Report: Islamist radicals find warm welcome in Obama White House

Neil Munro | White House Correspondent

White House visitor records show that administration officials have hosted numerous White House meetings with a series of U.S.-based Muslim political groups that have close ties to jihadi groups and push to reduce anti-terrorism investigations.

The visits were discovered by the Investigative Project on Terrorism, which compared the Obama White House’s visitor records with its database of Islamist advocacy groups.

For example, the records show that officials from the Council on American Islamic Relations have visited the White House 20 times, according to the organization’s report.

Members of CAIR were invited to the White House, even though an April 2009 FBI statement said the bureau “does not view CAIR as an appropriate liaison partner” because of its ties to the Hamas jihadi group.

Read the White House Visitor Logs

Administration officials also invited Syrian-born Louay Safi to the White House twice in 2011, even though he had been named an unindicted co-conspirator in two terrorism cases, and had been barred from Fort Hood following the 2009 jihadi attack by a Muslim U.S. Army major.

In contrast, White House officials have not invited Zuhdi Jasser, an Arizona-based, American-born moderate Muslim and former Navy officer.

“We’ve never been invited and nether have any of [the 24 leaders in] our American Islamic Leadership Coalition,” Jasser told The Daily Caller.

The absence of invitations to real Muslim moderates allows White House officials to pretend that members of the well-funded, U.S.-based radical group are moderates, even when they’re linked to the Egypt-based Muslim Brotherhood, he said.

Jasser’s nonpartisan coalition includes left-wing and feminist Muslims who are frequently criticized by the groups invited to the White House, he said.

“The White House has selectively omitted genuine [Muslim] moderates and instead has picked radical Muslims to meet,” said a statement from Steve Emerson, founder of the Investigative Project on Terrorism.

The closed-door White House meetings legitimize the radicals, but do not bring them into the mainstream, Emerson told TheDC.

“The American public has a right to know why the White House is meeting with Hamas front groups,” he added.

The visitor logs show that many of the Muslim advocates met with coalition-building officials in the White House, rather than with national security officials. The officials they met with include Paul Monteiro, the associate director of the White House Office of Public Engagement, and Amanda Brown, assistant to the then-White House director of political affairs Patrick Gaspard.

Gaspard is now the executive director of the Democratic National Committee.

The White House’s Secret Service guards do not veto invites from White House officials, but merely tell the officials if the guests will be arrested on existing charges if they arrive at the gates.

The meetings were likely intended to boost the president’s nationwide effort to bind often-rivaling constituency groups into the Democratic Party’s diversity coalition.

That disparate coalition already includes groups claiming to represent environmentalists, blue-collar workers, immigrants, African-Americans, Hispanics, gun-control advocates, Jews, gays, tort lawyers and many others.

In April, White House officials invited members of the National Network for Arab American Communities to a White House meeting.

“Our issues are American issues that affect our entire nation … and we will ensure that our community’s voice is at the forefront of public debates around healthcare, immigration and national security reform,” Linda Sarsour, NNAAC’s national advocacy director, said in an April press release.

Sarsour has been a White House visitor on seven different occasions. Her network includes 23 separate member associations, including the Illinois-based Arab American Action Network.

That group’s director, Hatem Abudayyeh, has been under criminal investigation at least since late 2010, when FBI agents raided his home as part of an investigation into terror-related financing.

Abudayyeh visited the White House in April 2010, according to the Investigative Project on Terrorism’s study.

Muslim voters likely comprise less than one percent of the nation’s electorate. Many are in blue states, including California and Illinois, but a significant number of Muslims have settled in Michigan and Virginia, where every vote could potentially sway a close election.

Overall, 75 percent of Muslim Arab Americans support Obama, while 8 percent support Gov. Mitt Romney, according to a poll of 400 Arab Americans taken in September by the Arab American Institute.

In turn, Christian Arabs strongly favor Romney by 16 percentage points, reducing Obama’s overall support among Arab Americans to 52 percent, according to the poll.

In 2008, Obama won 67 percent of the Arab-American vote.

James Zogby, the Arab-American founder of the AAI, estimates there are a combined 833,000 Arab-American voters in Virginia, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Florida.

The White House’s Muslim constituency group meetings are supplemented by additional meetings outside the White House.

In June, George Selim, the White House’s director for community partnerships, told TheDC that “there is [sic] hundreds of examples of departments and agencies that meet with CAIR on a range of issues.”

Selim’s office was formed in January to ensure cooperation by law enforcement and social service agencies with Muslim identity groups in the United States.

The CAIR meetings were arranged even though CAIR has extensive ties to jihad groups, including Hamas — the Palestinian affiliate of the Egypt-based Muslim Brotherhood.

Top officials, including President Barack Obama, have participated in the Muslim outreach.

Obama has chosen to meet personally with leaders of several Muslim groups, including the Islamic Society of North America and the Muslim Public Affairs Council.

That group’s co-founder, Iraqi-born Salem al-Marayati, visited the White House six times. He has denounced several successful convictions of jihadi terrorists, and has repeatedly called for Muslims to stop cooperation with the FBI except when it is mediated by MPAC or other Muslim groups.

The  Islamic Society of North America was declared an unindicted co-conspirator in a successful 2008 trial of a Texas-based Muslim group that smuggled funds to Hamas. In October 2011, Mohamed Magid, the Sudanese-born president of ISNA, told top Justice Department officials that “teaching people that all Muslims are a threat to the country …  is against the law and the Constitution.”

Some of Obama’s deputies, especially Valerie Jarrett and Tom Perez, who runs the civil-rights section in the Justice Department, have also been enthusiastic supporters of the outreach policy.

Jarrett spoke at ISNA’s 2009 conference, and Perez spoke at its 2012 event.

TheDC emailed or called the White House, MPAC, CAIR, Safi, Sarsour’s press secretary and Abudayyeh for comment. None responded.

Any outreach to Islamic groups carries a political risk for American politicians because many Arab groups are infused with the bitter ethnic and religious politics in their foreign homelands.

The most important of those conflicts is the resentment among many Muslim Arabs over the remarkable successes of the small Jewish-majority state of Israel.

“War and occupation in our home countries leads to political and legislative attacks on us here … we must advocate and organize within our community to affect change,” says an Arab language speaker on the Arab American Action Network’s website.

Also, many of the Muslim-advocacy groups are led by religious zealots, ensuring a conflict with social-liberal groups in the diversity coalition. For example, in June 2010, Monteiro met with Muzzamil Siddiqi, the former head of the Islamic Society of North America, even though Siddiqi had declared in 2001 that that he “supported laws in countries where homosexuality is punishable by death.”

Numerous Democratic and Republican politicians have already grappled with this problem.

In August 2007, then-Democratic governor of Virginia Tim Kaine appointed a Muslim immigrant — Esam Omeish — to a Virginia panel on immigration. He rapidly rescinded the appointment after learning of Omeish’s vocal support of jihad, the name given to war waged for Islam, during a radio talk-show.

Omeish was one of the top officials at a radical-linked mosque in Falls Church, Va., that hired Anwar al-Aulaqi as its imam prior to the 9/11 terrorist attacks on America. Aulaqi subsequently fled and was later tied to numerous jihadi attacks, including the 9/11 and Fort Hood attacks.

President Obama approved a drone strike in Yemen that killed Aulaqi in September 2011.

Omeish has been welcomed to Obama’s White House three times.

In 2006, California’s Sen. Barbara Boxer revoked a routine “certificate of achievement” award to a Californian employee of CAIR after a conservative blogger brought to light inflammatory statements made by the awardee. “When a mistake has been made, the record has to be set straight,” Boxer’s office announced.

CAIR officials have visited Obama’s White House twenty times.

But CAIR’s regional offices includes some exceptional people, said Brian Levin, director for the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at Cal State University, San Bernardino.

However, he added, “I personally will not sit at any event where CAIR is participating … [because] their national leadership has been involved in things so that I’d rather abstain from even appearing to endorse.”

MPAC’s leadership has evolved and improved, Levin argued. MPAC’s al-Marayati “is not a bad guy … there’s a difference between him and CAIR, by a long-shot,” he added.

Republicans have also misjudged some of these radical Muslim groups.

Before and shortly after the 9/11 jihad attack, President George W. Bush met with jihad-linked immigrants, including CAIR co-founder Nihad Awad and Abdurrahman Alamoudi, a leader in several American Islamist groups.

In 2001, Bush’s administration invited Alamoudi to speak at the national prayer service for the jihadis’ 9/11 victims. In 2004, Alamoudi was sentenced to 23 years in prison for plotting to kill a top Saudi government leader.

Bush’s deputies learned their lesson and later scrubbed invitations to jihad-linked advocates.

Regardless of ethnicity or nationality, said Levin, “politicians really have to be carefully watching who you associate with, because many times they’re antithetical to the general goals you champion.”

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