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A 'Moderate Muslim' at the Heritage Foundation?


There is more than meets the eye concerning this "moderate Muslim."

American University law student Saba Ahmed spoke at the Heritage Foundation's panel on Benghazi June 16, 2014. (Photo: The Heritage Foundation via Media Matters)

“Who is the head of the Muslim peace movement,” journalist Chris Plante asked of my Facebook friend Saba Ahmed at a recent, nationally notorious exchange at a Heritage Foundation panel.

Despite Ahmed answering with a willingness to lead any such movement, her past provokes deeply disturbing questions about oft-sought “moderate Muslims” and their ability to counter aggressive Islamic agendas.

Having previously met, the veiled Ahmed smiled to me in the audience during the first panel of a June 16 seminar on the September 11, 2012 attack upon America’s Benghazi, Libya, consulate.

American University law student Saba Ahmed spoke at the Heritage Foundation's panel on Benghazi June 16, 2014. (Photo: The Heritage Foundation via Media Matters) American University law student Saba Ahmed spoke at the Heritage Foundation's panel on Benghazi June 16, 2014. (Photo: The Heritage Foundation via Media Matters) 

“How can we fight an ideological war with weapons?” was Ahmed’s not particularly pertinent audience question for the panel.

Ahmed argued that “we portray Islam and all Muslims as bad” while 1.8 billion followers of Islam remained unrepresented on the panel. Agreeing with Ahmed’s emphasis on ideology, Center for Security Policy President Frank Gaffney's response distinguished between personally pious Muslims and a faith-based political agenda of brutal sharia law.

That Ahmed “stood there to make a point about peaceful, moderate Muslims” while showing no interest in the panel’s discussion of a lethal attack against Americans, however, irritated national security activist Brigitte Gabriel.

“We are not here to bash Muslims... I am glad you are here,” Gabriel stated before asking to a standing ovation, “but where are the others speaking out?”

Gabriel cited intelligence estimates from various countries rating 15-25 percent of Muslims worldwide as radicals, a group perhaps as large as the American population.

“Most Germans were peaceful, yet the Nazis drove the agenda,” Gabriel argued in describing the outsized influence of a militant minority such as jihadists. Just as the peaceful majority were irrelevant in imperial Japan and Communist dictatorships such as in China and the Soviet Union.

“It is time that we take political correctness and throw it in the garbage where it belongs” Gabriel announced to cheers.

Sean Hannity interviewed Saba Ahmed on his Fox News show earlier this week. Photo Credit: Fox News Sean Hannity interviewed Saba Ahmed on his Fox News show earlier this week. Photo Credit: Fox News

Following this exchange Ahmed left, giving evidence to suspicions that she merely wanted to make a point and not attend the event. Subsequent reception discussion revealed multiple observations of Ahmed’s appearance at other Washington, D.C. events involving Islam. One person noted that Ahmed at another event had similarly unilaterally raised the subject of anti-Muslim hostility.

Curiosity about my casual acquaintance Ahmed prompted by the Heritage event initiated a revealing internet search. An online interview deepened my limited knowledge of Ahmed, a woman raised in Rawalpindi, Pakistan, by an upper-middle class family before coming Oregon with her family at age 12.

By 19, Ahmed graduated from Portland State University before obtaining law and business degrees in Oregon while working at Intel Corporation. Ahmed currently runs a public relations firm.

As I have observed, Ahmed does her share of Dawah (Islamic proselytization) for her deeply held faith, such as during a 2011 iftar dinner at her home with Oregon legislators.

“This book, my faith, is all I have,” she stated to an Oregon chapter of Glenn Beck’s 912 Project while holding a Koran.

To calls for reforming the Koran, Ahmed asserts the Islamic doctrine that “this book has been word for word the exact same book for the last fourteen hundred years. God has taken the responsibility of protecting this book and no one can even create a chapter which is even of the like.”

“I don’t think we can be friends if you are against Islam, my religion that I love so deeply,” Ahmed commented online while citing Koranic verses against non-Muslim relationships.

At age 26 according to a press account, but 29 according to an official registration, Ahmed had a failed 2011 Democratic campaign for an open Oregon congressional seat. A family report to police of Ahmed’s disappearance following a mental disorder diagnosis made her race “unusual” for the media. Reporter inquiries prompted Ahmed to deny the diagnosis with a complicated tale online of a “potential romantic involvement… an unfair arrest for stalking… and being trapped in the home” of a man with two wives in Florida."

Supporters of Pakistani religious party Jamaat-e-Islami hold a rally to observe the World Hijab (veil) Day in Islamabad, Pakistan, Wednesday, Sept. 4, 2013. Scores of the party's female supporters wearing veils gathered to advocate the necessity of veil for the Muslim women. (AP Photo/B.K. Bangash) (AP Photo/B.K. Bangash) 

Ahmed countered concerns about Islamic violence in a campaign radio interview, arguing that Islam is a peaceful religion sometimes hijacked by some extremist ideologies, and that “lots of ignorance” leads individual Muslims to perpetrate crimes in Islam’s name who have not studied the religion but merely followed tradition and culture.

Indeed, she says the “only way to win the war on terror is through the Koran and Islam,” arguing that Islamic scholars who are here in America can discuss their nonviolence, peace and interfaith activities with extremists and change their ideology.

After Osama bin Laden met his death by United States Navy SEALs, Ahmed resolutely claimed for Portland television that he was a criminal and that American Muslims would “defend… in every way possible” their country.

But, by contrast, America’s “illegal, immoral, and unethical national security policies cannot get away… with mass murdering people,” Ahmed condemned in a radio interview. Detained Guantanamo Bay “enemy combatants… deserve all the rights and privileges of POW status,” Ahmed meanwhile opined to me on Facebook while discussing her participation in a May 23, 2014 White House rally to close the detention facility there.

The “United States Military and CIA are the most well funded Christian organizations that regularly conduct crimes against humanity all around the world,” Ahmed earlier asserted to an Oregon Tea Party leader on Twitter. “What is the practical difference between a soldier who kills and an Alqaida operative the kills??? [sic].”

Such comments led to Ahmed’s blocking from the Oregon Tea Party Facebook page after the leader of the group noted Ahmed’s “habit of stalking conservative and Republican web pages and meetings.” Ahmed, another conservative Oregon website notes, “has been removed from many Republican events in Oregon as well as Tea Party rallies, and most conservatives recognize her as unwelcome due to her ulterior motives.”

Ahmed returned to criticizing American policies at an Oct. 6, 2012 Occupy Portland anti-drone rally after the former intern for a Democratic Oregon governor and congressman became Republican in November 2011. Ahmed’s “conservative Islamic values (pro-life, pro-family values, pro-business)” had made “it very hard… to defend myself as a Democrat.”

Ahmed saw her Islamic beliefs, meanwhile, behind her Tea Party/Republican bans. “Both parties treat Muslims badly,” Ahmed assessed in a bipartisan manner, citing waterboarding torture and drone missiles under both Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama.

Republican Ahmed at the rally focused on her longstanding opposition to expensive, useless wars where America’s thirst for revenge had inflicted almost two million Afghan and Iraqi casualties. Muslims worldwide often are "fed up of the U.S. oppression,” but the United States, however, could have an unexplained “amazing role to play in ending… conflicts” in places like Syria plagued by ethnic cleansing and genocide.

American domestic law enforcement policies have also received Ahmed’s condemnation during the 2010 trial of Mohamed Mohamud. An FBI sting operation had caught Mohamud seeking to detonate what he thought was a van loaded with explosives in downtown Portland, although his legal defense claimed entrapment.

Mohamud’s “family friend,” Ahmed condemned officials for irresponsible behavior, saying that the “Muslim community is the one suffering the consequences.” Ahmed concluded in charging the government with incitement after arson at Mohamud’s mosque. “We will take very serious action - politically and legally - against the government for this.”

Ahmed also attended the Capitol Leadership Academy, described by Ahmed as an “amazing program to involve young minority students in politics.” Capitol Leadership Academy is a project of United Voices for America, an organization that “serve[s] the Muslim community by protecting their rights or defending their honor” and is therefore "Zakat eligible” to receive obligatory Islamic alms. Per Koran 9:60, United Voices for America exists for those who "strive in Allah’s cause (fi sabili-llah),” a zakat category (of eight) that has historically included violent Islamic jihad (see “The Permissibility of Using Zakat for Masajid”).

Such militancy befits United Voices for America’s founder Ahmed Bedier, a notable hater of “apartheid” Israel and an Islamic terrorist apologist. Bedier founded a Tampa, Florida, chapter of the like-minded Council on American-Islamic Relations, while Ahmed’s Oregon 912 Project address includes the unexplained statement “I apologize to you on behalf of CAIR.”

“We are witnessing the table being completely run” by influence operations of America’s Muslim enemies in a subversive “pre-violent form of jihad,” Gaffney warned at Heritage with words possibly applicable to Ahmed.

Even assuming Ahmed’s good intentions, Ahmed’s confused, superficially benign assessment of Islam is unlikely to mobilize effectively the majorities cited by Gabriel against Islamic militants. Intra-Muslim sectarian violence, for example, is a far greater killer of Muslims than oft-debated American national defense efforts worldwide, actually accounting for many casualties attributed by Ahmed to America. Capital Leadership Academy’s “Smile Often” principle learned by Ahmed simply cannot replace critical inquiry into Islam.

Andrew E. Harrod may be reached at:

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