Middle East Forum director Daniel Pipes' latest article centers on a recent exchange between counterterrorism specialist Steven Emerson and Muslim Public Affairs Council communications director Edina Lekovic. The two appeared on CNBC's Kudlow & Company on May 23 to discuss a "Pew Research Center poll on U.S. Muslim attitudes."
The segment soon turned into a debate revolving around Lekovic's stint as managing editor for Al-Talib: The Muslim Newsmagazine at UCLA, which, in July 1999, ran an editorial praising Al-Qaeda terrorist leader Osama bin Laden as a "freedom fighter." As Emerson pointed out, this was well after the 1998 bin Laden-orchestrated bombing of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.
As for Al-Talib, the editorial praising bin Laden is only the beginning. According to Pipes:
…Al-Talib has linked to an Al-Qaeda website, www.qoqaz.net, and is published by the branch of the Muslim Student Association at the University of California at Los Angeles. (Writing in the Middle East Quarterly, Jonathan Dowd-Gailey called the MSA a voice "espousing Wahhabism, anti-Americanism, and anti-Semitism, agitating aggressively against U.S. Middle East policy, and expressing solidarity with militant Islamist ideologies.")
In addition, Al-Talib has ties with the Islamist organization CAIR:
The Council on American-Islamic Relations comes into the picture because that July 1999 Al-Talib masthead also conveys "special thanks" to Hussam Ayloush, long-time head of its southern California office.
Interestingly, it turns out that UC Berkeley Near Eastern studies lecturer Hatem Bazian also has a connection to Al-Talib. As can be seen clearly on the second page of this PDF file (via Steven Emerson's Investigative Project on Terrorism), Bazian is listed as a writer in the September 1999 issue.
Bazian, as has been noted by Campus Watch, has a history of radical statements (his call for an "intifada in this country" being perhaps the most notorious), not to mention his unflagging activism as an anti-Israel and, at times, anti-American agitator.
That he was a contributor to this reactionary publication is really no surprise. But what is surprising, and incredibly disappointing, is that the mainstream media continue to confer respectability upon figures such as Bazian and Lekovic.
Just today, The New York Times, in an article on the emergence of American-born imams, quotes Bazian. The quote is innocuous enough, but the fact that Bazian and others in the field of Middle East studies with similarly problematic backgrounds are routinely treated as authorities on issues pertaining to Muslim-Americans does not bode well.