Rashad Hussain's Troubling Ties

Does Obama’s Islam envoy reject Islamic extremism?

President Obama has chosen Rashad Hussain to be his special envoy to the Organization of the Islamic Conference, a post originally created by the Bush Administration in 2008. Hussain’s past association with Muslim Brotherhood-connected entities raises major questions about the type of outreach he envisions for the Muslim world.

The Global Muslim Brotherhood Daily Report took a look at Hussain’s official biography and found several concerning affiliations. The first is that in October 2000, Hussain spoke at a conference sponsored by the Association of Muslim Social Scientists, which was listed in an internal Muslim Brotherhood document as one of “our organizations and the organizations of our friends,” and the Prince Alwaleed Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding of Georgetown University, which receives Saudi funding and is directed by prominent Muslim Brotherhood advocate, John Esposito.

In September 2004, Hussain played a role in the Muslim Students Association’s annual conference, which was founded by Muslim Brotherhood in 1963 and is also listed as one the group’s fronts in its own documents. Since then, many of its nearly 600 college chapters have engaged in extremism and the group closely collaborates with the other Brotherhood fronts. For example, MSA was part of an umbrella organization called the American Muslim Taskforce that led a campaign against the FBI’s use of informants in mosques and accused the agency of “anti-Muslim activity.” Several Brotherhood affiliates are in this coalition including the Muslim-American Society, the Islamic Circle of North America, the Islamic Society of North America, the Muslim Public Affairs Council and the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

At this conference, Hussain spoke alongside the daughter of Professor Sami Al-Arian, who was convicted of being a key leader of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorist group and later admitted to being a member of the Muslim Brotherhood. Hussain also defended Al-Arian and described his prosecution as being a “politically-motivated persecution.” The network of Brotherhood-affiliated groups have consistently been on his side throughout the entire ordeal and celebrated his release.

Interestingly, the story in The Washington Report on Middle East Affairs that quoted Hussain’s defense of Al-Arian has been altered since its original publication. CNSNews.com reports that the quote was removed “sometime after October 2007” and that the reporter who wrote the article “expressed surprise but said she no longer worked at WRMEA and could not explain the edit.”

Last May, Hussain spoke at a conference sponsored by several Brotherhood affiliates, including the Muslim Public Affairs Council, an organization whose extremism has been catalogued in a series by The Investigative Project on Terrorism, and the Council on American-Islamic Relations. The latter was listed by the federal government in 2007 as an “unindicted co-conspirator” in the terrorism financing trial of The Holy Land Foundation, another Muslim Brotherhood front that was found to be financing Hamas. Its founders are former officials at the Islamic Association of Palestine, a Brotherhood front shut down for supporting Hamas and are said by the FBI to be members of the Brotherhood’s “Palestine Committee” in the United States.

Hussain’s view on the cause of terrorism is important to note as it will play a significant role in the Obama Administration’s outreach to the Muslim world. He quoted a study that concluded that “The primary cause of broad-based anger and anti-Americanism is not a clash of civilizations but the perceived effect of U.S. foreign policy in the Muslim world.” In this statement, it appears that he believes that terrorism is the product of opposition to foreign policy, rather than the product of a politico-religious totalitarian ideology, which explains his opposition to terms like “Islamic terrorism.”

On the other hand, Hussein does support the use of the term “Hamas terrorists,” so he cannot be said to be a supporter of Hamas, which grew out of the Muslim Brotherhood. He has an entire section in his paper titled, “Discrediting the Terrorist Ideology.” He opposes making democracy promotion a central part of that goal, saying that it can be interpreted as imperialism and an attempt to bring about freedom that enables immorality, but admits that it may be part of the solution. He instead suggests that the government use Muslim voices to argue that Islam forbids acts of terrorism and extremism.

One other important part of his paper is when he proposes that the U.S. build a Muslim coalition “not limited to those who advocate Western-style democracy, and avoid creating a dichotomy between freedom and Islamic society.” This would set the stage for a partnership with the Muslim Brotherhood. Rather than focusing on supporting elements that will genuinely argue that democracy is compatible with Islam, his standard for allies is that they just oppose terrorism and extremism. Apparently, those who pursue Sharia Law through other methods do not fit his version of “extremist.”

Unfortunately, the Brotherhood apparatus is so vast and powerful that it will be difficult for any administration to find someone without some sort of affiliation with one of their fronts. Hussain should be given an opportunity to clear his name by condemning the Muslim Brotherhood by name and the undemocratic ideology they espouse.