The Rumpled Academic is back!
Longtime Jihad Watch readers will remember Sami Al-Arian, who for years was a darling of the Leftist intelligentsia. In March 2002 Nicholas Kristof went to bat for the professor in the New York Times: "The point is not whether one agrees with Professor Al-Arian, a rumpled academic with a salt-and-pepper beard who is harshly critical of Israel (and also of repressive Arab countries) — but who also denounces terrorism, promotes inter-faith services with Jews and Christians, and led students at his Islamic school to a memorial service after 9/11 where they all sang ‘God Bless America.’ No, the larger point is that a university, even a country, becomes sterile when people are too intimidated to say things out of the mainstream."
Unfortunately for Kristof and others like him, the Rumpled Academic eventually pled guilty to being a leader of Palestinian Islamic Jihad. His legal situation is in limbo, and you'll see below. But this is the first time he has appeared in public for quite some time.
"IPT EXCLUSIVE: Al-Arian Resurfaces in New American Brotherhood Campaign," IPT News, December 9:
A new group advocating for the restoration of Muslim Brotherhood power in Egypt held a briefing on Capitol Hill Thursday. It is part of a series of events calling for "restoring democracy to Egypt."
But like similar efforts before it, the push by the newly-established Egypt Freedom Foundation involves people with ties to Muslim Brotherhood organizations in the United States. And, the Investigative Project on Terrorism has learned that the event also attracted Sami Al-Arian to the Cannon Office Building on Capitol Hill. Al-Arian is a convicted terrorist-supporting felon who is still under a separate indictment for criminal contempt. Both cases involve his work with the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, a terrorist group for which Al-Arian served as a board member.
He did not speak during Thursday's briefing, or at a follow-up event at a northern Virginia community college Friday night. But his presence, and his connections to the organizers, indicate that he may be more than a spectator.
The two events featured speakers critical of the Egyptian military for removing President Mohamed Morsi from office July 3, after days of massive street protests that reached historic proportions against his year-old rule. Morsi was the Muslim Brotherhood's candidate in Egypt's 2012 elections.
The speakers at Thursday and Friday's events rejected estimates that 30 million people – from Egypt's population of 80 million – took to the streets calling on Morsi to resign. And they claim that, while Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood made some mistakes in power, they remained reasonably popular but were done in by a campaign of gross media exaggeration and fabricated conspiracies.
Both events were sponsored by the Egypt Freedom Foundation, a new group incorporated in Washington, D.C. on Oct. 1, records show. The only listed officer, Ahmed Bedier, is a former Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) chapter director who still raises money for the group.
CAIR was created in 1994 as part of a Muslim Brotherhood network of Hamas-support organizations, court records show. Hamas is a Palestinian offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood.
Al-Arian also has acknowledged his past membership in the Muslim Brotherhood.
His contempt case has been frozen since 2009. Despite a written promise, U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema has not ruled on pending motions to dismiss the case or let it proceed to trial. Al-Arian has been on house arrest, but in January, Brinkema issued an unsolicited order which greatly reduced restrictions on Al-Arian's activities.
If the case were allowed to go forward, Al-Arian would face prison time if convicted. If he were acquitted, or if the contempt case were dismissed, he would face deportation under terms of his 2006 plea agreement for supporting the Palestinian Islamic Jihad.
"The evidence was clear in this case that you were a leader of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad," U.S. District Court Judge James Moody said during Al-Arian's sentencing. "You were on the board of directors and an officer, the secretary. Directors control the actions of an organization, even the PIJ; and you were an active leader."
The Capitol Hill event was promoted on Twitter and attended by Mahdi Bray, former head of the Muslim American Society's political arm. The Muslim American Society has strong roots in the Muslim Brotherhood.
Like Al-Arian, Bray is a convicted felon. Bedier and Bray staunchly defended Al-Arian during his run-ins with the criminal justice system. Bedier testified as a character witness for Al-Arian. Bedier, as the CAIR representative in Tampa, where Al-Arian was tried in 2005, routinely appeared in the media defending him.
Emphasis on Lobbying
During the two events, Bedier took pains to say his new foundation's effort is not about supporting Morsi or the Brotherhood, but "this is about the democratic process" and the damage done by removing a legitimately elected president.
Lobbying Congress to reverse Morsi's ouster is a key element of the Egypt Freedom Foundation's agenda. Bedier made repeated references to meetings with members of the House and Senate last week. "We've been up here all week with this delegation meeting members of Congress, meeting members of the Senate, meeting different think tanks to share with them the perspective," Bedier said at Nova Community College in Annandale, Va. "And imagine this, many of these offices that we went to in Congress, they said, 'you are the first Egyptian group to come visit us. You're the first.'"
An aide to U.S. Rep. Andre Carson, D-Ind., reserved the Cannon Office Building room for Thursday's briefing. And a representative of U.S. Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., attended. Bedier indicated they would be visiting his office later.
"We need to have more events on Capitol Hill," Bedier said. "You can't believe how important it is, our presence here."
He blamed the "pro-Israel lobby" for an aggressive push in favor of the military's action which includes portraying a Muslim Brotherhood-controlled Egypt as a potential new theocracy like Iran. "If this was a synagogue or if this was a pro-Israeli event, and even though it has nothing to do with Israel directly – it has to do with Egypt – the hall would be full of pro-Israelis," he said, "because they know how important Egypt is and the Camp David and the peace treaty with Egypt and having a puppet regime in Egypt how important it is for their perceived safety."
Bedier and other speakers also emphasized that they don't want the narrative surrounding their effort to be about Morsi or the Muslim Brotherhood. "This is not a pro-Morsi movement, this is not a pro-Brotherhood awareness campaign," he said Thursday.
But Bedier, Bray and CAIR all have ties to the Muslim Brotherhood and the result of "restoring democracy" in Egypt, in their vision, would mean Morsi's reinstatement as president. There was no disagreement among the speakers at either event, and criticism of Morsi's tenure and of Brotherhood actions was scant.
The Egypt Freedom Foundation already has gone to extreme lengths to cast Morsi as more popular than perceived. Mohamed Elmasry, a communications professor at the American University in Cairo, called the Brotherhood Egypt's "largest and most popular group ... undefeated at the polls."...