Of all the clerics in the world who condemn the Islamic State terrorist group (commonly known as ISIS or ISIL), President Obama chose Sheikh Abdullah Bin Bayyah for special mention in his address to the United Nations. Bin Bayyah is a Muslim Brotherhood leader who supports Hamas, the elimination of Israel and killing U.S. soldiers.
The exalting of Bin Bayyah is particularly surprising because the State Department’s Counter-Terrorism Bureau apologized for promoting him only four months ago. In that incident, the U.S. government had initially brought attention to Bayyah’s condemnation of Boko Haram’s kidnapping of girls.
Yet, the State Department’s embarrassment did not prevent President Obama from praising him as an example of a moderate fighting extremism. In his September 24 address, Obama said:
“The ideology of ISIL or al Qaeda or Boko Haram will wilt and die if it is consistently exposed, confronted, and refuted in the light of day. Look at the new Forum for Promoting Peace in Muslim Societies – Sheikh bin Bayyah described its purpose: ‘We must declare war on war, so the outcome will be peace upon peace.’”
A simple internet search by Obama’s advisors would have found that Bin Bayyah is a radical unworthy of praise from an American president, especially when so many other Muslim teachers and activists exist.
Bin Bayyah used to be the vice chairman of the International Union of Muslim Scholars until last year. The body is led by Muslim Brotherhood spiritual leader Yousef al-Qaradawi, who is also linked to Hamas. Former Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh became a member of the group in 2012, but his name no longer is listed on its website. In 2004, the group issued a fatwa ruling that Muslims have a “duty on every able Muslim in and outside of Iraq” to support attacks on U.S. soldiers in Iraq.
In 2012, Bin Bayyah said that donations to jihad fighters qualify as zakat, the Islamic version of tithes. In April 2013, he said that Muslim leaders should give Hamas financial and military assistance to fight Israel.
A 2009 fatwa (written either by the Union or Bin Bayyah) ruled that any Muslim who supports normalization of relations with Israel or has any political, economic or cultural dealings with Israel is a traitor. The punishment for traitors under sharia is death. The statement therefore justifies the murder of Muslims that favor do business with Israel or are willing to accept Israel’s existence.
State Department deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf appeared on the Kelly File (see video below) where she defended President Obama’s praise of Bin Bayyah.
She first tried to suggest that host Megyn Kelly’s reporting on him was incorrect, saying, “Well, I think there’s some misinformation out there about things he may or may not have said.”
When that line didn’t work, Harf said, “What we’re judging him by is what he says very openly right now about that Muslims should reject ISIS’ ideology.”
Astonishingly, she said did not know about how the State Department (which, again, she is the deputy spokeswoman for) had apologized for promoting Bin Bayyah on Twitter. And therein lies a huge problem.
To start with, it is inexcusable for the State Department or President Obama to uphold Bin Bayyah as a leader for Muslims to follow when information about his support for terrorism is readily available. But what’s even worse is that the State Department learned of its error—and then repeated it only months later.
The State Department’s earlier embarrassment didn’t lead to a government-wide (or apparently even a department-wide) reassessment of Bin Bayyah and the entire vetting process. The apology was issued and the lesson was forgotten.
President Obama later praised him and even the State Department’s own deputy spokesperson went on television without knowing about what happened. There are no words to describe this level of incompetence and irresponsibility.
If the U.S. government can’t even do a quick Google search to find out if a cleric supports terrorism and killing U.S. soldiers, then the vetting and decision-making processes are broken and we’re in serious trouble.
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 Fox News.