American Muslim Mahdi Bray is at the center of a firestorm on Staten Island.
At issue is the proposed sale of a convent to the Muslim American Society (MAS), a group founded by Muslim Brotherhood members in the United States. MAS hopes to turn the building into a mosque. Bray directs the group's political arm, MAS Freedom.
Opponents of the sale have zeroed in on MAS' ties to the Brotherhood and Bray's videotaped gesture supporting Hamas and Hezbollah during a 2000 rally outside the White House.
The Brotherhood tie is significant because it has designs on restoring a global caliphate and because it gave birth to Hamas during the 1980s.
In response, he is falsely accusing the Investigative Project on Terrorism both of fueling it and of misrepresenting a videotape showing him enthusiastically responding to a call for Hamas and Hezbollah supporters.
It's the IPT's fault, Bray said, calling me an "Islamophobe" on his web blog.
"For the record, he wrote, "neither I, nor my organization, have ever supported terrorism, or groups associated with terrorism."
If only his deeds matched his words.
As our dossier on MAS shows,
Bray was a character witness for convicted terror supporter Sami Al-Arian, and continues to stand by him after evidence showed Al-Arian was on the governing board of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad.
Similarly, Bray defended the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development, and continues to do so even after a jury in Dallas found the charity and five former officials guilty of illegally routing more than $12 million to Hamas.
He criticized the conviction of Ali al-Timimi for soliciting followers to wage war against the United States after 9/11.
He supports people with documented ties to terrorism, but insists he is not a terrorist supporter. "The citations by the Investigative Project are not based in fact," he told the Staten Island Advance. But he didn't cite any specific error or inaccuracy.
When pressed to do the same during a hearing this week, a MAS official reportedly failed to do so and said that would come later.
The dossier first was published in September 2007, giving Bray and his colleagues more than two years to scour it for mistakes. In February 2009, an investigation into Bray's criminal background exposed his two felony convictions, including one for a fraud in which he kept disability payments sent to his deceased grandfather.
Bray claims that, too, is a misrepresentation.
But it's the videotape that seems to be doing the most damage. Bray calls it "that silly, taken-out-of-context video clip of the rally in question."
The event, he wrote, "was a peaceful rally that called for a U.S. foreign policy vis-a-vis the people of Palestine that was fair and balanced and that rejected violence. The chant for the support of Hezbollah and Hamas was a facetious response to Emerson's mis-characterization of the rally organizers as 'terrorists' or terrorist sympathizers. Why won't Emerson show the rest of the tape?"
Here is Alamoudi's entire speech, with the previous speaker leading up to him to show the full context. Previously, Bray tried to dismiss the controversy by casting Alamoudi's call-out as a joke: "You saw me pumping my fists. You didn't see me raising my hands. If they had shown the audience, you would have seen people in the audience raising their hands and falling out laughing. For him to come and make these kinds of radical rants, no one took him seriously."
Alamoudi looks pretty serious on the tape. Moments after the Hamas/Hezbollah call, he casts Hamas as a proper entity: "My brothers, this is the message that we have to carry to everybody. It's an occupation and Hamas is fighting to fight an occupation; it's a legal fight. Allahu Akhbar! [Crowd: Allahu Akhbar]."
Earlier, speaker Mauri Salaakhan contests the U.S. view that Hamas and Hezbollah are terrorist groups: "Consummate with this internationally recognized principle we consider Hamas in occupied Palestine and Hezbollah in Lebanon to be legitimate political liberation organization as opposed to Western media's consistent depiction of them as terrorist organizations."
Despite all this, Bray says his emphatic gesture in response to Alamoudi is somehow out of context. Writing about the IPT, he said the information is part of an "attempt to create fear and hysteria by means of a well-orchestrated smear campaign that incites fear by linking, lawful Muslim organizations with international terrorism."
Other MAS leaders have similar videotape issues. Then-MAS President Esam Omeish was forced to resign from a Virginia state immigration panel in 2008 after IPT video surfaced of him giving a speech — just months after Bray appeared with Alamoudi — in which he praised Palestinians for learning "the jihad way is the way to liberate your land." He added, "We are telling them that we are with you and we are supporting you and we will do everything that we can, Insh'Allah, to help your cause."
In the Staten Island case, the IPT had no role in opposing the Staten Island land deal and learned about it only when Bray accused us of misrepresenting his record. The reporting on his record, on his support of people tied to terrorist organizations and on his actions during the 2000 rally all are well documented and accurate.
Bray's attempts to divert attention and blame the messenger are transparent.
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