Monday’s guilty verdict against the Holy Land Foundation (HLF) and the five indicted co-defendants may ultimately represent a sea change in the willingness of the American public to hold Muslims accountable for their countenance of charities and organizations which support terrorism either directly or indirectly.
Richard Roper, the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Texas stated after the verdict to Texas Lawyer, “This is a great day in the United States. We will not tolerate those who fund terrorism.”
The Dallas Morning News reported that Robert Hirschhorn, a nationally known jury consultant said, “The jury has handed the government a huge victory and a loud and clear message has been sent — if any group funnels money to a terrorist organization, the government will hunt you down and turn off the money spigot.”
The first trial against the HLF and these defendants ended in a mistrial on October 22, 2007, after jurors could not come to a consensus after 19 days of deliberation. Judge A. Joe Fish retired in November, 2007, and subsequently transferred the case to Judge Jorge Solis. Many analysts have already dissected or will soon ultimately review the specific areas of the HLF case where the Department of Justice successfully clarified, simplified and improved its presentation upon the first trial. While the facts stayed the same, the first trial ended in confusion and the second ended in a resounding conviction on all counts.
What changed? It must have been quite clear to these jurors that the intent of the defendants was not only charity but assisting terror and a terrorist organization—namely Hamas.
Already, Islamist sympathizers and Department of Justice (DoJ) detractors are lining up to give absurd apologetics. The Dallas Morning News quoted Tom Melsheimer, a former federal prosecutor, who said that, “with enough effort, the federal government can convict nearly anyone.” Mohamed Elibiary of the Freedom and Justice Foundation told the Dallas Morning News that, “the community sentiment ... was that this was a political trial trying to achieve a government policy." A unanimous verdict of criminal guilt on all counts is hardly a “political” trial.
After the mistrial of October, 2007, if one were to read the press releases of American Islamist organizations like the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) or Muslim American Society (MAS), one would think that the defendants were exonerated. After the mistrial in October 2007, Mahdi Bray, Executive Director of the MAS Freedom Foundation stated that, “the mistrial was evidence of the power of religious freedom…and we aren’t going to let the American government make it a crime.” Nihad Awad, Executive director of CAIR compared the HLF case to McCarthyism after the initial mistrial telling the Dallas Morning News, “Today’s campaign has a different name and a different target… the campaign is anti-terrorism and the target is the American Muslim community.”
Also after the first mistrial, in one of the most absurd apologetics, CAIR distributed a blast email to its members written by M. Cherif Bassioumi of DePaul University where he stated, “If the present tactics of the DoJ continue, it will not be long before American Muslims suffer the same fate Japanese-Americans did in World War II. Demonizing an entire minority group based on suspicion and fear-mongering was wrong then, and it is wrong now.”
What a difference a year makes.
Mr. Bray, on November 24, 2008, it was not the American government who made it into a crime, it was the rule of law and a jury of your peers this week who heard the same facts and unanimously convicted these criminals on all charges. Their crimes of financing and contributing to terrorism were obvious once the case was clearly made by the prosecutors.
Mr. Awad and Dr. Bassioumi, this verdict proves that the target is in fact not the American Muslim community, but rather the target is terror-promoting criminals who in this case happen to be Muslims. Any American who knowingly finances an organization which uses terrorism as a tactic should now be on notice. Mr. Awad, Mr. Bray, and other Islamist leaders and their followers in the United States should now be on notice that Americans and our juries will not dismiss Islamists from their moral responsibilities to counter terrorism and their moral responsibility to stop charity organizations from contributing to causes affiliated with radical Islamism and terrorism.
The coming reaction or fallout from American Islamist organizations and their ilk will speak volumes to their real agenda. This trial also did a major service in exposing to the American people the real agenda of loosely affiliated Muslim Brotherhood organizations in the U.S. In the fallout these organizations will most likely continue their Islamist agenda of deception and victimization. This verdict is a character defining moment for American Muslims and their organizations. Will they take the side of victimization and wallow in defeat or will they take the side of truth, justice, and the HLF jury of Americans?
It will be interesting, for example, how Mr. Hooper and Mr. Awad of CAIR will reconcile their press release out just yesterday, November 24, 2008, where they ask President-elect Obama to “restore the rule of law”, with any complaints they may have about the “rule of law” of this landmark verdict? Which rule of law do they want? Are we to assume that the rule of law they seek is Islamist but not that of moral secular democracies? Of note, also, is the fact that their requests to be removed from the list of unindicted co-conspirators in this trial were never heeded.
Moreover, the document admitted at trial and demonstrably relevant discussing the grand strategy of the Muslim Brotherhood in the West still remains virtually unanswered by American Islamist organizations. Most will try to dismiss the document as a forgery or as outdated, rather than actually to deal with the ideas which put their motives into question. Slowly, Islamist organizations are going to be held accountable for their Islamist ideologies and how it runs against American principles of Constitutional law and of morality.
In my estimation, this jury verdict will be looked upon in history as the beginning of a sea change in the American body politic against Islamists, their ideologies, and their transnational networks. With this conviction, the American people are now finally waking up to understanding that we need to expose and hold accountable organizations which finance and apologize for acts of terror.
The HLF trial demonstrated that the five defendants went far beyond apologetics and actually funneled over $60 million to HAMAS. Defense attorneys tried to argue that the charity was non-political and legitimate, but the prosecution effectively demonstrated from wiretapped conversations, for example, quite the contrary and that the defendants actually celebrated and invoked the name of God after terror attacks upon civilians in Israel. It is this endemic corruption, excusing acts of terror and using a charity to camouflage their real political transnational goals, which ultimately brought their downfall.
Americans are now finally beginning to understand vis-à-vis the true “rule of law” how Islamists commonly seek a transnational goal of establishing an Islamic state and in how many ways that conflicts with American security. It is this goal of Islamists which will bring them at times in cooperation with groups which employ terrorism (i.e. Hamas) and other times leave them deceptively unscathed. This time around, for example, the prosecution used the testimony of Georgetown’s Bruce Hoffman, a former CIA scholar. Hoffman testified that “all successful terror movements like Hamas win popular support by engaging in charity from kindergartens to hospitals.” Often the social service organizations try to keep enough degrees of separation to feign ignorance. But a tipoff is when the same individuals who are so concerned about charity cannot seem to name radical Islamist terror groups like Hamas by name as their enemy or as terrorists. In fact all leaders of organizations like HLF can do is to condemn terror acts alone while they deceptively and hypocritically justify their grievances and thus facilitate their Islamist movements.
A fair jury may deliberate for days on the verifiability of the connection of HLF ideology to the HLF money trail. But the sea change will continue when America starts to understand that the HLF ideology is actually congruent with political Islam (Islamism). Islamism is borne not only from direct ideological support for Islamist movements around the world but it is also more subtly manifested by a refusal of those who promote political Islam to condemn or actively counter Islamist movements like HAMAS by name or publicly. Add to this sea change the list of unindicted co-conspirators in the HLF trial.
Add to this local cases like the case here in Phoenix of Akram Abdullah, arrested in August 2008 on one count of lying to the FBI about his fundraising activities for the HLF. And we begin to see a pattern. For example, the Arizona Republic recently ran an in-depth story exposing worrisome links between Akram Abdullah, some of the flying imams (i.e. Omar Shahin), and a few of their children, Oday Shahin (21) and Saiaf Abdullah (20) who went to the same local Islamic school and were among a group of youth recently arrested for using firearms (AK-47s) on federal property.
We begin to see a pattern where the ideology of political Islam serves as a repeated platform for the expression of ideologies and at times the countenance of violence which are incompatible with American ideals and security. The HLF verdict is only the first major step in a journey toward the exposure of the dangers of Islamism. The body of work connected with this case, completed by the DoJ, is surely yet to continue to unfold a number of other cases and opportunities for public scrutiny of Islamist networks and their radical ideologies which are often not coincidentally intertwined.