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Editor’s note: Today’s column is the second of three on the World Trade Center attack. Click here to view part 1.
New York may be Ground Zero for the World Trade Center (WTC) victims,
but I live at Ground Zero for those who aid and abet the perpetrators.
Southeastern Michigan is home to the largest concentration of Arabs
outside the Middle East. It’s insulting for peaceful, tolerant
Americans to hear every news anchor and even President Bush call for
them not to physically attack Arab-Americans. While we’ve heard trumped
up complaints that they’ve been harassed over the past few
days, it’s the exact opposite. As an attorney who has successfully represented Arab-Americans in civil rights cases, it’s my view we’ve been far too tolerant.
Arab-American and Muslim leaders have done
everything possible to stand up for known terrorists and hamper law
enforcement efforts to keep us safe. They defend the vilification of
the West by terrorist groups, even though they live here and benefit
greatly from it. And, without question, the terrorists who succeeded
last week could not have done so without the help of some of my Arab
neighbors. They could not have done so without
brazenly exacting our safety from politicians all the way to the White
To be sure, most Arab- and Muslim-Americans are decent, hard-working,
law-abiding Americans who want strong national security. Fouad Ajami of
Johns Hopkins University and WND.com Editor in Chief Joseph Farah – who regularly risk their lives to expose terrorism and hatred in the Middle East, as did the late Seifeldin Ashmawy – make me extra proud to be an
American. I take pride in patriotic Cleveland Browns fullback, Tarek
Saleh, and moderate, tolerant Islamic leader W. Deen Mohammed.
And, besides those who died or were injured and their family and
friends, my heart most goes out to the over 250,000 Chaldean- and
Assyrian-Americans who live here. A Catholic minority primarily from
Iraq, they were persecuted by Saddam Hussein, and now, their numbers are
shamelessly claimed by Arab groups with whom they don’t identify, for
political and financial gain. Chaldeans are among the most patriotic,
decent Americans I know. Now, because they have Middle Eastern looks
and names, some may be wrongfully blamed.
But then there are those Arab- and Muslim-American leaders that allow
terrorists from their communities to flourish in this country and
actively defend them. They oppose reasonable measures to prevent
terrorism here and support those living here that are suspected of
committing and/or facilitating it. Arab and Muslim leaders, like Arab
American Institute head Jim Zogby and Arab-American News publisher Osama
Siblani, actively oppose the use of secret evidence and racial profiling
for terrorists. Secret evidence, intelligence from agents abroad about
individuals’ involvement with terrorist groups, is the strongest
counter-terrorism tool we have in matters involving the entry into the
U.S. of potential terrorists. The evidence cannot be revealed because
it will compromise U.S. foreign intelligence gathering and result in the
certain death of our agents.
But thanks to the pressure of the Arab community, it is rarely
successfully used, and federal agents are crippled without it.
President Bush kowtowed to the Arab community here and then-senator and
now Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham, an Arab American, campaigning
against both secret evidence and racial profiling of Arabs. “The
present administration has pursued policies that, in practice, have
adversely affected your community,” Bush said in a campaign video to
Arab-Americans regarding secret evidence and profiling, according to The
New Republic. Once in office, in his first address to a joint session
of Congress, Bush spoke about ending the practices, and in February, he
issued a directive to Attorney General Ashcroft, ordering him to “work in
cooperation with state and local law enforcement in order to assess the
extent and nature of any such practices.” With secret evidence and profiling in place, we could have prevented many of Tuesday’s terrorists from entering the U.S. But Arab American leaders actively defend and support many suspected terrorists, primarily Muslims, who are charged as terrorists by INS officials.
But even without profiling, Arab-American leaders dismiss even the
strongest cases against Arab-American terrorists with the convenient
“profiling” label. In November, the FBI’s joint counter-terrorism unit
and U.S. Customs agents caught Arab-American brothers, Ali and Mike
Boumelhem, trying to ship weapons and weapons parts to Hezbollah
terrorists in Lebanon, intercepting them at the Ambassador Bridge to
Canada. In 1982, Hezbollah killed 240 U.S. Marines in Lebanon. Hezbollah also
tortured, murdered and hung the body of U.S. military attach? Col.
Higgins on display. Ditto with the U.S. Embassy in Lebanon’s CIA Agent
But U.S. District Judge George Caram Steeh, an Arab American, ordered
Mike Boumelhem released on an unsecured bond and dismissed two counts in
the indictment, because a witness recanted. And rather than hailing
this anti-terrorism success by law enforcement, the bust – the culmination of tips from FBI-informants and an extensive nine-month investigation – was quickly attacked by Arab leaders Siblani and Adrian
Baydoun, as profiling. Siblani’s wife, M. Kay Siblani, also an officer
of his Arab American News, is an official of the Council on American
Islamic Relations, a group that actively defends Arab terrorist
groups, Hamas, Hezbollah, and others that kill Americans.
In 1997, Detroit Arab leaders objected to the official release of the
State Department list of terrorist groups. Siblani told the Detroit
Free Press that Hezbollah does “wonders for the Lebanese.”
American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee legal director Houeida
Saad announced the group was preparing legal challenges to antiterrorism
laws that prohibited donations to terrorist groups. Ismael Ahmed,
executive director of the Arab Community Center for Economic and Social
Services said it would be hard to find Arab
Americans who didn’t support at least one of the groups.
In June 2000, Arab American leaders objected to most proposals of the
National Commission on Terrorism, including monitoring of foreign
students, fund-raising in the U.S. by terrorist groups, and involvement
of the military in domestic terrorism cases, according to the Detroit
Free Press. Imad Hamad, regional director for the ADC, who objected to
the anti-terrorism measures, was a suspected terrorist the INS wanted to
deport, but is now a U.S. citizen, thanks to Arab-American political
pressure against the use of secret evidence.
Don’t blame federal agents for Tuesday’s lapse in national security. Blame my neighbors – the Arab American and Muslim leaders who’ve actively blocked the fight against terrorism for years.
More on my Arab and Muslim American neighbors in Part 3 later this week.