Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Financing jihad: did he or didn’t he?

“Those who cannot remember the past,” as George Santayana taught us, “are condemned to repeat it.” Likewise, when governments seek to rewrite history, citizens and non-citizens alike are exposed to the dangers that accompany official revisionism. A recent opinion column in this newspaper demonstrates these lessons all too clearly.

The United States Department of Justice has indicted a Boston businessman, Emadeddin Z. Muntasser, our client, for his involvement in the 1980s and early 90s in a Boston-based Muslim charity that, the indictment alleges, was involved in supporting Afghan mujahideen engaged in pursuing jihad. Rachel Ehrenfeld and Alyssa A. Lappen (“Jihadists and Jews,” Op-Ed, Monday) would have readers of this newspaper believe that in asking the federal court in Massachusetts to dismiss this indictment on constitutional grounds, we are seeking to establish that the First Amendment’s speech and religion protections apply to what the authors term “a now-defunct Boston-based al Qaeda front organization” that engages in support of a terrorist organization that advances “holy war against the United States.”

Ms. Ehrenfeld and Ms. Lappen are wrong on every count. In fact, the indictment alleges that the organization, Care International, was engaged in lending financial assistance to the very same groups and causes that the United States government financed during and after the Afghan struggle to liberate their country from Soviet occupation and communist rule. In charging Mr. Muntasser with failing to inform the Internal Revenue Service, when seeking tax-exempt charitable status for Care, that the organization supported jihad, mujahideen, and zakat (the Muslim equivalent of charitable giving), the U.S. government is engaging in an insidious form of revisionism. It is also betraying a deeply flawed misunderstanding of these fundamental Islamic principles — a misunderstanding that, apparently, the coauthors have uncritically lifted out of the Department of Justice playbook.

Don’t take our word for it. The U.S. government’s own expert intelligence literature, which we quoted in our motion to dismiss the indictment, defines jihad in a way that totally undermines the indictment as well as the Ehrenfeld-Lappen thesis: “Of all Islamic doctrines, the concept of jihad is the most overused, misunderstood, and misinterpreted,” the intelligence report says. “Often narrowly and erroneously translated as ‘holy war,’ jihad literally translates to ‘utmost effort’ or ‘struggle’ and refers to the obligation of all Muslims to promote and defend Islam. Because certain radical Muslim groups have adopted the word as part of their name, Westerners often associate jihad with terrorism. Jihad actually is a complex religious concept.”

As Ms. Ehrenfeld and Ms. Lappen note, the government alleges that Care’s newsletter “actively advocated for jihad or holy war, involving mujahideen or Islamic holy warriors.” Yet as we also detail in our motion, the U.S. government financed similarly situated tax-exempt organizations to do the exact same thing. Consider, for instance, the $57,068 the National Endowment for Democracy bestowed upon the American Friends of Afghanistan in 1991 to continue publishing the quarterly magazine Afghan Jehad. The October-December 1991 issue of that magazine opined that “our objective now should be an Islamic Revolution and an Islamic Revolution can only be ushered in through the adoption of jehad as its primary instrument.”

In short, what the indictment, as well as the FBI affidavit on which the coauthors rely, failed to mention was that this was official American policy and the object of munificent federal funding at the time.

The notion that we are arguing that the Constitution protects “war in or against America” and that the Internal Revenue Code should grant tax-exemption to funds so directed, is absurd. What we do argue, however, is that given the similarity between the conduct alleged in the indictment and the aims of our government at the time of these events, that conduct is fully protected by the Constitution and statutes of the nation. Moreover, the publications that Care is charged with sponsoring were quite ordinary calls for assistance for the aims of the U.S. government and are protected by the free speech and free press doctrines.

Ms. Ehrenfeld, in particular, should understand the importance of enforcing the First Amendment’s protections for liberty. She recently filed a lawsuit against Saudi businessman Khalid Salim A Bin Mahfouz, who has made a career of suing, in foreign courts of nations without a First Amendment, American writers, including Ms. Ehrenfeld, who dare to criticize terrorist financiers in American publications that occasionally find their way into foreign lands. Ms. Ehrenfeld’s case, which seeks a declaration that all such foreign judgments are invalid in this country, is currently pending in the Second Circuit Court of Appeals in New York. In her brief, Ms. Ehrenfeld points out that Americans “have a strong First Amendment interest in preserving broad access to speech — no matter how controversial or inflammatory.”

We agree. Hopefully when Ms. Ehrenfeld learns more about the ill-considered prosecution of our client, she will see that he is entitled to the same First Amendment protection that she seeks, especially since the activities that he allegedly undertook, far from being “controversial or inflammatory,” were as patriotic as the National Endowment for Democracy or, one might say, as American as apple pie.


Robert Kingsley Professor of Law and Political Science

University of Southern California

Gould School of Law School

Los Angeles


Criminal defense and

civil liberties attorney

Good and Cormier


The rewards of martyrdom

The article on Hezbollah’s funeral for Radwan Saleh, an American citizen who died fighting for the terrorist organization in the recent conflict with Israel, deserves a follow-up regarding the potential multiple survivors benefits involved (“At least 51 killed in violence,” World, Oct. 4).

His wife and four children, who reportedly reside in both California and Lebanon, attended the funeral. Hezbollah rewards families of martyrs with martyrdom benefits, and technically this family might qualify for certain Social Security survivors benefits as well. The case should be explored to develop legal disincentives to preclude the possibility of that ever happening.

With the growth of terrorism and foreign militias ahead of us, combined with the straining allegiances posed by multiple citizenships, surely others who succumb to the allure of radical Islam’s cash and spiritual rewards also would be tempted to tap into America’s often blind generosity.


Falls Church

‘Nuclear disarmament must be an urgent priority’

The government of the Islamic Republic of Iran strongly rejects any comparison of Iran’s nuclear program with other countries’.Iran’s nuclear program is legal, fully within the framework of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, peaceful and transparent (“North Korea and Iran,” Editorial, Oct. 11).

After more than 2200 days of inspection of Iran’s nuclear facilities, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has concluded that there is no evidence of diversion of nuclear material to military objectives. The latest report by the IAEA’s Director-General, Dr. Mohammad El Baradei, dated August 31, states: “Iran has been providing the Agency with access to nuclear material and facilities, and has provided the required reports.”

Iran’s leadership has repeatedly denounced the manufacturing, stockpiling and use of nuclear weapons on moral, religious and political grounds. Iran is convinced that the proliferation of nuclear weapons is harmful to the cause of world peace and stability.

Iran has called for a nuclear-weapons free zone in the Middle East and has also expressed concerns about the lack of commitment of certain state parties to the Non-Proliferation Treaty regarding their obligations to disarm.

Iran believe that the absence of meaningful and global nuclear disarmament must be an urgent priority of the international community.

Unfortunately, these important facts about Iran are often ignored in the U.S. media and, instead, Iran has been subjected to a massive campaign of deliberate disinformation. We urge the respected members of the media to refrain from drawing unfounded comparisons between Iran and other countries and to keep the above-stated facts about Iran in consideration when reporting on Iran.


Press secretary

Mission of the Islamic Republic of Iran to the United Nations

NewYork City

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