'Radicalization' Conference Features Islamist Radicals

Thursday, 18 Nov 2010 01:56 PM

By Steve Emerson

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Two leaders of an Islamist organization, the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC), are scheduled to lecture Southern California law enforcement officials Monday about radicalization despite a history of opposing U.S. counterterrorism efforts.

Salam al-Marayati and Edina Lekovic will join high-ranking officials from all law enforcement agencies from Greater Los Angeles at the two-day conference in Pismo Beach, Calif., entitled "Radicalization Conference 2010: Radicalization and Homegrown Violent Extremism."

Throughout its history, MPAC and its leaders have issued statements in support of terrorist groups like Hezbollah and, perhaps most significantly, disseminating incendiary statements that actually cause Muslims to be radicalized.

The group also has followed a consistent pattern of opposing U.S. counterterrorism efforts and defending designated terrorist organizations and their supporters.

Those positions also involve perpetuating the false narrative that U.S. policy is engaged in a war against Islam. MPAC has taken aim at many counterterrorism efforts and prosecutions. For example:
  • In a March 2003 Los Angeles Times article discussing the FBI's relationship with Muslim-American communities, al-Marayati attacked the FBI for allegedly profiling only Muslims for prosecution, a demonstrably false charge. "The FBI's policy of targeting people because of their race and religion . . . That's what they've been doing since the attacks, and we don't know of any case that has resulted in the arrest, indictment, or prosecution of a terrorist," al-Marayati said.
  • Even though the L.A. Fusion Center — consisting of representatives of the FBI, Los Angeles Police, and Los Angeles sheriff who exchange intelligence — is hosting this conference, MPAC frequently criticized the creation and use of fusion centers. In April 2009, the organization supported a statement released by the American Muslim Taskforce on Civil Rights and Elections (AMT) calling for their elimination.
  • MPAC has also targeted the FBI's use of informants and undercover officers whom MPAC alleges instigate terrorist plots  despite the fact that informants are widely used in drug, gang, and organized crime investigations.
In April 2009, after federal authorities disrupted an alleged plot to bomb synagogues and fire missiles at American military aircraft, al-Marayati continued his attacks against law enforcement.

Asked in an interview whether it was useful to have informants in mosques, Al-Marayati replied by suggesting that the defendants, later convicted, were not real terrorist threats: "These were individuals who were either petty criminals or gullible people who were guilty of stupidity. They were not imminent threats to our country, as the FBI has stated," al-Marayati told Fox News.

In a 2003 counterterrorism paper, MPAC advocated the removal of Hamas, Hezbollah, and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad from the government's list of terrorist groups. The organization argued that Washington's "preoccupation" with these groups "raises the question as to whether targeting Palestinian groups serves true national security interests or is based on political considerations."

In a high-profile case, MPAC repeatedly went to bat for Sami al-Arian, a University of South Florida professor arrested in 2003 for allegedly serving as North American leader of Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), the organization allegedly responsible for the deaths of two Americans and over 100 Israelis.

MPAC even defended him after he pled guilty in 2006 to one charge of making and receiving contributions of funds, goods, and services to or for the benefit of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

Earlier al-Marayati had lauded al-Arian at a fundraiser as a man who "defied the odds in a system that is unfair."

However, the judge presiding over al-Arian's case saw things differently. Judge James S. Moody, Jr., said al-Arian continued to lie about seeking "only aid for widows and orphans. Your only connection to widows and orphans is that you create them, even among the Palestinians."

One reason for MPAC's participation in the conference may be the involvement of L.A. County Sheriff Lee Baca, who has become a fixture at events sponsored by Islamist organizations, like the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), and frequently defends their radicalism.

During a House committee hearing, Rep. Mark Souder, R-Ind., questioned Baca on his close relationship with CAIR. The Los Angeles Times reported that Baca responded, "When you attack CAIR . . . you attack virtually every Muslim in America." Souder then noted the testimony of an FBI agent identifying CAIR as a Hamas front. Baca shot back, "CAIR is not a terrorist-supporting organization."

The record indicates otherwise. CAIR was listed as an unindicted co-conspirator in one Hamas funding trial, been described in court as a Hamas front by an FBI agent, and had its relationship with the FBI severed based on exhibits which leave open the question "whether there continues to be a connection between CAIR or its executives and Hamas."

In featuring MPAC officials, who claim to speak for all Muslims, as speakers before this conference, organizers and participants confer respectability on an organization that has helped foster radicalization, not counter it.

This action abets a deception deliberately perpetrated by MPAC that it is a "moderate" group that is opposed to Islamist terrorism. For a more extensive examination of MPAC's statements supporting terrorist groups, and its record of issuing incendiary statements about "selective prosecution" of Muslims, see the IPT's dossier on MPAC here.

Conference organizers are ignoring available evidence of MPAC's radicalism, instead believing the organization to be an appropriate partner in countering radicalism. It's time to ask whether event organizers  were aware of MPAC's history of radicalism and counterproductive "counterterrorism" assistance.

If they were aware, or didn't bother to ask questions given MPAC's  prominence in Southern California, what does that say about these law enforcement groups' ability to truly detect threats to American society?



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