The Iran Nuclear Deal’s American Islamist Supporters
The White House is claiming victory in the fight over the Iranian nuclear deal following Thursday’s Senate vote, which fell short of the votes needed to stop a Democratic filibuster blocking an up-or-down vote on the deal.
Critics continue to express concerns that the agreement paves the way for Iran to eventually develop nuclear weapons. And it is beyond dispute that the agreement will fuel the Islamic Republic with as much as $150 billion in relief from what had been crippling economic sanctions. That money can be used to fund terror proxies seeking to attack Israel.
Those concerns prompted the U.S. House on Friday to reject the Iran deal by a vote of 162-269.
It is little surprise, therefore, that the deal enjoys strong support from prominent American Islamists with a history of support for Iran, or who espouse rabid anti-Israel rhetoric, including radicals who see Zionist conspiracies at nearly every turn.
Imam Hassan Qazwini
At the forefront of support for the nuclear deal is radical Shia cleric Imam Hassan Qazwini who serves as scholar and religious leader at the Islamic Center of America in Dearborn, Michigan. During a July 17 sermon at the Az-Zahraa Islamic Center in Detroit, Qazwini hailed the Iran nuclear deal as a “victory for Muslims” and a “victory for Iran.” While he applauded the patience of Iranian nuclear negotiators and commended President Barack Obama “for taking this courageous stand,” he rebuked Israel and Saudi Arabia for opposing the deal.
“Israel was extremely upset,” he said. “[Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu] was hysterical, was fuming, he was furious over last few days because of this agreement. He was so upset why the United States and the other five superpowers accepted a peaceful solution to this problem. Why? Because Mr. Netanyahu is not interested in peace; he seeks war.”
Further, Qazwini claimed that Israel would benefit from a war between the U.S. and Iran: “So, basically Netanyahu wants the United States to go to war with Iran while Israel stands idle, watching. Netanyahu wants the United States to pay the price, a heavy price, to send its troops, and to get involved in a messy war, so the Israeli interest are [sic] protected. I’m not surprised by Netanyahu because Netanyahu is nothing but poison and poison does not generate [anything] but poison.” He called Saudi Arabia, a Sunni majority country, “traitors to the interests of the Muslim Ummah” and accused the Sunni nation of spending millions of dollars “to sabotage Iran and to attack the Shia school of thought.”
Qazwini has a long history of support of terrorists and other radicals. In a 2004 speech that is still publicly available on his personal website under “Speeches/Friday Sermons,” Qazwini praised Shia Muslims for “carrying the banner of resistance against the evil forces in the Muslim ummah” and claimed “that the majority of Muslim governments have submitted to the will of the United States and the Zionists.”
Qazwini has also proclaimed the supremacy of Sharia over Western law: “You have to respect the laws of the land in which you live, however when it comes to a point where Allah is publically being disobeyed or challenged, then you should have no respect to any law. Allah’s law comes first… Allah comes first, no government comes before Allah …”
Hatem Bazian, another deal proponent, is founding chairman of a radical anti-Israeli organization, the American Muslims for Palestine (AMP), and co-founder of the Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), a group with many campus chapters that campaign for divestment from Israel. In an opinion piece in the Turkish national daily Daily Sabah, Bazian blamed the American Israel Public Affairs Committee and other pro-Israel groups, “including the same neo-conservative groups that pushed for the Iraq war” for “whipping the American public into shape to oppose President Obama’s Iran deal.”
In 2004, Bazian called on Americans to create a violent uprising at home similar to the Palestinian intifada.
“Are you angry? …Well, we’ve been watching intifada in Palestine, we’ve been watching an uprising in Iraq, and the question is that what are we doing? How come we don’t have an intifada in this country,” Bazian said. “It’s about time that we have an intifada in this country that change[s] fundamentally the political dynamics in here. And we know every – They’re gonna say some Palestinian [is] being too radical – well, you haven’t seen radicalism yet.”
More recently, at an AMP event at the University of California, Santa Cruz, in November, Bazian seemed to justify Palestinian terrorism: “Palestine is the victim that is being victimized once again by actually blaming them for the fact that they respond. Palestinians’ response to settler colonialism has been identical to every colonized people’s response when they are confronted by the colonization process.”
Institute of Contemporary Islamic Thought (ICIT)
In a recent article in the Crescent International, a publication of the pro-Iran, Washington-based Institute of Contemporary Islamic Thought (ICIT), Zafar Bangash praised Iran’s leadership for striking a deal that grants Iran relief while still holding the line against the West.
“The Rahbar [Islamic title meaning ‘Leader’ and is in reference to Imam Seyyed Ali Khamenei], however, has made clear that even if — a big if — the JCPOA is approved, there would be no opening of Iran for U.S. penetration. ‘We will firmly block their way. We will not allow the US to make economic, political or cultural inroads into the country. We will counter such infiltration with all our power.’ The Rahbar went on, ‘We should first identify the enemy’s intentions and then counter their objectives through planning.’
This is the wisest course of action to pursue with the US that the late Imam Khomeini had described as Shaytan-e Buzurg (the Great Satan). This was not an emotional outburst but an accurate understanding of the true nature of the US.”
Another article in the ICIT’s Crescent International by Tahir Mustafa noted that the nuclear deal marks Iran’s recognition “as a leading regional power that cannot be cowed by military threats or sanctions.” He added: “After the Islamic Revolution in Iran in 1979, Islamic Iran had become the leading edge of the Islamic movement. Those without blinkers on their eyes had recognized this a long time ago. Others have just woken up to this fact. The US, the leading imperialist and militarist power in the world, has also had to eat humble pie and admit to this reality.”
Mustafa, however, warned that “American and European officials are notorious for breaking promises, even signed before the entire world.” He also describes Saudi Arabia and Israel as “pariah regimes [that] cannot live in peace with others, especially [an] Islamic Iran that refuses to surrender its rights to any worldly power.”
“Not surprisingly the two illegitimate regimes, one occupying the holy land of the Arabian Peninsula and the other the holy land of Palestine, are clinging to each other for solace. Both can see their end clearly on the horizon,” he added.
ICIT is affiliated with extremist clerics Mohammed al-Asi and Abdul Alim Musa. In a February interviewmarking the 36th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution in Iran, Al-Asi said: “It only takes us a short memory of the decades and the centuries preceding this Islamic revolution to recall the almost pathetic conditions that Muslims have been in. I mean they’ve been suffering from colonialism and imperialism, occupation armies and all sorts of setbacks. The Islamic Revolution took place in that context. It broke out of decades and centuries of foreign hegemony and control and became the first independent area in the Islamic hemisphere of the world.”
Muslim Students Association-Persian Speaking Group
A flyer distributed at the Muslim Students Association—Persian Speaking Group’s (MSA-PSG) 38th Annual Conference on December 26, 2008, titled “Message to 2008 MSA-PSG Conference Attendees,” quotes Musa saying: “At this current stage, our quest is to emulate the life of our hero in contemporary times, Imam Khomeini, as we strive to establish the Islamic State of North America. His story is a story of ultimate success and unbelievable odds.”
The MSA-PSG has strong connections to Iran’s clerical regime. A message posted on the student group’s website states: “MSA-PSG has been dedicated to the global Islamic movement since its inception over 45 years ago. With the Islamic Revolution in Iran, we became doubly committed to unity and brotherhood among all Muslims.” According to declassified FBI documents, at a December 1987 conference hosted by MSA-PSG, also known by its Farsi name Anjoman Islamie, “all attendees had to pledge allegiance to their Muslim faith and loyalty to the Government of Iran.”
Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC)
The nuclear deal was also lauded as proof that the U.S. should only use diplomacy to achieve foreign policy goals by the more influential Washington, D.C.-based Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) in a September 3 press release.
“Long seen as the option of the weak in the days of the Bush administration, diplomacy is now seen as a viable strategy that can achieve the same results, if not better, than military strikes do,” the release said. “And apart from its effectiveness, it’s shown that it can be achieved without the cost of military action … The U.S. has shown that it is a strong diplomatic force, and that it can negotiate to advance its most pressing interests.”
MPAC also touted the high road of America negotiating peacefully with “nations it mistrusts, but also to resist the easy route of immediately giving into hawks who call for war. It may have been tempting to heed the calls of war against a nation that took our citizens hostage and is perceived as a threat to multiple allies in the region.”
But MPAC took the exact opposite tact just two years ago in opposing diplomacy and vigorously calling for U.S. and coalition military air strikes against Syria. “We … support decisive and quick military action in Syria with important conditions,” an MPAC position paper said.
Any military “intervention must go hand in hand with empowering the moderate segment of the opposition to ensure a future for Syria that is democratic, pluralistic, and inclusive,” the MPAC paper said.
An additional rationale MPAC offered for advocating bombings in Syria could just as easily apply to the situation involving Iran’s dictatorial brutal regime: “At this point there is no incentive for the Assad regime to agree to any type of political transition due to their military superiority over opposition forces.”
So MPAC was willing to use military might to force Syria to change its policies, but when it comes to Iran, the world’s largest state sponsor of terrorism, MPAC suddenly became pacifist.
In past years, the MPAC-affiliated publication The Minaret repeatedly published articles in support of Iran’s proxy terrorist group, Hezbollah. One June 2000 article praises “freedom fighter” Hezbollah’s efforts in coercing Israel to withdraw from Lebanon:
“[The Israeli withdrawal] is a clear sign that determination and will lead to the liberation of an occupied homeland. Hezbullah, the Lebanese freedom fighter group that led the effort to drive Israel out, is being widely praised through the world.”
MPAC’s president Salam al-Marayati also described Hezbollah attacks as a “legitimate resistance” in a 1999 PBS interview. He added that, “when a Muslim commits an act of terrorism, we stand very loudly and clearly against that Muslim that committed that act of violence.”
Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR)
The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), which was founded as part of a Hamas-support network in the U.S., supported the interim nuclear deal in November 2013. “We welcome the agreement signed in Geneva and hope it will reverse the counterproductive decades-long push toward conflict between Iran and Western nations,” CAIR Executive Director Nihad Awad said in a press release. While the press release applauded the deal, it “also called on Iran to drop its ongoing support for Syria’s brutal dictatorship.”
Ignoring Iran’s behavior
American Islamists who advocate the nuclear deal with Iran have, in the past, willfully turned a blind eye to human rights violations and terrorism-related crimes of the Iranian government and have appeared on the country’s state-controlled Press TV to allege rampant Islamophobia in the U.S. or berate government counterterrorism measures. “We live in a free society,” CAIR national spokesman Ibrahim Hooper said in an August 2011 interview. “There are many good things about being an American Muslim, but there is also a sense of being under siege from these hate mongers that are constantly trying to demonize our faith.”
During a 2011 Press TV appearance at the time of the Arab Spring demonstrations, Al-Asi supported a statement by Iranian Supreme Leader Khamenei advocating for “a leadership that gives direction to this movement. Otherwise, and this was probably left out of the discourse, but putting the pieces of the puzzle together, otherwise the forces of imperialism and even Zionism will hijack these uprisings. …They don’t want these countries to quote-unquote ‘break loose’ from American hegemony, the same that happened in the Islamic Republic of Iran. In other words, they don’t want to see another Islamic Republic in Egypt, or in Yemen, or in these other countries that is independent of their influences and their diktats.”
Similarly, these Islamists have also routinely supported violence and terrorism at the annual Al-Quds Day rallies commemorating the 1979 Islamic Revolution. For example, at the 2012 rally Musa said, “If you love America, you love lying, you love rape, you love murder, you love killing.”
“And then, the Zionist, diabolical, sinister Israeli. Nobody in history, they cry about some Holocaust, we had five or ten people get killed.”
Support for the Iranian deal among Islamists includes fringe cranks like Musa and Al-Asi, but also supposedly mainstream outlets like MPAC and CAIR. That alone should have given anyone pause about supporting the agreement.
Steven Emerson is the Executive Director the Investigative Project on Terrorism (www.investigativeproject.org) where this article first appeared.