Arizona Senate candidate Deedra Abboud is scheduled to appear at a benefit dinner for ICNA Relief, the relief arm of the Islamic Circle of North America, on October 14th. Although Abboud has presented herself as the new moderate face of the Muslim community, she will be sharing the stage with two extremist clerics, Siraj Wahhaj and Omar Suleiman.
When Abboud launched her Democratic bid for the Senate, her biography raised some eyebrows. She was the founding executive director for the Arizona chapter of CAIR, and also served as the Arizona director of the Muslim American Society's Freedom Foundation. Both of these organizations have had pervasive links to extremism. In addition, Abboud has defended several Muslims who committed terrorist acts.
Despite this history, she is better known for her community activism than for any personal extremism. It is disappointing, then, that she is now appearing at the same event with Siraj Wahhaj and Omar Suleiman, who exhibit the worst kind of bigotry and extremism.
Siraj Wahhaj, a former member of the Nation of Islam, was named an unindicted coconspirator in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing trial. Wahhaj's extremism has continued since then, with repeated statements in support of extremist group Hizb ut-Tahrir and other radical groups. In an undated speech he gave while raising money for Al-Qaida front group BIF, Wahhaj repeatedly called for declaring jihad and said, "I pray one day Allah will bless us to raise an army and I'm serious about this. We were very close, recently. We had made intention to raise an army of 10,000 men in New York City.... Help your Muslim brother if he's oppressed or if he's the oppressor."
Wahhaj also expresses racial and religious bigotry. In other speeches, he has said, "Woe to the Muslims who pick kafirs [non-Muslims] for friends. Woe, woe, woe to the Muslims who take kafirs as friends. Kafir will take you away from the remembrance of Allah.... Take not into your intimacy those outside of your race. They will not fail to corrupt you." Wahhaj has also called homosexuality "a disease of this society."
Omar Suleiman, meanwhile, has been condemned by moderate Muslim activists for describing homosexuality as a "disease" and a "repugnant shameless sin." He refers to the Islamic death penalty for the "people that practiced sodomy." In a talk titled "Fighting Zina," Suleiman claims that women who are too close with their brothers are likely to commit incest. Women, he declares, should never be alone with a man outside of her family. Further, he warns, without condemnation, that women who commit adultery risk being killed by a family member.
Deedra Abboud claims to represent a progressive, moderate Muslim community, that seeks inclusion within the larger American society. If so, however, she has a special responsibility not to attend events that endorse such rank bigotry. If she is the moderate she presents herself as, she should call out hate, and not share a platform with it.