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Jewish World Review March 10, 2003 / 6 Adar II, 5763

Diana West

Diana West
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Sorry apologies for speaking the truth | This is a tale of two news stories. They both pertain to Islam and culture clash in the post-9/11 world, but they take place in parallel universes: the first in a world where hard facts are prized like battle stars, the second in a milieu where reality's sharper edges require plenty of padding.

The first story is big stuff: The federal government is making the case that the prominent Yemeni cleric Muhammad Ali Hassan al-Mouyad used the Al Farooq Mosque in Brooklyn to help funnel millions of dollars to Al Qaeda -- $20 million to Osama bin Laden personally, according to what the cleric supposedly told an FBI informant.

(Incidentally, the Al Farooq Mosque is also where Egyptian radical Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman -- convicted in the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center that killed six and wounded more than 1,000 -- served briefly as imam.)

As The New York Times put it, federal authorities see the Yemeni imam's arrest as one of the major financial busts since 9/11 "in terms of both the amount of money involved and the direct connection alleged to Mr. bin Laden himself."

Rita Katz, a specialist in terrorism finance, explained the case's significance this way: "It shows that Islamic clerics are having a lot to do with funding and assisting Al Qaeda."

They are? To be sure, the government says that this particular cleric has. Have others?

And what about the worshippers at Al Farooq? Do some number of them support Al Qaeda in particular, or just "jihad" in general? Or were they all duped into scraping together hundreds of thousands of dollars for some unknown cause?

These and other questions remain not only unanswered but unasked, unspeakable ciphers on the boundaries of acceptable national discourse. There is no help in sight from Brooklyn mosque officials, of course, who profess to be "very, very, very surprised" by the government's charges.

Meanwhile, Yemeni leaders huffily point to Mr. al-Mouyad's respected role as a charitable imam who works in the Yemeni ministry that oversees mosques. (This last bit is not necessarily confidence-building given a recent government-broadcast out of Yemen's Grand Mosque: "O G-d, destroy the unjust sons of Zion and the arrogant Americans. O G-d, shake the ground under them, instill panic into their hearts and disperse them. O G-d, destroy them, for they are within your power.")

Which leaves us exactly where? Left to wonder why the Islamic advocacy groups in the United States fail to rejoice in a successful government sting operation against what certainly appears to be an unholy holy man who gives Islam a bad name. And we're left to wonder why Islamic moderates remain incapable of bringing off a good old-fashioned schism to divide their peaceable selves from their violent-minded co-religionists.

Do such moderates attend the Dallas Central Mosque, where a fund-raiser for five brothers charged with doing business with the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas was held last month? How about the Islamic Center of Greater Cleveland, where mosque officials have decided to retain an imam linked by reports to the federal indictment against suspected Islamic Jihad leader Sami Al-Arian? One has uncomfortable questions, too, about the moderate views of worshippers at the Islamic Community of Tampa Bay, where Mr. Al-Arian remains imam and president.

But such questions aren't being entertained. Which brings us to the second news story, as promised above. It has to do with Lois McMahan, a bespectacled, pearl-necklace-wearing, Republican state representative who declined to take her seat in the Washington legislature this week until after Olympia imam Mohamad Joban finished opening the "session of the House of Representatives in the name of Allah...."

Why? Calling it an "issue of patriotism," she told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, "The Islamic religion is so ... part and parcel with the attack on America. I just didn't want to be there, be part of that. Even though the mainstream Islamic religion doesn't profess to hate America, nonetheless it spawns the groups that hate America." To Washington state's Sun newspaper, she said, "I'd die for their right to believe what they want to believe; that's America. But the Islamic leaders of this country have not been vocal enough about their criticism of the enemies of this country."

One news cycle later, Rep. McMahan was making headlines again, only this time to recant. "I apologize for offenses given and would like to ask for forgiveness to any whom I have offended," she said, addressing her colleagues from the legislature floor. And soon, she added, she would be delivering her apologies "personally" to the imam on an upcoming visit to his mosque.

What will she say? Something like, "I'm sorry for observing that certain Islamic groups hate America religiously"? Or, "I'm sorry for noticing that Islamic leaders have been tepid in their condemnations of terrorist organizations"? "I'm sorry for raising a serious concern in the hopes of fueling an honest exchange"?

I'm sorry, too.

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JWR contributor Diana West is a columnist and editorial writer for the Washington Times. Comment by clicking here.

03/03/03: The Eurabian alliance
02/24/03: Searching for good news
02/18/03: Love and honor -- lost, found and murdered
02/03/03: A calm that causes concern
01/27/03: Playing politics with a T-shirt mentality
01/21/03: When understanding the East means losing the West
01/13/03: Is a war on Jews a war on democracy?
01/06/03: Bush must take a stand on affirmative action
12/30/02: Questions for reflection on 2002
12/16/02: The pre-emptive war goes Hollywood
12/09/02: Protest Augusta? Why not Sudan?
11/25/02: Something to contemplate this Ramadan
11/08/02: Does Eminem now fit in?
11/04/02: No time for gloating
11/04/02: What's in a name when the name is Muhammad?
10/28/02: Jihad as a First Amendment right
10/21/02: When speaking out isn't allowed
10/14/02: Terrorism in Maryland and abroad
09/30/02: So long urgency, hello indulgence
09/24/02: That one, sturdy, missing word
09/17/02: Fingerprinting, finally
09/09/02: When 'healing' overshadows reality
09/04/02: Tales from the Techno Valley and Forest
08/16/02: Elvis shall rise again
08/14/02: War with Iraq won't harm war on terror
08/06/02: Clinton snaps over Somalia
08/01/02: 9-11 anniversary shouldn't come with apology
07/27/02: An unstable common ground
07/25/02: Hillary fights hard for soft money
07/12/02: Goretheus unbound
07/10/02: Rosie takes a shine to Republicans
07/08/02: Are you still shocked, Sami?
07/02/02: Can Britney win hearts of the Middle East?
06/28/02: A war on terror or Islamists?
06/25/02: Blame the murderer, and the messenger
06/21/02: Up front and personal with Atta
06/18/02: Terrorism at the United Nations
06/11/02: Who's policing the INS?
06/07/02: Spa Gitmo
06/04/02: Can rock gods save the queen?
05/31/02: Hillary's war
05/29/02: Have you forgotten we're at war?
05/24/02: An antiquated luxury of the past
05/21/02: From terrorists to tourists
05/19/02: Hate U.
05/07/02: Western self-loathing numbs us to violence
05/03/02: Pioneering television
05/01/02: Western self-loathing numbs us to violence
04/29/02: It's the misconduct, stupid
04/24/02: Medal of diss-honor
04/17/02: Holy sanctuary or terrorist shield?
04/12/02: Egyptian clerics solicit martyrs for murder
04/09/02: Defining terrorism down
04/05/02: The Wilder life
04/02/02: Acting, equality and the Academy
03/31/02: Speeding to conclusions
03/25/02: Hard to remove blood (libel) stains
03/21/02: The tale of Nixon's tapes --- again
03/19/02: The Big Lie lives on
03/15/02: The tunnel vision of '9/11'
03/13/02: The American Auschwitz?
03/08/02: Hating the indoctrination of hate
03/05/02: Clinton and Enron: Old friends
03/01/02: Pickering doesn't polarize, the process does
02/26/02: Destiny's prefabricated child
02/22/02: The White House heist
02/20/02: Making the grade
02/11/02: Studying student visas
02/06/02: Understanding arrogance
02/04/02: The professor's war
01/29/02: Disconnected dialogue
01/23/02: Anti-Indiscrimination
01/18/02: How much is enough?
01/15/02: Oh brothers, where art thou?
01/10/02: Air on the side of caution
01/04/02: Blacks seeing red at Harvard
01/02/02: Clinton's campaign continues
12/26/01: A tale of two exhibitions
12/24/01: Taliban Idyll
12/19/01: Right is right
12/17/01: Hillary strikes out
12/13/01: Lost files, lost presidency
12/10/01: Revolutionaries never grow up
12/05/01: Immigration reform talk is not just for 'haters' anymore
12/03/01: A new symbol of justice
11/30/01: Beyond morality
11/26/01: Can't keep a good man down
11/20/01: Tough talk at the United Nations
11/19/01: Hollywood's other battle
11/14/01: What's the matter with Sara Jane?
11/09/01: A beef with bin Laden's Beef Noodles
11/07/01: Facing up to the FBI's past mistakes
11/02/01: A school that teaches patriots to shutup
10/30/01: The gap between Islam and peace
10/26/01: The ties that bind (and gag)
10/24/01: This war is more than Afghanistan
10/22/01: The fatuous fatwa
10/19/01: Left out
10/16/01: Whose definition of terrorism?
10/11/01: Post-stress disorder
10/08/01: How the West has won
10/01/01: Good, bad or ... diplomacy
09/28/01: Drawing a line in stone
09/21/01: Prejudice or prudence?
09/14/01: When our dead will finally rest in hallowed ground
09/07/01: We want our #$%^&*() audience back!
08/24/01: The transformation from Green Mountain State to Green Activist State is all but complete
08/17/01: Enlightenment at Yale
08/10/01: From oppressors to victims, a metamorphosis
08/03/01: Opening the dormitory door: College romance in the New Century
08/01/01: How-To Hackdom: The dubious art of writing books about writing books
07/20/01: Hemming about Hemmings
07/13/01: Justice has not been served in the Loiuma police brutality case
06/22/01: When PC parades are too 'mainstream'
06/22/01: When "viewpoint discrimination" in our schools was not nearly so gnarly a notion
06/15/01: Lieberman flaunts mantle of perpetual aggrievement
06/07/01: Is graciousness the culprit?
06/01/01: The bright side of the Jeffords defection
05/29/01: Campus liberals should be more careful
05/18/01: 'Honest Bill' Clinton and other Ratheresian Logic
05/11/01: Dodging balls, Bugs, and 'brilliance'
05/04/01: Foot in mouth disease and little lost Tories
04/20/01:The last classic Clinton cover-up
04/20/01: D-Day, Schmee-Day
04/06/01: For heaven's sake, a little decency!
03/30/01: The sweet sound of slamming doors and clucking feminists
03/23/01: America's magazines and the 'ick-factor'
03/09/01: Felony neglect
03/02/01: Who's sorry now?
02/23/01: 'Ecumenical niceness' and other latter-day American gifts to the world
02/16/01: Elton and Eminem: Royal dirge-icist meets violent fantasist
02/12/01: If only ...

© 2001, Diana West