Sharafat Hussain, Democratic candidate for Virginia State Senate District #33, seems like a model candidate for local politics. Like most local politicians, he's an established presence with his county party, as fundraising chairman of the Loudoun County Democratic Committee and member of its executive council. Hussain also serves as vice-chair for the Leesburg District Democrats.
But unlike most local politicians, Hussain has worrying international ties. In addition to being a Virginia Democrat, Hussain is identified as the US President of the Bangladeshi National Party (BNP) and the President of the Greater Washington BNP.
The Bangladeshi National Party is a sometimes violent nationalist Bangladeshi political party devoted to implementing an Islamic nationalism for Bangladesh. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has previously argued in court that the BNP qualifies as a "Tier III" terrorist organization. Similar arguments have been made by Canadian authorities.
The BNP is the political ally of Jamaat-e-Islami, an Islamist political party whose armed wing, Hizbul Mujahedeen, was designated as a terrorist group by the U.S. State Department.
Hussain has been described in Bangladeshi news outlets as the brother-in-Law of BNP leader Tarique Rahman, who is wanted by the Bangladeshi government in connection with a 2004 grenade attack that killed 20 people.
Hussain is also editor and chief of the BNP's international weekly newspaper, Weekly Bangladeshee. The paper publishes a mixture of information about recent BNP issues, politics, sports and entertainment news, along with items about Hussain's campaign; including multiple posts which appear word-for-word identical to articles posted on the SharafatHussainVA.comcampaign website. Additionally, Sharafat Hussain for Virginia lists the newspaper's email address on his campaign signage.
The Virginia Department of Elections lists no campaign finance reports for the Friends of Sharafat Hussain campaign committee yet, so it's unclear whether the cross-posting of campaign information at the BNP newspaper's website is treated as an in-kind donation. The newspaper is a registered corporation in the state of Virginia, with Sharafat Hussain as its registered agent.
It's not yet clear whether the BNP's alliance with Islamists in Bangladesh influences Hussain's approach to U.S. politics. In photos from his campaign website Hussain can be seen attending an event at the ADAMS Center, a Northern Virginia mosque linked to U.S. Islamist groups and raided by federal law enforcement in 2002 during a terrorism finance and money-laundering probe into the Safa Group, which federal agents alleged supported Islamic terror groups Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad.
Hussain attended the event with Jennifer Wexton, the current State Senator for Virginia District 33, who is running for the Congressional seat held by Rep. Barbara Comstock. The ADAMS Center has long exercised political influence in Northern Virginia, and both Democrats and Republicans have attended events there seeking to woo Muslims voters despite criticism regarding the mosque's ties.
This is not the first time an individual with ties to the BNP has sought political office under the Democratic Party's banner. In July of 2018, BNP activist Anis Ahmed failed to secure the democratic nomination for Maryland's 15th District.
As concerns about foreign influence in U.S. electoral politics remain a hot-button issue, organized attempts by leading members of a foreign political party with a reputation for violence to secure political office raises concerns. Mr. Hussain needs to directly address his role in the BNP and explicitly reject any Islamist agenda for the United States; otherwise, voters should carefully consider whether they want to allow the representatives of political extremism into office.
Kyle Shideler is the Director of the Counter Islamist Grid (CIG), an initiative of the Middle East Forum.
This article originally appeared in the Asian Age (Bangladesh).