September 18, 2001
New York may be Ground Zero for the World
Trade Center (WTC) victims, but I live at Ground Zero for those who aid
and abet the
Southeastern Michigan is home to the largest concentration of Arabs outside the Middle East. It's insulting for peaceful, tolerant Americans to hear every news anchor and even President Bush call for them not to physically attack Arab-Americans. While we've heard trumped up complaints that they've been harassed over the past few days, it's the exact opposite. As an attorney who has successfully represented Arab-Americans in civil rights cases, it's my view we've been far too tolerant.
Arab-American and Muslim leaders have done everything possible to stand up for known terrorists and hamper law enforcement efforts to keep us safe. They defend the vilification of the West by terrorist groups, even though they live here and benefit greatly from it. And, without question, the terrorists who succeeded last week could not have done so without the help of some of my Arab neighbors. They could not have done so without brazenly exacting our safety from politicians all the way to the White House.
To be sure, most Arab- and Muslim-Americans are decent, hard-working, law-abiding Americans who want strong national security. Fouad Ajami of Johns Hopkins University and WND.com Editor in Chief Joseph Farah – who regularly risk their lives to expose terrorism and hatred in the Middle East, as did the late Seifeldin Ashmawy – make me extra proud to be an American. I take pride in patriotic Cleveland Browns fullback, Tarek Saleh, and moderate, tolerant Islamic leader W. Deen Mohammed.
And, besides those who died or were injured
and their family and friends, my heart most goes out to the over 250,000
Assyrian-Americans who live here. A Catholic minority primarily from Iraq, they were persecuted by Saddam Hussein, and now, their numbers are shamelessly claimed by Arab groups with whom they don't identify, for political and financial gain. Chaldeans are among the most patriotic, decent Americans I know. Now, because they have Middle Eastern looks and names, some may be wrongfully blamed.
But then there are those Arab- and Muslim-American leaders that allow terrorists from their communities to flourish in this country and actively defend them. They oppose reasonable measures to prevent terrorism here and support those living here that are suspected of committing and/or facilitating it. Arab and Muslim leaders, like Arab American Institute head Jim Zogby and Arab-American News publisher Osama Siblani, actively oppose the use of secret evidence and racial profiling for terrorists. Secret evidence, intelligence from agents abroad about individuals' involvement with terrorist groups, is the strongest counter-terrorism tool we have in matters involving the entry into the U.S. of potential terrorists. The evidence cannot be revealed because it will ompromise U.S. foreign intelligence gathering and result in the certain death of our agents.
But thanks to the pressure of the Arab community, it is rarely successfully used, and federal agents are crippled without it.
President Bush kowtowed to the Arab community here and then-senator and now Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham, an Arab American, campaigning against both secret evidence and racial profiling of Arabs. "The present administration has pursued policies that, in practice, have adversely affected your community," Bush said in a campaign video to Arab-Americans regarding secret evidence and profiling, according to The New Republic. Once in office, in his first address to a joint session of Congress, Bush spoke about ending the practices, and in February, he issued a directive to Attorney General Ashcroft, ordering him to "work in cooperation with state and local law enforcement in order to assess the extent and nature of any such practices." With secret evidence and profiling in place, we could have prevented many of Tuesday's terrorists from entering the U.S. But Arab American leaders actively defend and support many suspected terrorists, primarily Muslims, who are charged as terrorists by INS officials.
But even without profiling, Arab-American leaders dismiss even the strongest cases against Arab-American terrorists with the convenient "profiling" label. In November, the FBI's joint counter-terrorism unit and U.S. Customs agents caught Arab-American brothers, Ali and Mike Boumelhem, trying to ship weapons and weapons parts to Hezbollah terrorists in Lebanon, intercepting them at the Ambassador Bridge to Canada. In 1982, Hezbollah killed 240 U.S. Marines in Lebanon. Hezbollah also tortured, murdered and hung the body of U.S. military attaché Col. Higgins on display. Ditto with the U.S. Embassy in Lebanon's CIA Agent Butler.
But U.S. District Judge George Caram Steeh, an Arab American, ordered Mike Boumelhem released on an unsecured bond and dismissed two counts in the indictment, because a witness recanted. And rather than hailing this anti-terrorism success by law enforcement, the bust – the culmination of tips from FBI-informants and an extensive nine-month investigation – was quickly attacked by Arab leaders Siblani and Adrian Baydoun, as profiling. Siblani's wife, M. Kay Siblani, also an officer of his Arab American News, is an official of the Council on American Islamic Relations, a group that actively defends Arab terrorist groups, Hamas, Hezbollah, and others that kill Americans.
In 1997, Detroit Arab leaders objected to the official release of the State Department list of terrorist groups. Siblani told the Detroit Free Press that Hezbollah does "wonders for the Lebanese." American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee legal director Houeida Saad announced the group was preparing legal challenges to antiterrorism laws that prohibited donations to terrorist groups. Ismael Ahmed, executive director of the Arab Community Center for Economic and Social Services said it would be hard to find Arab Americans who didn't support at least one of the groups.
In June 2000, Arab American leaders objected to most proposals of the National Commission on Terrorism, including monitoring of foreign students, fund-raising in the U.S. by terrorist groups, and involvement of the military in domestic terrorism cases, according to the Detroit Free Press. Imad Hamad, regional director for the ADC, who objected to the anti-terrorism measures, was a suspected terrorist the INS wanted to deport, but is now a U.S. citizen, thanks to Arab-American political pressure against the use of secret evidence.
Don't blame federal agents for Tuesday's
lapse in national security. Blame my neighbors – the Arab American and
Muslim leaders who've actively blocked the fight against terrorism for
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