He's an underdog candidate for President who needs all the help he can get against bigger-named, better-financed rivals. For former U.S. Sen. John Edwards (D-North Carolina), that has meant embracing the leader of a the American Muslim Council (AMC), an organization with a history of defending Palestinian terrorists and whose founder is in prison after pleading guilty to violating anti-terror legislation.
M. Ali Khan, a Chicago investment banker, has been the AMC's national director since 2003. Khan has helped organize at least two fundraisers for Edwards and, in a series of internet postings, described how he has reached the inner sanctum of the former senator's campaign advisors.
He spent most of December in Iowa, where Edwards finished second in the Jan. 3 caucus.
"There are about 10 Edwards insiders that have been invited to help John in Des Moines," Khan wrote in a December 2 post. "Most Insiders are from Chapel Hill, but we have Portland, Seattle, LA. New York and myself from Chicago."
Khan is listed by the Edwards campaign as a fundraising solicitor and he helped host at least two campaign fundraisers, one June 13 and one September 4. He has been with AMC at least since 1998. The organization was founded in 1990 by Abdurahman Alamoudi. Alamoudi was arrested in September 2003 and subsequently indicted in the Eastern District of Virginia for illegal transactions with Libya. He is now serving a 23-year prison sentence.
Government officials also say Alamoudi served as a financial courier for Al Qaeda. After Alamoudi's September 2003 arrest, Khan adopted the pose of Captain Renault in "Casablanca," "I'm shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here!" The Washington Post reported:
"Ali Khan, a Chicago investment banker who formerly was AMC's treasurer, said yesterday Alamoudi controlled all its affairs. Alamoudi brought in large sums of money from Saudi Arabia but refused to detail their origin, Khan said.
Khan said that for years he sought an accounting of the funds, but Alamoudi refused. Alamoudi has publicly acknowledged bringing funds from Saudi Arabia for his organizations."
As an investment banker, Ali Khan might reasonably be expected to have been more diligent in carrying out his fiduciary responsibilities of the treasurer of a large organization, and to have inquired more closely into the sources of AMC's funding.
Khan and his organization have made some disturbing statements, including some which can only be viewed as de facto support for terrorists.
For example, on October 4, 2004 in the run-up to the 2004 presidential election, AMC issued a bizarre opinion piece entitled "Osama bin Laden." The op-ed only fails to condemn Bin Laden for his many crimes, but raises the possibility that the arch-terrorist is some kind of romantic revolutionary dedicated to the cause of "liberation" like Fidel Castro. Bin Laden, the article notes, is but one man living in a cave. Yet his death or capture could change the election's outcome:
How could a man who holds no position on par with the presidency have such power? Is this single individual the force of evil incarnate, as the president has portrayed, or is there a substance to the man we cannot comprehend? Is the manner in which he has galvanized and inspired Muslim youth in the Middle East a power phenomenon like that of a Hitler? Or is his being in a solitary and isolated state a modern day version of Fidel Castro's hiding out in the swamps while plotting revolution, or Ho Chi Min (sic) fighting in the jungles of Vietnam , or Nelson Mandella (sic) pressing for freedom from a jail cell?
How one person could have such power in the face of such an awesome adversary as the United States is a question every black and minority in America should ask. Because if this one man is able to alter the dynamics of the entire world, then perhaps America's 60 million minority citizens can find a way to right the racism of this country.
Osama bin Laden has said he seeks the liberation of the Muslim world from American dominance. He is one man, sitting silently in a cave, praying five times a day to a force unseen, believing in the power that delivered to the others the freedom of their nations.
What's most astonishing is that the article remains on the AMC website today, more than three years later. The same website has defended people accused of supporting terrorism. For example in March 2006 an article about Sami Al-Arian was posted under the headline "Commentary: America's Conscience on Trial." Al-Arian had been jailed for three years by that time and was facing a retrial on charges he conspired to fund the terrorist group Palestinian Islamic Jihad. The writer asserted that Al-Arian:
"(S)peaks, through his detainment, to America's ideological essence and present predicament, asking: are we as a nation to live in freedom or in fear? And asking impliedly, must Muslim Americans forfeit freedoms because of unfounded fears of their faith?"[
By this time Al-Arian acknowledged, through his attorney, that he was a member if the Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Evidence from his first trial, which ended with eight acquittals and a hung jury on nine counts, further showed Al-Arian on the Jihad's governing board. In April 2006, Al-Arian pled guilty to providing illegal goods and services to a terrorist organization and agreed to be deported upon his release.
"I'm Happy for Sami and his Family who has suffered tremendously over the years," Khan wrote in an internet post. "Sami was a personal jihad that we at AMC have been fighting for many years."
But then Khan offered some insight into what his political action is all about:
My point is it is very important to develop and further relationships in our branch of Governments.
All the screaming and Shouting the other organizations were displaying might be counter productive. Behind the scenes relationships pay huge dividends. So what is the next case that we at AMC can help with? (Emphasis added)
In an article on the AMC website last May, Khan described his first meeting with the candidate at a fundraiser last May:
"This was a great meeting for John and I to get to know each other. The passions and concerns that John feels for Americans and human beings around the world made an impact on me. We agreed that our country needs to regain its leadership on human rights. I look forward to getting to know John Edwards further."
Two of those chances to get to know Edwards better came in fundraisers Khan hosted on June 13 and September 4. But what Khan considers a human rights issue and what he considers terrorism is open to question. Al-Arian, an acknowledged member of a designated terrorist group, is worthy of "a personal jihad." When Israeli forces attacked Hizballah targets in Lebanon, he accused Israel of a "campaign of "terror" in Southern Lebanon, and "state terrorism."
In May 2004, Khan wrote, "Despite this country's claim to be a defender of human rights and freedom, President Bush and his administration have turned a blind eye on the terror being set loose by the Israeli government on Palestinians."
Another bizarre article posted to the AMC website at the time of the controversy over the Danish cartoons, called for a kind of global censorship to criminalize such publications everywhere:
"(W)hy is freedom of speech given the power to offend and destroy? Since when did self-expression supersede the value placed on life itself? And "It is entirely reasonable for Muslims, as represented by the OIC, to ask for a passage of resolutions within the United Nations, and legislation within respective countries the world over that would outlaw denigration of any faith and any religious figure."
Khan has pushed the idea of the victimization of American Muslims after 9/11. For example, at a May 2002 forum at Purdue University, Khan waved a speeding ticket claiming he had received it as a result of profiling. "I'm making an issue out of this. My sense of freedom has been lost since 9/11" He did not clarify how police radar was able to determine his religious affiliation. Khan never mentioned the ticket again, and presumably never contested it on the grounds of "profiling."
After a third place finish in New Hampshire, Edwards vowed to stay in the race through the Democratic National Convention. That gives him, and the voters, plenty of time to learn more about his inner circle.