Sunday, October 15, 2006

Democratic strategist and former Michael Dukakis campaign manager Susan Estrich, and the former American Civil Liberties Union president in Massachusetts, Harvey Silvergate, recently joined the attorneys representing two alleged Boston al Qaeda funders.

Emadeddin Z. Muntasser and Muhammed Mubayyid face charges in U.S. District Court of Massachusetts for the soliciting and expenditure “of funds to support and promote the mujahideen and jihad, including the distribution of pro-jihad publications.” Their Care International “charity,” a now-defunct Boston-based al Qaeda front organization, published, among other things, the English version by al Qaeda co-founder Abdullah Azzam of “Join the Caravan,” which states: “[t]he obligation of Jihad today remains [individually required] until the last piece of land, which was in the hand of the Muslims, but has been occupied by disbelievers, is liberated.”

In their Oct. 5 request for a dismissal, the defendants effectively — and unwittingly — explain all the reasons why the federal government should outlaw Islamic charitable giving in the United States.

In their motion, attorneys Mrs. Estrich, Malick Ghachem, Norman Zalkind and Elizabeth Lunt, argue that the defendants merely exercised their religious freedom and obligation to give “zakat” (Islamic charity).

Their motion cites Chapter 9, verse 60 of the Koran, which describes “those entitled to receive zakat.” According to the definition of zakat in The Encyclopedia of Islam, “category 7” of eligible recipients are “volunteers engaged in jihad” for whom the zakat cover “living expenses and the expenses of their military service (animals, weapons).”

Incredibly, the suspects’ attorneys also argue that such charitable giving, to support the jihad and mujahideen, is rightfully tax-exempt under U.S. constitutional protection of religious freedom. Moreover, they compare their support of Islam’s “holy war” to the Jewish National Fund (JNF) appeals for tax-deductible “donations to finance the purchase of bulletproof vests, helmets and firetrucks in connection with the 2006 Israel-Lebanon conflict.”

Equating the supply of bulletproof vests to defend Israeli civilians from Hezbollah’s jihad with the funding of weapons and martyrs (holy warriors) for the jihad is preposterous. The JNF does not promote religiosity. Rather, it was incorporated in the United States in 1926 to develop the ancient Jewish homeland and to maintain and encourage the connection of the Jewish people to it. In contrast, Care was established to promote and advance al Qaeda’s version of Islam.

Messrs. Muntasser and Mubayyid, the respective founder and treasurer of Care International, were indicted on May 11, 2005, for lying about the true nature of their organization and their charitable, tax-exempt activities. They now claim that their fund-raising from 1993 to 1996 conformed to the “teachings of an Abrahamic faith.” Moreover, they claim, their activities correspond to those that “other 501(c)(3) religious groups conduct on a regular basis.”

Their own publications, according to an FBI affidavit, state that Care was established in 1993 in Boston by Mr. Azzam, and not by Mr. Muntasser, as he stated in Care’s Articles of incorporation, and on Care’s application for tax exemption as a “charity.” Mr. Azzam was also a key leader of the Muslim Brotherhood.

According to the FBI affidavit, Care’s publication “Al-Hussam” (the Sword in Arabic) actively advocated for “jihad” or holy war, involving “mujahideen” or Islamic holy warriors. In addition, the affidavit states that Care was “the outgrowth of and successor to the Al-Kifah Refugee Center branch in Boston.” After September 11 the U.S. designated Al-Kifah — Sheikh Abdul Rahman’s outfit in Brooklyn — as a terrorist organization for “its involvement in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.”

Care documents show that between 1993-2003 it “collected more than $1.3 million in contributions… specifically directed towards mujahideen.” Court records show Care’s deposited checks with handwritten notes such as: “for jihad only” and “Bosnia Jihad fund” and “Chechen Muslim Fighters.”

Although the U.S. Constitution provides protections for religious freedom, it most certainly was never intended to protect religiously sanctioned or encouraged war in or against America. Yet, that is exactly what the legal team for Messrs. Muntasser and Mubayyid argues.

Apparently, Mrs. Estrich once again is banking on political strategy, in the assumption that jurors from Eastern Massachusetts — notable for having one of the highest geographic concentrations of liberals in the United States — are likely to side with al Qaeda, against the U.S. government.

The First Amendment bars Congress from enacting laws “respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” Yet even the flightiest prospective juror will surely see that the Constitution offers no protection to any group supporting “holy war” against the United States or its citizens — whether in the name of Islam, or anything else.

Rachel Ehrenfeld is author of” Funding Evil”, and director of the American Center for Democracy. Alyssa A. Lappen is a senior fellow at the American Center for Democracy.

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