Earlier this month, Ufuk Gokcen, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation's permanent United Nations observer, took issue with the Investigative Project on Terrorism's report exposing the radical record of Sheikh Abdullah Bin Bayyah.
Bin Bayyah is vice president of radical, virulently anti-Semitic Egyptian cleric Yusuf al-Qaradawi's International Union of Muslim Scholars. But that connection, and Bin Bayyah's statements in support of terrorists, was not enough to dissuade the Obama administration from welcoming Bin Bayyah to the White House in June.
In a column published by The Hill, Gokcen argued Bin Bayyah is really a moderate, and an appropriate outreach partner for the White House. Gokcen's column can be seen here. The Hill published our reply Wednesday:
We were amused by Ufuk Gokcen's recent defense of Sheikh Abdullah bin Bayyah as being "among the leading moderate voices in the Muslim world." It was in response to our reporting showing bin Bayyah's radical record – a record that was apparently overlooked in the White House when it welcomed the sheikh to a meeting in June.
It is worth noting that Ambassador Gokcen serves as the Organization of Islamic Cooperation's Permanent Observer to the United Nations. Among the OIC's key ambitions is an international blasphemy law – a concept which could not be more at odds with American ideals of free speech codified in the First Amendment. Criminalizing speech critical of a religion may not be violent, but in American society it is radical.
In his column, Ambassador Gokcen didn't challenge any of the examples showing bin Bayyah's radicalism in our original reporting. Rather, other people said nice things about him, so that must be true.
But this is the same sheikh who advocates that Muslims satisfy their charitable obligations by giving their money to "fighters in the cause of Allah" (those undertaking a military jihad) to "buy weapons." Lest anyone think he meant some kind of last-ditch line of defense, bin Bayyah also has issued a blanket condemnation of terror-financing prosecutions, calling them "sham propaganda."
The largest terror financing prosecution in U.S. history targeted the Texas-based Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development. While the charity and its defenders echoed bin Bayyah's sentiments, saying they sought only to aid needy widows and orphans, a federal judge who presided over the charity's prosecution came to a different conclusion.
"The purpose of creating the Holy Land Foundation was as a fundraising arm for Hamas," U.S. District Judge Jorge Solis said in 2009.
Bin Bayyah personally endorsed having "Muslim rulers" support Hamas and other Palestinian terrorist groups in Gaza militarily, in addition to other ways.
"Muslim rulers are required to rescue their fellow Muslims in many ways, through financial, military and diplomatic support. Everything should be done to stop this terrible, ongoing massacre in Gaza," Bin Bayyah wrote in April 2013. The posting was removed from his website following the release of IPT's June 26 report about Bin Bayyah's White House visit.
"I also call upon our Palestinian brothers to unite all resistance movements in the same name and under the same banner. And it is the duty of all Arabs to help them in the name of Islam, logic, pan-Arabism and humanity," bin Bayyah said.
In 2011, bin Bayyah criticized Western terrorist designations for placing "Palestinian resistance" groups such as Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad in the same classification as "intercontinental terrorist organizations" like al-Qaida.
And, as we reported in June, this ideology fits in well with the International Union of Muslim Scholars (IUMS), where bin Bayyah has served as vice president for nine years. The IUMS welcomed Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh to its ranks last year. It is headed by Egyptian cleric Yusuf al-Qaradawi, who is considered so radical he has been denied entry into the United States.
Qaradawi has cast the Holocaust as Allah's punishment against Jews and prayed for the chance to "shoot Allah's enemies, the Jews," before he dies to "seal my life with martyrdom."
During bin Bayyah's tenure, the IUMS issued a 2004 fatwa calling "resistance" – or attacks on American troops -- a "duty" for able Muslims in and outside Iraq. A 2009 IUMS fatwa prohibited any political, economic and cultural interaction between Muslims and Israel as "a form of loyalty to the enemy, which is religiously prohibited."
These are but a few examples of the radical ideas promoted by bin Bayyah and the IUMS. Despite this record, Ambassador Gokcen insists to The Hill's readers that bin Bayyah is the kind of moderate the United States needs to embrace.
That begs a question: Moderate relative to what, exactly?
Emerson is the founder and executive director of the Investigative Project on Terrorism.and Rossomando is an IPT senior analyst.