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Allegiance to Jihad Is Not ‘Moderate’–Here, in Egypt, or in Malaysia

Posted on February 16 2011 3:33 pm
Seth Mandel is the former managing editor of four New Jersey-based newspapers, where he won awards for his coverage of the Middle East and Russia. He has appeared on Shalom TV's current affairs roundtable. He is currently based in Washington, D.C. Twitter: @SethAMandel
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Opponents of the spread of Islamist influence often point to the ideology’s belief that there are two choices when it comes to Islam: submission or war. It is with this in mind that Malaysia’s Anwar Ibrahim has so often been hailed as a moderate–proof that there was something in between submission and war.

Of course, he is far from moderate, but rather is both a Muslim Brotherhood operative and a vocal anti-Semite. His recent comments, however–which went completely unnoticed–in Washington, D.C. should put an end to such foolishness. In Anwar’s remarks to the New America Foundation on the subject of the Egyptian uprising, Anwar forcefully defended engaging with the Muslim Brotherhood. Why? “The only [other] option is to wage war against them.”

There were thousands of protesters in the streets of Cairo for the last couple weeks. They were not dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood, and they were largely nonviolent (though there was at least one horrifying case of sexual assault among the crowds). But the moment we talk about the Brotherhood, we are given a choice: engagement or war. And this is from the Brotherhood’s supporters and advocates, not Western pundits or officials.

It is a form of thuggish blackmail that Eldad wrote about on this site when he described the Arab attitude toward the Jews of Israel. And it is quite similar here. The “moderate” Muslim opposition leader in Malaysia gives the game away when he tells us there is only war and submission. Listen carefully, and you’ll hear the same from “moderates” in the U.S. as well. Take, for example, Suhail Khan.

Khan is the son of Mahboob Khan, the influential member of the Muslim Brotherhood in America, who founded the Muslim Students Association and helped create the Islamic Society of North America, two of the most prominent American front groups for the Brotherhood. Mahboob Khan’s widow sits on the board of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), another front group.

But Suhail Khan also sits on the board of the American Conservative Union. Though Khan tries to say the right things to be perceived as a moderate, a video from an ISNA conference in 1999 shows him decrying the suffering of his “brothers” in Palestine, Kosovo, Iraq, and other places. But more troubling were his comments about jihad:

“The earliest defenders of Islam would defend their more numerous and better equipped oppressors because the early Muslims loved death–dying for the sake of almighty Allah–more than the oppressors of Muslims loved life. This must be the case when we are fighting life’s other battles… we’re prepared to give our lives for the cause of Islam.”

Anwar, too, has his patrons in the elites. Among them is Paul Wolfowitz, who took the occasion of an interview on Fox News when Hosni Mubarak finally stepped down to throw in a rehearsed pitch for Anwar. (I say rehearsed because Wolfowitz used a story that Anwar had recited less than an hour before.)

“[H]e reminds me, ya know, [of] Anwar Ibrahim, who is a very courageous Muslim democrat, who’s had enormous difficulty in Malaysia who was imprisoned on trumped up charges ten years ago. He got a letter from Vaclav Havel, who said the people who are really in prison are the people who put you there. They are sheltered, they don’t know about reality they don’t know what’s going on. You have the feeling that Mubarak doesn’t really know what’s going on.”

This is quite obviously a gratuitous mention of Anwar since, well, no one brought him up and the story was actually about Vaclav Havel. Even if you hadn’t seen Anwar tell the same story an hour earlier it looks suspicious. But let’s take this opportunity to talk a bit about this “courageous Muslim democrat,” because he is relevant to the discussion of Suhail Khan.

Anwar’s claim to fame in the U.S.–before he became a hero to people like Wolfowitz–was as co-founder of the International Institute of Islamic Thought (IIIT), a Brotherhood think tank that has advocated for terrorism against Israel and has ties to known terrorist organizations. When Anwar was arrested in the late 1990s, Wolfowitz became one of his most vocal supporters in the U.S. and soon Anwar had friends in high places.

And such is the case with Khan. Thanks to Grover Norquist, Khan followed up his call for jihad with a stint at the Bush administration’s Office of Public Liaison, which eventually led to a job in the Department of Transportation. In 2001, Khan received an award from a man since convicted of terrorism, Abdurahman Alamoudi who, Khan said, “has been very supportive of me. . . . I hope, inshallah, we can keep working together.”

Khan’s influence, like Anwar’s, continues to grow. The ascendance of both men is frankly baffling. But what can no longer be denied is that these men support jihad against the West and that they love death in the service of jihad more than their opponents love life.

“What are our oppressors going to do with people like us?” Suhail Khan said at that ISNA dinner. We should start by rejecting the belief held by people like Khan and Anwar that there are two choices: submission or war. And those who represent organizations that are compatible with the values of a pluralistic free country like the United States should offer them a choice of their own: you can work with the terrorists, or you can work with us.

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