Obama’s New OIC Envoy Defended Activist Who Aided Terrorist Group

Patrick Goodenough | February 15, 2010 | 4:16am EST
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(Editor's note: This story was updated on Feb. 16, 2010.)

– President Obama’s newly appointed envoy to the Organization of the Islamic Conference was quoted in 2004 as saying an American who aided a Palestinian terrorist group was the victim of “politically motivated persecutions” who was being used “to squash dissent.”
Rashad Hussain was quoted as telling a Muslim students’ event in Chicago that if U.S. Muslims did not speak out against the injustices taking place in America, then everyone’s rights would be in jeopardy.
The Washington Report on Middle East Affairs (WRMEA) cited Hussain as making the remarks in connection with Sami al-Arian, a university professor and activist sentenced in 2006 to more than four years in prison (including time already spent in custody) after he had pleaded guilty to conspiring to aid the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ).
The U.S. government designated the PIJ as a foreign terrorist organization in 1997, and in 2003, then Attorney-General John Ashcroft described it as “one of the most violent terrorist organizations in the world.”
Palestinian Islamic Jihad has killed more than 100 Israelis in suicide bombings and other attacks. Its victims include American citizens Alisa Flatow, a 20-year-old New Jersey college student killed in a 1995 suicide bombing in Gaza, and 16-year-old Shoshana Ben-Ishai, shot dead in a bus in Jerusalem in 2001.
In sentencing al-Arian, Judge James Moody of the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida described him as a “leader of the PIJ” and a “master manipulator.”
Al-Arian remains under home detention in Virginia pending contempt of court charges relating to his refusal to testify in an unrelated case involving an Islamic think tank. Sympathizers view him as a victim of post-9/11 law enforcement zeal and anti-Muslim prejudice. (The WRMEA article described him as “an innocent man targeted for free-speech activities, whose rights were stripped thanks in part to the PATRIOT Act.”)
Among those sympathizers, evidently, was Rashad Hussain, who at the time of the cited remarks was a Yale Law School student and an editor, from 2003-2005, of the Yale Law Journal. He went on to serve as a Department of Justice trial attorney and in January 2009 was appointed White House deputy associate counsel.

On Saturday, Obama named the Texas-born, 31-year-old Indian-American as his envoy to the OIC, the 57-member bloc of Islamic states. The appointment is in line with the president’s goal, expressed in his speech in Cairo last June, to reach out to the Islamic world.
Obama made the announcement in a video address at a U.S.-Islamic World Forum meeting in Qatar, which Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Hussain attended over the weekend.
“Rashad has played a key role in developing the partnerships I called for in Cairo,” Obama told the gathering in the video message. “And as a hafiz of the Koran, he is a respected member of the American Muslim community, and I thank him for carrying forward this important work.” (A hafiz is someone who has memorized the Islamic text.)
Article edited
Around three years after the WRMEA article quoting Hussain first appeared, it was edited to remove all references to him.
A copy of the original 2004 article, retrieved via the Nexis news database, includes the following sentences:
Al-Arian’s situation is one of many “politically motivated persecutions,” claimed Rashad Hussain, a Yale law student. Such persecution, he stated, must be fought through hope, faith, and the Muslim vote (…) Along with many others, said Yale’s Hussain, Dr. Sami Al-Arian has been “used politically to squash dissent.” The Muslim community must speak out against the injustices taking place in America, he emphasized. Otherwise, everyone’s rights will be in jeopardy.
But in the version of the same story currently available on the WRMEA Web site those sentences – and only those sentences – have disappeared. An Internet archive search indicates that the edits were made sometime after October 2007.
Contacted by email on Sunday, the writer of the original article expressed surprise but said she no longer worked at WRMEA and could not explain the edit. Queries sent to WRMEA editors brought no response. They were asked whether either Hussain, or anyone else, had asked for the archived story to be altered (see the revised pages).

(Editor's note:  The point concerning the mysterious edits in the WRMEA article and details about Rashad Hussein's background were initially reported on the Web site of The Global Muslim Brotherhood Daily Report, on Feb. 14, 2010.) 
How to combat terrorism
Some of Hussain’s views on how the U.S. should deal with terrorism and extremism can be found in his writings.
A lengthy 2007 article in the Texas Journal on Civil Liberties & Civil Rights examined anti-terrorism initiatives in the U.S. in the post-9/11 era, such as a requirement that nonimmigrant visitors from specified countries register for fingerprinting and questioning. Of 25 countries identified, all but North Korea were Islamic, and 17 were Arab.
“Some policies appear to be based on the notion that certain characteristics make one more likely to be a terrorist: e.g., membership in a particular religious group, having a particular national origin, and membership in a particular racial group,” Hussain wrote.
Not only was selective enforcement unconstitutional, but it might also be
“counter-productive from a national security perspective,” he argued, noting for instance that aliens from non-Muslim nations where al-Qaeda had an active presence, such as Britain and Spain, were not targeted.
Hussain concluded: “Federal law should adopt a standard that protects national security while forbidding the targeting of non-citizens solely on the basis of their racial, religious, or ethnic backgrounds.”
In another article, published by the Brookings Institution in 2008, Hussain and co-author Al-Husein N. Madhany explored the role of Islam in U.S. counterterrorism policy.
They said policymakers should understand that people attracted to terrorist ideology would be less persuaded by calls to Western-style freedom and democracy than by “calls to Islam.”
“[B]ecause the vast majority of Muslims view Islam as fundamentally opposed to terror and many Muslims associate American freedom and democracy with immorality and impermissible secularism, does it make sense to advertise our efforts as anti-‘Islamic terrorism,’ ‘pro-freedom,’ and ‘pro-democracy?’” Hussain and Madhany asked. “Or, might it be more effective, to focus on the notion that terrorism is antithetical to the teachings of Islam?”
Hussain will be the second U.S. envoy to the OIC; President Bush first appointed one in 2008, naming Pakistan-born Texas businessman Sada Cumber to the post.
Headquartered in Saudi Arabia, the 40-year-old OIC has become increasingly visible in recent years, thanks to its activism at the U.N., where it continues to promote a campaign against the “defamation” of Islam.
The Islamic bloc says there is a need to combat “Islamophobia” that has reared its head since 9/11; critics of the campaign include free speech groups and religious freedom advocates, who call it an attempt to shield Islam and Islamic practices from legitimate scrutiny.
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