FBI directors don't make a habit of breaking bread with organizations their agents may soon be investigating, perhaps even closing. Robert S. Mueller III, however, is about to make precisely this blunder: On June 28, he is scheduled to deliver a lunch talk to the American Muslim Council.
Mueller accepted this invitation, his spokesman Bill Carter explains, because the FBI regards the AMC as "the most mainstream Muslim group in the United States."
The AMC does indeed seek to convey a message of moderation. Its event this month, for example, is reassuringly titled "American Muslims: Part of America." AMC also boasts of having initiated "many of the historic events marking the entrance of Muslims into mainstream American culture and life."
Public relations, however, is not reality. The FBI may have missed the AMC's true nature because until just days ago its guidelines prohibited it from collecting general information on an organization of this sort. To help it catch up, then, here are five compelling reasons why Director Mueller should break his lunch date:
- Apologetics for terrorism: The U.S. government years ago formally certified Hamas and Hezbollah to be terrorist groups; AMC sings their praises. In 2000, Abdurahman Alamoudi, the group's longtime executive director, exhorted a rally outside the White House with "We are ALL supporters of Hamas. Allahu Akhbar! . . . I am also a supporter of Hezbollah." In January, Alamoudi participated - alongside leaders of Hamas, Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad, and al Qaeda - in a Beirut conference whose communique called for a boycott of American products.
The American Muslim Council also has ties to other terrorists. For example, Jamal Barzinji, whose Virginia house and business were raided by federal authorities in an anti-terrorism investigation three months ago, is on the AMC board and will be on the podium at the forthcoming AMC conference. In December 2000, AMC's Dallas chapter gave an award to Ghassan Dahduli. Eleven months later, he was deported from the United States on account of his connections to al Qaeda and Hamas.
In addition, Alamoudi has vehemently defended Omar Abdul Rahman, the blind sheikh now imprisoned for his role in New York-area terrorism. And AMC has both held press conferences supporting Sudan's National Islamic Front (a Department of State-designated terrorist group) and, in 1992, hosted the NIS's leader on a visit to the United States.
- Helping fund-raise for terrorism: The Holy Land Foundation is one of the main American conduits of money to Hamas; not surprisingly, AMC has lavished praise on it, bestowing an award on it for a "strong global vision." When President Bush closed Holy Land after 9/11 for collecting money "used to support the Hamas terror organization," AMC responded by condemning the president's act as "particularly disturbing . . . unjust and counterproductive."
- Run-ins with the law: AMC leaders have a long and colorful history of legal problems. Jamil Abdullah Al-Amin (the former H. Rap Brown), a one-time president of AMC's executive board, has the nearly unique distinction of having been listed not just once but twice as one of the FBI's Ten Most Wanted Fugitives. Oh, and today he is sitting out a life sentence without parole for murdering a policeman. Other employees have less horrible but still troubled resumes. For example, AMC's current director, Eric Vickers, has been admonished, sanctioned or suspended by courts over a 10-year period due to his faulty practice of law.
- Hostility to law enforcement: Even after 9/11, AMC's Web site linked to a document, "Know Your Rights" that advises "Don't Talk to the FBI." Indeed, AMC has fervently opposed successive administrations' efforts to stave off terrorism. And Vickers personally has, to put it delicately, a strained relationship with law enforcement. In his youth, he admits, he was "against the cops." He remains hostile but expresses himself more elegantly today, for example, accusing Attorney General John Ashcroft of "using national security as a pretext" to engage in a pattern of ethnic and religious discrimination.
- Hostility to the United States: Its apparent patriotism aside, AMC harbors an intense anti-Americanism. "Let us damn America," Sami Al-Arian, a featured speaker at recent AMC events, has declaimed. Alamoudi, the longtime executive director, has dilated on the agony of living in a country he loathes: "I think if we are outside this country, we can say oh, Allah, destroy America, but once we are here, our mission in this country is to change it. There is no way for Muslims to be violent in America, no way. We have other means to do it. You can be violent anywhere else but in America."
Far from being "the most mainstream Muslim group in the United States," the AMC is among their most extreme. That explains why George W. Bush in 2000 returned a $1,000 donation from Alamoudi to his campaign.
Rather than endorse AMC by his presence, Robert Mueller should find other lunch companions next Friday. Then he should put the organization under surveillance, ascertain its funding sources, look over its books, and check its staff's visa status.
June 28, 2002 update: Director Mueller did speak at the conference and his speech can be viewed on C-Span2. The 32-minute talk includes some comments by AMC officials and replies by Mueller to questions. He defends himself from the criticism directed at him by Frank Gaffney, myself, and others for appearing at the event. Also of note is that Mueller won Alamoudi's praise for for appearing at AMC's conference: "Rather than be criticized, Mr. Mueller ought to be commended," noted a predictably satisfied Alamoudi.
Sep. 29, 2003 update: In light of Abdurahman Alamoudi's arrest today, I began a weblog entry, "United States of America vs. Abdurahman Muhammad Alamoudi," to follow his legal travails.
Oct. 15, 2004 update: Alamoudi was sentenced to 23 years in prison on a variety of charges. Looks like Mueller should have followed my advice above: instead of lunching with Alamoudi and his AMC colleagues, the FBI director would have done better to "put the organization under surveillance, ascertain its funding sources, look over its books, and check its staff's visa status."