Middle East Studies in the News
A WISE Guy at College Park
One of the scholars most thoroughly duped by Al-Arian and his gang is Charles Butterworth, a specialist in medieval Islamic political philosophy at the University of Maryland. In the early 1990s, the Florida Islamic Jihad cell drew him into the activities of the World Islamic Studies Enterprise (WISE), the front run by Ramadan Shallah, the man who later surfaced in Damascus as the leader of Islamic Jihad. People like Butterworth gave them credibility—and the perfect cover. When Al-Arian later had university troubles, Butterworth wrote on his behalf.
And now? Never mind the indictment. Butterworth has posted a message to a Middle East politics discussion group reaffirming his belief in the greatness and goodness of Al-Arian and WISE. "Nothing that I know of Sami Al-Arian and none of my experiences with WISE justify the allegations made against him or that organization." Butterworth still believes that neither WISE nor Al-Arian "has done anything to subvert US law. Each, in different ways to be sure, has attempted to make a clearer case for religious devotion even while opening up Middle Eastern regimes to democratic procedures."
Religious devotion? Democratic procedures? Here is the Western romance of the noble extremist in its purest form. The burning missionary desire to see fervent Muslims embrace democracy becomes a self-imposed veil. In this case, these same "devoted" Muslims were pumping American dollars into a terrorist organization, hustling to send suicide bombers with flesh-ripping explosive belts into buses and restaurants. Their Islamic Jihad was not a struggle for "self-improvement." Poor Professor Butterworth. A brilliant student of Alfarabi and Averroes. And the most useful of all idiots.
Photo: Aftermath of the January 22, 1995 Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) double suicide bombing at Beit Lid, central Israel, that killed 22 and wounded 59. Para. 130 of the indictment: "On or about February 10,1995, SAMI AMIN AL-ARIAN wrote a letter to Ismail Al-Shatti in Kuwait asking for money for the PIJ. SAMI AMIN AL-ARIAN bragged about the January 22,1995 Beit Lid bombing,and cited the bombing as an example of what PIJ could do. He asked for money and said that Shaker and Sukkar [the two suicide bombers] left large families and debts;he also wrote that the PIJ was poor and destitute and indicated the Iranians were providing little financial assistance. He wrote that despite the hardships the PIJ carried out distinctive operations which all the Arab armies lacked the strength to execute."
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