In 2005 PipelineNews published an article Jews for Jihad? exposing the AJC's misguided interfaith outreach efforts which extended to working with CAIR, an unindicted co-conspirator in the ongoing Holy Land Foundation Hamas terror prosecution. [see, below link to "List of Unindicted Co-conspirators and/or Joint Venturers" US v. Holy Land Foundation, et al.]
This relationship was forged despite the head of the AJC's Middle East and Counter Terrorism division, Yehudit Barsky, having labeled CAIR an "extremist" group and placing them among faux mainstream Muslim organizations in America, many of which are "pro-Saudi and pro-Muslim Brotherhood..."
"...the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), "founded in the 1980s by pro-Hamas activists." [source, Expert: Saudis have radicalized 80% of US mosques, http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1132475689987&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull]
Ms. Barsky additionally makes the point that interfaith activity is fraught with problematic considerations and is often put forth disingenuously. In a cautionary note she advises, "to proceed with caution, [since] some of the [extremist] organizations have concluded that interfaith dialogue is a good way to spread the ideology." Proceeding thoughtfully seems only prudent since as Barsky makes clear, "the people now in control of teaching religion [to American Muslims] are extremists...Eighty percent of the infrastructure [American mosques] is controlled by these extremists."
Yet despite this sobering assessment, two high ranking officials of the AJC's Chicago office, Emily Soloff and Regional Director Jonathan Levine are listed as members of the advisory board at CTU's Bernardin Center.
One would imagine that Dr. Michael Kotzin, vice president of the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago would also be cognizant of the threat of radical Islam, yet he also serves on the advisory board.
Along with the Islamists, a liberal contingent of Muslim apologists are also members of this board, most conspicuously the Bernardin Center's dhimmi-like Dr. Scott Alexander and Dr. John Esposito, who is most charitably described as a Saudi front man, heading the [$20 million Saudi endowed] "Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding" at Georgetown University.
Though there are other Muslims on this board about whom questions arise, of most concern are Sayyid Syeed [National Director of the Islamic Society of North America [ISNA also named as an unindicted co-conspirator in the Holy Land Foundation prosecution, see List of Unindicted Co-conspirators and/or Joint Venturers] and, as about which the above quoted Yehudit Barsky states, "supports the Muslim Brotherhood and the Saudi regime, Kareem Irfan [the former long term head of the Council of Organizations of Greater Chicago] and Safaa Zarzour the board president of Chicago chapter of CAIR.
Sayyid M. Syeed
It's very difficult to underestimate the impact that Bernardin Center board member Syeed has had in organizing and making effective, American Islamist organizations. He currently serves as "National Director of the Islamic Society of North America." [source, http://www.isna.net/articles/Interfaith-News/Interfaith-Community-Welcomes-Pope.aspx] Syeed also served as President of the Muslim Students Association [MSA] of USA & Canada from 1980-1983. About his term of office, the ISNA website goes as far as to say that Syeed, "As President of the Muslim Students Association of USA & Canada (1980-1983), he pioneered its transformation into the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA)." [source, http://www.isna.net/Programs/pages/Speakers-Services.aspx#69]
Bernardin Center advisory board member Kareem Irfan is the chairman of the Council for Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago [CIOGC] and a sits on the national board of the Islamic Society of North America. When asked in 2002 by CNN whether he regretted giving $5,000 dollars to Benevolence International Foundation, a charity directly connected to Bin Laden and Al Qaeda Irfan replied:
" I definitely do not regret it because I did it under the understanding that this was an outstanding institution." [source, http://www.opinionjournal.com/taste/?id=110005269]
When questioned about the savage beheadings of Nicholas Berg and Paul Johnson in Iraq, rather than an outright condemnation, Irfan was muted at best:
"At bottom, though, Mr. Irfan believes that the beheadings simply demonstrate "a primordial sense of retaliation and revenge." [source, http://www.opinionjournal.com/taste/?id=110005269]
In 2002 the CIOGC hosted a high-ranking delegation from the Saudi's Muslim World League [MWL], which has through its efforts established hundreds if not thousands of hard line Wahhabist mosques around the world. The MWL has been labeled by the Center for Security Policy's Alex Alexiev as, "the largest worldwide propaganda campaign ever mounted," and functions as a powerful agent in enforcing radical Islamic religious orthodoxy.
Mr. Zarzour is Board Chairman and President of Chicago CAIR, as noted above named along with ISNA as unindicted co-conspirators in the ongoing HLF prosecution.
Zarzour also served as the president of the Universal School, a madrassa, and is additionally the Program Chairman of the ISNA Education Forum.
About Zarzour's school, Daniel Pipes, the noted Middle East historian, calling it a "madrassa," described it as:
"...replete with the alienation, resentment, supremacism, and isolation that feed the Islamist temperament. Secondly, that this "model school" quietly and openly churns out graduates hoping they will create an Islamic States of America." [source, http://www.danielpipes.org/article/2696]
Indicative of the deeply flawed organizational core of the Bernardin Center is Dr. Scott Alexander, Associate Professor of Islam and Director of Catholic-Muslim Studies, whose activities these authors have chronicled for 5 years.
In June 2004, Dr. Alexander elicited a storm of protest when he was slated as a defense witness for Fawaz Damra, the imam of the largest Mosque in Ohio, located in Cleveland. Damra was convicted on June 16, 2004 in Federal Court on charges of unlawfully gaining U.S. citizenship in 1994 by lying about past associations with terrorist organizations.
An important facet of the prosecution case against Damra was a series of wiretapped conversations that he had with Sami Al-Arian, formerly a professor at the University of Southern Florida and now an admitted terrorist, currently imprisoned and awaiting deportation.
A piece of the evidence amassed against Damra was a video clip of a fundraising speech that he made to the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, a major terrorist group that contained the following pitch.
"...[Muslims should be] directing all rifles at the first and last enemy of the Islamic nation, and that is the sons of monkeys and pigs, the Jews..." Fawaz Damra, 1991 . In another speech Damra stated, "...terrorism and terrorism alone is the path to liberation..."
Unfazed, Dr. Alexander submitted in writing [then withdrew at the last moment because of justifiably severe criticism, especially by Jewish members of Bernardin's board] to the court the following exculpatory "expert" testimony on behalf of Damra's motives:
"The rhetoric is principally used by political and religious leaders to galvanize resistance to what Palestinian Arabs consider to be the patent persecution of their people by Jewish immigrants to the Middle East. As unquestionably hate-filled and thus morally reprehensible as such language is, when Palestinians refer to Jews as 'descended from apes and swine' or encourage support for those who 'kill Jews,' they do so with the reasonably justifiable self-image of victim and persecuted, not of victimizer and persecutor."
Another of Alexander's CTU/Bernardin 'interfaith' outreach programs was a 2003 event which featured Hamas funder and Bridgeview Mosque Foundation board member, Oussama Jammal.
When asked, in a telephone interview by one of these writers how he could justify inviting the Imam of a Mosque which had earlier been literally wall-papered with Hamas recruiting posters, Alexander replied that he could find no difference between the terrorist activity of Hamas and Jerry Falwell's fundamentalism, since Alexander alleged, people like Falwell "blow up abortion clinics."
In 2002, Scott Alexander initiated a student exchange program - funded by a $2 million dollar grant from the Lilly foundation - with Al-Quds University in Jerusalem, an institution known for its Hamas sympathies.
The problems with the Catholic Theological Union's Bernardin Center run deep and must be addressed. Until then, Jonathan Levine and Amy Soloff of the American Jewish Committee and Michael Kotzin of the Jewish Federation are granting legitimacy to a program which exercises extraordinarily poor judgment and elevates and legitimizes some of America's key Islamists. We feel that it is only prudent for Mr. Levine, Ms. Soloff and Mr. Kotzin to disassociate themselves from Bernardin until it no longer serves as an arm of the stealth jihad.