The Council on American-Islamic Relations is co-sponsoring the premiere of a documentary film that canonizes convicted terrorist supporter Sami al-Arian.
Tomorrow, CAIR will host the screening of “USA vs. Al-Arian” at the AMC/Loews Uptown 1 Theater in Washington, D.C., according to an action alert the Muslim group posted on its website urging Muslims to buy tickets to the premiere.
In a scene from the film ‘USA vs Al-Arian,’ Dr. Sami Al-Arian arrives for a jail interview (Courtesy Washington Report on Middle East Affairs).
The screening, co-sponsored by the Muslim American Society, an Islamist group tied to the radical Muslim Brotherhood, will be followed by a “panel discussion” involving al-Arian’s lawyer, his son, Abdullah al-Arian, and a constitutional lawyer from Georgetown University, whose Islamic studies program is funded by the Saudi royal family.
Last year, al-Arian was sentenced to 57 months in prison followed by deportation. In a plea deal, he pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of “conspiracy to make or receive contributions of funds, goods or services to, or for the benefit of, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad,” a federally designated terror group.
Al-Arian, an Egyptian citizen of Palestinian descent, had hoped for early deportation, but prosecutors and the federal judge in the case argue he has not cooperated in related terror cases.
He remains in federal prison in Virginia on a contempt citation after he refused to testify in front of a Virginia grand jury investigating a network of Islamic businesses and charities known as the Safa group.
Critics say the film portrays al-Arian in a sympathetic light by suggesting the U.S. government used the “draconian” Patriot Act to railroad an innocent Muslim professor.
The film’s website juxtaposes photos of al-Arian in handcuffs with one of him and his wife posing with President Bush and Laura Bush during the 2000 campaign. It calls al-Arian “one of America’s most prominent political prisoners.”
“What we have is a man found innocent who is still harassed by the justice system,” said Norwegian filmmaker Line Halvorsen, the film’s director. “He’s a man of principle. He fights for what he believes in and he’s not afraid to speak his mind.”
Critics say the film whitewashes the federal terror case, failing to mention that al-Arian pleaded guilty to providing material support to an officially designated terrorist group. The home page instead says he pleaded guilty to one count of supporting “immigrants” associated with an “illegal organization.”
It also fails to reveal how, in a speech at a Cleveland mosque, al-Arian once thundered: “Let’s damn America, let’s damn Israel, let’s damn their allies until death.”
Court exhibits also show letters written by al-Arian praising Palestinian suicide bombers.
Publicly, al-Arian has maintained he doesn’t support any kind of violence.
“I am a very moderate Muslim person,” he said. “I also condemn violence in all its forms.”
The film’s website decries what it calls the “harsh” treatment of the confessed terrorist supporter.
“Currently Al-Arian is held under severe conditions in a prison about 1,000 miles away from his family, making it extremely hard for them to keep in touch with him,” it said. “Al-Arian recently went through a 60-day hunger strike to protest the government’s treatment.”