If a Hollywood studio were to release a film resembling Abdurahman Alamoudi's life, it would likely be picketed as yet another example of the prejudice Muslims endure in post-9/11 America. Prominent Washington socialite and founder of the American Muslim Council (AMC) turned terrorist financier? Surely the story of such a double life must be relegated to the pages of pulp fiction spy novels, scarcely memorable and shipped to your local book store by the dozen. Yet, in the story told by a recent affidavit filed by U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement agent Brett Gentrup, Alamoudi resembles the very sort of stereotype he has denounced as unrealistic for years.
On August 13, 2003, Alamoudi answered the phone in his London hotel room, and was greeted by the voice of a man speaking Arabic with a Libyan accent. He said he had something for Alamoudi. Could he come up? When the man arrived in the doorway, he silently handed over a Samsonite briefcase and left. Arranged neatly inside was $340,000, conveniently strapped in bundles of sequentially numbered $100 bills. Alamoudi transferred the money to his own luggage, left the Samsonite for the maid to deal with, and headed off to board a plane at Heathrow Airport. Destination: Damascus, Syria. The plan was foiled during a routine customs search.
In subsequent interviews with British officials from the National Terrorist Financial Investigations Unit, Alamoudi explained that fundraising for his charitable group, the American Muslim Foundation, an offshoot of the American Muslim Council, was "a constant struggle." The much-maligned Libyan government was only too happy to help, it seems. In 1997, one year after he became a naturalized citizen, Alamoudi approached the Libyan Ambassador to the United Nations, Abuzed O. Dora. Dora suggested that if Alamoudi could secure the release of any of Libya's frozen assets (using his high-level contacts in the Clinton administration and Congress, presumably), Libya would give Alamoudi an "unspecified share" of the cash. The United States government had not, however, forgotten the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland. So no deal. Dora then suggested Alamoudi request the money from the World Islamic Call Society (WICS), a jihad fund set up by Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi. The WICS, according to the U.S. State Department, "is the outlet for state approved religion, as well as a tool for exporting the revolution abroad." The U.S. government believes Alamoudi became a member of the WICS in 2000.
Alamoudi told British officials that his plan had been to deposit the large sum in banks in Saudi Arabia and funnel it back into banks in America in smaller amounts. There is a name for such a transaction: money laundering. It happens to be a crime, as Alamoudi found out when he returned home to the United States on September 28 and was promptly hauled off to jail. Among the other alleged crimes in the 18-count indictment that shortly followed: prohibited financial transactions with the Libyan government, misuse of a passport, procuring naturalization by fraudulent means, and failure to report foreign bank accounts. If Alamoudi thinks the Brits and U.S. Customs have been rough on him, wait until the IRS smells that blood in the water.
British agents also found two U.S. passports and one Yemeni passport on Alamoudi. This information was passed along to their American counterparts, and when he arrived at Dulles International Airport on September 28 he told customs officials he had only been to England and Saudi Arabia. In fact, his concealed U.S. passport showed that he had also visited Lebanon, Syria, Yemen, Egypt, and Libya. A comparison of records and passports showed that this was not the first time Alamoudi had not been forthcoming about his travels.
Worse, Libyan jihadists were not Alamoudi's only friends. A government document filed in support of Alamoudi's detention alleged that through his control of the Success Foundation, the Happy Hearts Trust, and Taibah International Aid Association, Alamoudi provided "material financial support" to al Qaeda fronts, including the designated terrorist organization Global Relief Foundation and the Foundation for Human Rights & Humanitarian Relief, which "supported the cell responsible for the Millennium Bombing plot."
In a letter to Dora found in Alamoudi's offices in Falls Church, Virginia, Alamoudi refers to a planned meeting with Iranian President, Mohamed Khatemi, in New York, and asks Dora for help arranging meetings with leaders of Pakistan, Sudan, and Iraq. The Boston Herald reports: "Alamoudi's Palm Pilot, seized in August by British police… contained the names of seven men designated by the U.S. government as global terrorists." Authorities are trying to find out if an unsigned, "Hamas document" seized in Alamoudi's office was authored by him. The document, written in Arabic, is a to-do list of terror, including, "Executions of operations against the Israelis to delay the peace process," and "Preparation of a budget for Hamas cells in various areas," among assorted other tasks.
Michael J. Horowitz, director of Hudson Institute's Project for Civil Justice Reform and Project for International Religious Liberty, calls Alamoudi "the most artful Fifth Columnist to ever operate on American soil."
FOR YEARS ALAMOUDI DEFLECTED EVEN the mildest criticism of his association with and apologetics for terrorists with cries of "anti-Muslim bigotry." To question Alamoudi's bold statements was to instantly be labeled a jingoistic crusader intent on persecuting the American Muslim community.
The contradictions inherent within Alamoudi's professed aims of unity and peace and his regular cries of bloody revenge were not enough to raise a red flag in the eyes of the politically correct Washington establishment. Apparently they were more keen on sensitivity than reality, or perhaps that up-for-grabs Muslim voting bloc was too tantalizing a prize. Whatever it was, Alamoudi prospered.
His AMC was labeled by an FBI spokesperson as the most mainstream Muslim group in the United States. Clinton appointed him as a roving "Goodwill Ambassador" to the United Nations in 1997. He helped Republican stalwart Grover Norquist get the Islamic Institute off the ground with sizable contributions. Then-First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton had him draw up the guest list for the first official White House celebration of Ramadan. He met personally with Al Gore and Bill Clinton at the White House and then-presidential candidate George W. Bush in Austin. The head of the FBI, Robert Mueller, was the keynote speaker at a June 2002 AMC convention.
Alamoudi was routinely quoted as an expert on Islam in America in the nation's most prominent newspapers, from USA Today and the New York Times to the Washington Post and the Los Angles Times. He also appeared many times on CNN, not only on political shows such as Crossfire, but also on midday fluff talk shows where people called in to ask him questions about everyday Muslim life in America. He gave money, both his own and the AMC's, to a diverse roster of political candidates, from conservative Senator John Sununu of New Hampshire to fringe leftists Rep. Cynthia McKinney of Georgia and now presidential-candidate Ohio Rep. Dennis Kucinich. He sent money to both Hillary Clinton's Senate campaign and George W. Bush's presidential bid.
In the end, most of the contributions were returned and it's certainly no crime to play both sides of the fence in an election year -- just ask any pharmaceutical executive. But, as it turns out, the "goodwill ambassador" had a dark side, brashly held out all along for everyone to see.
Consider this public statement Alamoudi made at a meeting of the Islamic Association of Palestine, a Hamas front organization, on December 29, 1996:
"I think if we are outside this country, we can say, oh, Allah, destroy America. But once we are here, our mission in this country is to change it. There is no way for Muslims to be violent in America, no way. We have other means to do it. You can be violent anywhere else but in America."
In 1991, a mere year after forming the American Muslim Council, Alamoudi attended the largest gathering of Islamic militants ever held in the United States, sponsored by the United Association for Studies and Research, widely considered to be the voice of Hamas in America. Among the conference's distinguished guests were members of al-Jihad and the Islamic Committee for Palestine, an Islamic Jihad front, as well as a slew of other radical leaders, foreign and domestic.
Alamoudi called the deportation of U.S. based Hamas leader Musa Abu Marzouk for his involvement in several terror attacks in Israel, an "insult to the Muslim community." "I know the man, he is a moderate man on many issues," Alamoudi told the Washington Post. "If you see him, he is like a child. He is the most gracious person, soft-spoken. He is for dialogue." Dialogue, perhaps, such as this gem from an interview with Marzouk in Beirut's Al-Ahd in 1994: "First of all, martyrdom is the goal of every Muslim, and death represents the ideal wish of the Mujahad on the land of Palestine." How gracious. How childlike. How kind indeed.
Alamoudi could be cruel himself. In a wiretapped conversation made public in the recent criminal complaint, he praises a 1994 bombing in Buenos Aires. "The Jewish Community Center. It is a worthy operation," Alamoudi tells an unidentified man, in Arabic. "I think that the attacks that are being executed by bin Laden and other Islamic groups are wrong, especially hitting the civilian targets. Many African Muslims have died and not a single American died. I prefer to hit a Zionist target in America or Europe.…I prefer honestly like what happened in Argentina."
Alamoudi also gave an impassioned defense of the terrorists who plotted and carried out the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, which killed six people and left a crater five floors deep. "I believe the judge went out of his way to punish the defendants harshly and with a vengeance, and to a large extent, because they were Muslims."
On October 28, 2000, Alamoudi boldly addressed a cheering crowd in Lafayette Park, near the White House: "I have been labeled by the media in New York to be a supporter of Hamas.… Anybody support Hamas here? (Cheers) Hear that, Bill Clinton? We are all supporters of Hamas. I wish they added that I am also a supporter of Hezballah.…I want you to send a message. It's an occupation, stupid....Hamas is fighting an occupation. It's a legal fight."
When these comments were reported in the Washington Post, political contributions were returned, and Alamoudi was forced to take a back seat in the AMC. By all accounts, however, he remained in control and kept a busy schedule. According to the SITE Institute, "In January 2001, Alamoudi attended and was photographed in Beirut at a terrorist summit, alongside representatives of the terrorist groups Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Hezballah, and al-Qaeda."
Nevertheless, in the aftermath of September 11, Alamoudi, a man who voiced constant support for terrorists, was invited to a prayer session with other Muslims and President Bush. Even at this late date, he managed to hold himself up as a moderate practitioner of Islam.
In light of his current predicament, some of Alamoudi's other endeavors are being looked at more closely. Among them, his founding of the American Muslim Armed Forces and Veteran Affairs Council, one of only two organizations able to certify Muslim chaplains for service in the U.S. military. One of those chaplains, Army Capt. James Yee, now sits in a military jail on suspicion of treason. Military authorities found diagrams of the cells and facilities at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, along with lists of the detainees and their interrogators on Yee.
THOSE WHO CHOSE TO PLAY THE GAME with Alamoudi are left desperately trying to put a good face on an increasingly bad situation. For example, how did the AMC end up labeled as the most mainstream Muslim group in America? Yes, the AMC issued a condemnation of the September 11 attacks. But, then, so did Yasser Arafat. If the crack research team at the FBI had looked at the AMC website in the aftermath of September 11, however, this is what it would have found under the heading, The Law Says You Don't Have to Talk to the FBI: "The FBI is looking for information to use against you, your family and/or your community. The FBI has a history of harassing and harming minority and immigrant communities. Some people are spending a long time in jail because they or their friends talked to the FBI.…FBI agents are trained to get you to make incomplete or contradictory statements -- which later can be used against you in court. It is better to say nothing."
In October 2000 Hillary Clinton announced she was returning Alamoudi's contributions to her campaign. Hillary returned the money because of her "serious disagreements" with Alamoudi's views, but defended her long record of involvement with him as part of the Clinton administration's attempt to "promote a framework for peace," by opening "lines of communication to many different groups and many different individuals." Hence, the truth in Alamoudi's claim of the American Muslim Council: "We are the ones who went to the White House and defended what is called Hamas."
Can we really believe Hillary's professions of ignorance? As active as she was in the White House, could she really have forgotten Alamoudi protesting President Clinton's decision to meet with the fatwa-burdened author, Salman Rushdie? Alamoudi whined on CNN's Crossfire: "If somebody was talking about the Holocaust and he was saying how horrible it was, people understand that, but you don't understand when seven million American Muslims are insulted." This was in 1993, before he sent her money, before he drew up the Ramadan White House guest list.
GOP hero Grover Norquist has been similarly dismissive of the criticism. Norquist's Islamic Institute, a free-market Muslim organization, was launched in part with $20,000 in checks from Alamoudi and the SAFA Trust. In a June 11, 2003 article in the Wall Street Journa, Norquist scoffed at his critics: "Since I started working with Muslims, a handful of bigots have been trying to smear the president, Rove and me for working with them." Alamoudi's arrest has not tempered that sentiment. "Grover had no working relationship with Alamoudi," a Norquist spokesman told TAS. "He did not do any consulting work for him, as has been widely reported. The idea that Grover had a close personal relationship with Alamoudi is completely false. The whole thing is part of a calculated smear campaign by fringe publications and lazy writers who have been trying for several years to halt Grover from forming a center-right coalition with Muslim Americans." But is that the whole story?
Insight magazine reporter Kenneth Timmerman, in his recent book Preachers of Hate, describes a meeting with Norquist, who was unhappy about his treatment in several Insight articles. Timmerman writes that Norquist accused him and the magazine of "bizarre anti-Muslim attacks." Former Alamoudi associate and current president of the Islamic Institute Khaled Saffuri also tried to distance himself from Alamoudi, but Timmerman pointed out that in 1995, while Saffuri was on staff at AMC, the group had invited one Yusuf al-Qaradawi to speak at a conference. That same year on Qatar state television, al-Qaradawi made the following plea for unity: "O God, destroy the aggressor, treacherous Jews. O God, destroy the aggressor Americans. O God, destroy the fanatic pagans. O God, destroy the tyrannical crusaders."
Timmerman writes: "When I raised the AMC invitations to al-Qaradawi, Norquist flew into a rage. Any attempt to link him to al-Qaradawi or the AMC was 'guilt by association.' Saffuri had left the AMC 'years ago,' he added. But by Saffuri's own account, he went to work for Norquist's Islamic Institute almost immediately after he left the AMC."
Although Alamoudi was caught red-handed, papers throughout the Muslim world are calling his arrest part of a U.S. government "witch hunt" against its Muslim population. Dr. Ahmed Yousef, editor-in-chief of the Middle East Affairs Journal, wrote in the Palestinian Chronicle that if Alamoudi is a target, "then we are all targets."
"The objective was to put Alamoudi in a permanent political freeze," Yousef wrote. "If he spoke at public rallies or other occasions in protest of certain American foreign policies, his words were reported and the meaning distorted."
BUT IN AMERICA, WHERE IT COUNTS, ALAMOUDI is now very much the dying man even the friendliest patients in the ward avoid. As he sits in jail, very few of his old friends are standing by him. Days after his arrest, one of Alamoudi's old compatriots, Kamal Nawash, claimed he was Alamoudi's lawyer and wrote on Islam Online: "[Alamoudi] has no links whatsoever to violence or terrorism. On the contrary, he supported the U.S. war on terrorism." Days later, however, Nawash announced he was not representing Alamoudi. Nawash, a Republican candidate for the Virginia state senate (he would lose in November), returned two campaign donation checks of $5,000 to Alamoudi and his wife, Shifa, according to the Washington Post.
Support for Alamoudi is predicated upon the belief that there is a difference between words and action. And indeed there is. But how could Washington establishment types have been duped by Alamoudi? The man's tenure in Washington had been like the blinding lights and blaring horn of a cargo train rumbling down the tracks. Alamoudi spent years openly celebrating terrorism in speeches and writings. Is it too much to ask of politicians that they put two and two together? Should it shock that someone who supported terrorism rhetorically would support it financially? Does siding with Islamic fundamentalists and terrorist states for a decade not raise eyebrows, even among the admittedly slow-witted, self-serving politicos in our nation's capital?
In the end, Alamoudi will be tried in an American court. There will be no arguing Zionist conspiracy theories. He will have to answer for what he has done.
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