- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 7, 2004

Some Jews and conservative Christians are questioning a pro-family group’s association with an Islamic organization.

Rabbi Marc Gellman, a syndicated columnist who makes frequent TV appearances as half of “The God Squad,” resigned last month from the advisory board to the Alliance for Marriage (AFM) because it includes a representative of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA).

Steve Emerson, author of a book about terrorism, accused ISNA of links to extremist groups, a charge the Islamic group’s leaders strongly deny.

In a statement published by the Jewish weekly the Forward, Mr. Gellman said: “My moral conscience cannot allow me to be associated with an organization, ISNA, that terrorist experts like Steve Emerson, whom I respect greatly, consider a front for Hamas and other hateful terrorist groups.”

Sayyid M. Syeed, secretary-general of ISNA and the AFM board member, said “it’s very unfortunate that some people might have been misled” about the Islamic group.

“We are celebrating our 40th anniversary and we have a record of credibility, trustworthiness, balance and moderation,” Mr. Syeed said.

Matt Daniels, director of AFM, said that the organization’s attorneys had advised him against commenting to the press. But he released a copy of a letter from attorney Chuck Allen, citing “many nationally respected experts and scholars on Islam” — including University of Maryland professor Charles Butterworth and Georgetown University professor John Voll — who deny that ISNA has terrorism ties.

“ISNA has not been listed or identified as a terrorist group” by any federal department or agency, Mr. Allen wrote, and added that “the FBI and the Department of Defense have worked with ISNA on issues related to Islam and the Muslim community.”

Conservative leaders Paul Weyrich and Gary Bauer have questioned ISNA’s inclusion in AFM — an organization that supports a proposed constitutional amendment that would prohibit recognition of same-sex “marriage.”

Mr. Weyrich, chairman of the Free Congress Foundation, said he was worried that questions about ISNA would hinder the move to pass the marriage amendment.

“I hope that concern over ISNA doesn’t lead to division in the pro-family movement at the very time we need unity to fight for this amendment,” the longtime conservative activist said. “I don’t want to see the pro-family movement damaged because of this. If you have a problem, acknowledge it, and move on.”

Mr. Bauer, president of American Values, said it “would be a mistake, I think, to brush off or ignore the concerns that have been raised” about ISNA.

“I understand coalition politics, but you have to have standards,” said Mr. Bauer, who ran as a Christian conservative candidate for the Republican presidential nomination in 2000.

“I would not form a coalition with any organization that promotes any sort of bigotry, which is why there needs to be a thorough examination by the Alliance of these charges and appropriate action taken.”

In a telephone interview from ISNA’s Indiana offices, Mr. Syeed said conservatives “will eventually discover that we are their best ally in the sense that Islam is religiously committed to the institution of marriage, as are other Abrahamic religions.” He called the pro-marriage movement “a wonderful opportunity for the three major religions of the world to show they are working together in this country for the best interests of American society.”

AFM’s board of advisers includes several religious leaders and conservative intellectuals, including Harvard Law School professor Mary Ann Glendon, Orthodox Rabbi Daniel Lapin, First Things editor Richard John Neuhaus, conservative Episcopalian leader the Very Rev. David Anderson, and Rabbi Barry Freundel of Kesher Israel in Georgetown, the synagogue attended by Sen. Joe Lieberman, Connecticut Democrat.

Mr. Gellman, who is a rabbi of Temple Beth Torah in Melville, N.Y., and makes appearances in “The God Squad” alongside Monsignor Thomas J. Hartman, resigned after an article last month in Jewish World Review said the pro-marriage group was “allied with a radical Islamic group.”

The article cited Mr. Emerson, author of “American Jihad: The Terrorists Living Among Us,” who said ISN raised money for the legal defense of an accused Hamas leader. ISNA “is a radical group hiding under a false veneer of moderation,” Mr. Emerson told Jewish World Review.

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