The Islamist Who Served on the Electoral College

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.