The title of a Middle East Media and Research Institute (MEMRI) study dated November 26, 2003 was "President Bush's Appointee to Commission on International Religious Freedom, Prof. Khaled Medhat Abou Al-Fadl, Warns Against Reelecting Bush." MEMRI had found and translated an interview published on October 19, 2003 in the Egyptian weekly, October which quoted Abou El Fadl denigrating George W. Bush as a "Christian religious fundamentalist" and ruing the fact that Islamic organizations had "unfortunately" helped him reach the White House. He warned of the dangers "If Bush manages to remain [as president] for a second term … because then he won't care about his political future and he can gamble on an erroneous policy."
In Washington, opposing the re-election of a president who appointed you is not considered good form, so Abou El Fadl responded immediately to the MEMRI publication by denouncing the October interview as "childish," and the quotes as "an outrageous fabrication" that "far exceed the limits of believability." He insisted that the quotes were inconsistent with his published views.
Trouble is, as Katherine Mangu-Ward showed in a fine Weekly Standard article out today, "The Muddle of the Moderate Muslim Khaled Abou El Fadl's mysterious Egyptian interview," this claim is only partly true. "Some passages of the interview," she writes, "while inconsistent with Abou El Fadl's public persona as a pro-Western moderate, actually echo earlier statements of his." Mangu-Ward details this consistency in three areas – Islamic organizations in America, the war in Iraq, and Christian missionaries in Iraq.
But the parallels go further. For example, in July 2002 Abou El Fadl wrote about the "near evangelical fanaticism of our current administration, which is clearly reflected in its foreign policies and domestic legislation." That sounds awfully similar to his calling the president a "Christian religious fundamentalist" in the October interview.
Abou El Fadl's candor in speaking to the Egyptian media comes as something of a surprise, but not a great one – for Middle East studies specialists have a tendency to speak more candidly in the Arabic media than in the English one. Martin Kramer records the example of Rashid Khalidi's strong statements on Al-Jazeera, then adds: "I note that Khalidi has never made a comparable statement in English, probably for this reason: it would damage his reputation as a bridge-building moderate.… But Khalidi in Arabic, on Al-Jazeera, is someone else altogether." And the same goes for Abou El Fadl in October weekly. (December 13, 2003)
March 21, 2004 update: I devote a full-scale article to revealing this professor's real agenda at "Stealth Islamist: Khaled Abou El Fadl."
Feb. 4, 2005 update: At "Khaled Abou El Fadl Reveals His Islamist Outlook," I point out further evidence of his proclivities.