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The Islamist Who Served on the Electoral College

Election 2008 proved historic on a number of levels, but one milestone passed without the recognition it deserves. When the Electoral College convened on December 15 to ratify the citizens’ choice of Barack Obama as the next president, Jafar “Jeff” Siddiqui of Lynnwood, Washington, became the first known Islamist to cast an electoral vote.

Siddiqui — a real estate agent, former chairman of the Islamic School of Seattle, and founding member of the American Muslims of Puget Sound activist group — was named a Democratic elector after his impromptu speech at the state party convention, in which he pledged to fight “the hate and bigotry that are being promoted in this country.” The Post-Intelligencer gushed, “His mission is to counteract the image of Muslims as fanatical terrorists and extremists that, he believes, is propagated in the media, popular culture, and even the government.”

Yet Siddiqui has a long record of airing his own extreme views in local papers and the American Muslim magazine, a truth that was noted by an alert blog but predictably ignored by the mainstream press at the time of his appointment. As detailed below, Siddiqui is a textbook “lawful” Islamist who dreams of imposing at least one element of Sharia on the West: curbing speech that is critical of Islam. In keeping with the Islamist modus operandi, he also paints opponents of radical Islam as Nazis, portrays America as oppressive, denies the religious rationale of Muslim terrorists, and insists that Muslims are victims even when they take part in violent aggression. These factors should have more than disqualified him for the privilege and responsibility of serving on the Electoral College, a key safety valve in the selection of the commander-in-chief.

Siddiqui put himself on the map in 2002, when he sought to derail a talk by Middle East scholar Daniel Pipes at the University of Washington. Slandering him as a “rabid Muslim/Arab hater” who might soon “be in the same company as Hitler,” Siddiqui led a campaign urging organizers to “withdraw your sponsorship or, at the very least, publish a letter expressing regret over this sponsorship. You can also invite a member of the Muslim community to speak for about ten minutes after Pipes has had his day bashing us.” Professor Edward Alexander refused, explaining that under the First Amendment “there is no requirement that a lecture touching on radical Islam must be ‘answered’ by an Islamic radical.”

Siddiqui’s discomfort with free speech resurfaced in 2006, as he chastised Denmark for not prosecuting the publishers of the infamous Muhammad cartoons. Nor was he pleased about Obsession: Radical Islam’s War Against the West being distributed via U.S. newspapers in 2008. Despite purporting to back free speech “without preconditions,” he argued that it “stops at the production of the DVDs” and that “dissemination and promotion of the same is no longer an exercise of freedom of expression” — a disturbingly narrow view of First Amendment rights.

In line with other Islamists, Siddiqui smears all who combat radical Islam. Obsession is “like Hitler’s idea of how to generate hate and violence.” Dutch MP Geert Wilders is “a blond Aryan who would make Nazis proud.” Conservative radio hosts are “on the same track as Hitler.” Anti-Sharia attorney David Yerushalmi’s ultimate goal is to “strike all mosques and all Muslims down.” Most hyperbolically, the designation of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) as an unindicted co-conspirator in a recent terror financing trial is “akin to the Germans pulling in every Jewish head of household to the village square, to find out who killed their soldier and then listing all those Jews as ‘unindicted murderers.’”

Siddiqui must feel fortunate to have survived long enough to cast his electoral vote, given that Muslims barely can venture onto the streets in the despotic America he imagines. “It appears that the military, along with the rest of the government agencies (down to the Department of Agriculture), are in high gear to persecute people because they are Muslims,” he wrote in 2004. After two teenagers were detained a year later on suspicion of terrorism, Siddiqui claimed that “Muslims could be justifiably shot as they walk in public places in a coat with a fanny pack around their waist.” (No shots were fired during the teens’ arrest.)

Siddiqui employs another tactic popular among Islamists: obfuscating the nature of jihad, which he characterizes as a beneficial institution that “does not mean ‘holy war.’” “Jihad means ‘struggle,’” he told an audience several months before 9/11, citing “jihad against sickness, jihad against hunger, jihad to increase your knowledge, jihad to rid the world of evil.” On the other hand, he stated, “If someone takes that word and says, ‘We’re going to commit jihad against any non-believers,’ that’s not Islam’s problem.”

Following naturally is his assertion that Muslims have no responsibility to denounce terrorism carried out in the name of their faith. At a 2005 briefing on Islam that Siddiqui conducted for FBI agents — analogous to the sensitivity workshops offered by the Islamists at CAIR — he was asked why more Muslims don’t “stand up and say [terrorism] is unacceptable.” “We have held Muslims hostage to that question,” Siddiqui replied. “The common man cannot bring terrorists to justice.” In 2007 he objected again: “People assume that if I … am not walking around with a sandwich board condemning terrorism then, by default, I must be supporting it.”

True to form, Siddiqui was reluctant to comment on the 2006 attack against a Seattle Jewish center, in which a gunman reportedly identified himself as “a Muslim American, angry at Israel,” before killing one woman and wounding five others. Ultimately Siddiqui did issue a strong denunciation, but he revealed that he and his Washington-based group had “struggled for some time about whether a statement should be sent out or not, because we would like this to be recognized for the grievous crime that it is, rather than an event that calls for an explanation or apology by Muslims.”

Terrorism against Jews in the Middle East, however, provokes little soul-searching. Similar to other Islamists, Siddiqui views Hezbollah and Hamas as “resistance organizations” whose “social welfare work … cannot be questioned by anyone.” He also believes that President Obama violated the bounds of decorum in demanding that Iran cease all support for terrorists: “Etiquette 101 teaches that one does not call someone ugly, dirty, and smelly, if one wants a cordial or friendly relationship with them; it is not generally welcomed.”

Siddiqui’s Islamist mindset was on display once more after the November 2008 terror attacks in Mumbai. While he deplored the carnage, his words kept drifting back to Muslims’ alleged victimhood. “Can these killers not think about the reactive violence that will now most likely be unleashed upon all Muslims in India?” he asked. (No such outbreak transpired.) Shockingly, Siddiqui also empathized with any terrorists captured by security forces: “Even though they were involved in butchery, one cannot help but feel sorry for them because of the tortures they will be subjected to, at the hands of the Indians.”

Less than three weeks after expressing his concern for the well-being of jihadists who had murdered scores of innocents in Mumbai, he was in Olympia, Washington, delivering Barack Obama one of his 365 electoral votes. That Siddiqui encountered no opposition on his way to this significant posting — despite a readily accessible, decade-long paper trail of anti-American and unabashedly Islamist statements — says much about the gullibility that Islamists exploit to gain access to the mainstream and thereby influence those who craft both public opinion and public policy.

Why did an Islamist sit on the Electoral College? For the same reasons that Islamists have achieved a foothold in countless American institutions: the press ignores their radicalism, federal agents legitimize them as representatives of the Muslim community, and the political establishment embraces them with open arms. In short, though he maintains that the media and the government conspire to promote hatred of Islam, the case of Jeff Siddiqui demonstrates how they all too often promote Islamists just like him.

Research for this article was conducted under the auspices of Islamist Watch, a project of the Middle East Forum.