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Patrick Poole

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June 14, 2011 - 1:02 pm

Tomorrow the House Homeland Security Committee will be holding a hearing on “The Threat of Muslim-American Radicalization in U.S. Prisons,” chaired by Rep. Peter King. One of those testifying is LAPD Deputy Chief Michael Downing, the commander of the LAPD’s Counterterrorism and Special Operations Bureau.

This is an odd choice for the committee in light of a video we are making exclusive here at the PJ Tatler of Chief Downing speaking at a town hall event co-sponsored by his department at the Islamic Center of Southern California on May 15th. Here’s the video of Chief Downing’s comments:

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Downing’s claims that “we should not demonize the Muslim Brotherhood” are particularly curious since the leader of the international Muslim Brotherhood declared war on the United States during a press conference last October (a transcript of his comments is available at MEMRI). It seems the Muslim Brotherhood does a good job of demonizing itself.

It is another case entirely when a government official such as Chief Downing attempts to deflect criticism of the Brotherhood and openly endorses MB front organizations in the U.S. as partners with law enforcement. From his remarks at the event it seems that Chief Downing can’t decide whether the Muslim Brotherhood are extremists on the fringe, or if they have “changed” over time and should be engaged. He can’t have it both ways.

As the late Billy Mays would say, “But wait, there’s more!”

This event was held at the Islamic Center of Southern California, which was founded by Hassan and Maher Hathout (according to the New York Times), longtime Muslim Brotherhood operatives from Egypt. In an interview he gave to the Voice of Islam before his death, Hassan Hathout spoke of “The Man Who Changed My Life,” the man being Muslim Brotherhood founder Hassan Al-Banna. In the interview, Hathout lauds Al-Banna as his teacher:

My teacher was a student at the time. His name was Hassan al Banna….I believe he is a unique type of person. Centuries might roll over before a similar personality is produced. I think that the person who most influenced my life was that teacher.

But he goes one step further than that. Hathout expresses his hopes that Al-Banna’s vision for a revived Islamic state and the reimposition of shariah law will take place in the West, whereas it hadn’t done so in the Middle East (at the time):

Long after Hassan al Banna, when Egypt had been through the Revolution and the new Regime, but Islam was always considered an enemy. We were persecuted, we were in jail, including my brother and myself. We had to flee home, at last coming to the United States of America. Who knows, maybe the infertile soil that would not accept the seed of Islam in the East, might be replaced by a more fertile soil that would accept Islam in the West…This is the beginning of the Islamic Movement in the United States and in the West, and you are a part of this.

Many of the organizations that Chief Downing work with openly promote the very violent and supremacist ideology that Downing says the Brotherhood in America has transcended. For instance, the Muslim American Society (MAS) incorporates the works of Hassan Al-Banna and Sayyid Qutb (the godfather of contemporary jihadist ideology) in its standard membership training. The Chicago Tribune noted in a 2004 expose the Muslim Brotherhood roots of MAS, and federal prosecutors have stated in court documents that “MAS was founded as the overt arm of the Muslim Brotherhood in America.”

Chief Downing identifies Sayyid Qutb’s book, Milestones, as the foundation of al-Qaeda’s ideology. And yet, Milestones is part of MAS’s introductory curriculum (as is Hassan Al-Banna’s tract “Jihad”), as it also is for the Islamic Circle of North America, which requires new members to spend 9 months studying Qutb’s Milestones. The North American Islamic Trust, which owns the property to one-quarter of all mosques in the United States, publishes an English translation of Milestones through its American Trust Publications arm. I guess they haven’t changed their ideology and doctrine as much as Chief Downing believes.

He also says with respect to the Muslim Brotherhood and the Muslim Student Association (MSA), which he admits is an offshoot of the MB, that “you can’t say they are the same thing.” But in a December 2003 front page article in the Wall Street Journal, Paul Barrett recounts the story of Mustafa Saied, who claimed that he was recruited into the Muslim Brotherhood through the MSA at the University of Tennessee and was taken to MSA conferences that feature known extremist MB leaders from around the world.

Back in February I reported here exclusively at the PJ Tatler on the 2011 MSA West conference, where their keynote speaker, Amir Abdel Malik (a notorious hatemonger who spouts a wide variety of anti-Semitic conspiracy theories), led the crowd in reciting the “MSA Pledge of Allegiance,” which was a restatement of the Muslim Brotherhood credo. Apparently they didn’t get Chief Downing’s memo. I also reported here at PJM last year on the long line of MSA leaders who have been charged and convicted in terror plots.

It should also be noted that the moderator for the event, which featured representatives from the LAPD, L.A. County Sheriff’s Dept, FBI, DOJ, and Dept. of Homeland Security, was Saadia Khan of the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC), which has openly defended Hezbollah and other terrorist organizations. For instance, in a policy paper on U.S. counterterrorism policy, MPAC claimed that the suicide bombing targeting U.S. Marines in Beirut in 1983 was not an act of terrorism:

Hezbollah organized the bombing of the Marine barracks in Beirut in October 1983 killing 241 marines, the largest number of American troops killed in a single operation since the end of the Vietnam war. Yet this attack, for all the pain it caused, was not in a strict sense, a terrorist operation. It was a military operation, producing no civilian casualties – exactly the kind of attack that Americans might have lauded had it been directed against Washington’s enemies. (p. 13)

Democratic Congressman Brad Sherman has even called on MPAC in a press release to distance itself from the Hathout brothers and their ideology. As the Investigative Project on Terrorism has reported, MPAC and ICSC have collaborated on publications that downplay the threat from Islamic extremism, propagate inflammatory rhetoric about Jews, and promote conspiracies about 9/11 and the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. MPAC’s executive director, Salam al-Marayati, was even kicked off a congressional commission on terrorism after complaints about his extremist statements. And on the day of the 9/11 attacks, as reported by the L.A. Times, al-Marayati was on a L.A. radio station blaming the terrorist attacks on Israel.

So given these facts, you have to wonder where Chief Downing is coming from. If he can’t spot the radicals he’s already associated with, why is he being called to testify about prison radicalization by the House Homeland Security Committee? And what exactly is a town hall event sponsored by eight different government agencies doing closing with an Islamic call to prayer? Can anybody get the ACLU on the line?

Patrick Poole is a national security and terrorism correspondent for PJMedia. Follow me on Twitter.
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