Republican Senate candidate in California Tom Campbell is the frontrunner in the nomination fight and his ties to radical Muslims, specifically Sami al-Arian, have become an issue, but the story is bigger. Campbell has surrounded himself with people tied to the Muslim Brotherhood, who recruited him for their political agenda in a campaign that ultimately reached the Bush White House.
In November 2001, a Brotherhood document called “The Project” from 1982 was found by Swiss police raiding the home of Youssef Nada, a Brotherhood leader thought to be financing terrorism. It detailed a sophisticated plan to incrementally bring Sharia Law to the world, including deep political influence operations in the democratic institutions of the West. The Muslim Brotherhood has been diligently following this plan ever since.
The story of the infiltration of the Republican Party should start with Sami al-Arian, a former University of South Florida professor now convicted of being a leader of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad and admitted Muslim Brotherhood member. In 1997, his brother-in-law, Mazen al-Najjar, was held without bail based on classified evidence connecting him to terrorism after he appealed his deportation. Al-Arian began using his political connections to try to free his brother-in-law, arguing that his civil liberties were being violated. This effort ultimately failed, and al-Najjar was deported in 2002.
One of al-Arian’s political allies was Suhail Khan, the Director of Policy and Press Secretary of Congressman Tom Campbell of California. Campbell introduced legislation to ban the use of secret evidence in immigration court, which would free al-Najjar. This was not merely a consequence of Campbell’s legislation, it was the intent. Campbell wrote a letter defending the man and visited him in jail in May 2000.
Khan’s father served as vice president of the Muslim Students Association and was in the leadership of the Islamic Society of North America, two Brotherhood-created groups. The mosque his father founded was later visited after he moved by Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman, the “Blind Sheikh” involved in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, where he preached violent jihad. In 1983, his father founded the Muslim Community Association, which was used by the Egyptian Islamic Jihad to fundraise twice, including one appearance by Ayman al-Zawahiri. His mother served on the board of the mosque and was also on the board of the California branch of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, whose founders are now known to be secret members of the Brotherhood’s “Palestine Committee.”
Khan himself regularly speaks at events put together by Brotherhood-connected groups. Frank Gaffney, a former Assistant Secretary of Defense and current President of the Center for Security Policy, told me last week that an FBI Special Agent involved in counter-terrorism confirmed to him that Khan is a member of the Brotherhood. On November 6, 2009, Rachel Maddow interviewed Khan about the Fort Hood shootings and asked about the criticism of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. He responded by saying that it was “even more sad to see that there might be some who would use and exploit this strategy for their political partisan and worse, for their racist ends.”
Grover Norquist, a prominent conservative activist who had very close ties to the Bush campaign and White House, is central to this story. He founded the Islamic Free Market Institute in 1998 with tens of thousands of dollars from Abdulrahman Alamoudi, who later professed his support for Hamas and Hezbollah and was found to be a top Brotherhood leader in the U.S. involved in massive terrorism fundraising operations. Money also came from the International Institute of Islamic Thought, a Brotherhood front, and The Safa Trust, whose offices were raided in 2002 as part of a terrorism investigation.
Alamoudi’s top aide, Khalid Saffuri, became the executive-director of Norquist’s group. Saffuri later became the National Advisor on Arab and Muslim Affairs for Bush’s presidential campaign in 2000. He would go on to help build relations between the Bush team and Sami al-Arian and later oppose the shutting down of the Holy Land Foundation.
Norquist’s ties to the high-profile groups of the Muslim-American community, a prime target for the GOP’s social conservative message, made him a valuable asset in the eyes of the Bush campaign and White House. John Zogby described Norquist in November 2001 as being “central to the White House outreach” by acting as an “interlocutor.”
These ties become more understandable when it is understood that a devout Muslim married Norquist, something a follower of Islam would never do unless her spouse converted. When Paul Sperry asked him if he had converted to Islam, Norquist would only say that it was“personal.” In 2008, Norquist adopted a baby from the now-Palestinian city of Bethlehem. By no means does being a Muslim convert mean you are an extremist, but it is a factor in explaining what could cause Norquist to seek out relationships like these.
The Investigative Project on Terrorism provided me with several documents showing how Campbell and Khan were active in the political agenda of these groups. The October 1996 newsletter from the American Muslim Council included an interview with Campbell, where he expressed his anger at the “gross stereotyping and dehumanization of Muslims and Arabs” in movies like Executive Decision and Father of the Bride II. He said that he wrote letters to Kurt Russel, Steve Martin, and Eugene Levy asking them to be more responsible in the future.
In the interview, Campbell also boasted of his role in trying to get “inflammatory language” removed from a House resolution. The “inflammatory” language was “in several Islamic countries conversion to Christianity from Islam is a crime punishable by death” and “Sudan is waging a jihad (religious war) against the Christian southern part of the country.” Khan spoke at a Council on American-Islamic Relations conference in August 1997 where he again boasted of Campbell’s effort, saying that the resolution was offensive to Muslims and should instead condemn all religious persecution.
The Washington Report on Middle East Affairs’ issue from July/August 1999 reported on the American Muslim Council’s annual convention. It says that Khan and Campbell spoke for the group, with Khan focusing on the ban on the use of secret evidence in immigration court. Campbell, speaking alongside Rep. Janice Schakowsky who condemned Israel’s “ethnic cleansing,” said “We [Congress] have to recognize that there are people in Palestine who have the right to their own land.”
The event also included a talk from Mazen al-Najjar’s daughter, crying for her father’s freedom, and the presentation of an award to The Holy Land Foundation. The director of the group said, “Although the Holy Land Foundation is a non-profit organization, we profit the lives of many Palestinians.” Apparently those Palestinians they profited were members of Hamas, as the charity was later found guilty of financing the terrorist group.
When Campbell ran for Senate in 2000, Sami al-Arian and figures from other Brotherhood affiliates like the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the Muslim Public Affairs Council, and the Islamic Society of North America donated to his campaign and spoke at his fundraisers as he courted Muslim votes.
Sami Al-Arian donated to his campaign, as did Abdulrahman Alamoudi. On May 24, 2000, Alamoudi was interviewed by an Islamic website that asked him how to “decrease the influence of the zionist (sic) lobby on presidential candidates.” He responded by calling on Muslims to help elect favorable candidates, specifically mentioning Campbell as a “tested friend.”
When Alamoudi publicly declared his support for Hamas and Hezbollah, Hillary Clinton and George W. Bush returned his donations. Campbell did not. He defended Alamoudi, saying he had not advocated violence. Also donating to his campaign was Nihad Awad, the current executive-director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a group now labeled as an unindicted co-conspirator in the terrorism financing trial of The Holy Land Foundation.
Awad, a Brotherhood member, was recorded by the FBI participating in a secret meeting of Hamas and Brotherhood supporters in 1993 where he emphasized the need to moderate their language in order to advance their political agenda. The first executive-director of CAIR’s Michigan chapter, Muthanna al-Hanooti, donated $2,000 to Campbell. He was later found guilty of being a spy for Iraqi intelligence, who apparently appreciated Campbell’s criticism of U.S. sanctions on their country.
Another donor was Agha Saeed from the American Muslim Alliance, a group that later opposed the Bush Administration’s shutting down of The Holy Land Foundation for financing Hamas. Saeed spoke in support of the “armed resistance” of the Palestinians, prompting Hillary Clinton to return his donation. Like the case of Alamoudi, Campbell did not return his donation and was not turned off by his pro-jihad rhetoric. The votes and confidence of his Brotherhood friends were too important. Saeed’s group put together a conference in October 2001 where Campbell was given a “lifetime achievement” award. In 2000, Saeed’s group actually held a fundraiser for Campbell, bringing in $35,000 for him.
In September 2000, Campbell was on a panel at the Islamic Society of North America’s annual conference about how Muslims could mobilize to support the ban on using secret evidence in immigration court. Joining him on that panel was Agha Saeed; Salam Al-Marayati of the Muslim Public Affairs Council; Nihad Awad; and Najir Khaja from Al-Amoudi’s American-Muslim Council. In other words, his Brotherhood political allies.
After Bush’s election victory, these various individuals saw their power increase. Suhail Khan began working in the Office of Public Liaison and then as Assistant to the Secretary for Policy at the Transportation Department. Norquist has said that he used his influence in the White House to get Khan the position. David L. Norquist, Grover’s brother, became the Bush Administration’s Chief Financial Officer at the Department of Homeland Security in 2006.
President of the Center for Security Policy Frank Gaffney writes that a memo prepared by Khan in early 2001 shows that Norquist’s Islamic Free Market Institute “provided the White House with a list of Muslim invitees, with the name, date of birth and Social Security number of each.” In 2003, Mary Jacoby of The St. Petersburg Times wrote that “For a time, the point person at the White House arranging the Muslim groups’ access was Suhail Khan, a former director of the Islamic Institute.”
The success of this effort to gain influence inside the White House was clearly seen following the attacks of September 11, 2001. Ironically, on that very day, these various Muslim leaders and groups who won White House access via Khan were set to meet with President Bush to discuss his pledged support of a ban on using secret evidence in immigration court, a position he likely came to because of the influence of the Brotherhood team. Sami Al-Arian was supposed to call into the meeting. When the attacks prevented the meeting, they met up in Norquist’s conference room, which he shared with Frank Gaffney.
On September 26, President Bush understandably wanted to make clear that the war on terror was not a war on Islam or all Muslims, so he appeared with 15 Muslim-American leaders who condemned the vague term of terrorism. Included were the leaders of the American-Muslim Council, Muslim Public Affairs Council, and the Islamic Society of North America. Government agencies, officials and candidates built strong relations with groups such as these in the aftermath of the attacks, hoping to win the support of the Muslim communities through them. In reality, these groups used such connections to try to influence the government, gain prestige, and actually undermined support for the government’s counter-extremism efforts, such as by painting the war on terror as a war on Islam—the precise image the government was trying not to create by working with these groups.
Campbell continued to be a friend to these Brotherhood leaders after 9/11. In 2002, he wrote a letter defending Sami Al-Arian, who was under pressure from his school for reports tying him to extremism. Campbell now says that he was unaware of al-Arian’s terrorist activity, but by this time, al-Arian had publicly supported jihad and made anti-Semitic and anti-American statements. A report by The Investigative Project on Terrorism stated, “If he didn’t know it then, it wasn’t because the information wasn’t available. Campbell either never sought it out or simply ignored it.”
Campbell does have a record of supporting Israel as a congressman, but that hasn’t stopped him from endorsing virulently anti-Israel activists, such as Alison Weir of If Americans Knew (not to be confused with the British historian and author Alison Weir). The organization’s website proudly shows off his endorsement of her. Campbell says that his praise came from one speech of hers, and the relationship did not continue. He did not say what that speech consisted of. According to Weir, it was a talk she gave in the spring of 2001 where she talked of the brutality and oppression of the Israeli military in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. “One of the first on his feet [to applaud her] was Tom Campbell,” she says.
The cast of characters and organizations who penetrated the White House and Bush campaign are the same ones who counted on Campbell as a close ally, supporting him politically and financially. Campbell is not a proponent of Sharia Law, but those involved with the Brotherhood saw him as an official they could influence and use. Eager to win Muslim support, politicians such as Campbell are tempted to follow the advice of advisors like those suggested by Norquist. Based on his record, it is disturbing to think who Campbell will surround himself with should he become the next Republican Senator from California.