A document entered into court evidence by Justice Department prosecutors in the largest terrorism financing trial in American history, and later cited affirmatively by the federal judge in the case and cleared by the federal appeals court, would seem an unlikely target for a former journalist to try to spin a conspiratorial tale around, namely slandering others of hawking a racist/”Islamphobic” “Protocols of the Elders of Islam.”
And yet that is what David K. Shipler, a former New York Times reporter and winner of the 1987 Pulitzer Prize, is now trying to do.
Clearly upset that so-called “Islamophobes” have been successful using the document – again, discovered by the FBI, submitted into the evidence by federal prosecutors and approved as genuine by the federal court – to expose the Muslim Brotherhood roots of some of America’s largest Islamic organizations, Shipler wields his “Islamophobia” harpoon like Ahab at his “anti-Islam industry” Moby Dick.
He makes his dubious case in a new book out this week, entitled “Freedom of Speech: Mightier Than the Sword” (Alfred A. Knopf), which includes an entire chapter on the subject, and summarizes it in an article published on Tuesday in The New Yorker, “Pamela Geller and the Anti-Islam Movement.” The book received a very lukewarm review in the New York Times this past Sunday.
In the New Yorker article, Shipler claims:
Virtually all the alarm over the coming Islamic takeover and the spread of Sharia law can be traced back to an old document of questionable authority and relevance, “An Explanatory Memorandum on the General Strategic Goal for the Group in North America.” Dated May 22, 1991, it was found in 2004 by the F.B.I., buried in one of a large number of boxes uncovered during a search of a house in northern Virginia. (I reported on the discovery and the use of the document for my book “Freedom of Speech: Mightier than the Sword.”) It is cited on numerous Web sites, and in articles, videos, and training materials, which quote one another in circular arguments. Its illusion of importance was enhanced by federal prosecutors, who included it in a trove of documents introduced into evidence in the 2007 trial of the Holy Land Foundation, a charitable organization ultimately convicted of sending money to Hamas.
The memo, however, is far from probative. It was never subjected to an adversarial test of its authenticity or significance. Examined closely, it does not stand up as an authoritative prescription for action. Rather, it appears to have been written as a plea to the Muslim Brotherhood leadership for action, by an author we know little about, Mohamed Akram. He is listed elsewhere as a secretary in the Brotherhood, but he writes in the tone of an underling. Islam watchers do not quote his appeal that the recipients “not rush to throw these papers away due to your many occupations and worries. All that I’m asking of you is to read them and to comment on them.” These lines reveal the memo as a mere proposal, now twenty-four years old. No other copies have come to light.
Two features of the memo are highlighted by the Islam watchers: first, its assertion that “the Ikhwan [Muslim Brotherhood] must understand that their work in America is a kind of grand jihad in eliminating and destroying the Western civilization from within,” and, second, “a list of our organizations and the organizations of our friends.” [emphasis added]
What’s remarkable about Shipler’s treatment of the Explanatory Memorandum in his article and in his book is how much he is willing to quickly dismiss facts that completely undo his case, and how he pays no attention to the glaring contradictions he ends up wrapping himself into trying to debunk the document. At major points he contradicts himself. He breezes over the mountain of evidence that he has to overcome, but that means he can’t plead ignorance of it. One is only left with the conclusion that he’s being intentionally mendacious.
I beg the reader’s indulgence, for I will quote lengthy passages and on occasions paste screenshots from the court documents themselves so you know I’m not engaged in anything dodgy. Tellingly, most of these quotes never appear in Shipler’s book, and if so, only in selectively edited form.
So let’s start with the evidence.
The document he is trying to cast doubts on is known generally as the “Explanatory Memorandum,” but it’s actual title is “An Explanatory Memorandum on the General Strategic Goal of the Group in North America.” The document is dated May 22, 1991, and was entered into evidence as “Elbarasse Search – 3” by federal prosecutors in the Holy Land Foundation terrorism financing trial in 2008.
Helpfully, the federal court overseeing the case in an unusual move posted the trial evidence on their own website. The Explanatory Memorandum and the FBI translation of the document can be found here.
At this point, we can turn to what the Justice Department said in federal court about the Explanatory Memorandum. In one court filing, available on the ACLU’s website, federal prosecutors state (p. 12):
The evidence introduced at trial, for example, established that ISNA and NAIT were among those organizations created by the U.S.-Muslim Brotherhood.8 Govt. Exh. 3-64 (seized from the home of HAMAS leader Ismail Elbarasse); Govt. Exh. 3-3 (Muslim Brotherhood document noting that ISNA was founded by the US-Muslim Brotherhood) ; Govt. Exh. 3-85 (1991 memorandum authored by U.S.-Muslim Brotherhood Shura Council member Mohamed Akram Adlouni, recognizing ISNA and NAIT as Muslim Brotherhood organizations.) Government’s Exhibit 3-85, entitled An Explanatory Memorandum on the General Strategic Goal of the Group, described the Brotherhood’s strategic goal as a kind of “grand Jihad”:
The Ikhwan must understand that their role in America is a kind of grand Jihad in eliminating and destroying the Western Civilization from within and sabotaging its miserable house by their hands and the hands of the believers so that it is eliminated and God’s religion is made victorious…. [emphasis added]
So the Justice Department states that:
1) Two Islamic organizations – the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) and the North American Islamic Trust (NAIT) – were created by the U.S. Muslim Brotherhood (based on other trial evidence as well as the Explanatory Memorandum);
2) The Explanatory Memorandum was authored by U.S. Muslim Brotherhood Shura Council member Mohamed Akram Adlouni;
3) That the memo describes the Brotherhood’s strategic goal as “a kind of grand Jihad in eliminating and destroying Western Civilization from within.”
Now please note that these claims were not made by “Pamela Geller and the Anti-Islam Movement” but the Justice Department in a federal court filing. He can tilt at all of the “anti-Islam” windmills he wants, but fundamentally he still has to explain away the court evidence.
And as stated earlier, much to the consternation of Shipler, the federal court agreed in a published opinion with the Justice Department’s analysis of the document when Judge Jorge Solis ruled on motions from three separate organizations named as unindicted co-conspirators in the trial — ISNA, NAIT, and the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) — asking to be removed from the Justice Department’s co-conspirator list. The judge’s ruling against removing the groups from the unindicted co-conspirator list was unsealed in 2010.
In that ruling, Judge Solis states (p. 15):
Government Exhibit 3-85 is titled “An Explanatory Memorandum on the General Strategic Goal for the Group in North America,” authored by Mohamed Akram of the Shura Council of the Muslim Brotherhood and dated May 22, 1991. (Gov’t Ex. 3-85 (Elbarasse 3) at 21.) The “Explanatory Memorandum” includes a section titled “Understanding the role of the Muslim Brother in North America,” which states that the work of the Ikhwan in the United States is “a kind of grand Jihad in eliminating and destroying the Western civilization from within and sabotaging its miserable house by their hands and the hands of the believers so that it is eliminated and God’s religion is made victorious over all other religions.” (Id.) Also contained in that document is a list of the Muslim Brotherhood’s “organizations and the organizations of our friends,” which includes ISNA, NAIT, the Occupied Land Fund (“OLF”) (HLF’s former name), and the United Association for Studies and Research (“UASR”). (Id. at 32.)
So Judge Solis found that:
1) The Explanatory Memorandum was authored by Mohamed Akram of the U.S. Muslim Brotherhood Shura Council;
2) That the document describes the agenda of the Muslim Brotherhood’s “grand Jihad in eliminating and destroying the Western Civilization from within”;
3) That the document lists the Muslim Brotherhood’s “organizations and the organizations of our friends,” including ISNA and NAIT.
At this point Shipler laughably believes he has room to maneuver. In the New Yorker article and in his book, he makes three general claims:
1) That the judge blindly accepted the Justice Department’s argument about the origins and importance of the memo and never allowed adversarial challenges to its provenance;
2) That the Explanatory Memorandum was admitted as hearsay, meaning that the groups named in the memo were never allowed to challenge in court;
3) That the judge failed to distinguish between the memo’s list of “our organizations” and “the organizations of our friends.”
Let’s take these in order.
1) Judge Solis accepted the Justice Department’s description of the Explanatory Memorandum unquestioningly and never allowed adversarial challenges.
In discussing the order by Judge Solis in response to the motions of the three Islamic organizations, Shipler states in his book (p. 190):
CAIR and two other groups moved to have themselves removed from the list of unindicted co-conspirators, but the effort backfired and gave Islam watchers more ammunition. Not only was their motion denied by Judge Jorge Solis, who presided over the retrial, conviction, and sentencing of the five Holy Land Foundation defendants (the first trial had ended in a hung jury). He also accepted the government’s assertions by citing the seized Elbarasse documents, including the Explanatory Memorandum, without testing their accuracy in an adversarial proceeding. He did not distinguish between the memo’s list of “our organizations” and “the organizations of our friends.” He ruled, “The Government had produced ample evidence to establish the associations of CAIR, ISNA [Islamic Society of North America], and NAIT [North American Islamic Trust] with HLF [Holy Land Foundation], the Islamic Association of Palestine (“IAP”), and with Hamas.” [emphasis added]
Remarkably, Shipler contradicts himself just a few pages later, quoting a defense attorney for the Holy Land Foundation defendants who said that the Elbarasse documents had, in fact, been challenged by the defense team (p. 198):
The defense team lodged vigorous objections to the introduction of this and the other documents from the Elbarasse search, and two attorneys on the defense team, Nancy Hollander and Marlo Cadeddu, scoffed at Guandolo’s statement. “There was no such stipulation by the defense,” said Cadeddu. “Nor would we ever have stipulated to any such thing. Any claims to the contrary are simply untrue.” Indeed, after the five Holy Land officials and fund-raisers were convicted, their lawyers argued specifically, in an unsuccessful appeal to the Fifth Circuit, that the trial judge had erred in admitting the documents, which the attorneys branded hearsay, irrelevant to the charge that the defendants had funneled money to Hamas. [emphasis added]
At this point, observant readers are no doubt confused. By Shipler’s own admission, the Elbarasse documents, including the Explanatory Memorandum, were subject to challenges on both the trial court and appellate levels. Both sides briefed the court, and judge and the appeals court panel ruled on the merits of their arguments. These are what are generally known as “adversarial proceedings,” much as Shipler claims never occurred. It’s not clear exactly then what Shipler was expecting. An entirely separate trial over the Explanatory Memorandum? With his own damning acknowledgement of these defense team challenges, we can only conclude that he’s being duplicitous, or really, really thick.
But that’s not all. During the trial one of the investigators in the Holy Land case, FBI Special Agent Lara Burns, twice mentioned the Explanatory Memorandum (trial transcript 09/28/2008 at p. 21, 10/07/2008 at p. 71). And yet having reviewed hundreds of pages of trial transcript at no point did I find the defense attorneys questioning Burns on redirect on the provenance, authority or relevance of the Explanatory Memorandum.
This might be breaking news to David Shipler, but a federal trial itself is, in fact, an adversarial proceeding. By raising the memo during questioning, the defense had an opportunity to question her about it on redirect, and the HLF defense team apparently declined to do so.
So Shipler admitting that objections to the Explanatory Memorandum were heard by both the trial and appellate court, and the apparent silence by the defense team on the matter during the trial itself, entirely refutes Shipler’s assertion that the document was never subject to an adversarial proceeding.
2) The Islamic groups named Explanatory Memorandum were admitted as hearsay as a Bush Administration legal ploy to deny them their day in court.
Again in his book, Shipler names the Bush administration as a leading part of the conspiracy to smear the Islamic groups named in the Explanatory Memorandum (pp. 193-194):
This guilt by association is based on the document’s [ed – the Explanatory Memorandum’s] twenty-year-old list of what its author consider “our organizations” and “our friends,” which the Bush administration’s Justice Department used to claim that the groups “are and/or were members of the US Muslim Brotherhood.” Their designation as unindicted co-conspirators was a handy prosecutorial tool, because the federal rule barring hearsay doesn’t apply to evidence from an alleged co-conspirator. The hearsay can be introduced and some prosecutors love to drive through that loophole. The technique is controversial, because those names have no opportunity to rebut the label and the government has no obligation to prove its accuracy.
Those unproven allegations about organizations’ ties to the Brotherhood, plus untested FBI reports, have been widely cited in the anti-Islam subculture. [emphasis added]
So according to Shipler’s tin-foil hat conspiracy, the evil Bush administration used legal tricks to enter the Explanatory Memorandum as hearsay, so the Islamic groups named could never challenge it, and the “anti-Islam subculture” could have a field day at their expense.
But here’s something that Shipler omits from his conspiracy: the Justice Department submitted these documents, and Judge Solis entered them into evidence, under Rule 801(d)2(E) of the Federal Rules of Evidence as statements made by a party’s co-conspirator.
As I noted previously, in Shipler’s book he quotes the defense attorneys admitting they challenged the Elbarasse documents as hearsay at both the trial court and Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals — claims that were roundly rejected by both courts.
In fact, the Fifth Circuit panel in its decision in the HLF appeal spends twelve pages (pp. 34-46) explaining their upholding that the Elbarasse documents, which included the Explanatory Memorandum, were NOT hearsay, as the defense argued, and were properly admitted under Rule 801(d)2(E). As the Fifth Circuit panel said (p. 46)
In sum, we conclude that the lawful joint venture theory is a viable theory of admissibility under Rule 801(d)(2)(E) and the anonymity of the documents here did not bar their admission because the evidence was sufficient to show the documents were created as part of a joint undertaking between the declarants and the defendants. The district court did not abuse its discretion in admitting the Elbarasse and Ashqar documents pursuant to Rule 801(d)(2)(E).
And as for the poor Islamic groups unjustly tarred by the Bush administration (according to Shipler), it should be noted that while they weren’t even defendants in the case, the Islamic groups were in fact given their day before his court to challenge their designation as unindicted co-conspirators.
Judge Solis heard the motions of the three groups who protested and ruled on it, even conceding that that the unindicted co-conspirator list should not have been made public, but finding that there was “ample evidence” tying the three groups who protested their designation to the Hamas conspiracy. When the Fifth Circuit separately examined his order on appeal, they concurred with the sole exception that Judge Solis’ sealed order should be unsealed.
So there is no legal basis for Shipler to claim that the Explanatory Memorandum was hearsay (two federal courts found otherwise), nor that the Islamic groups named in the document never had a chance to challenge their designation (both their motions and their appeals were heard and ruled on by the trial court and the Fifth Circuit).
3) That the judge failed to distinguish between the Explanatory Memorandum’s list of “our organizations” and “the organizations of our friends.”
Surprisingly, this is Shipler’s weakest objection. He believes he has caught Judge Solis in some judicial nonfeasance.
In the New Yorker article he hints at this point:
Two features of the memo are highlighted by the Islam watchers: first, its assertion that “the Ikhwan [Muslim Brotherhood] must understand that their work in America is a kind of grand jihad in eliminating and destroying the Western civilization from within,” and, second, “a list of our organizations and the organizations of our friends.”
Then, again, in his book (p. 190):
He also accepted the government’s assertions by citing the seized Elbarasse documents, including the Explanatory Memorandum, without testing their accuracy in an adversarial proceeding. He did not distinguish between the memo’s list of “our organizations” and “the organizations of our friends.” He ruled, “The Government had produced ample evidence to establish the associations of CAIR, ISNA [Islamic Society of North America], and NAIT [North American Islamic Trust] with HLF [Holy Land Foundation], the Islamic Association of Palestine (“IAP”), and with Hamas.” [emphasis added]
In a blatant dishonest move here, Shipler leaves the false impression that Solis ignored a distinction between two separate lists, erroneously lumping them in all together.
But in fact, as you can see in the screenshot below from the FBI’s translation of the list included with the Explanatory Memorandum found on the federal courts’ website, the document itself made no such division between “our organizations” and “the organizations of our friends”. They are all included together (p. 32, the original is found on p. 15):
And when he quotes Judge Solis saying there was “ample evidence” associating ISNA, NAIT and CAIR with the HLF-Hamas conspiracy, Shipler conveniently ignores that the judge continues on for another five pages in his decision (pp. 14-19) outlining all of the evidence presented in the case detailing their respective roles in the conspiracy and in direct support of the Explanatory Memorandum’s identification of them as one of “our [the Muslim Brotherhood’s] organizations.”
The Justice Department, too, in citing the Explanatory Memorandum, did not rely on it alone for identifying these organizations as part of the U.S. Muslim Brotherhood or the conspiracy to support Hamas (pp. 13-14):
At the end of the document, the memorandum lists those Muslim Brotherhood organizations that – if they all worked together – could help accomplish this grand objective. These organizations include ISNA, NAIT, the Occupied Land Fund (OLF )(the former name of the Holy Land Foundation), the Islamic Association for Palestine (IAP), the United Association for Studies and Research (UASR), and others. Id.
ISNA and NAIT, in fact, shared more with HLF than just a parent organization. They were intimately connected with the HLF and its assigned task of providing financial support to HAMAS. Shortly after HAMAS was founded in 1987, as an outgrowth of the Muslim Brotherhood, Govt. Exh. 21-61, the International Muslim Brotherhood ordered the Muslim Brotherhood chapters throughout the world to create Palestine Committees, whose job it was to support HAMAS with “media, money and men.” Govt. Exh. 3-15. The U.S.-Muslim Brotherhood created the U.S. Palestine Committee, which documents reflect was initially comprised of three organizations: the OLF (HLF), the IAP, and the UASR. CAIR was later added to these organizations. Govt. Exh. 3-78 (listing IAP, HLF, UASR and CAIR as part of the Palestine Committee, and stating that there is “[n]o doubt America is the ideal location to train the necessary resources to support the Movement worldwide . . .”). The mandate of these organizations, per the International Muslim Brotherhood, was to support HAMAS, and the HLF’s particular role was to raise money to support HAMAS’ organizations inside the Palestinian territories. Govt. Exh. 3-17 (objective of the Palestine Committee is to support HAMAS).
During the early years of the HLF’s operation, HLF raised money and supported HAMAS through a bank account it held with ISNA at NAIT. Govt. Exh. 5-1 through 5-14, 5-23, 5-24, 5-25, 5-26, 5-42. Indeed, HLF (under its former name, OLF) operated from within ISNA, in Plainfield, Indiana, where Defendant Shukri Baker was employed. Govt. Exh. 5-6, p. 3; 1-16. ISNA checks deposited into the ISNA/NAIT account for the HLF were often made payable to “the Palestinian Mujahadeen,” Govt. Exh. 5-23, 5-24, 5-25, the original name for the HAMAS military wing. Govt. Exh. 1-174. From that ISNA/NAIT account, the HLF sent hundreds of thousands of dollars to HAMAS leader Mousa Abu Marzook, Nadia Elashi (defendant Ghassan Elashi’s cousin and Marzook’s wife), Sheikh Ahmed Yassin’s Islamic Center of Gaza, the Islamic University, and a number of other individuals associated with HAMAS. Govt. Exh. 20-55, 20-56.
ISNA was also discussed during the 1993 Philadelphia conference, a meeting of the Palestine Committee convened to discuss the impact of the Oslo Accords. Govt. Exh. 16-47. During the conference, Palestine Committee members discussed using ISNA as official cover for their activities. Govt. Exh. 16-0059 at 10-11; 16-60. In short, evidence introduced during the course of a public trial demonstrates that ISNA and NAIT are indeed co-conspirators/joint venturers, and no relief that the Court can grant would alter the state of the record in that regard.9 [emphasis added]
In just this short section, the Justice Department cites more than 30 other government exhibits (!!!) confirming ISNA, NAIT and CAIR’s role in the conspiracy to provide “media, money and men” to Hamas. That includes nearly 300 pages of ISNA/NAIT payment ledgers and wire transfers to Hamas leaders, individuals and groups, and testimony from FBI Special Agent Lara Burns that CAIR operated as a front for Hamas.
All of this supports the statements made in the Explanatory Memorandum about the groups’ origins and operating under the direction of the international Muslim Brotherhood and the Brotherhood leadership in America.
So at this point, David Shipler should be ashamed to show his face. There’s no factual or legal dispute over this evidence, save for the post-legal whining from the HLF defendants, their attorneys and supporters. And David Shipler. This was all subject to examination and scrutiny in two federal court trials (the first resulted in a hung jury) and a federal appeals court. In terms of legal standards, the provenance, authority and relevance of the Explanatory Memorandum should be beyond question to any unbiased observer. It meets an evidentiary gold standard.
* * * * *
Shipler should stop here and slink away. But he doesn’t.
He calls into question the Justice Department and the federal court’s findings on the role of Mohamed Akram, the Explanatory Memorandum’s author.
In the New Yorker article, he writes dismissively about the role of Akram:
Rather, it appears to have been written as a plea to the Muslim Brotherhood leadership for action, by an author we know little about, Mohamed Akram. He is listed elsewhere as a secretary in the Brotherhood, but he writes in the tone of an underling.
And yet in his book he acknowledges (p. 197):
So there seems no doubt that Akram was a player in the Brotherhood. Whether that made him a figure of prominence and authority is an open question.
Was Mohamed Akram an underling, or a player? Shipler can’t apparently even get his own story straight.
As we’ve seen previously, the Justice Department identified Akram as a member of the U.S. Muslim Brotherhood’s governing shura council (p. 12):
The evidence introduced at trial, for example, established that ISNA and NAIT were among those organizations created by the U.S.-Muslim Brotherhood.8 Govt. Exh. 3-64 (seized from the home of HAMAS leader Ismail Elbarasse); Govt. Exh. 3-3 (Muslim Brotherhood document noting that ISNA was founded by the US-Muslim Brotherhood) ; Govt. Exh. 3-85 (1991 memorandum authored by U.S.-Muslim Brotherhood Shura Council member Mohamed Akram Adlouni… [emphasis added]
So, too, Judge Solis in his order on the motions by ISNA, NAIT and CAIR to be removed from the trial’s unindicted co-conspirator list (p. 15):
Government Exhibit 3-85 is titled “An Explanatory Memorandum on the General Strategic Goal for the Group in North America,” authored by Mohamed Akram of the Shura Council of the Muslim Brotherhood and dated May 22, 1991. (Gov’t Ex. 3-85 (Elbarasse 3) at 21.) [emphasis added]
As I’ve already covered, the Justice Department’s claims and the findings of Judge Solis about Akram’s role were, contra Shipler, subject to adversarial scrutiny by the HLF defense team on the trial court level and on appeal to the Fifth Circuit.
So was Mohamed Akram merely a “secretary in the Brotherhood,” as Shipler claims in the New Yorker piece?
In his book he acknowledges that there’s more to it than that (p. 196):
He appears in several documents seized in the Elbarasse raid, including an address book and an organization chart, as “committee secretary” for Palestine Action, as a member of the executive committee, and as “office secretary.”
But even then he is intentionally soft-selling the evidence. So let’s look at it.
First up is what Shipler describes as “an address book.” In fact, it was a Muslim Brotherhood leadership directory dated from 1992 – the year AFTER Mohamed Akram authored the Explanatory Memorandum.
In that directory, Akram is listed as a member of the U.S. Muslim Brotherhood board of directors (p. 2):
Shipler would have you believe that as “secretary,” Akram was nothing more than a clerk. But in terms of Muslim Brotherhood organization, e.g. ISNA, the U.S. Council of Muslim Organizations (USCMO), etc., the secretary-general is the chief executive in the organization.
So when the directory identifies Akram here as the “Amīn al-Maktab”, which the FBI translates as “Office Secretary,” it actually carries more considerable meaning in the Arabic, as chief or head. According to the Hans Wehr’s Dictionary of Modern Standard Arabic entry for “Amīn”:
What’s more likely, considering the full import of the Arabic title “Amīn” (i.e. the guy “in charge”), his other known roles as a top Muslim Brotherhood leader — a member of the board of directors and a member of the executive office — and what we know about the Muslim Brotherhood in America, as “secretary” he was probably the top official of the executive office of the organization.
But that’s not the only court document identifying Akram that Shipler is quick to breeze over.
A set of handwritten Muslim Brotherhood 1988 meeting minutes entered into evidence and available on the federal court’s website includes a spreadsheet of the Muslim Brotherhood leadership showing Akram on the shura council and in five other positions (p. 8):
So just a year after the Muslim Brotherhood Shura Council approved the 1987 “general strategic goal of the Group in America” that the Explanatory Memorandum says that it was derived from (p. 18), Mohamed Akram not only sat on the Shura Council, but held positions on the Muslim Brotherhood’s Planning Committee, it’s “Special Committee”, the Curriculum Committee, the Palestine Committee (responsible for providing “media, money and men” to Hamas), and a top-level committee identified only by it’s initials, QZT.
There is only one other individual listed, Omar Soubani, still a senior Muslim Brotherhood leader living in Lansing, Michigan, who at that time carried more responsibilities than Mohamed Akram.
Based on the court evidence readily available, at the time that the U.S. Muslim Brotherhood leadership established their program of “Enablement of Islam in North America” (1987), and Mohamed Akram was explicating the mission of that program in the Explanatory Memorandum as the “grand Jihad in eliminating and destroying the Western Civilization from within” (May 1991), Akram served as one of the most senior leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood in the U.S.
It’s not clear on what basis Shipler would try to challenge that conclusion, other than to keep pretending that these court documents don’t mean anything or that he’s carefully considered them and found them deficient. The onus is on him to refute this evidence.
Having cast facts aside, Shipler resorts to naked bravado. In his book he states (p. 195):
This is what happened in the case of the Explanatory Memorandum. The bottom line of of what I learned was this: The writings of the watchdogs of Islam who depend on the memo would not get past the fact checkers at The New York Times.
I understand he means that as an insult, but with the recent record of the New York Times “fact checkers,” that’s hardly a ringing endorsement. With Shipler’s journalist glory days long since behind him, I guess I can appreciate his attempt to make himself feel that he’s still part of the “gang.”
But since he went there, I would note that the Explanatory Memorandum and its importance in understanding the Muslim Brotherhood in America made it past the fact checkers of the Associated Press and the Dallas Morning News (which extensively covered the HLF trial).
AP reporter David Koenig, writing on the evidence in the trial, stated:
One of the documents is a memo about the goals for the U.S. organization of the U.S. faction of the Muslim Brotherhood, whose members included some of the Holy Land leaders now on trial.
The memo’s writer, Mohamed Akram, wrote that members of the Brotherhood “must understand that their work in America is a kind of grand Jihad in eliminating and destroying the Western civilization from within.”
Jason Trahan, one of the reporters assigned by the Dallas Morning News to cover the HLF trial, wrote an entire article on the implications of the Explanatory Memorandum:
The documents – introduced in recent weeks as part of the prosecution’s case in the trial of the now defunct Holy Land Foundation and five of its organizers – lay out the Brotherhood’s plans in chillingly stark terms.
A 1991 strategy paper for the Brotherhood, often referred to as the Ikhwan in Arabic, found in the Virginia home of an unindicted co-conspirator in the case, describes the group’s U.S. goals, referred to as a “civilization-jihadist process.”
“The Ikhwan must understand that their work in America is a kind of grand jihad in eliminating and destroying the Western civilization from within and sabotaging its miserable house by their hands and the hands of the believers so that it is eliminated and God’s religion is made victorious over all other religions,” it states. This process requires a “mastery of the art of ‘coalitions,’ the art of ‘absorption’ and the principles of ‘cooperation.'”
Success in the U.S. “in establishing an observant Islamic base with power and effectiveness will be the best support and aid to the global movement,” it states.
Then-DMN editor Rod Dreher also affirmatively pondered the implications of the document.
Trahan quoted Islamic officials spouting that same tired lines about the Explanatory Memorandum that Shipler now tries to recycle to even lesser effect.
In his book, Shipler titles his chapter supposedly debunking the Explanatory Memorandum as “The Protocols of the Elders of Islam,” invoking the notorious anti-Semitic forgery, “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion” (coincidentally, which can be found in many U.S. mosques and Islamic bookstores).
So I wonder how one senior Jewish leader who spoke out on the importance of the Explanatory Memorandum would feel being tarred with Shipler’s thinly-veiled racism accusations:
To argue that the Holy Land documents are old and outdated is hardly an excuse for their content, said Mark Briskman, regional director of the Dallas Anti-Defamation League, a pro-Jewish organization.
“The Hamas charter is dated, but the terrorists have never renounced that document,” he said, adding that it calls for the destruction of Israel. “The Constitution is dated, but we still follow it.”
“We’ve never seen a document like this,” he said. “That’s their plan for taking over Western civilization. This is the smoking gun. We think this is a document that needs to be understood and seen widely in the U.S.”
If anyone is guilty of a bigoted handling of the evidence related to the Explanatory Memorandum and the mountain of court documents/rulings in the HLF case, the finger unmistakenly points to Shipler and his appalling lack of journalistic standards.
He dismissively treats the findings of the Justice Department, as well as the federal trial and appellate courts, on the Explanatory Memorandum, which reach about the highest legal standard such evidence can get apart from a Supreme Court ruling (which denied cert to the HLF defendants). When he claims that the evidence was never subject to adversarial proceedings, he flatly contradicts himself and proves that it did. And his naked assertions about the role of Mohamed Akram in the leadership of the U.S. Muslim Brotherhood fly in the face of overwhelming court evidence. This really calls into question his pretense of objectivity. In the end, all he can do is try to play “gotcha” with his perceived “anti-Islam” enemies.
For the many reasons I’ve outlined here, Shipler’s failed “fact check” should rightly be called “The Protocols of the Elders of the Anti-Islam Movement.” And anyone trying to float his bogus assertions as important and compelling research should not be taken seriously.