- The Washington Times - Monday, August 29, 2005

Karen Hughes, confidante to George W. Bush and master political strategist, has recently returned from Texas to take on one of the most important and heretofore thankless tasks in Washington: waging the “War of Ideas” part of the present global conflict against the “evil ideology” best described as Islamofascism.

The starting point for Mrs. Hughes’ vital work must be an understanding that not all Muslims are adherents to this virulently intolerant ideology. Strategies for defeating the latter must necessarily reach out to Muslims who genuinely reject the Islamists and their goal: violent imposition of a worldwide “caliphate” subject to a Taliban-like religious code, Sharia.

In the wake of July’s London transport bombings by home-grown British Islamists, the dangers of mistaking one type of Muslim community for another have become obvious. Prime Minister Tony Blair’s government has gone from ignoring Islamofascists in its midst — if not actually accommodating their efforts to proselytize and recruit in Britain — to cracking down forcefully on their activities and presence there.

Unfortunately, in the past — and most especially after the September 11, 2001, attacks — Bush administration efforts to engage in such outreach have been characterized by a similar unfamiliarity with the distinctions between Muslim organizations that profess hostility to Islamofascists and their causes and those that actually reject the terrorism and ideology of groups like al Qaeda, Hamas, Hezbollah and Islamic Jihad.

For example, the administration initially embraced Abdurahman Alamoudi and his American Muslim Council (AMC) as go-to intermediaries for their outreach to the Islamic community in this country. Many officials met with Mr. Alamoudi and his subordinates, and the Bush team continued the practice begun during the Clinton presidency AMC-affiliated organizations selecting, training and certifying chaplains for the U.S. military. When FBI Director Robert Mueller was criticized for attending the AMC annual convention a few years back, his spokesman insisted this was appropriate since the AMC was “the most mainstream Muslim organization in America.”

Mr. Alamoudi now is serving a 23-year sentence in federal prison, having pleaded guilty to charges of trying to kill the then-Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia on behalf of terrorist-sponsor and Libyan dictator Col. Moammar Gadhafi. The U.S. government since has identified him as a financier for al Qaeda.

Even before it came to office, the Bush team was also induced to reach out to Sami al-Arian, a leading Muslim “activist,” who was a computer science professor at South Florida University. Mr. al-Arian got Candidate George W. Bush to promise to prohibit use of secret evidence, a practice law enforcement uses sparingly in deportation and criminal proceedings to protect intelligence sources and methods.

Today, Sami al-Arian is being tried on more than 40 counts of financing and running one of the world’s most violent Islamofascist organizations, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, from his professor’s post in Tampa. In a particular irony, secret evidence of his organization’s intent to attack Americans is being used by the prosecution. For his part, Mr. Al-Arian is using as part of his defense his past ties to President Bush and his associates.

Now, Karen Hughes is set to address — and, thereby, to provide political cover to — yet another problematic Muslim-American organization, the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), at its large annual convention in Chicago over Labor Day weekend. As with the Bush administration’s outreach to Mr. Alamoudi and the AMC and its endorsement of Mr. al-Arian’s campaign against secret evidence, Mrs. Hughes would make a first-order strategic error if she embraced ISNA.

The Islamic Society of North America is a front for the promotion of Saudi Arabia’s Wahhabi political, doctrinal and theological infrastructure in the U.S. and Canada. Established by the Saudi-funded Muslim Students Association, ISNA has for years sought to marginalize leaders of the Muslim faith who do not support the Wahhabists’ strain of Islamofascism, and, by sponsoring propaganda and mosques, pursues a strategic goal of eventually dominating Islam in America.

In December 2003, the Republican chairman and ranking Democrat of the Senate Finance Committee, Sens. Charles Grassley of Iowa and Max Baucus of Montana, respectively, listed ISNA as one of 25 American Muslim organizations that “finance terrorism and perpetuate violence.”

The risk is, if Karen Hughes attends the ISNA convention, she will not only endorse a deeply problematic group but will continue and compound the administration’s regrettable past practice of discouraging, if not actually alienating, genuinely non-Islamist Muslims by reaching out to ones who aren’t.

Like most other types of combat, a war of ideas requires clarity about the enemy’s identify. Mrs. Hughes would be well advised to seek the counsel of authentically peaceable, pro-American and anti-Islamist Muslim leaders — like Sheik Hisham Kabbani, the spiritual leader of the Sufi sect in America — to determine the true nature and ideological alignment of the allies we seek.

As to the ISNA convention, three words of advice are in order for Mrs. Hughes: Don’t go there.

Frank J. Gaffney Jr. is president of the Center for Security Policy and a columnist for The Washington Times.

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