The Obama Administration has chosen the grandson of a Muslim Brotherhood terror suspect as its new liaison to the Muslim-American community. The new official also led the youth section of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), an identified Muslim Brotherhood entity that was labeled an unindicted co-conspirator in a Hamas-financing trial.
The official, Zaki Barzinji, previously served as the deputy director of intergovernmental affairs for Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe (more on that further down in this article), who is now under investigation for possible political corruption. Before that, Barzinji was the president of the Muslim Youth of North America, which describes itself as the youth wing of ISNA.
ISNA was labeled an unindicted co-conspirator in the largest terrorism-financing trial in U.S. history, with the Justice Department specifically listing it as an entity of the Muslim Brotherhood. The Brotherhood’s own documents list ISNA at the top of its list of “our organizations and the organizations of our friends.”
How did Zaki Barzinji rise through the ranks in ISNA and McAuliffe’s office to become the new associate director of public engagement for the White House?
He is the grandson of a prominent Islamist leader named Jamal Barzinji, who passed away last year. Indeed, Jamal Barzinji was a founder and/or senior official in virtually every group identified as a Muslim Brotherhood front in America. He also frequently donated to political campaigns. He was nearly prosecuted, but the Obama Justice Department dropped the planned indictment.
Zaki accepted an award on his grandfather’s behalf in 2013 at the Hamas/Brotherhood-linked Dar al-Hijrah Islamic Center in Virginia, which the late Barzinji helped found. The mosque is most known for having Al-Qaeda operative Anwar al-Awlaki as its imam in 2001 before he officially joined the terrorist group.
Jamal Barzinji was most involved with the International Institute of Islamic Thought (IIIT). The group’s office, Jamal Barzinji’s home and the offices of other organizations that Jamal Barzinji was affiliated with were raided in 2002 as part of a terrorism investigation. The affidavit said has being investigated because of evidence leading the U.S. government to “believe that [Jamal] Barzinji is not only closely associated with Palestinian Islamic Jihad (as evidenced by ties to [Sami] Al-Arian…), but also with Hamas.”
Jamal Barzinji’s group was so close to Palestinian Islamic Jihad operative Sami Al-Arian that IIIT’s president considered his group and Al-Arian’s to be essentially one entity. The indictment of Al-Arian and his colleagues says that they “would and did seek to obtain support from influential individuals, in the United States under the guise of promoting and protecting Arab rights.”
Keep that quote and the investigation into McAuliffe’s political contributions in mind when you consider how Zaki Barzinji apparently rose to his new position with some help from his grandfather’s political connections.
In 2011, IIIT (again, the late Jamal Barzini’s organization) donated $10,000 to the New Dominion PAC, which has strong Democratic party ties in the state, particularly as a donor to current Senator (former Governor) Tim Kaine, who spoke at a New Dominion PAC event honoring Jamal Barzinji in 2011.
Barzinji’s grandson became the outreach coordinator for McAuliffe’s campaign for governor in April 2013, per his LinkedIn profile. The Barzini/IIIT-linked PAC raised $15,000 for McAuliffe’s campaign two years later on September 29, 2013.
Zaki Barzinji became McAuliffe’s special assistant for policy in January 2014 and was promoted to deputy director of intergovernmental affairs in July 2014. This month, he became the White House’s liaison to the Muslim-American community as its new associate director of public engagement. Quite a rapid rise for a 27-year old.
There are no Islamist-sounding quotes from Zaki Barzinji but important questions remain.
Is it really wise to have the grandson of a Muslim Brotherhood terror suspect, who served as the head of the youth wing of an identified Muslim Brotherhood identity with Hamas links, as the White House’s liaison to the Muslim-American community?
What role did the political ties and donations of his Islamist grandfather and IIIT play in his remarkably fast rise through state politics and to the White House?
Ryan Mauro is ClarionProject.org’s national security analyst, a fellow with Clarion Project and an adjunct professor of homeland security. Mauro is frequently interviewed on top-tier television and radio. Read more, contact or arrange a speaking engagement.