In 2016, Brandeis University hired an anti-Semitic Islamist formerly linked to al-Qaeda to teach students about Islam.
Brandeis offered Boston-based cleric Suheil Laher a job in its Near Eastern and Judaic Studies department despite his long history of involvement with extremist causes. That history includes his leadership of a now-defunct charity that raised funds for jihadist causes in Bosnia, Chechnya, and Afghanistan.
This academic year, Laher is teaching two courses at Brandeis: “Introduction to the Qu’ran” and “Muhammad: Life, Teachings, and Legacy.” Given Laher’s past, what strain of Islam is he likely to promote?
Before Brandeis, Laher was the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)’s Muslim chaplain for almost twenty years. While at MIT, he also served, from 2000, as head of a Boston-based charity named CARE International (not to be confused with the current charity of the same name). Originally named the “Al Kifah Refugee Center,” the charity was founded by Abdullah Azzam, a founding member of al-Qaeda and a mentor to Osama Bin Laden.
CARE served to support jihad. According to J.M. Berger, a fellow with the International Centre for Counter-Terrorism at The Hague:
[H]undreds of thousands of dollars passed through CARE for distribution to jihadists and jihad-support organizations overseas.
CARE also arranged public screenings of jihadist videos, and published a newsletter called “Al Hussam” (“The Sword”), which “was stuffed with short, informative news items from various fronts in the global jihad.”
CARE’s tactics included dinner speeches and events at local mosques and universities, among them MIT, Boston College, and Boston University, usually slipping them in under the auspices of the local Muslim Students Association.
As the MIT Muslim chaplain, Laher would have overseen MIT’s Muslim Students’ Association and have been able to promote CARE’s jihadist causes among the Muslim students under his leadership.
While at MIT, Laher did not hide his Islamist views. His personal website at the time featured attacks on Jews, Christians, and kuffar (non-believers):
The kuffar, including the Jews and Christians, can never become our intimate friends, confidantes or close allies.
His personal website also declared: “[T]he only solution prescribed by Allah is jihad.”
Laher’s reputation as a leading Islamist operative brought him into contact with Aafia Siddiqui, later known as “Lady al-Qaeda.” Siddiqui studied at MIT before receiving a PhD in neurobiology from Brandeis in 2001. A mere three years later, in May 2004, the FBI named Siddiqui one of seven “most wanted” al-Qaeda fugitives.
According to Der Spiegel:
[Siddiqui] met several committed Islamists through the Muslim student group at MIT. One was Suheil Laher, the group’s imam, an open advocate of Islamization and jihad before Sept. 11.
Evan Kohlmann, a prominent expert on terrorism, has revealed that Siddiqui regularly raised funds for Laher’s jihadist charity.
Laher has never addressed his involvement with Aafia Siddiqui and his work financing violent jihad. He has never renounced his hatred for Jews, Christians, and the West.
Brandeis University was founded almost 70 years ago for Jewish students who faced discrimination and rejection from other institutions. Today, according to Hillel, the largest Jewish campus organization in America, about half of the undergraduate student population at Brandeis is Jewish. The university proudly declares it was established “in defiance of anti-Semitism” and remains dedicated to “diversity and social justice.”
How is that Brandeis has appointed a strident anti-Semite to teach at a university founded “in defiance of anti-Semitism”?
How is it that Brandeis has appointed a radical Islamist, linked to the radicalization of Brandeis graduate and al-Qaeda operative Aafia Siddiqui, to teach about Islam?
We asked Brandeis these very questions. They failed to respond.
When MIT officials finally became aware of Laher’s history, he quietly stepped down as chaplain. Will Brandeis University, putative home of “diversity and social justice,” ask that Laher do the same?