Arif Alikhan

TEL AVIV – An Arab politician recently appointed to a key position by Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano helped raise funds for an Islamic group that has labeled a deadly anti-U.S. terrorist attack a legitimate operation, referred to terrorists as “freedom fighters” and equated Muslim jihad with the sentiments of American statesman Patrick Henry, WND has learned.

In April, Napolitano appointed Arif Alikhan, then Los Angeles deputy mayor of homeland security and public safety, to serve as assistant secretary for the Office of Policy Development at the Department of Homeland Security.

Napolitano praised Alikhan and another appointee, David Heyman, for their “broad and impressive array of experience in national security, emergency preparedness and counter-terrorism.”

The Greater Los Angeles Area chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, or CAIR, likewise praised the appointment of Alikhan.

“Congratulations to Mr. Alikhan on this well-deserved appointment,” said CAIR-LA Executive Director Hussam Ayloush. “Mr. Alikhan’s new position reflects his and the community’s dedication to helping preserve the security of our country. The American Muslim community can be proud of him.”

WND has learned that just 13 days prior to his appointment by Napolitano, Alikhan joined the Muslim Public Affairs Council, or MPAC, for a special fundraiser called “Be the Change” to support what the group calls its innovative leadership development programs.

MPAC describes itself as “a public service agency working for the civil rights of American Muslims, for the integration of Islam into American pluralism, and for a positive, constructive relationship between American Muslims and their representatives.” The organization has eight chapters in California and one each in Texas, Kansas, Nevada and Iowa.

According to Discover the Networks, MPAC asserts the Hezbollah terrorist organization “could be called a liberation movement” and likens Hezbollah members to American “freedom fighters hundreds of years ago whom the British regarded as terrorists.”

Hezbollah distinguishes itself as second only to al-Qaida among terror groups responsible for killing the most Americans. It’s responsible for such deadly attacks as the 1983 Beirut barracks bombing, which killed 299 servicemen, including 220 U.S. Marines.

Indeed, terrorism expert Steve Emerson notes that in a 1999 position paper, MPAC justified Hezbollah’s bombing of the American Marine barracks as a “military operation” rather than a terrorist attack.

The group’s senior adviser, Maher Hathout, explained: “Hezbollah is fighting for freedom, an organized army, limiting its operations against military people, this is a legitimate target against occupation. … this is legitimate, this is an American value – freedom and liberty.”

According to Discover the Networks, Hathout has close ties to the Muslim Brotherhood, which urges the creation of an Islam-dominated world. Hathout also espouses the radical brand of Islam known as Wahhabism, Discover the Networks documents.

In a November 1997 speech at the University of Pennsylvania, MPAC Co-Founder and Executive Director Salam Al-Marayati steadfastly justified his group’s refusal to call Hezbollah a terrorist organization. He also hailed the Hamas terrorist group as a political entity and a provider of social programs and “educational operations.”

Discover the Networks notes Marayati equated jihad with the sentiments of prominent American Revolution figure Patrick Henry, whose “Give me liberty or give me death” declaration was, according to Marayati, “a way of looking at the term jihad from an American perspective.”

MPAC also has taken an anti-Israel view, particularly after the start of the Palestinian intifada in September 2000. The intifada, or terrorist war, was initiated by late Palestinian Liberation Organization leader Yasser Arafat after he turned down an Israeli offer of a Palestinian state in most of the West Bank, Gaza Strip and eastern sections of Jerusalem.

MPAC co-sponsored pro-Palestinian rallies in the fall of 2000, documents Discover the Networks, where speakers reportedly chanted, “Khaybar, Khaybar, oh Jews, the Army of Muhammad is coming for you!” The rally reportedly featured literature and placards calling for the annihilation of the Jews and Israel.

MPAC has called Israelis “the worst terrorists in the world,” lamenting the Jewish state is not found on the official State Department list of terrorist groups.

A few hours after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, MPAC co-founder Marayati told a Los Angeles talk radio audience: “If we’re going to look at suspects, we should look at the groups that benefit the most from these kinds of incidents, and I think we should put the state of Israel on the suspect list, because I think this diverts attention from what’s happening in the Palestinian territories so that they can go on with their aggression and occupation and apartheid policies.”

Janelle Perez, a spokeswoman for Alikhan at Homeland Security, did not return a WND request for comment before publication.

In a telephone interview in April with, Alikhan said he spoke to Napolitano briefly before the appointment was made.

“She said she was very happy I was coming on board,” he said, adding that he was “very impressed” by Napolitano and her accomplishments.

Alikhan was born in Canada and raised in California. His parents are Indian and Pakistani. Before serving as L.A.’s deputy mayor of homeland security and public safety, Alikhan worked for the U.S. Department of Justice as the overseer of a computer-hacking program. He also was the vice chairman and executive director of the Justice Department’s Intellectual Property Task Force.

This is not Napolitano’s first appointment with ties to terrorism supporters. WND first reported Napolitano swore in to her official advisory council the head of an Arab American organization whose officials have labeled deadly anti-U.S. jihadists as “heroes” and opposed referring to Hamas as a terrorist organization.

The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, or ADC, also has close ties to anti-Israel professor Rashid Khalidi, whose association with President Obama – first exposed by WND – stirred controversy during last year’s presidential campaign.

Note: Read our discussion guidelines before commenting.