Witch Hunt: Right-wing media smears Rashad Hussain as a "terrorist sympathizer"


Right-wing media figures seized on what ABC News' Jake Tapper has described as an "apparently erroneous" report of a statement allegedly made by President Obama's nominee for special envoy to the Organization of the Islamic Conference Rashad Hussain to portray him as a "pro-jihadist," a "radical," and a "terrorist sympathizer." But, as Tapper points out, Hussain has argued that terrorism is "antithetical" to Islam had has written extensively on "[d]iscrediting the terrorist ideology...to stop al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups."

Right-wing media figures smear Hussain as pro-terrorist and call for his firing

Fox News: "Obama's Islamic Envoy Quoted Defending Man Charged With Aiding Terrorists." A February 16 FoxNews.com article reported on the "controversy over remarks attributed to [Hussain] defending a man who later pleaded guilty to conspiring to aid a terrorist group." Despite acknowledging in the article that "the White House says the controversial remarks defending Al-Arian two years earlier were made by his daughter -- not by Hussain," the article ran the title "Obama's Islamic Envoy Quoted Defending Man Charged With Aiding Terrorists."

American Thinker calls Hussain "a terrorist sympathizer," who is "pro-jihadist." On a February 18 blog, American Thinker contributor J. C. Arenas asked "how a terrorist sympathizer has risen to such a position within the president's administration." Arenas also calls Hussain "pro-jihadist" and referred to President Obama's "radical minions," who are "members of an increasing network of radical individuals whom share a common belief system and they're working together for a common purpose; to fundamentally change America."

Atlas Shrugs called Hussain a "Jihadist in the White House." On February 17, Atlas Shrugs writer Pamela Geller highlighted a Human Events post by Robert Spencer, under the headline "Covering up for Jihadists in the White House."

Hannity guest: Hussain's appointment is "an intentional effort to get folks with a radical perspective into the administration." On the February 17 edition of his Fox News program, host Sean Hannity said of Hussain's appointment: "[N]ow I don't know what has happened with the vetting process," adding that "[an] Obama nominee defended a guy who was convicted of aiding a terrorist group." Fox News contributor Pat Caddell said, "[I]f the White House hadn't had so many problems with people, they might be able to get away with the fact that they are claiming it was his sister." Fox News contributor Kate Obenshain claimed that "there's no mistake, it's not the vetting process, Sean. It's an intentional effort to get folks with a radical perspective into the administration," and said of the disputed quote, "Give me a break! This guy, you mean to tell me for five years, he didn't mind being inappropriately -- a quote inappropriately attributed to him where he's defending a man involved with an organization that killed over 100 Israelis?"

Brad Blakeman: Hussain has "more in common with our enemies than what we stand for as a nation" and Obama should "dump him now." Appearing on the February 17 edition of Fox News' America Live, Republican strategist Brad Blakeman asked "how is it possible that the White House found somebody who has more in common with our enemies than what we stand for as a nation? This is our representative to the Muslim world? Somebody who aids and abets a confessed terrorist?" After host Megyn Kelly asked Blakeman if he was "overstat[ing] the case," he responded "I do not," and added, "For him to have made those comments after being appointed to a White House position is unconscionable and the president needs to dump this guy and dump him now."

A 2004 WRMEA report "apparently erroneous[ly]" attributed a quote defending Al-Arian to Hussain

Tapper calls quote in which Hussain appeared to defend Sami Al-Arian "apparently erroneous." In a February 17 ABCNews.com blog post, ABC News Senior White House Correspondent Jake Tapper reported, "In 2006, Al-Arian, a Florida professor, entered into a plea agreement in which he admitted conspiring to help people associated with Palestinian Islamic Jihad, a group designated terrorist by the US government in 1995. Al-Arian admitted that he hid his associations with Palestinian Islamic Jihad by lying to some people, and that had been associated with Palestinian Islamic Jihad during 'the late 1980s and early to mid 1990s.'" Tapper added that in 2004, two years prior to Al-Arian's admission, Washington Report on Middle East Affairs reported that "Hussain called Al-Arian's case one from a series of 'politically motivated persecutions' and that the case against Al-Arian was being 'used politically to squash dissent.' But that report was apparently erroneous. Hussein denies being the one who made the comments, and the editor of the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, Delinda Hanley, later edited the quotes out of the story because, she says, Al-Arian's daughter, Laila Al-Arian, actually made the comments attributed to Hussain." Tapper noted that the author "has said she stands by her original story."

Hussain has a history of working to combat terrorism

Tapper: "Hussain's scholarship...does not reflect the thinking of someone who excuses terrorist acts in any way." Discussing a 2008 Brookings Institute report that Hassain co-authored-- titled "Reformulating the Battle of Ideas: the Role of Islam in Counterterrorism Policy." -- Tapper wrote that Hussain's "scholarship" is "forceful and without question there are those who will disagree with it. But it does not reflect the thinking of someone who excuses terrorist acts in any way."

Tapper: "Hussain's scholarship...is the voice of one who sees Islam and terrorism as antithetical." In the same post, Tapper cited a passage from the Brookings Institution report in which Hussain said, "Any effort that aims to eliminate the spread of terrorism that improperly invokes Islam as its justification must reject labels that make mainstream Islam a part of the problem and instead implement strategies that involve mainstream Islam as a prominent element of the solution." Tapper characterized the passage as "the voice of one who sees Islam and terrorism as antithetical, and is pushing to have the US government make that case more convincingly to the Muslim world."

Hussain outlined steps aimed at "[d]iscrediting the terrorist ideology...to stop al Qaeda and other terrorist groups." In his Brookings Institution report, Hussain outlined eight steps "as part of [the] effort...to stop Al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups." Hussain argued that "[t]he global effort to end terrorism must be more effective in utilizing its strongest ally: Islam." Hussain called this effort "winning the battle of ideas" and considered it "the most effective long-term solution to the problem of terrorism." As Tapper reported, Hussain and his co-author argued, "[R]ather than characterizing counterterrorism efforts as 'freedom and democracy versus terrorist ideology,' policymakers should instead frame the battle of ideas as a conflict between terrorist elements in the Muslim world and Islam." According to Tapper, Hussain argued that to start, policymakers should stop "using the terms such as 'Islamofascism,' 'Islamic extremism,' and 'jihadists,'" as they "only serve to help terrorists in their attempt to usurp Islam" because jihad "is often used to denote one's self-struggle to do good and avoid evil (jihadal-nafs)" and "should not should not be mistranslated as 'holy war,' a term which would be translated into Arabic as 'al-harb al-muqaddasa.' No such term or concept exists in the shari'ah."

Hussain discussed "long-term solution" of "preventing the creation and recruitment of terrorists." Hussain wrote in the report, "The most effective long-term solution to the problem of terrorism is preventing the creation and recruitment of terrorists." He added, "The most paramount task for the global counterterrorism coalition is to emphasize that engaging in terrorism is antithetical to the shari'ah, or Islamic law."

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