Politics and the First Lady

Will Muslims in New York make her pay at the polls?

“Practically every congressman and senator says his prayers to the AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs) lobby…they have done an enormous job of corrupting the American democratic process.” – Former Under Secretary of State and UN Ambassador, George Ball

I read with interest and I must confess, some amusement, the October 26 reports that appeared in two New York online news services – the Daily News (“Israel Foes Give Hil 50G: Muslim Group backs Palestinian use of force,” by Larry Cohler-Esses); and the New York Times (“Mrs. Clinton Says She Will Return Money Raised by a Muslim Group,” by Dean E. Murphy).

At the heart of the matter are two issues having to do with campaign contributions and the need to look politically acceptable. According to the reports, the American Muslim Alliance proudly boasted of raising $50,000 in June for Hillary Rodham Clinton’s New York Senate campaign, and Abdurahman Alamoudi (a principle founder of the American Muslim Council) contributed $1,000 the month before.

In one report AMA stands accused of having a website with, “photos of a 12 year old boy killed by Israeli troops in Gaza this month under the title, ‘The Real Face of Israel.” In the other report AMA’s president (Agha Saeed) was singled out for “defending a United Nations resolution that he said allowed for the use of armed force by Palestinians against Israel, while other [AMA] members have been accused of making anti-Semitic remarks.” Al Amoudi’s transgression was in defending the Palestinian resistance organization known as Hamas.

At a press conference in Queens, Mrs. Clinton is reported to have said, “The statements that are attributed to the organization [American Muslim Alliance] and some of its members are offensive and outrageous. I don’t want anyone to be under a mis-impression. I don’t want anyone to have a false idea about what I believed was the case, so I am going to return all of the money.”

In response to Rep. Rick Lazio campaign headquarters’ criticism of Mrs.Clinton playing host to several White House receptions attended by “people opposed to the peace process in the Middle East,” her response was: “Over the course of the last seven years, as part of the administration’s efforts to open lines of communication and build bridges with Muslim-Americans and Muslim leaders from all over the world, many people have been invited to the White House. They were part of the effort taken by this administration to help facilitate the peace negotiations that all of us hoped would achieve a comprehensive peace agreement.” Clinton campaign spokesman Howard Wolfson added, “Obviously, Hillary strongly disagrees with them. I would hope [attendance at such meetings] would mainstream their views.”

There we have it. While some Muslims were of the view that the Clinton Administration represented a new openness to the Muslim community, Mrs. Clinton revealed what that “new openness” was really all about; lining up Muslim American support for the so-called “Peace Process” and other US initiatives abroad. Mrs Clinton’s crass politics are even more revealing when viewed in the light of the endorsement that she had already received just a few days earlier.

On October 22, Clinton received perhaps the most influential endorsement in all New York State, that of the New York Times editorial board. The endorsement read in part, “With full respect for their abilities, we endorse Mrs. Clinton as the one candidate who will best fill the vast gap that will be left in the Senate and within the Democratic Party by the retirement of Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan. The Times lauded her “empathy for the struggles of poor families, school children and professionals in the healthcare, education and social service fields.” Her position on the present crisis in Occupied Palestine, however, reveals how selective such “empathy” can be. Not only did Clinton decide to attend a Zionist organized October 12th rally in New York, but she also addressed words of solidarity and support for the brutal repression aimed at Palestinian stone throwers; then totally ignored the Muslim rally held the following day (she didn’t even choose to send a representative to express “empathy” for innocent lives lost).

The New York Times stated, “On foreign policy, Mr. Lazio and Mrs. Clinton have presented themselves as firm friends of Israel…” One can imagine what Clinton had to say in her recent speech to the Council on Foreign Relations. Indeed, as is the case with one of her most prominent “proud supporters,” Nobel prize winner Elie Wiesel, Mrs. Clinton has shown herself to be a hypocrite where it comes to human rights. And as we have seen in the past, with President and Hillary Clinton’s abandonment of such “friends” as Lani Guinier and Jocelyn Elders, the Clintons religiously abide by the political maxim: “There are no permanent friends, only interests.”

Abdurahman Alamoudi has been a true friend of the Clinton Administration, sometimes receiving strong criticism for it. He is among those who have chosen to believe that the Clinton-Gore Administration has been good for Muslims in America. I am among those who strongly disagree; it’s been my conviction that Clinton-Gore has been one of the most disastrous administrations for Muslims in recent memory. This reality can be deduced from yet another reality: the State of Israel, along with its American lobby, consider the Clinton-Gore Administration to be the “best friend” they have ever had in the White House.

For someone like Alamoudi to be publicly rebuked in this manner by Mrs. Clinton, while the likes of widely discredited Islamophobe Steven Emerson is elevated to a position of someone to listen to, should be insulting to all Muslims. Had Alamoudi been the type of “Muslim” who completely surrendered his Islamic identity at the altar of political expediency, such an insult would never have happened. But because he is a Muslim who speaks his conscience, even when supporting the wrong candidate (none of us are perfect), he can be shoddily dismissed in this fashion when his usefulness is no more. This should be a wakeup call for all Muslims operating in the political arena! (And Muslims in New York should hold Clinton accountable.)

To my brother Tahir Ali (reported chair of the Massachusetts American Muslim Alliance), if the report attributed to you is accurate, you and your colleagues should think more deeply about your approach to political involvement. The Daily News quoted you as follows: “The idea is to win the election, so she [Clinton] must change her tune. But that doesn’t mean anything. It’s just at the spur of the moment that she must say these things, and we understand that.” Don’t be an apologist for those who betray their trusts, brother. Learn the lesson and be wise (Islamically grounded): There are no permanent friends in this game, only interests.- El-Hajj Mauri’ Saalakhan