighting to liberate their land and attacking only armed forces, this is legitimate, that is an American value — freedom and liberty.” In 1999, Salam al-Marayati said Hezbollah engages in “legitimate resistance.”

Read more at Front Page