Last week, the Washington Post profiled Zainab al-Suwaij, the founder and director of the American Islamic Congress (AIC). Because she grew up under dictatorship and repression in Iraq and so understands the values which make America great, Zainab has always been outspoken in favor of moderation, individual liberty, women’s empowerment, and against the extremism preached so often by Saudi Arabia and Iran. While almost anyone who meets Zainab, be they in Iraq, Egypt, and the United States, becomes an admirer, the Post found one naysayer. “If AIC is surviving on U.S. money, then they have no legitimacy, especially if they came to the fore in the [George W.] Bush era,” Muqtedar Khan, a professor at the University of Delaware, said.
Khan’s statement is curious: Why should it be wrong for the AIC to compete for and, on occasion, to win U.S. grants? It’s not like an organization called the American Islamic Congress hides the American component. Nor does Khan indicate why Muslim groups should shy away from accepting American money but have no hesitation accepting Saudi cash, like the more radical Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) and Islamic Society for North America (ISNA) do.
There is no big news flash buried in the 17 al-Qaeda documents that were seized at Abbottabad and released today by West Point’s Combating Terrorism Center. They will enhance public understanding of al-Qaeda only marginally while, of course, helping to keep alive the Osama bin Laden raid which President Obama is using for all it’s worth as part of his reelection strategy.
What the documents show—and what we already knew—is that running a terrorist organization is pretty much like running any other organization, whether an NGO or a business or a government. There are always bureaucratic headaches, especially for the head of a far-flung multinational who is trying to keep various component units marching in lockstep. That was particularly difficult for bin Laden because he had limited communications from his house in Pakistan. He was often exercised, it seems, by the actions of al-Qaeda in Iraq, al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, and al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb—his “branded” franchises—to say nothing of fellow traveler organizations such as the Pakistani Taliban and the Shabaab in Somalia. As the West Point summary notes:
Rather than a source of strength, bin Laden was burdened by what he viewed as the incompetence of the “affiliates,” including their lack of political acumen to win public support, their media campaigns and their poorly planned operations which resulted in the unnecessary deaths of thousands of Muslims.
The Pew Research Center released a poll showing support for Osama bin Laden had waned considerably among Muslims around the world. That’s not terribly surprising a year after his death. But what is worth calling attention to is that bin Laden’s popularity decreased substantially during the Bush years and the “war on terrorism.”
Why point this out at all? Because there was a popular theory advanced by foreign policy analysts like Peter Bergen, which (in 2007) sounded like this:
America’s most formidable foe once practically dead is back. This is one of the most historically significant legacies of President Bush. At nearly every turn, he has made the wrong strategic choices in battling al-Qaeda. To understand the terror networks’ resurgence and its continued ability to harm us we need to reexamine all the ways in which the administration has failed to crush it.
In some quarters of the right it is considered, so to speak, an article of faith that the war against al-Qaeda and its ilk is really a war against Islam, and that no Muslim can possibly be trusted to be an ally in this fight. Even talk of allowing Muslim judges in Afghanistan to issue warrants for “night raids” has been greeted with contempt by some even though many Muslim Afghan soldiers now go out on those raids. Indeed, thousands of Iraqi and Afghan soldiers have lost their lives fighting alongside American allies against our mutual foes in extremist groups such as al-Qaeda, the Taliban and the Mahdist Army.
Further discrediting the anti-Muslim propaganda is the fact disclosed yesterday by the Washington Post that the long-serving head of the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center–the architect of policies which have sent countless jihadists to an early grave in drone strikes–is himself a Muslim. He converted after marrying a Muslim woman while serving abroad.
As Israel Apartheid Week circumnavigates the globe this month, a Jordan-based Palestinian journalist has offered an eloquent rebuttal that every Israel supporter should memorize and quote. If Israel is really an “apartheid state,” asks Ramzi Abu Hadid, “Why has it become the dream of many Arab Christians and Muslims to emigrate to the ‘apartheid state’? Is it possible that all these people are uninformed? Or do they really know the truth about Israel, the only democracy in the Middle East?”
Specifically, he noted, “thousands of the Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza Strip … try to infiltrate into Israel every morning in search of work and a better life,” while “tens of thousands of Arabs and Muslims have put their lives at risk by crossing the border into Israel from Egypt, where border guards often open fire at women and children.” In addition, “many Christian families from Bethlehem and even the Gaza Strip have moved to live in Israel because they feel safer in the ‘apartheid state’ than they do among their Muslim ‘brothers.’”