WEST: Obama’s Muslim outreach?

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Colin Powell got all the airtime, sure, but his isn’t the only Barack Obama endorsement worth talking about lately. There was Ali Larijani, for example, the Hezbollah- and Hamas-supporting speaker of Iran’s parliament, who voiced Iran’s preference for a “more flexible and rational” Obama over John McCain, not that he got what you could call a media roll-out. Nor did America’s own anti-white, anti-Jewish Louis Farrakhan, who recently heralded an Obama presidency as the coming age of the “the Messiah.” There was a newsflash for fluffy-con endorsements at home and abroad, arcing and sputtering on a thin mix of elitism and naivete, but virtually no one seems to have noticed an Obama endorsement that came in from the National Association of Muslim American Women (NAMAW).

Big yawn? Hardly. In its endorsement, the Columbus-based Muslim women’s group described itself as “pro-family” and “pro-life.” But, given the record of NAMAW chairwoman and CEO Anisa Abd el Fattah, it is also pro-Hamas.

As Patrick Poole has reported, Fattah has published Hamas-ian writings contending, for example, that Zionism “violates… every norm of decency known to the human species.” Fattah has also co-authored two books with Hamas spokesman and chief political adviser Ahmed Yousef (”The Agent: The Truth Behind the Anti-Muslim Campaign in America and Al-Aqsa Intifada”). And yes, that would be the same Ahmed Yousef, who, on behalf of Hamas, endorsed Barack Obama back in April.

Both Fattah and Yousef (who fled the country in 2005 to avoid prosecution in the terrorism-related Fawaz Damra trial) used to work for the United Association for Studies and Research (UASR), an innocuously named organization founded by Hamas chieftain Mousa abu Marzook that has been described as “the political command of Hamas in the United States.” The UASR, along with an interlocking network of Islamic organizations, has been designated by the government as both an unindicted co-conspirator in the Holy Land Foundation terror-financing trial, and an affiliate of the Muslim Brotherhood, the Egyptian-founded organization that seeks to install the Sharia (Islamic law) worldwide. Other groups so designated include the Muslim American Society (MAS), which the government said was “founded as the overt arm of the Muslim Brotherhood in the United States,” and the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), of which Fattah, it so happens, was a founding board member. (Fattah, according to her online biography, as Poole has noted, also helped develop the American Muslim Council, which was founded by convicted terrorist financier Abdurahman Alamoudi.) No candidate, of course, has control over what groups or persons decide to go public with endorsements. Mr. McCain, for example, recently received an endorsement from a jihadist blogger at an Al Qaeda linked Web site predicting that Mr. McCain’s determination to fight global jihad would “exhaust” America, thus serving jihadist goals. It is also true that the Obama campaign has, for example, rejected Hamas support. But such endorsements should be weighed, and particularly when there is evidence the Obama campaign may have engaged in a quiet, if uneasy brand of “outreach” to such pro-jihad domestic groups as those listed above.

Earlier this month, several news organizations reported that Minha Husaini, the Obama campaign director of Muslim outreach, participated in a non-advertised September meeting in hotly contested Virginia with about 30 Muslim leaders. Among them were Nihad Awad of CAIR and Mahdi Bray of MAS both leaders of groups the government has designated as unindicted co-conspirators and Muslim Brotherhood affiliates. Also present was Johari Abdul Malik, the imam of Dar Al-Hijrah Mosque, aka “the 9/11 mosque” because two of the 9/11 hijackers worshipped there. (So did Ahmed Omar Abu Ali, an Al Qaeda member now serving a 30-year sentence for plotting to assassinate President Bush, and also Hamas chieftain and UASR founder Mousa abu Marzook.) Another person attending the meeting was Mazen Asbahi, the former Obama director of Muslim outreach who quickly resigned in early August after news broke about his ties to unindicted co-conspirators. This was not his first post-resignation campaign-related event. At a luncheon during the Democratic National Convention, Investor’s Business Daily reported Asbahi as saying that his resignation was a “strategic decision,” and “that he was participating in campaign conference calls on Muslim outreach.” The Obama campaign has pleaded ignorance concerning the September meeting, with campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt telling NBC News producer Jim Popkin that campaign staffers, including Husaini, wouldn’t have “attended if they were aware of the complete list of attendees.” The campaign had no comment on Asbahi’s presence, and, oddly, wouldn’t allow reporters speak with Muslim outreach director Husaini.

What are voters to make of this? Did Obama campaign staffers abandon the event on learning who was there? The meeting went on as scheduled. Did the campaign later denounce these controversial, to say the least, groups in media statements? Apparently not. One unidentified meeting participant told Popkin that “some in the Obama group knew ahead of time that top CAIR officials would be in attendance,” adding: “There was some hope it wouldn’t get out” into the media.

That, of course, should never have concerned a campaign for whom media scrutiny resembles cupcake frosting. But “out” it is, thanks to a few journalists still on the job. If any questions remain, though, they are questions voters will have to answer for themselves.

Diana West is a syndicated columnist.

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