Monday, October 22, 2007

Muslims, Money-Laundering, and a Mistrial

Holy Land Foundation Mistrial

The headlines were mostly of the "Mistrial For 5 Of 6 In Texas Terror-Funding Trial" variety. The Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development (HLF) had been giving money to legitimate-seeming Palestinian charities. Since HLF said it was helping Muslim families and children who were poor and/or homeless because of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, they had been pretty good at raising money. And, making friends among Muslims. The federal government said that HLF was laundering money for Hamas.

Since Hamas is a terrorist organization, this would be illegal. The American government froze Holy Land Foundation's assets, and has been trying several of its officials on 32 counts, including aiding a terrorist organization, conspiracy, money laundering and tax charges.

The trial has been long, and complicated. Apparently, the connection between the Palestinian charities and Hamas depended mostly on one man's testimony: a "a lawyer for the Israeli domestic security agency Shin Bet, who was allowed to testify under a pseudonym."

Now, it looks like there's been a mistrial. Three of the jurors said that the jury's verdict as read wasn't what they'd agreed on.

There's a gag order on the prosecution (and, I suppose, on the defense, too), so we don't know if the Federal government is planning to go for a retrial.

HLF and the Mideast Peace Process

The Holy Land Foundation has earned the FBI's attention at least as far back as 1993. That's when eavesdropping on a meeting in Philadelphia showed HLF participants supporting the Hamas goal of "derailing a peace agreement between Israel and Palestinians." Keeping the Israeli-Palestinian conflict going is a reasonable policy for HLF, from one point of view. Without all those poor, homeless children, they'd be out of a job.

CAIR Celebrates HLF Trial Non-Results

With HLF officials not-exactly-exonerated today, we're reading what we're supposed to think about it.

Here's what a civil rights organization had to say:

CAIR Speaks

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) Board Chairman Parvez Ahmed approved the jury's actions. Here's part of what he said:

"After 19 days of deliberation, the jurors did not return even a single guilty verdict on any of the almost 200 charges against these men, whose only 'crime' was providing food, clothing and shelter to Palestinian women and children. It seems clear that the majority of the jury agreed with many observers of the trial who believe the charges were built on fear, not facts. This is a stunning defeat for prosecutors and a victory for America's legal system."

He may be right.

Whether the HLF officials are guilty or not, this is the way the American judicial system is supposed to work: methodically and carefully. I don't know whether HLF is a front for terrorism, or the victim of circumstance - being in the wrong place, at the wrong time, doing the wrong things, with the wrong people.

The "fear, not facts" line got re-phrased by CAIR's executive director, Nihad Awad. The federal case "failed in Chicago, it failed in Florida, it failed in Texas," he said. "The reason it failed is the government does not have the facts; it has fear."

It's a good line. And, for me, evokes memories of Franklin D. Roosevelt's "we have nothing to fear, but fear itself."

However, there's more to a person, or an organization, than effective rhetoric. What they do, and why the do it, is important, too.

CAIR is an enthusiastic, maybe over-enthusiastic, upholder of what it calls Muslim rights: and quick to speak out against what it says are islamophobic acts. I've written about CAIR's forthright approach before:At least once, that I know of, CAIR quickly changed a page on their website: one calling people "bigots," when they didn't properly appreciate New York City's "Muslim Day" being celebrated a few days before the anniversary of 9/11.

CAIR may have a very good reason for wanting to see the HLF officials found not guilty: a reason beyond their battles against those they call islamophobes.

I found only one news source mentioning that the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) is one of a dozen or so Muslim groups named as unindicted co-conspirators. It's part of the AP story, but most news outlets seem to have decided to edit that detail out.

Why the relative silence on this point?

I could be wrong, but I'd guess that there are two major reasons why so many news outlets don't report the a major civil rights group (allegedly) helping the other side of the War on terror:
  • Most editorial boards are staunch supporters of civil rights, and the groups they think are supporting civil rights
  • CAIR has a marked tendency to identify any attack, real or imagined, on a Muslim person or group, as some sort of bigotry - at best

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Note! Although I believe that these websites and blogs are useful resources for understanding the War on Terror, I do not necessarily agree with their opinions. 1 1 Given a recent misunderstanding of the phrase "useful resources," a clarification: I do not limit my reading to resources which support my views, or even to those which appear to be accurate. Reading opinions contrary to what I believed has been very useful at times: sometimes verifying my previous assumptions, sometimes encouraging me to change them.

Even resources which, in my opinion, are simply inaccurate are sometimes useful: these can give valuable insights into why some people or groups believe what they do.

In short, It is my opinion that some of the resources in this blogroll are neither accurate, nor unbiased. I do, however, believe that they are useful in understanding the War on Terror, the many versions of Islam, terrorism, and related topics.