Written by Andrew C. McCarthy
Senator John McCain’s claim that concerns about Huma Abedin are a smear based on “a few unspecified and unsubstantiated associations” proves more embarrassing by the day. In fact, to the extent it addressed Ms. Abedin, the letter sent to the State Department’s inspector general by five House conservatives actually understated the case.
The letter averred that Abedin “has three family members – her late father, her mother and her brother – connected to Muslim Brotherhood operatives and/or organizations.” It turns out, however, that Abedin herself is directly connected to Abdullah Omar Naseef, a major Muslim Brotherhood figure involved in the financing of al Qaeda. Abedin worked for a number of years at the Institute for Muslim Minority Affairs, as assistant editor of its journal. The IMMA was founded by Naseef, who remained active in it for decades, overlapping for several years with Abedin. Naseef was also secretary general of the Muslim World League in Saudi Arabia, perhaps the most significant Muslim Brotherhood organization in the world. In that connection, he founded the Rabita Trust, which is formally designated as a foreign terrorist organization under American law due to its support of al Qaeda.
You ought to be able to stop right there. A person is not required to have done anything wrong to be denied a high-ranking government position or, more immediately, the security clearance allowing access to classified information that is necessary to function in such a job. There simply need be associations, allegiances or interests that establish a potential conflict of interest.
Government jobs and access to the nation’s secrets are privileges, not rights. That is why the potential conflict needn’t stem from one’s own associations with hostile foreign countries, organizations or persons. Vicarious associations, such as one’s parents’ connections to troublesome persons and organizations, are sufficient to create a potential conflict.
In this instance, however, before you even start probing the extensive, disturbing Brotherhood ties of her family members, Huma Abedin should have been ineligible for any significant government position based on her own personal and long-standing connection to Naseef’s organization.
Specifically, Ms. Abedeen was affiliated with the Institute of Muslim Minority Affairs, where she was assistant editor of the Journal of Muslim Minority Affairs. The journal was the IMMA’s raison d’etre. Abedin held the position of assistant editor from 1996 through 2008 – i.e., from when she began working as an intern in the Clinton White House until shortly before she took her current position as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s deputy chief of staff.
The IMMA was founded in the late Seventies by Abdullah Omar Naseef, who was then the vice president of the prestigious King Abdulazziz University in Saudi Arabia. The IMMA’s chief product was to be its journal. For the important position of managing editor, Naseef recruited his fellow academic, Zyed Abedin, who had been a visiting professor at the university in the early Seventies.
To join the IMMA, Dr. Abedin moved his family, including infant daughter Huma (born in 1976), to Saudi Arabia from Kalamazoo, Michigan. Zyed’s wife, Saleha Mahmood Abedin (Huma’s mother), is also an academic and worked for the journal from its inception. She would eventually take it over after her husband died in 1993, and she remains its editor to this day. Huma Abedin’s brother, Hassan, another academic, is an associate editor at the journal.
The journal began publishing in 1979. For its initial edition, Abdullah Omar Naseef – identified in the masthead as “Chairman, Institute of Muslim Minority Affairs” – penned a brief introduction, relating the IMMA’s vision for the journal. Zyed Abedin appeared as managing editor in the journal’s second edition in 1979, proclaiming in a short introduction his “deep appreciation to H.E. Dr. Abdullah O. Naseef, President, King Abdulaziz University, for his continued guidance, support, and encouragement.” (I am indebted to the Center for Security Policy, which obtained some copies of the journal, going back many years.)
Not long after the journal started, Naseef became the secretary-general of the Muslim World League, the Saudi-financed global propagation enterprise by which the Muslim Brotherhood’s virulently anti-Western brand of Islamist ideology is seeded throughout the world, very much including in the United States. We are not talking here about some random imam in the dizzying alphabet soup of Islamist entities. In the pantheon of Islamic supremacism, there are few positions more critical than secretary general of the Muslim World League. In fact, one of the MWL’s founders was Sa’id Ramadan, the right-hand and son-in-law of Hassan al-Banna, the Brotherhood’s legendary founder.
The MWL manages the “civilization jihad” – the Brotherhood’s commitment to destroy the West from within, and to “conquer” it by sharia proselytism (or dawa), as Sheikh Yusuf Qaradawi, the Brotherhood’s top sharia jurist puts it. Nevertheless, the MWL has a long history of deep involvement in violent jihad as well. It was under MWL auspices in 1988 that Naseef created a “charity” called the Rabita Trust. The scare-quotes around “charity” are intentional. To direct the Rabita Trust, Naseef selected Wael Hamza Jalaidan. A few years earlier, Jalaidan had joined with Osama bin Laden to form al Qaeda.
This would surprise you only if you waste your time listening to John McCain, 2012 Model – as opposed to John McCain, 2011 Model, who professed himself “unalterably opposed” to the Muslim Brotherhood. Under the Brotherhood’s interpretation of sharia, which is explained in such works as Reliance of the Traveller: A Classic Manual of Islamic Sacred Law, all Muslims are supposed to donate a portion of their income. This obligation, known as zakat, is usually referred to as “charity” by Islamists and their Western pom-pom waivers. But it is not charity; it is fortification of the ummah – the notional global community of Muslims.
As Reliance instructs, zakat can only be given to Muslims, and one-eighth of it is supposed to be donated to “those fighting for Allah, meaning people engaged in Islamic military operations for whom no salary has been allotted in the army roster.” Remember that the next time you hear the ubiquitous claim that Muslim charities are being misused as “fronts” for terrorism. This is not a “misuse” and they are not “fronts.” Under sharia, the streaming of donations to violent jihadists is quite intentional.
A month after the 9/11 attacks, Naseef’s Rabitah Trust was formally designated as a foreign terrorist organization by the United States government. Ultimately, branches of the al-Haramain Islamic Foundation and the International Islamic Relief Organization – other “charities” with roots in the MWL – were also designated as foreign terrorist organizations under federal law. This, too, should have been not surprise. In 2003, in connection with a terrorism prosecution in Chicago, the Justice Department proffered that Osama bin Laden had told his aide Jamal al-Fadl that the Muslim World League was one of al Qaeda’s three top funding sources. (Fadl later renounced al Qaeda and cooperated with federal prosecutors.)
Throughout the time that he ran the MWL and the Rabita Trust, Naseef kept his hand in at the IMMA. In fact, he continued to be listed on the masthead as a member of the “advisory editorial board” at the IMMA’s journal until 2003. We might hazard a guess why his name disappeared after that: In 2004, he was named as a defendant in the civil case brought by victims of the 9/11 atrocities. (In 2010, a federal court dropped him from the suit – not because he was found uninvolved but because, a judge reasoned, the American court lacked personal jurisdiction over him.)
Huma Abedin was affiliated with the IMMA’s journal for a dozen years, from 1996 through 2008. She overlapped with its founder, Naseef, for at least seven years – it could be more, but I am assuming for argument’s sake that Naseef had no further involvement in his institute once his name was removed from the masthead.
Now, the case against Ms. Abedin’s suitability for a high-level position with access to the nation’s secrets gets much worse if you add in her family ties. To summarize what I’ve already outlined here at Ordered Liberty: her parents were recruited by Naseef to head up the IMMA; her mother is an active member of Muslim Brotherhood organizations – including the Muslim Sisterhood and two entities that are part of Sheikh Qaradawi’s Union of Good, another designated terrorist organization; there is persuasive evidence that her father was a member of the Brotherhood – e.g., the intimate tie to Naseef and his widow’s membership in the Muslim Sisterhood (which is substantially comprised of wives and female relatives of prominent Muslim Brothers); her mother is a tireless advocate of sharia law as preached by Qaradawi and the Brotherhood; and her brother, who is also affiliated with the IMMA’s journal, was a fellow at an Islamist institute (the Oxford Center for Islamic Studies) on whose board sat both Naseef and Qaradawi.
Nevertheless, the family ties to the Brotherhood only further elucidate what is already patent: Huma Abedin’s connection to Abdullah Omar Naseef, by itself, would have been more than enough justification to deny her a security clearance. That would have made it inconceivable that she could serve as deputy chief of staff to the secretary of state.
Ms. Abedin has very disturbing connections to the Muslim Brotherhood. Though she is not a policymaker, she is an important adviser, and during her three-year tenure, federal government policy has radically shifted in the Brotherhood’s favor – to the point that the Obama administration is not only embracing the previously shunned Brotherhood but issuing visas to members of formally designated terrorist organizations.
The question is not whether the five House conservatives were off-base in asking for an investigation into ties between administration officials and Islamist organizations. The question is why the other 430 members of the House haven’t joined them – and why John McCain, John Boehner and other Republican establishment luminaries are championing the Muslim Brotherhood’s side of the dispute.
Andrew C. McCarthy is the author of the New York Times bestsellers The Grand Jihad and Willful Blindness. He is a contributing editor at National Review and co-chairs the Center for Law & Counterterrorism at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. He also writes the Ordered Liberty blog at PJMedia.com.
Follow him on Twitter @AndrewCMcCarthy