May 2009


 By Judicial Watch

Nearly half a dozen Department of Motor Vehicle employees in south Florida have been criminally charged for selling illegal immigrants official state driver’s licenses. 

It marks the second time in less than two years that motor vehicle employees in the Sunshine State get busted for selling the coveted cards to illegal aliens. In late 2007 a state employee in the northern city of Tampa got federally charged with 174 counts of fraud, corruption and official misconduct for operating a large-scale enterprise that sold valid driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants for cash. 

The five employees charged this week worked at the DMV office located in south Florida’s Del Ray Beach. Authorities say they issued licenses to illegal aliens who produced fraudulent passports or foreign visitor forms as identity and proof of presence in the United States.  

Each motor vehicle employee has been charged with four felonies, including driver’s license fraud, official misconduct, unlawful compensation and computer crimes. Each charge carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison. Federal authorities say the investigation into the issuance of Florida driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants is ongoing. 

This clearly presents a national security issue since several of the September 11 terrorists used illegally obtained authentic driver’s licenses to board the planes they hijacked. In fact, the 9/11 Commission said that identification cards—such as licenses—are as important to terrorists as explosives. 

By Marie Magleby

Since 2005, when it first began to crack down on the problem, the Social Security Administration (SSA) has paid out $75.8 million to fugitive felons receiving payments on behalf of other Social Security beneficiaries.

According to a report issued by the SSA inspector general’s office, in one case alone, an individual with an outstanding warrant for burglary that has been pending since 1991 received $25,019 on behalf of a mentally-disabled beneficiary from 2005 to 2008. 

After the IG reported the case to SSA in June 2008, the fugitive felon was replaced with another more suitable "representative payee," the report said.

The SSA allows a “representative payee” to accept payments for beneficiaries whose age, mental state or physical condition inhibits their ability to manage their own finances.

According to Social Security, the agency has made efforts to keep fugitive felons from representing beneficiaries since April 2005, but success has been limited.

Social Security obtains felon information from law enforcement agencies and compares it to representative payee information using computerized matching software. 

If there is a match, the SSA makes note of it and bars the individual from receiving payments on behalf of a beneficiary. The agency also theoretically passes the address of the fugitive to the proper law enforcement agency.

But in March, the inspector general issued an audit report that shows the matching system, at best, leaks like a sieve. 

“The match doesn’t seem to be identifying all the cases,” Judith Olivier, director of the SSA Boston Audit Division, told CNSNews.com.

“We estimate that since the law took effect in April 2005 through September 2008, about $75.8 million in Social Security funds was paid to about 6,527 fugitive felons,” the report said.

The report states that missed “matches” have fraudulently put millions of tax dollars into the wrong hands.

“They really need to look back at their current process and see where it needs to be adjusted,” Olivier said.

The inspector general examined a random sample of 275 out of 14,594 fugitive felons who were representative payees, as of July 2007.

The investigation found that of the $75.8 million, “approximately $47.6 million (63 percent) in benefits was paid to about 2,070 representative payees who had outstanding warrants against them that remained “unsatisfied” more than a year later–through September 2008.

The SSA admitted that funds will continue to be routed to fugitive felons until the leaks can be patched. 

“Additionally, about $19.4 million will be paid over the next 12 months if these warrants remain unsatisfied and the fugitive felons continue serving as representative payees,” the report said.

Law enforcement sought these individuals for a variety of offenses including larceny, fraud and drug-related crime. The majority of felons, 68 percent, were wanted for non-violent, non-drug-related crimes. Of those, police sought seven individuals for fraud and four individuals for counterfeit.

Of the 275 felons in the sample, 123 received $1.4 million while they had outstanding felony warrants. Another 96 felons no longer had active warrants. The remaining individuals were issued warrants for violating conditions of probation or parole, in which case they are still eligible to be representative payees.

Thirty-nine of the 275 still had outstanding arrest warrants at the time of the audit.

Eighty-eight fugitive felons were receiving payments on behalf of their mothers. Thirty-one felons were representative payees for their fathers, and 29 represented other relatives. The remaining 10 represented “other” relations, including friends, unrelated volunteer payees, unrelated guardians or room and board providers.

Some felons received payments for more than one beneficiary.

That is “not uncommon,” according to Olivier. “A lot of times, a parent will be a payee for their children and if they’ve got three children, they’ll be the payee for all of them.”

In the report, the IG recommended that Social Security “review its current computer matching process to ensure that, in the future, alerts are generated and resolved for all representative payees with outstanding felony warrants.”

By Paul Williams

imageSure, President Obama’s appointment of Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court is blatantly racist. Few dispute this fact, even members of the Hispanic community.

The smiling senorita was chosen simply because she is a Latina. If Sotomayor had been a lily-white Methodist from Minnesota, she would not have received the slightest chance for consideration.

Her gender also serves to affirm the patronizing nature of Obama’s appointment.

Strange to say, the mass media is applauding the president’s appointment not because of Sotomayor’s judicial acumen, let alone her rather abysmal courtroom record, but rather because of the fact that she is brown and from the Bronx barrio.

Few commentators note that 60% of Sotomayor’s rulings were overturned by the Supreme Court – - a fact, as Wendy Wright, president of the Concerned Women for America, notes that should cause legislators to “pause and take a good look at her record.”

But a good look at her judicial record is secondary to the good look at her Puerto-Rican ancestry.

Sonia’s supporters, however, are quick to point out that she pulled herself up by the proverbial bootstraps – - that she went from a housing project to Princeton University.

Few note that Ms. Sotomayor received her education in the heyday of affirmative action – - a time when functional illiterates were entry to the hallowed halls of ivy for the sake of diversity – - a time when standardized test scores, including law board examinations, were adjusted to compensate for “cultural disadvantages.”

Race remains a concern in the Sotomayor appointment – - particularly because of her strong ties to La Raza, the Latino answer to the KKK.

As a member of the National Council of La Raza, Ms. Sotomayor said: “I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion as a judge than a white male who hasn’t lived that life.”

La Raza teaches that Colorado, California, Arizona, Texas, Utah, New Mexico, Oregon and parts of Washington State make up an area known as “Aztlan” — a fictional ancestral homeland of the Aztecs before Europeans arrived in North America.

These areas belong to the Latinos and Latinas and must be surrendered to “La Raza” once enough immigrants, legal or illegal, come to constitute a majority, as in Los Angeles. Once this is achieved, the current borders of the United States will simply be obliterated.

But the “reconquista” won’t end with territorial occupation and secession. The final plan for the La Raza movement includes the ethnic cleansing of Americans of European, African, and Asian descent out of “Aztlan.”

Miguel Perez, a La Raza spokesman at Cal State-Northridge, has been quoted as saying: “The ultimate ideology is the liberation of Aztlan. Communism would be closest [to it]. Once Aztlan is established, ethnic cleansing would commence: Non-Chicanos would have to be expelled — opposition groups would be quashed because you have to keep power.”

And so, our new Supreme Court appointee and self-professed advocate of La Raza approves of the reformation of the United States, the creation of a separate Chicano country, and widespread ethnic cleansing.

This assertion may not raise conservative eyebrows, let alone Christian opposition to Sotomayor’s ascendancy to the Supreme Court, save for the fact that La Raza and other Latino activist groups have expressed widespread anti-Jewish sentiments and support for radical Islam. This finding is supported by articles in “The Voice of Aztlan” with such lurid titles as “That Shitty Little Country Israel,” “Pat Tillman Got What Was coming to Him,” and “Osama bin Laden: the ‘Pancho Villa’ of Islam.”

Intrepid columnist Michelle Malkin maintains that all Americans should be aware of the following fifteen facts regarding La Raza (“The Race”):

15. “The Race” supports the issuance of driver’s licenses to illegal aliens.

14.”The Race” demands in-state tuition discounts for illegal alien students – - discounts are not available to law-abiding U.S. citizens and law-abiding legal immigrants.

13. “The Race” opposes cooperative immigration enforcement efforts between local, state, and federal authorities.

12. “The Race” calls for the immediate removal of fences along the Mexican border.

11. “The Race” joined the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee in a failed lawsuit attempt to prevent federal officials from entering immigration information into a key national crime database.

10. “The Race” decried Oklahoma’s tough immigration-enforcement-first laws, which cut off welfare to illegal aliens, put teeth in employer sanctions, and strengthened local-federal cooperation and information sharing.

9. “The Race” initiated a lawsuit to prevent Proposition 227, California’s bilingual education reform ballot initiative, from becoming law.

8. “The Race” condemned common-sense voter ID provisions as an “absolute disgrace.”

7. “The Race” has opposed post-9/11 national security measures at every turn.

6. Former “Race” president Raul Yzaguirre, Hillary Clinton’s Hispanic outreach adviser, said this: “U.S. English is to Hispanics as the Ku Klux Klan is to blacks.” He was referring to U.S. English, the nation’s oldest, largest citizens’ action group dedicated to preserving the unifying role of the English language in the United States.

5. “The Race” spawned and supported a poisonous subset of ideological satellites, including Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlan (MEChA). The late GOP Rep. Charlie Norwood rightly characterized MEChA as “the most anti-American groups in the country.”

4. “The Race” has conducted a smear campaign against staunch immigration-enforcement leaders and has called for TV and cable news networks to keep immigration enforcement proponents off the airwaves.

3. “The Race” sponsors and supports militant ethnic nationalist charter schools subsidized by your public tax dollars (at least $8 million in federal education grants). The schools include Aztlan Academy in Tucson, Ariz., the Mexicayotl Academy in Nogales, Ariz., Academia Cesar Chavez Charter School in St. Paul, Minn., and La Academia Semillas del Pueblo in Los Angeles, whose principal inveighed: “We don’t want to drink from a White water fountain, we have our own wells and our natural reservoirs and our way of collecting rain in our aqueducts. We don’t need a White water fountain . . . ultimately the White way, the American way, the neo liberal, capitalist way of life will eventually lead to our own destruction.”

2. “The Race” has honed the practice of the politically correct shakedown at taxpayer expense, pushing relentlessly to lower home-loan standards for Hispanic borrowers, reaping millions in federal “mortgage counseling” grants, seeking special multimillion-dollar earmarks, and partnering with banks that do business with illegal aliens.

1. “The Race” thrives on ethnic supremacy — and the politically correct elite’s unwillingness to call it what it is. Prominent historian Victor Davis Hanson observes: “[The] organization’s very nomenclature ‘The National Council of La Raza’ is hate speech to the core. Despite all the contortions of the group, Raza (as its Latin cognate suggests) reflects the meaning of ‘race’ in Spanish, not ‘the people’ — and that’s precisely why we don’t hear of something like ‘The National Council of the People,’ which would not confer the buzz notion of ethnic, racial and tribal chauvinism.”

Sotomayor, let’s remember, is a leader of La Raza – - an individual who has shaped its policies, its ideology, and its racist demands.

“No one,” President Obama said today, “can oppose this appointment.”

I oppose it, and, if you are a red-blooded American, you should oppose it as well.

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By Victor Davis Hanson

Last July I wrote a column entitled “Barack W. Bush” outlining how candidate Barack Obama was strangely emulating Bush policies — even as he was trashing the president.

Nearly a year later, President Obama has continued that schizophrenia, criticizing Bush while keeping in place Bush’s anti-terrorism protocols. The result of this Bush Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder is that, thanks to Obama, history will soon begin reassessing George W. Bush’s presidency in a more positive light.

Why? Because the more Obama feels compelled to trash Bush, the more he draws attention to the fact that he is copying — or in some cases falling short of — his predecessor. He seems to wish to frame his presidency in terms of the Bush years, even though such constant evocation is serving his predecessor more than it is serving Obama himself.

For eight years conservatives whined — and Democrats railed — at the Bush deficits. In the aggregate over eight years they exceeded $2 trillion. The administration’s excuses — the 2000 recession; 9/11; two wars, in Afghanistan and Iraq; Katrina; and two massive new programs, No Child Left Behind and Medicare Prescription Drug — fell on deaf ears.

Between 2001 and 2008 we still spoke of annual budget shortfalls in billions of dollars. But an early effect of the Obama administration is that it has already made the Bush administration’s reckless spending seem almost incidental. In the first 100 days of this government we have learned to speak of yearly red ink in terms of Obama’s trillions, not Bush’s mere billions. Indeed, compared to Obama, Bush looks like a fiscal conservative.

Another complaint was the so-called culture of corruption in the Republican Congress — and the inability, or unwillingness, of the Bush administration to address party impropriety. Jack Abramoff, Larry Craig, Duke Cunningham, Tom DeLay, and Mark Foley were each involved in some sort of fiscal or moral turpitude that — according to critics — was never convincingly condemned by the Bush administration.

But compared to some of the present Democratic headline-makers, those were relatively small potatoes. Speaker Nancy Pelosi has slurred the CIA and accused it of habitually lying to Congress. Rep. Charles Rangel has not paid his income taxes fully, and has improperly used his influence to lobby corporations for donations; he has also violated rent-stabilization laws in New York. Sen. Chris Dodd has received discounts and gifts from shady corporate insiders in clear quid-pro-quo influence peddling. Rep. Barney Frank got campaign money from Fannie Mae before it imploded, despite the fact he was charged with regulating the quasi-governmental agency — which at one time hired his boyfriend as a top executive. Former Rep. William Jefferson, an outright crook, is about to go on trial in federal court.

As for other prominent Democrats, the sins of Blago and Eliot Spitzer bordered on buffoonery. A series of Obama cabinet nominations — Daschle, Geithner, Richardson, Solis — were marred by admissions of tax evasion and the suspicion of scandal. In other words, should either the Democratic leadership or President Obama now rail about a “Culture of Corruption” — and neither unfortunately has — the public would naturally assume a reference to Democratic misdeeds.

For the last eight years, a sort of parlor game has been played listing the various ways the Bush anti-terror policies supposedly destroyed the Constitution. Liberal opponents — prominent among them Sen. Barack Obama — railed against elements of the Patriot Act, military tribunals, rendition, wiretaps, email intercepts, and Predator drone attacks. These supposedly unnecessary measures, plus Bush’s policies in postwar Iraq, were said to be proof, on Bush’s part, of either paranoia or blatantly partisan efforts to scare us into supporting his unconstitutional agenda.

Now, thanks to President Obama, the verdict is in: All of the Bush protocols turned out to reflect a bipartisan national consensus that has kept us safe from another 9/11-style attack.

How do we know that?

Because President Obama — despite earlier opposition and current name changes and nuancing — has kept intact the entire Bush anti-terrorism program. Apparently President Obama has kept these protocols because he suspects that they help to explain why his first few months in office have been free of successful terrorist attacks — witness the foiled plot earlier this month to murder Jews in New York City and shoot down military planes in upstate New York.

There are only two exceptions to Obama’s new Bushism. Both are revealing. The president says he wishes to shut down Guantanamo in a year, after careful study. But so far no one has come up with an alternative plan for dealing with out-of-uniform terrorists caught on the battlefield plotting harm to the United States. That’s why Obama himself did not close the facility immediately upon entering office, and why the Democratic Congress has just cut off funding to close it. So we are left with the weird paradox that Obama hit hard against his predecessor for opening Guantanamo, while members of his own party are doing their best to keep it open.

Obama says he opposes waterboarding and calls it torture. Many of us tend to agree. But despite the partisan rhetoric of endemic cruelty, we now learn that the tactic was used on only three extraordinarily bad detainees.

Furthermore, the administration that disclosed the once-classified technique to the public now refuses to elaborate on whether valuable information that saved lives emerged from such coerced interrogations.

Meanwhile, liberal congressional icons like Jay Rockefeller and Nancy Pelosi are on record as being briefed about the technique — and, by their apparent silence as overseers, de facto approving it. Senator Schumer, remember, all but said that we must not rule out the resort to torture in the case of terrorist suspects.

Mini-histories have already been written blasting Bush for unprecedented deficits, for being in bed with a sometimes corrupt Republican Congress, and for weakening our civil liberties. Now the historians will have to begin over again and see Bush as a mere prelude to a far more profligate, and ethically suspect, administration.

More important, President Bush bequeathed to President Obama a successful anti-terrorism template that the latter has embraced and believes will keep the nation safe for another eight years. And, oddly, we are the more certain that is what he believes, the more a now obsessive-compulsive President Obama attacks none other than former President Bush.

 

 Washington Times

Justice Department political appointees overruled career lawyers and ended a civil complaint accusing three members of the New Black Panther Party for Self-Defense of wielding a nightstick and intimidating voters at a Philadelphia polling place last Election Day, according to documents and interviews.

The incident – which gained national attention when it was captured on videotape and distributed on YouTube – had prompted the government to sue the men, saying they violated the 1965 Voting Rights Act by scaring would-be voters with the weapon, racial slurs and military-style uniforms.

Career lawyers pursued the case for months, including obtaining an affidavit from a prominent 1960s civil rights activist who witnessed the confrontation and described it as "the most blatant form of voter intimidation" that he had seen, even during the voting rights crisis in Mississippi a half-century ago.

The lawyers also had ascertained that one of the three men had gained access to the polling place by securing a credential as a Democratic poll watcher, according to interviews and documents reviewed by The Washington Times.

The career Justice lawyers were on the verge of securing sanctions against the men earlier this month when their superiors ordered them to reverse course, according to interviews and documents. The court had already entered a default judgment against the men on April 20.

A Justice Department spokesman on Thursday confirmed that the agency had dropped the case, dismissing two of the men from the lawsuit with no penalty and winning an order against the third man that simply prohibits him from bringing a weapon to a polling place in future elections.

The department was "successful in obtaining an injunction that prohibits the defendant who brandished a weapon outside a Philadelphia polling place from doing so again," spokesman Alejandro Miyar said. "Claims were dismissed against the other defendants based on a careful assessment of the facts and the law."

Mr. Miyar declined to elaborate about any internal dispute between career and political officials, saying only that the department is "committed to the vigorous prosecution of those who intimidate, threaten or coerce anyone exercising his or her sacred right to vote."

Court records reviewed by The Times show that career Justice lawyers were seeking a default judgment and penalties against the three men as recently as May 5, before abruptly ending their pursuit 10 days later.

People directly familiar with the case, who spoke only on the condition of anonymity because of fear of retribution, said career lawyers in two separate Justice offices had recommended proceeding to default judgment before political superiors overruled them.

Tensions between career lawyers and political appointees inside the Justice Department have been a sensitive matter since allegations surfaced during the Bush administration that higher-ups had ignored or reversed staff lawyers and that some U.S. attorneys had been removed or selected for political reasons.

During his January confirmation hearings, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. said that during his lengthy Justice Department tenure, the career lawyers were "my teachers, my colleagues and my friends" and described them as the "backbone" of the department.

"If I am confirmed as attorney general, I will listen to them, respect them and make them proud of the vital goals we will pursue together," he said.

Justice officials declined to say whether Mr. Holder or other senior Justice officials became involved in the case, saying they don’t discuss internal deliberations.

The civil suit filed Jan. 7 identified the three men as members of the Panthers and said they wore military-style uniforms, black berets, combat boots, battle-dress pants, black jackets with military-style insignias and were armed with "a dangerous weapon"and used racial slurs and insults to scare would-be voters and those there to assist them at the Philadelphia polling location on Nov. 4.

The complaint said the three men engaged in "coercion, threats and intimidation, … racial threats and insults, … menacing and intimidating gestures, … and movements directed at individuals who were present to vote." It said that unless prohibited by court sanctions, they would "continued to violate … the Voting Rights Act by continuing to direct intimidation, threats and coercion at voters and potential voters, by again deploying uniformed and armed members at the entrance to polling locations in future elections, both in Philadelphia and throughout the country."

To support its evidence, the government had secured an affidavit from Bartle Bull, a longtime civil rights activist and former aide to Sen. Robert F. Kennedy’s 1968 presidential campaign. Mr. Bull said in a sworn statement dated April 7 that he was serving in November as a credentialed poll watcher in Philadelphia when he saw the three uniformed Panthers confront and intimidate voters with a nightstick.

Inexplicably, the government did not enter the affidavit in the court case, according to the files.

"In my opinion, the men created an intimidating presence at the entrance to a poll," he declared. "In all my experience in politics, in civil rights litigation and in my efforts in the 1960s to secure the right to vote in Mississippi … I have never encountered or heard of another instance in the United States where armed and uniformed men blocked the entrance to a polling location."

Mr. Bull said the "clear purpose" of what the Panthers were doing was to "intimidate voters with whom they did not agree." He also said he overheard one of the men tell a white poll watcher: "You are about to be ruled by the black man, cracker."

He called their conduct an "outrageous affront to American democracy and the rights of voters to participate in an election without fear." He said it was a "racially motivated effort to limit both poll watchers aiding voters, as well as voters with whom the men did not agree."

The three men named in the complaint – New Black Panther Chairman Malik Zulu Shabazz, Minister King Samir Shabazz and Jerry Jackson – refused to appear in court to answer the accusations over a near-five month period, court records said.

Justice Department Voting Rights Section Attorney J. Christian Adams complained in one court filing about the defendants’ failure to appear or to file any pleadings in the case, arguing that Mr. Jackson was "not an infant, nor is he an incompetent person as he appears capable of managing his own affairs, nor is he in the military service of the United States."

Court records show that as late as May 5, the Justice Department was still considering an order by U.S. District Judge Stewart Dalzell in Philadelphia to seek judgments, or sanctions, against the three Panthers because of their failure to appear.

But 10 days later, the department reversed itself and filed a notice of voluntary dismissal from the complaint for Malik Zulu Shabazz and Mr. Jackson.

That same day, the department asked for the default judgment against King Samir Shabazz, but limited the penalty to an order that he not display a "weapon within 100 feet of any open polling location on any election day in the city of Philadelphia" until Nov. 15, 2012.

Malik Zulu Shabazz is a Washington, D.C., resident.

Mr. Jackson was an elected member of Philadelphia’s 14th Ward Democratic Committee, and was credentialed to be at the polling place last Nov. 4 as an official Democratic Party polling observer, according to the Philadelphia City Commissioner’s Office.

Efforts to reach the Panthers were unsuccessful. A telephone number listed on the New Black Panthers Web site had been disconnected.

The complaint said that the three men were deployed at the entrance to a Philadelphia polling location wearing the uniform of the New Black Panther Party and that King Samir Shabazz repeatedly brandished a police-style nightstick with a contoured grip and wrist lanyard.

According to the complaint, Malik Zulu Shabazz, a Howard University Law School graduate, said the placement of King Samir Shabazz and Mr. Jackson in Philadelphia was part of a nationwide effort to deploy New Black Panther Party members at polling locations on Election Day.

The New Black Panther Party reportedly has 27 chapters operating across the United States, Britain, the Caribbean and Africa. Its Web page said it has become "a great witness to the validity of the works of the original Black Panther Party," which was founded in 1966 in Oakland, Calif.

BLACK.jpg

Courtesy of National Geographic Channel King Samir Shabazz and Jerry Jackson, pictured last year for the National Geographic Channel’s show "Inside," were accused of voter intimidation by the Justice Department

By: Ryan Mauro

Zaytuna College – America’s first four-year, accredited Islamic college – is set to open in California, and the proposed school is already stirring controversy because of the two men leading the project: Sheikh Hamza Yusuf and Imam Zaid Shakir.

While presenting themselves as “moderates” who have condemned terrorism, both men have a history of anti-American and pro-Islamist statements. One has railed against the “false gods” of democracy and the Bill of Rights. The other has called for the United States to be governed by Islamic law and defended Hamas. As Zaytuna readies to open its doors, it is worth examining the worldviews of the two scholars who could influence the minds of a new generation of Muslim students.  

Both men have lengthy resumes in Islamic studies. Sheikh Hamza Yusuf, a convert to Islam, has studied in Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Algeria, Morocco and elsewhere. Imam Zaid Shakir converted to Islam while serving in the U.S. Air Force, getting his religious education in places like Egypt, Syria and Morocco.
 

On the one hand, the two scholars might be seen as reasonable, even admirable, figures. Sheikh Hamza Yusuf has been described by The Guardian as “arguably the West’s most influential Islamic scholar.” He received considerable attention due to his role as an advisor to President Bush after the 9/11 attacks, which Yousef described as “mass murder, pure and simple” and which he condemned as un-Islamic.
 

Yusuf has also been critical of the human-rights record of Muslim countries. On October 8, 2001, Yusuf was quoted as saying that “Many people in the West do not realize how oppressive some Muslim states are—both for men and women…I would rather live as a Muslim in the West than in most of the Muslim countries, because I think the way Muslims are allowed to live in the West is closer to the Muslim way.”
 

Imam Zaid Shakir, for his part, has condemned attacks on civilians. Although he was harshly critical of the recent Israeli offensive into Gaza, he warned Muslims against responding with anti-Semitic attacks on Jews. On Jan. 8, 2009, he wrote, “…the Muslim blogosphere is filling up with angry calls for the indiscriminate murder of Jews…such calls for indiscriminate killing have nothing to do with our religion.”
 

In one of his articles on his website, Shakir writes to a reader that Muslims are not to target innocent civilians or non-combatants. He says that Islamic law prohibits even attacking those who provide logistical support to forces fighting Muslims, and that only those directly engaging in combat are legitimate targets. Shakir also rejects the notion that non-Muslims born on “occupied” Muslim territory are acceptable targets, seemingly ruling out attacks on Israeli civilians.

Despite these reasonable-sounding statements, Yusuf and especially Shakir cannot be described as “moderate” Muslims.
 

For example, in the same answer to the above question about when using violence is acceptable, Shakir says that “I did not nor have not said that Islam forbids fighting occupiers.” Based on his characterization of U.S. involvement in Iraq as an “occupation,” one must assume that he believes attacks on U.S. soldiers there to be justified.

Meanwhile, Shakir’s opposition to attacking Israeli civilians has not deterred him from defending Hamas. Although he has described Hamas’s rocket attacks on Israeli towns as “ill-conceived,” he says Hamas “was never given a chance to prove its commitment to the peace process.” For Shakir, then, Hamas is not a terrorist group but a force that can be dealt with diplomatically.

Shakir also appears to embrace 9/11 conspiracy theories, describing the attacks as having “occurred under dubious circumstances that have yet to be thoroughly examined.” Yusuf, to his credit, has rejected such claims, saying “Many Muslims seem to be in deep denial about what has happened. They are coming up with different conspiracy theories and don’t entertain the real possibility that it was indeed Muslims who did this.”

However, Sheikh Yusuf has his own history of hateful comments. In 1995, for example, he expressed his contempt for Judaism, describing it as “a most racist religion.”

Yusuf has also been vocally hostile to the very foundations and principles of the United States. In 1996, he stated:
 

“[The United States is] a country that has little to be proud of in its past and less to be proud of in the present. I am a citizen of this country not by choice but by birth. I reside in this country not by choice but by conviction in attempting to spread the message of Islam in this country. I became Muslim in part because I did not believe in the false gods of this society whether we call them Jesus or democracy or the Bill of Rights.”

On September 9, 2001, Yusuf spoke at a fundraiser at UCLA for Imam Jamil Al-Amin, who had been arrested and was later convicted for murdering a police officer. His remarks, which included defending Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman, who helped orchestrate the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, included this rhetoric:

“They [Americans] were ungrateful for the bounties of Allah, and so Allah caused them to taste fear and hunger. That is one reason, and I would say, that this country is facing a very terrible fate. The reason for that is that this country stands condemned…This country unfortunately has a great tribulation coming to it.”

Both Yusuf and Shakir see then U.S. as an imperialist warmonger that seeks to dominate weaker countries. Sheikh Yusuf has accused the U.S. of seeking to “unite the world” so that everyone adopts America’s corrupt way of life and so that “everybody will have the same banal perspectives on the world.” He’s also criticized the “dominant world order, which is a capitalistic, western world order.”

Imam Sharif goes a few steps further, asserting that U.S. foreign policy has been hijacked by the military-industrial complex. He admonishes the U.S. for a “pattern of demonization, destabilization, and the invasion of hapless Third World nations," saying that such aggression is always carried out under the guise of national interests. Among those he lists as being “demonized” and victimized by the U.S. are Hugo Chavez, Manuel Noriega, Muammar Qaddafi, Saddam Hussein, and most shockingly, Osama Bin Laden and the Taliban.
 

As such remarks suggest, Shakir has a habit of downplaying the threat from radical Islam. He dismisses the possibility of another 9/11 happening, saying it is “unlikely to be replicated and did little lasting damage to this country. This illustrates the overblown threat of the ‘Islamic Fascist’ enemy.” In a 2007 article, Shakir says that President Bush’s agenda “shares far more with the fascist movements of the 20th century than any of the Islamic groups or states he and his political allies seek to condemn.”

Shakir took particular issue with the film Obsession, which used clips of radical Islamic preachers and terrorists to warn the West of the severity of the threat. He described the film as “anti-Islamic” and “black propaganda.” He has been especially incensed by attempts to equate radical Islam with Nazism. He writes that comparing Bin Laden and President Ahmadinejad of Iran to Hitler and Stalin is “totally baseless.”

Shakir further distorts the nature of radical Islamic terrorist groups, saying that they do not fit the “Islamic Fascist” label and characterizing them as nationalists fighting occupation and oppression. This quote from one of his articles provides insight into how he sees such terrorists:

“Hamas calls for the liberation of Palestinian lands not the physical elimination of the Jews. Al-Qaeda calls for the end of Americans strategic presence in the Middle East and not the destruction of America. The Iraqi resistance calls for the end of the American occupation of Iraq and not the end of America. The various Jihadi groups in Kashmir call for the termination of the Indian occupation of Kashmir and not the termination of India. The Chechen resistance calls for the end of the brutal Russian occupation of their lands and not the end of Russia.”

Both men agree that terrorism is caused by U.S. policy, failing to see the ideological component that threatens us. When asked where Muslim anger comes from, Sheikh Yusuf answered “If you had one word to describe the root of all this rage, it’s humiliation…It’s everywhere. You don’t think it’s humiliating to have a foreign force come into your land?”

Shakir opposes the separation of mosque and state. The New York Times reported in June 2006 that “he said he still hoped that one day the United States would be a Muslim country ruled by Islamic law,” although he said he did not want this to be brought about through violence. The key thing to note here is that he isn’t merely proselytizing his faith, as followers of other religions do, but he is calling for Sharia-based governance. The fact that he says he doesn’t support using violence shouldn’t take away from the fact that his goal is the same as that of Muslim Brotherhood and other radical Islamists.

Since 9/11, Sheikh Yusuf has significantly changed his tone. He has acknowledged that he has made some incendiary comments in the past. “September 11 was a wake-up call for me. I don’t want to contribute to the hate in any shape or form. I now regret in the past being silent about what I have heard in Islamic discourse and being part of that with my own anger,” he said in October 2001.

In keeping with his avowed change of heart, in September 2006 Yusuf stepped back from his previous anti-Semitic attacks on Judaism, offering this explanation: 

“I was not raised as an anti-Semite. My sister converted to Judaism, is married to a Jewish man. I have nephews that are Jewish. I was not raised with any prejudice at all. But I was infected when I lived in the Muslim world. I lived in the Arab world for over 10 years, and I think I did get infected by that virus for a period of time. But I grew out of it and realized that not only does it have nothing to do with Islam, but it has nothing to do with my core values.”

Since then, Yusuf has refrained from making extremist statements, though his past declarations, and his continued affiliation with people like Imam Shakir, cast doubt on his “moderate” credentials. It remains unclear whether this is a tactical reaction to the post-September atmosphere, or if the terrorist attacks genuinely made him reconsider his beliefs.
 

For both men, the former remains a very real possibility. Imam Shakir in particular seems to disagree only with the tactics, and not the political and religious goals, of terrorist groups and radical Islamists. Zaytuna College may provide him, and others like him, with the perfect opportunity to present his extremist views in the guise of scholarship.

 

Two weeks from today, Iran’s presidential election will determine whether Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the Holocaust-denying, Israel-hating, America-bashing incumbent, remains in office, whether his country continues its drive to become a nuclear power, and whether a state with a key role in Iraq, Afghanistan and other international flashpoints remains hostile to the West.

The stakes could scarcely be higher, but it is the lowly potato that has been grabbing attention.

The Government is handing out 400,000 tonnes of free spuds in rural towns. It says that it is merely distributing the surplus from a bumper crop, but Mr Ahmadinejad’s opponents accuse it of bribing the poor. “Death to potatoes,” they chant at rallies.

The spat is instructive. To much of the world, the election is about the nuclear ambitions of a pariah state. To most Iranians, the economy is the main issue. Mr Ahmadinejad’s rivals are savaging the record of a President who took office promising to give all Iranians a share of the oil wealth.

Iran has enjoyed revenues in excess of $300 billion, but the poor are worse off than before. By spending those revenues as if there were no tomorrow he has sent inflation, rents and property prices spiralling upwards while failing to tackle rampant unemployment.

He is seeking to divert attention from the economy by focusing on Iran’s nuclear programme, a source of pride to most Iranians, and his refusal to bow to Western demands that he should suspend it. He has compared Iran’s critics to dogs, declaring: “If you retreat, they attack. If you attack, they retreat.”

Last week Iran test-fired a missile capable of hitting Israel and Western Europe, in what appeared to be a staged show of power before the election. “Now we have more than 7,000 centrifuges [to enrich uranium] and the West dare not threaten us,” Mr Ahmadinejad boasted this week.

His opponents all say that they will continue the nuclear programme, which they claim is for civilian use only. In an unusually outspoken campaign, however, Mir Hossein Mousavi, Mr Ahmadinejad’s most prominent rival, and the other reformist candidate, Mehdi Karoubi, are accusing Mr Ahmadinejad of isolating Iran with his fiery rhetoric, and promise to pursue a less abrasive foreign policy.

Mr Ahmadinejad, 53, is expected to win. He appears to have the backing of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the Supreme Leader, and the Government’s considerable resources. He can count on millions of votes from the security forces and the Basij — the morality police. The populist President, who has pointedly visited and distributed largesse in every one of Iran’s 28 provinces, is still the darling of the devout and rural poor.

An upset is not impossible, however. Mr Mousavi, 67, is a popular former Prime Minister remembered for steering Iran through the turmoil of its war with Iraq. He advocates economic liberalisation and greater social freedoms, and his wife, Zahra Rahnavard, is breaking with tradition by publicly campaigning with him. He is chasing the urban and youth vote in a country where three quarters of the 70 million people are under 30.

About 475 people, including 42 women, applied to run for president, but the senior clerics of the Guardian Council only permitted four men to run in this curious hybrid state; part theocracy and part democracy. The other two candidates are Mr Karoubi, 72, a cleric and former parliamentary Speaker, and a hardliner named Mohsen Rezaei, 54, a former commander of the Revolutionary Guard.

They stand little chance of winning but could split the reformist and conservative votes respectively. Mr Ahmadinejad hopes that potatoes have electoral potency. He needs 50 per cent of the vote, or he will face a much more perilous second round against his strongest opponent.

• A suicide bomb detonated outside a mosque in the Iranian city of Zahedan yesterday killed 15 people and injured 50. Zahedan, near the Pakistani border, has witnessed clashes between police and drug dealers in the past.

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