Interfaith speakers raise questions

By Dave Kopel

Rocky Mountain News. August 26, 2008

The Rocky Mountain News and Denver Post, as well as national media such as the Washington Post, covered the interfaith gathering at the Colorado Convention on Sunday. Much of the attention was given to brief disruptions by three anti-abortion advocates, one of whom shouted, "Obama supports the murder of children." But the reporting overlooked the questions raised about what Obama really thinks about people who murder children long after birth--questions that are particularly relevant in light of two of the people selected to address the prayer gathering.

One of the speakers was Sister Helen Prejean, a Catholic who is one of America's leading crusaders against the death penalty. She is the subject of the hagiographic movie Dead Man Walking. Sen. Obama, however, claims to support the death penalty. He goes so far as to say that he disagrees with the Supreme Court's recent decision forbidding the death penalty for crimes in which no one is killed (such as the rape of a child). Given Obama's (claimed) expansive support for the death penalty, the media ought to ask him why his convention prayer session featured a person whose main contribution to political debate in the United States is opposition to the death penalty in all circumstances, even for people who torture children to death after raping them.

Also speaking at the prayer session was Ingrid Mattson, President of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA). Last week, Frank Gaffney (a national security expert who worked for Democratic Senator Henry Jackson and for Republican President Ronald Reagan) wrote that Mattson's group is considered by the U.S. Department of Justice to be a front organizaton for the Muslim Brotherhood, and to be "an unindicted co-conspirator in a terrorism financing conspiracy."

As reported by the New York Sun, federal prosecutors described ISNA as an unindicted co-conspirator in a case brought against officers of the Holy Land Foundation, alleging that the Holy Land Foundation funneled money to Hamas. At a 2007 trial, the jury returned an acquittal on some charges, and deadlocked on others. A re-trial on the remaining charges is scheduled to begin in September.

In contrast to Hamas and (allegedly) the Holy Land Foundation, the Muslim Brotherhood does not participate in terrorism, but instead seeks to impose totalitarian Islamic Sharia law worldwide; it is considered by some (including much of the U.S. State Department) to be a "moderate" organization, in that it does not engage in terrorism.

Putting aside the ties of Mattson and her organization to the Muslim Brotherhood and to the Holy Land Foundation, the extremist nature of her group has been condemned by other American Muslims. An Aug. 25 follow-up article by Gaffney a joint letter signed by the American Muslim Congress, the Aafaq Foundation, the Center for Islamic Pluralism, the American Islamic Forum for Democracy, and the International Quranic Center.

They charged that ISNA "has a long history of association with extremist trends in Islam. ISNA has served as a front group for Wahhabism, the official sect in the kingdom of Saudi Arabia; the jihadist ideologies originating in Pakistan with the writings of a certain Mawdudi and the Deoband schools in that country - the latter of which produced the Afghan Taliban, and the Ikhwan al-Muslimun, or Muslim Brotherhood." They claimed that ISNA promate a radicalism that, regardless of ISNA's rhetorical claims, is fundamentally hostile to Jews and suppresses the intellectual and social development of Muslims."

So why did the Obama campaign decide to showcase Ingrid Mattson of ISNA at the prayer meeting? What makes her so much more appealing to the Obama campaign than any other alternative Muslim speaker? The press should have asked.

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