As the father of a terror victim, I can no longer be shocked by much. And as a New Jerseyan, I'm used to strange goings-on in my state's government. But I was shocked and surprised to I learn that John L. Esposito will be a featured speaker at next week's state Department of Homeland Security confernce on counterterrorism.
Esposito teaches at Georgetown University in its His Royal Highness Prince Alwaleed bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding. To get a sense of the center's purpose, recall that bin Talal is the Saudi prince who shortly after 9/11 blamed the attacks on U.S. Mideast policy (prompting then-Mayor Rudy Giuliani to throw the prince's $10 million gift to the city back in his face).
Esposito finds time to appear around the country at events sponsored by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) - helping the group raise funds to explain that the real problem fronting us today is less a clash of cultures than a clash of Islam with American foreign policy. The Esposito-CAIR position is that Americans constantly ask Muslims to understand them without scrutinizing our own actions.
CAIR, by the way, is an unindicted co-conspirator in the trial against the Holy Land Foundation, which stands accused of diverting over $12 million of charitable contributions to the terrorist group Hamas. Esposito has spoken at fund-raisers for Holy Land's defense, and praised its work.
If we judge someone by the company he keeps, Esposito could do better - for at a CAIR gathering in Dallas, Esposito described Sami Al-Arian as "a very good friend of mine." Al-Arian is the Palestinian professor who pleaded guilty last year to conspiring to provide money to Palestinian Islamic Jihad - the group responsible for the 1995 bus-bombing murder of my daughter Alisa and seven others.
Just what is it that Esposito will say at this Homeland Security conference? Judging by his other speeches and writings, he'll say that America must promote broader self-determination in the Muslim world (whatever that means) and develop a "balanced" policy on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict - which clearly translates to "America must abandon Israel to its foes or face the consequences." (That's what his patron, Prince bin Talal, said when he blamed American support for Israel as being the cause of 9/11.)
Commenting on the U.S. government's revocation of a visa for Tariq Ramadan because of Ramadan's suspected terrorist ties, Esposito said the decision might have been influenced by Jewish groups that, he says, have waged a campaign against scholars and public intellectuals whose views on Islam and the Middle East conflict with their own.
It seems that Esposito blames everyone but those actually responsible for much of the mayhem in the world - Islamic extremists and those who support them.
Is this the kind of person we want to lecture about terrorism to New Jersey's first responders? I don't think so - and I hope the folks who invited him have second thoughts about that invitation.
Stephen M. Flatow is a New Jersey attorney and advocate for terror victims and their families.