A visiting professor at Florida Atlantic University found himself on the defensive Monday after he was accused of being connected with the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas.
Mustafa Abu Sway, a Fulbright scholar in residence for a year at FAU, was accused Monday by Daniel Pipes, director of the Middle East Forum, a Philadelphia-based think tank that is considered by some to be pro-Israel and anti-Muslim.
Pipes cited sources in the Israeli government. His charge was published Monday in an opinion piece in the New York Post.
Pipes' organization contacted FAU officials earlier this month with the allegations, said a university spokeswoman. FAU then contacted State Department officials who oversee the Fulbright international exchange program, which sponsors the visit of Abu Sway and hundreds of other visiting scholars.
"They assured us that there is a rigorous screening process and no reason for us to believe that he's involved in any activity that is not scholarly," said FAU spokeswoman Aileen Izquierdo. Even so, the State Department plans to review Abu Sway's case and report back to FAU, she said.
"At this point we have no reason to take any action," said FAU President Frank Brogan, who was on Hutchinson Island Monday night accepting an award from the Boy Scouts of America.
Abu Sway denied any connection with Hamas and does not promote terror or killing.
"I said at a recent speech that I cherish the Jewish presence and I advocate nonviolence," he said by phone from his home in Jupiter on Monday. "My immediate reaction is that this is a witch hunt. These are the conjectures and whims of Mr. Pipes. It's very sad it's reached this level. It's obvious he's trying to intimidate people."
Pipes said his sources in the Israeli government connect Abu Sway with Hamas, one of the terrorist groups suspected in the Oct. 15 killing of three Americans in Gaza.
"We're not talking about freedom of speech," said Pipes. "We're talking about someone who's a member of an illegal terrorist group."
Since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Pipes' group, the Middle East Forum, has been operating a "Campus Watch" Web site to monitor university faculty for alleged bias against the United States. Opponents contend that such Web sites are blacklists formed to intimidate and limit free speech.
After objections by several groups, Campus Watch recently stopped posting online its dossiers of professors it suspects of terrorist ties.
Pipes, who was recently appointed by President Bush to the United States Institute of Peace, noted in his Monday opinion piece that the three security personnel who died Oct. 15 were escorting a group on its way to interview applicants for Fulbright scholarships, the same program that sponsored Abu Sway's year-long visit to FAU.
Abu Sway lives in East Jerusalem and works as an associate professor at the Islamic Research Center of Al-Quds University in Jerusalem. He received his master's degree and doctorate from Boston College. He arrived in June as a one-year Fulbright Scholar in Residence at the FAU Honors College in Jupiter. The FAU faculty includes six other Fulbright scholars.
Abu Sway is teaching an introduction to Islam, as well as courses in Islamic philosophy and politics for the Honors College and the College of Arts and Sciences.
The Fulbright Scholar-in-Residence Program brings visiting scholars and professionals from abroad to lecture at U.S. colleges and universities.
Besides teaching, they also give campus-wide and community lectures. The Fulbright program was established in 1946, designed to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries.
Announcing Abu Sway's arrival in June, Honors College dean William Mech said, "Dr. Abu Sway adds to our diversity and strengthens our international studies program. We believe that our students, our faculty and the community will all benefit from this experience."
In April 2002, in a live discussion on the Web site Islam Online, Abu Sway drew parallels between the Palestine-Israel conflict and the apartheid regime of South Africa, according to files from the Investigative Project, an anti-terrorist watchdog group.
"Israel is the only country in the world that functions above international law," he said during the discussion