THE DATE was Oct. 28, 2000. The place: Lafayette Park in Washington, D.C. At a demonstration against US policy in the Middle East, Abdurahman Alamoudi took the microphone.
"Anybody supports Hamas here?" he yelled to the cheering crowd. "Hear that, Bill Clinton? We are all supporters of Hamas. Allahu Akbar! . . . I am also a supporter of Hezbollah!"
At the time, Alamoudi was a Washington fixture . He had attended White House meetings with Bill and Hillary Clinton, organized the first congressional end-of-Ramadan dinner, and lectured abroad for the State Department. He had founded the Islamic Society of Boston in 1982, and in 1990 helped launch the American Muslim Council and became its chief fundraiser. Three days after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, he would join George W. Bush at a prayer service dedicated to the victims.
But as his open declaration of support for terrorist organizations like Hamas and Hezbollah suggested, Alamoudi was not exactly a poster child for tolerant civic-mindedness. In 1996, he told a Muslim convention in Chicago, "I think if we are outside this country, we can say, 'O, Allah, destroy America,"' and three months after his Lafayette Park appearance, he was in Beirut for a terrorist summit with representatives of Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Hezbollah, and Al Qaeda. In 2004, Alamoudi pleaded guilty to terrorism-related crimes, and admitted plotting with Libyan dictator Moammar Khadafy to assassinate the crown prince of Saudi Arabia. According to the US Treasury Department, "Alamoudi had a close relationship with Al Qaeda," and raised $ 1 million for it in 2003. He is currently serving a 23-year sentence in federal prison.
So when the Boston Herald reported in October 2003 that the Islamic Society of Boston had "long-standing ties" to Alamoudi, the ISB understandably wanted to distance itself from him. The society's lawyer, Albert Farrah, acknowledged that Alamoudi had been a founder of the ISB, but insisted that "he has had no role in, or affiliation with, the ISB for approximately 20 years." A statement posted on the ISB website maintains that "Alamoudi left Boston in 1984 and has had no contact with the Islamic Society of Boston since that time."
The ISB has since launched a defamation lawsuit against the Herald and a dozen organizations and individuals that have expressed concerns about the its possible connections to Islamist radicals. In the course of litigation, it has continued to insist that it has seen neither hide nor hair of Alamoudi. Yousef Abou-Allaban, head of the ISB board of directors, declared in an affidavit that "since at least 1992, the date I first became involved with the ISB, Mr. Alamoudi has had no role or relationship with the ISB."
Another ISB attorney, Howard Cooper, told The Boston Globe in December 2005 that it was outrageous to link Alamoudi with his client. "This man has had absolutely no connection with the Islamic Society for 15 or 20 years, yet they try to tie the two together," he said. Cooper also says that only people with "an intolerant attitude toward Muslims" would be asking questions about Alamoudi's ties to the ISB.
Now comes apparent evidence of a November 2000 payment from the Islamic Society of Boston for a speaking engagement by Alamoudi. The cancelled check, made payable to Light Star Travel and signed by former ISB trustee Walid Fitaihi, includes a memo line reading "Travel for speaker Abdurahman Alamoudi -- 11/10/00 - 11/12/00." Light Star Travel is located in Falls Church, Va., where Alamoudi was a resident before going to prison. It is part of the "Safa Group" of Virginia-based businesses that federal agents suspect are involved in "providing material support to terrorists, money laundering, and tax evasion," according to an affidavit by Special Agent David Kane of the Homeland Security Department.
There may, of course, be an innocuous explanation for this payment. Or the Islamic Society of Boston may no longer stand by its claim to have had "absolutely no connection" with Alamoudi for many years. But when I asked ISB spokeswoman Jessica Masse about this and other questions that have surfaced in recent weeks, she replied to my surprise that such questions "do not reflect a position of unbiased fact finding," and would be answered only "by our lawyers in court."
As the ISB lawsuit against those who had the temerity to criticize or question it proceeds, the list of questions keeps growing. At a time when radical Islamists worldwide are calling for anti-American jihad, it is easy to understand why such questions are being asked. Far more troubling is why they aren't being answered.