El Fadl strikes back (PBS photo)
The New York Sun (no link, subscription only) reports that Khaled Abou El Fadl, “a Bush administration appointee to the Commission on International Religious Freedom,” is “threatening to sue an Egyptian government magazine over an interview in which he allegedly calls President Bush a religious fundamentalist who is seeking to Christianize Muslim countries through invasion.
“The Egyptian publication ‘October’ quotes Commissioner Khaled Abou El Fadl predicting that America may invade Syria and Iran if Bush is re-elected and describing American soldiers in Iraq as mentally-ill nervous wrecks who wet their beds out of shock that the Iraqi people did not greet their invasion with flowers.
“‘I didn’t say any of this crap,’ Mr. El Fadl told The New York Sun in a telephone interview from Yale Law School, where he is a visiting professor teaching national security law and immigration law. . . .
“‘I can’t vouch for the translation, but the stuff that they have me saying is pure fabrication. It is not a case of tweaking what I said in a different way, or emphasizing or de-emphasizing what I said,’ he said.
“The article also quotes him boasting that he determined the U.S. ‘deployment plan of withdrawal from Iraq.’
“‘I would need to be a schizophrenic with serious delusions to say that. Give me a break,’ said Mr. El Fadl, who is a professor of Islamic law at UCLA law school.
“The article was translated into English by the Middle East Media Research Institute and posted on its popular Web site last week.
“Mr. El Fadl told the Sun that he did not agree to be interviewed by the magazine and has asked a lawyer in Egypt to prepare a possible lawsuit against the magazine. . . .
“Mr. El Fadl said an unidentified man . . . walked up to him during the meeting and asked a handful of general questions in a 10-minute conversation that was neither recorded nor written down. He said he now believes that was the basis for the article.
“He recalled being asked whether he approved of the administration’s Iraq policy.
“‘I said, I think Middle East needs democracy. We all agree on that, but it is a point of discussion on how we get there,’ he told the Sun.
“Asked whether America intends to invade [Syria] and Iran, he recalled replying, ‘I don’t know.’
“Asked whether he was a ‘Muslim stooge’ for accepting an appointment from the American president, Mr. El Fadl said he replied: ‘No. In fact, the administration had tried from the beginning to be inclusive toward American Muslims, to appear with organizations, to speak about the need for tolerance.’
“But the magazine’s rendition of the conversation was more elaborate. . . .
“The article also quotes him as saying that President Bush ‘permitted missionaries into Iraq before medicines.’ Mr. El Fadl said he has no idea whether missionaries were allowed into Iraq. . . .
“Fellow commission member Nina Shea dismissed the Egyptian press as ‘highly unreliable.”
“‘Based on my encounters with him, I don’t believe he said these things,’ said Ms. Shea, director of the Center for Religious Freedom of the human rights group Freedom House, in an interview prior to Mr. El Fadl’s disavowal of the report.
“‘This notion that Bush is a bigot that wants to forcibly Christianize the Middle East sounds more akin to wild conspiracy on the Internet than the reasoned analysis of a scholar. I just don’t believe he said these things,’ she said.”
I am sorry that El Fadl is going through these difficulties, despite my criticisms of his work in the past. If he did not say these things, their fabrication by the Egyptian magazine illustrates how desperate some segments of the Egyptian press are to keep hatred of the United States at a fever pitch.