Jewish Journal

The Muslim assassination plot and President Bush

by Brad A. Greenberg

August 8, 2008 | 12:12 pm

CAIR's Affad Shaikh

Don’t let the headline fool you. The only assassination attempt is on Affad Shaikh’s character.

You’ve probably never heard of Shaikh; he’s not mentioned on Wikipedia. He is an American Muslim about my age, born in Pakistan and living in Orange County, where he serves as civil rights coordinator for the regional chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. Some CAIR employees and affiliates have been accused of terrorist activity, and this has led the whole organization to be labeled by some as a terrorist front.

One of the crusaders against CAIR has been Joe Kaufman, the founder of CAIR Watch. And yesterday Kaufman wrote this baseless hit piece about Shaikh for FrontPage Magazine. It begins:

Last month, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents stationed at the U.S./Mexico border held the Civil Rights Coordinator of CAIR-California, Affad Shaikh, and others whom he was with for questioning. The agents suspected that the group had the intention of coming to the United States to assassinate President Bush. The following will provide a detailed context for why the CBP would believe such a thing and will make the case as to why the U.S. government should not drop the issue.

From there, Kaufman rattles through a bunch of reasons why Shaikh is a terrorist in hiding and why President Bush should watch his back. Kaufman’s evidence comes entirely from this blog post, in which Shaikh recalls the ordeal.

As an American Muslim, I can tell you that I had one of the most atrocious and harrowing experiences, being treated like a second class citizen, while with and due to a Dutch citizen who wanted to go across the border to Ensenada for horse back riding on the beach and some of the best seafood one could possibly find.

This individual was subjugated to the most ignorant, incompetent and inhuman CBP (Customs and Border Patrol) agents. (They basically didn’t know where Holland was) To make matters worse, they felt that we- the group of us- were coming to the US to “kill the President” in one agents own words.

After citing this, Kaufman quotes some of Shaikh’s more explosive statements on his blog, including when he said Hezbollah was more effective at rebuilding a community than FEMA and that the Bush administration has “quite a bit of blood on their hands.” From this Kaufman concludes that Shaikh is a real threat to our country. To his country.

But what about Affad Shaikh’s country?

His blog is titled “This American Muslim,” and that is what he is. He writes regularly about finding the balance in his identity, which has, at times focused on how the United States’ response to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks shaped his perspective.

It is hard for me to see how what we are doing today is a “war on Terrorism” because the government, then the media and our military actions only show me that they are waging a proxy “war on Muslims and Islam”. If the “war on terrorism” is a generational war, taking decades if not centuries, and that we are fighting for “the hearts and minds” of the youth in the Muslim community, then we are failing miserably and are no where near to achieving success. (I am a Muslim youth and my friends and I would disagree with everything being done to protect our freedom and security, and in fact we are dissatisfied with what the US has become.)

Five years ago at UCSD, I had not made a conscious decision to be an observant Muslim (or desire), I had no desire to be an activist or to be engaged in things dealing with politics. Five years ago, for worse or better, the events of 9/11 lead me to be an American Muslim.

In these words I don’t see a cloaked extremist. I see a young man trying to figure out who he is; I see someone who, like many, is frustrated with the direction this country has headed during the past eight years.

But Kaufman—who has been fixated on Shaikh since last year, when he wrote a lengthy profile that appeared below those of, among many others, Nihad Awad, CAIR executive director, and Omar Abdel-Rahmam, a “CAIR person of interest”—sees the rantings of the suspicious Other.

“Shaikh’s statements against President Bush are mostly recent, a telling sign that, over time, since 9/11, Shaikh’s behavior has gotten more radical,” Kaufman wrote. “Shortly after his indoctrination ...”

I’m not a regular reader of FrontPage Magazine. I don’t have the stomach for it. So what tipped me to Joe Kaufman’s thinly pieced-together scoop of a CAIR assassination plot was the gchat status of chief conspirator Shaikh: “zionist attack on affad….? What me…what did i do?”

There are a lot of things Shaikh and I disagree on, and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is certainly one of them. But I’ve always found Shaikh, once a regular commenter on The God Blog, to be a sober-minded individual. And when I congratulated him for again attracting Joe Kaufman’s attention, I knew he would respond positively to my request that he not blame Zionists.

“They are right wingers; I’m a Zionist.”

And by that I meant that believing in a Jewish state on a small sliver of Mediterranean sand is not what inspired this attack. Kaufman is a Zionist, but he does not represent Zionism.

“Very good point,” he responded. “I appreciate that correction, because I do see a clear distinction and it would be unfair to paint a one-sided picture.”

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