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Islamist Groups Push Conspiracy Theories in Homegrown Terror Cases

“Our Koran is off limits,” said Hussam Ayloush, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) Los Angeles chapter. “Our youth, who they try to radicalize, are off limits. Now is the time to tell them, ‘We’re not going to let this happen anymore.’”

The above statement, taken out of context, might read like a condemnation of radical Islamists who target young American Muslims. It’s not. The “they” and “them” in the quotation above refer not to al-Qaeda, but to the FBI. That such a conflation is possible is indicative of how leaders of “mainstream” American Muslim organizations have distorted the critical issue of confronting homegrown terrorism.

Ayloush was responding to the arrest in February of Ahmadullah Sais Niazi, a naturalized American of Afghan descent who is accused of perjury, naturalization fraud, misuse of a passport obtained by fraud, and making false statements to a federal agency, including denying that he had met with Amin al-Haq, his brother-in-law and Osama bin Laden’s former security coordinator, in Pakistan in 2005.

Instead of dealing with the facts of the case, the Islamists at CAIR and the Islamic Shura Council of Southern California attacked the credibility of the state prosecutor, Assistant U.S. Attorney Deirdre Eliot, and the government’s primary witness, 46-year-old FBI informant and father of four Craig Monteilh. In their magazines and in the blogosphere, the Islamists accuse Eliot of anti-Muslim sentiments and note that Monteilh has served time in prison. The facts of the arrest itself are relegated to later paragraphs or not mentioned at all.

In Focus, CAIR’s magazine, asserts that Eliot “runs the risk of being guilty by association herself for supporting a right-wing group that has promoted anti-Islamic rhetoric on its websites.” The group the magazine is referring to is the Lincoln Club of Orange County, an organization dedicated to “limited government, free enterprise, the rule of law, and the preservation of individual liberty.” Defaming Islam, apparently, did not make the cut.

Nor is the Niazi case unique; there are many parallels in Islamist tactics responding to the arrest of four alleged terrorists in the Riverdale neighborhood of the Bronx on May 20, accused of plotting to attack two synagogues and to bring down U.S. military airplanes.

The alleged Bronx terrorists met at Masjid al-Ikhlas, a mosque in Newburgh, New York, whose head, Imam Salahuddin Muhammad, blames the FBI informant who discovered the plot for inciting his congregants. Like his peers in California, Muhammad disparages the informant as a convict.

“I am very concerned that the hard work of building bridges here in Newburgh over the last quarter of a century will now be dismissed, because of the actions of a convicted felon,” Muhammad says.

These conspiracy theories are echoed and expanded by other prominent Islamists and their apologists. According to Adem Carroll, the executive director of the Muslim Consultative Network, the government has co-opted Islamic extremists for its own ends.

“These plots are being used to drive funding for the war on terrorism,” Carroll says.

CAIR has made an even more peculiar claim, saying that the Bronx incident may be an FBI conspiracy to “drive a wedge between two American religious minorities” — Jews and Muslims.

Rabbi Jonathan Rosenblatt of the Riverdale Jewish Center, one of the sites targeted in the plot, fails to see how ignoring threats to his community’s security improves Muslim-Jewish relations.

“It is clear that the aspiration to do harm and the commitment to fulfill that aspiration runs like a dark thread through this entire thing, and that’s not the FBI,” Rosenblatt says.

The Islamists have begun openly to undermine the FBI’s ability to confront terrorism. On the CAIR-New York website, an article entitled “Visited by an FBI Agent? Know Your Rights” was published, detailing how to legally avoid providing information to the agency.

The Islamists’ penchant for conspiracy theories is not benign: it is a calculated effort to deny inconvenient truths and an excuse to remain passive in the face of homegrown terrorism. By blaming the FBI for radicalized members of their community, the Islamists effectively discourage American Muslims from complying with their country’s efforts to ensure their security and that of their fellow citizens.

In choosing to side with fringe elements of their population — like Niazi and the alleged Bronx terrorists — over the FBI, the Islamists effectively portray these radicals’ worldview as an accepted norm in their community. The Islamist leadership’s actions are detrimental to the image of American Muslims and a betrayal of their constituency’s broader interests.