A visiting Palestinian professor at Florida Atlantic University, Mustafa Abu Sway, is "known as an activist" in Hamas, a group on the American government's terrorism list, we reported in October of 2003. We also disclosed that his salary is being paid by the American taxpayer, via the Fulbright exchange program.
Our little scoop met with yawns or with disbelief. Mr. Abu Sway himself, in an interview with the Palm Beach Post, denounced our article as a "witch hunt." Florida Atlantic University ignored the disclosure: "We have no reason to take any action," the university's president told the Post, a paper that published four skeptical responses, including an editorial insisting that "there is no known evidence" against Mr. Abu Sway.
Actually, being named as "a known activist" in Hamas by the Israeli government — who knows terrorism better ? — qualifies in itself as "evidence," but since October we have learned that Mr. Abu Sway also, according to Israeli sources:
Was a board member and raised funds for two Jerusalem-based Hamas-related organizations, the Heritage Committee and the Foundation for the Development of Society. The Israeli government shut down both organizations in February 2003.
Has worked with the Palestinian "Charity Coalition" that includes such organizations as Al-Aqsa Foundation of South Africa and France's Comité de Bienfaisance et de Secours aux Palestiniens. Both are known as Hamas fund-raisers which have had their assets frozen by the American government.
Is connected to Sheik Ra'ed Salah's Islamic Movement in Um al-Fahm, Israel, 14 members of which were arrested in May 2003 for Hamas fundraising.
If this does not count as evidence of ties to Hamas,we are not sure what does.
In a written response to us, Mr. Abu Sway denies each of these points, other than board membership on the Foundation for the Development of Society and meeting Mr. Ra'ed Salah one time.
How does one assess his denial? As one usually does in such matters, by checking a person's general credibility.
Mr. Abu Sway these days says, according to the Palm Beach Post, "I cherish the Jewish presence" in Israel "and advocate non-violence." But in the past, before he was under scrutiny, he spoke very differently:
At a 2002 interfaith meeting in Israel, reports Christianity Today, he remarked, "to audible gasps from Jews in the audience, that he wished the state of Israel ‘would disappear.'"
The Jerusalem Jewish Voice, reporting on the same meeting, recorded Mr. Abu Sway saying that he wished for "the end of the state of Israel."
In a 2003 study published by the U.S. Institute of Peace, Mr. Abu Sway is quoted as stating: "To imagine shared sovereignty or dual sovereignty is not being faithful to Islamic tradition," and specifically calling for an Islamic state of Palestine to replace Israel.
The contradiction here points to a clever switching of messages as suits his needs of the moment.
Another example: Speaking to an American audience via ABC News in 2002, Mr. Abu Sway deemed the Arabic term jihad "a very beautiful concept which is deep in the area of spirituality." But in his role as co-author of a Palestinian Authority textbook, available at www.edume.org, he explained to seventh-graders that jihad is a military obligation that "becomes the individual religious duty of every Muslim man and woman — if the enemy has conquered part of its land."
Should the American taxpayer honor someone credibly accused of supporting a terrorist organization with a Fulbright fellowship? Should Florida Atlantic University continue to have him teach its students?
Those students have their doubts, judging by a December 2003 memo sent by the FAU associate dean, Lynn Appleton, in which she lamented the lack of interest in Mr. Abu Sway's course on "Islam and Politics" this semester and exhorted the faculty to recruit more bodies.
"Enrollment is small and stagnant," she wrote. "Could you put up some posters — very rapidly! Is there an email list of majors to which information could be sent? Let me know what you are able to do." She ends on a plaintive note, "I would hate to see the course cancelled." Her efforts succeeded ; the once-endangered course now boasts 21 registered students.
The Fulbright program and Florida Atlantic University can thus congratulate themselves on promoting militant Islamic indoctrination by a man connected to terrorism.
For those less than thrilled with this class, FAU's president, Frank Brogan, can be reached at email@example.com. The Fulbright program's chairman, Steven J. Uhlfelder, who is a former member of the board of governors that oversees FAU, is at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For documentation and more information on the Abu Sway case, please see my weblog, "Mustafa Abu-Sway, Islamist."
First Response from Florida Atlantic University
On Friday, January 23, 2004, FAU received notice from New York Post columnist Daniel Pipes that he would be writing a piece on one of FAU's visiting Fulbright professors, indicating that he is involved with the Hamas organization.
That same day, university officials notified the State Department of Mr. Pipes' allegations. This follows FAU's immediate response to previous allegations, which were also forwarded to the State Department and the coordinators of the Fulbright Program. On both occasions, the university has been assured that all individuals who participate in the Fulbright Program, including the individual in question, engage in rigorous background and security checks.
In response to the university's original communication with the State Department, this individual's file is being reviewed a second time. Florida Atlantic University is still awaiting official word from the State Department in the matter.
Please be advised that Florida Atlantic University has again acted with due diligence and an abundance of caution in this matter.
FAU Office of Communications
Second Response from Florida Atlantic University
Statement from Florida Atlantic University
January 27, 2004
In their article about Fulbright Professor Mustafa Abu Sway that appeared in the New York Sun on January 27, 2004, Daniel Pipes and Asaf Romirowsky make charges against Florida Atlantic University that are entirely untrue. They state that "Florida Atlantic University ignored the disclosure [about their allegation that he has ties to Hamas]" and that their "little scoop met with yawns or with disbelief." Quite to the contrary, Florida Atlantic University took prompt action when this very serious charge was first made by Mr. Pipes and Mr. Romirowsky against a visiting faculty member.
The university contacted both the U.S. State Department and the Fulbright Program immediately, asking that they look into this matter without delay, bearing in mind that both entities carry out rigorous background and security checks before approving an individual for entry into the United States. University officials also spoke directly with Dr. Abu Sway about the allegations that were being made against him, and he categorically denied them.
Last week, prior to the charges being reiterated in today's issue of the New York Sun, Florida Atlantic University received word of Mr. Pipes' and Mr. Romirowsky's latest allegations; that same day university officials once again sent an urgent request to the U.S. State Department and the Fulbright Program to investigate them fully and report their findings back to the university.
Under the rule of law in the United States and the principles of democracy that must be upheld, all appropriate actions have been taken by Florida Atlantic University. The shrill criticism that is being directed against the university by Mr. Pipes and Mr. Romirowsky serve only to demonstrate their lack of understanding of these fundamentals.
Florida Atlantic University officials have acted with an abundance of caution and due diligence in this matter, as they would with any serious situation affecting FAU's campuses, faculty, staff and students.
Pipes and Romirowsky reply to Florida Atlanta University
January 28, 2004
President Frank T. Brogan
Florida Atlantic University
777 Glades Road
Boca Raton, Florida 33431
Dear Mr. Brogan:
We read your two press releases of yesterday (appended to this letter; also posted by us at http://www.danielpipes.org/1487/hamas-in-florida-classroom) concerning the matter of Mustafa Abu Sway's ties to Hamas, a proscribed organization in the United States.
We are pleased to learn that you are taking steps to investigate this matter, that you "notified the State Department of Mr. Pipes' allegations," and also "forwarded to the State Department and the coordinators of the Fulbright Program" our previous allegations.
However, we wish you had taken these actions following our first article on the Abu Sway matter, published on October 20, 2003 (and available at http://www.danielpipes.org/1287/fulbrights-terrorist-tie). At that time, unfortunately, you were quoted in the Palm Beach Post saying "at this point we have no reason to take any action" (http://www.campus-watch.org/article/id/829).
There are other problems. We have it on good authority that the Fulbright program, a part of the Department of State, far from engaging in "rigorous background and security checks," has relied on FAU to check out Mustafa Abu Sway. When FAU informs us that it relies on the State Department for this service, we see a circuitous passing of the buck that leaves us anxious.
Further, the Department of State is not the agency to refer to for domestic security. That is the bailiwick of the Department of Homeland Security, the federal agency tasked with preventing terrorism in the United States.
It is also necessary for us to point out that FAU's claim that "received notice from New York Post columnist Daniel Pipes" (http://www.danielpipes.org/1487/hamas-in-florida-classroom) about our forthcoming article is erroneous; a note was sent to Abu Sway asking for his comments. It was not sent to FAU. And Daniel Pipes has not been a New York Post columnist for three months now.
Your characterization of our criticism as "shrill" is unbecoming the dignity of Florida Atlantic University. At no point have we engaged in ad hominem attacks on you or your colleagues; we urge you not to characterize our work to protect the country from Islamist terrorism in this offensive way.
As president of a large state university, you have a solemn obligation not just to ensure the safety of your institution but to the country as a whole. You are assuring the public that you have acted "with due diligence and an abundance of caution" but we believe otherwise so long as you are employing someone directly associated with terrorism. We urge to deal with this matter seriously and urgently.
Daniel Pipes and Asaf Romirowsky