Are Arab-American groups anything other than apologists for the extremists among their number? Where are their loyalties, with the terrorists or the United States?
This question arises in wake of the 150-page federal indictment of former University of South Florida Professor Sami Amin Al-Arian and three others on 50 counts of terrorist-related charges. The indictment covers 14 years of alleged activities on behalf of an officially cited terrorist organization, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad. The PIJ takes credit for numerous suicide murders in Israel, including killing Americans.
More specifically, the indictment alleges that Al-Arian was a U.S.-based mastermind raising money for and organizing terrorist networks around the world, and that he used his influential professorship to gain visas for other terrorists to enter the United States.
One of his colleagues, Ramadan Abdullah Shallah, who was also included in the indictment, left the university in 1996 only to surface days later in Syria as the new secretary general of PIJ.
Even before last week's indictment, Al-Arian was notorious for his hate-filled anti-American, anti-Semitic statements. As a guest speaker in 1998 at the American Muslim Council, Al-Arian spoke of Jews as "monkeys and pigs." At another fund-raiser he begged "for $500 to kill a Jew."
Now, one would think that when the stinging indictment of Al-Arian and his co-conspirators was handed down, that mainstream Arab and Muslim groups would distance themselves from this guy like he was radioactive. America-first Arab-Muslim groups could show their loyalty to the nation by denouncing the terrorist acts charged in the indictment. Yes, they could insist that the suspects get a fair trial, but for heaven's sake leave defense of the suspected terrorists to the lawyers.
Instead, groups like the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the American Muslim Council, the Muslim American Society and others issued statements ignoring the enormous crimes charged in the indictment and instead whined that Muslims were being unfairly singled out by federal law enforcement.
They even implied that Al-Arian's arrest was "political" and that he's a "victim" of discriminatory law enforcement because he's a Palestinian. Talk about missing the point!
We can't imagine any mainstream Jewish group, like B'Nai Brith or the Anti-Defamation League, springing to the defense of violent radicalism in their midst. You don't see these organizations standing up for Jewish Defense League violence or for Jonathan Pollard, the American spy rotting in prison for selling top-secret information to the Israeli government.
American Jews understand when moderation tips over into extremism. It's time Arab-Americans learned the difference, too.