The verdict in the federal prosecution against the Holy Land Foundation and many in its leadership was finally read by Judge Joe Fish this week after 19 days of jury deliberation by the Dallas jury. To listen to the press conferences and read the press releases of American Islamist organizations, one would think that the defendants were unanimously exonerated "with prejudice."
The Dallas Morning News reported that Muslim American Society Freedom Foundation Executive Director Mahdi Bray stated that "the government failure to get any convictions was evidence of the power of religious freedom." He went on to say, "Feeding people is not a crime, and we aren't going to let the American government make it a crime." Mr. Bray must be counting on the fact that most citizens, like the jury in the trial, will be so dazed by the sheer volume of evidence that they will lazily swallow the propaganda of the Islamist spin machine.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) then distributed a blast e-mail to its mailing list, authored on its behalf by M. Cherif Bassioumi of DePaul University, exploiting every possible remote aspect of victimology possible in the case:
Such intimidation and harassment leveled against American Muslims and their religious, civic and charitable organizations by this administration is yet another manifestation of the recent erosion of American constitutional freedoms. The fear-mongering campaign opted for by many in this administration – and supported by avowedly anti-Muslim groups - has created a climate of Islamophobia that is contrary to the basic values of this otherwise tolerant country. But it is the assault upon constitutional freedoms under the guise of terrorist-related prosecutions that is most shocking…
In no other area of prosecution has the Department of Justice produced such an extraordinarily high percentage of dismissed cases and cases resulting in guilty pleas on unrelated charges. This, in itself, raises concerns that these prosecutions were informed by the fear-mongering claims of the current administration that terrorism à-la 9/11 may become an indigenous product and that American Muslims may be a new clear and present danger….
If the present tactics of the Department of Justice 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. We cannot allow such a blot on our history to be repeated.
His entire letter sent to CAIR's e-list is linked here. Are we to understand that the 19 days of deliberation and the hung jury is now an erosion of Constitutional freedoms? Hardly. The volumes of evidence now thankfully in the public record about the political connections, the penetration of the Muslim Brotherhood, and the shared Islamist ideologies of all of the involved organizations was "a fear-mongering campaign…supported by anti-Muslim groups."
How about this more accurate depiction from this writer, a devout anti-Islamist Muslim without the spin:
"The government is not acting out of fear of a faith but rather fear from Islamist groups that support an Islamist ideology currently threatening American security. The understanding of this legitimate fear is supported by avowedly anti-Islamist groups which also include many moderate devout Muslims."
The irresponsible comments from the professor at DePaul are incredulous in the setting of a jury which not once mentioned its decision as "clear cut" or its time as "wasted." To look at the evidence submitted by the prosecution and imply that this was a "witch hunt" is the summit of deception and propaganda. To compare the plight of the Japanese during WWII to the courtroom challenges against Islamists does all Muslims, most of whom are repelled by the Islamist agenda, a disservice. For Mr. Bassioumi to take it upon himself and CAIR to equate the plight of these apologists for terrorism to the "entire minority group" of Muslims is not only a stretch, but pathognomonic of the malignant nature of Islamism and its political collectivism.
Escaping conviction by a hung jury and subsequent mistrial, these Islamists even have the temerity to rub the government's face in it. A quick study of the primary evidence presented in the trial shows that these HLF directors were not benign apolitical "Mother Teresas" only seeking to feed the poor as Muslims, Christians, Jews and all people of faith should be free to do. Many of these individuals were revealed in open court over and over again to have demonstrated ideological support for the organization or mission of HAMAS and to have articulated apologies for the acts of terror committed by HAMAS. They were found to be associated with meetings in the U.S. related to HAMAS leadership and the Muslim Brotherhood. Even on the one verdict which wasn't voided due to dissent and ended in the acquittal of Mohamed El-Mezain, the jurors still could not agree on whether Mr. El-Mezain "conspired to provide material support to a designated Foreign Terrorist Organization." Moussa Abu Marzook, a high-ranking HAMAS official designated HLF a primary fundraising arm for HAMAS in the United States in 1994. Yet, somehow, the associations could not be made clear enough for the jury to unanimously convict.
While the government is almost certain to retry the case, it will need to reassess the volume of material and approach to its arguments. But the Islamists' response that their ability to leave the courtroom free of conviction is synonymous with victory demonstrates their blindness to the ideological hypocrisy with which they approach militant Islamist, terrorist, organizations like HAMAS. Some Americans may be unable to convict them on criminal grounds, but most Americans will not tolerate civilly the lack of moral clarity from Islamists unwilling to articulate a counter-Jihad against militant Islamism. Most Americans will not tolerate apologists for terrorism and the attempts by Islamists to articulate a moral equivalency of intentional acts of terror by Muslims against noncombatants and collateral damage by uniformed soldiers of free states in an act of war. Until Muslims and their zakat organizations are able to have the moral courage to make this distinction and stand unequivocally against organizations and individuals by name which condone or apologize for terror, may the justice department not relent in its adjudication of supporters of Islamist terror to the letter of the law.
When the U.S. made the funding of HAMAS illegal by designating it a terrorist organization, we must have known that eventually in a court of law we were going to have to prove why such a law makes sense for the security of our homeland. My sense is that this argument still needs to be brought home outside and within the courtroom. Funding HAMAS is a threat to Americans not only because it is illegal on the books but because of the ideologies at stake – HAMAS condones and believes in acts of terror against noncombatants to achieve a political goal. Most Americans know that for militant Islamists HAMAS' target may be Israelis today and could be Americans tomorrow.
For those who say that ideology should not matter, imagine where this case would have been if the HLF leadership had, in addition to their desire for zakat (charity), also formed committees of "Muslims against HAMAS" and "Muslims against terror in Israel." The real intentions of their funding for Palestinians would have been clearer. But this supposed charity was led by politicians who lived and breathed Islamism, the Muslim Brotherhood, and its associated transnational political movements. Ideology and moral courage does matter. And it's my sense that the prosecutors needed to make that point clearer to the jury.
What remains most interesting is the bizarrely hyperbolic response of Islamist groups like the MAS and CAIR. There is a great deal to learn from their spin. They claim a victory for religious freedom when in fact it was simply a close call for Islamism their political lifeblood. No reading of the volumes of evidence shows that simple Muslim charity and religious freedom was put on trial as the Islamists claim. Certainly, organizations which use our Muslim practice of charity as a cover for a global political movement was on trial. But there is no evidence that the agenda of HLF, CAIR, or MAS for that matter equates with the agenda of the majority of Muslims in America.
Regular Americans who may sit on future juries should one day understand, unanimously, that free speech and freedom of religion does not entitle individuals to blind support of organizations which condone and enact terrorism. A fair jury may deliberate for days on the verifiability of the connection of HLF ideology to the HLF money trail. But, when that ideology is not joined by a counter-Jihad condemning HAMAS terror and condemning the endemic corruption and oppressive ideology of HAMAS, the connection should remain even clearer.
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.
Islamists will thrive in the incredulous exaggeration of their narrow losses into victories in an effort to rally Muslim victimology and their political collectivism. Even their attempts at charity as Islamists do not seem to be about helping the poor, but rather about political one-upmanship. Contrarily in Islam, charity is encouraged to be done with no personal or public notoriety – and certainly, Islamic charity at its most spiritual core is not about using charity as a means for a transnational collectivist politico-religious movement – whether nonviolent or violent, for that matter.
The result of this long Dallas trial, minus the Islamist spin, was no victory but was simply a prosecutorial "Mulligan."
The issue at hand here was not the intent of most donors to the HLF, but rather the intent of the named HLF leadership and its knowledge of and assistance of HAMAS whether its social or militant wing. The confusion from the jury in this case carries many lessons for government, media, and anti-Islamist Muslims on the frontline in the war of ideas against militant and non-violent Islamism. While speech and faith practice is certainly protected by our First Amendment, it cannot insulate individuals from accountability for the financial support of organizations which execute and employ acts of terror.
I am counting on a retrial and on the DOJ making its case more convincingly and with less confusion. Success in this national and global war of ideas depends upon making this case clearly inside and outside the courtroom. Uninformed Americans should be able to become informed relatively quickly and easily and ultimately make the clear connection between apologists for terrorism, open support by Islamists for specific illegal terrorist organizations like HAMAS, and their associated financial support for the social arm of the same illegal organization.
If their ideology is irrelevant and protected and if the financing has enough degrees of separation to feign ignorance, what tools are left to hold leaders of American non-profits accountable for the organizations and transnational politico-religious movements they fund? Either this case just needs to be tightened and clarified the next time around, or our federal legislators need to work on revisiting and tightening the rule of law which is supposed to protect us.