It started as a letter by five members of the U.S. Congress to various security agencies asking them to investigate whether there was undue influence exercised within the U.S. government by staff influenced by the Muslim Brotherhood.
That request, however, backfired into a furious denunciation of the five, especially Rep. Michelle Bachmann, who is being depicted as a latter-day Joe McCarthy.
What upset U.S. lawmakers, ranging from Republican Sen. John McCain to Democrat Rep. Keith Ellison -- America's first Muslim congressman -- was Bachmann's reference to Hillary Clinton's deputy chief of staff, Huma Abedin, whose parents are said to have affiliations with organizations linked to the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood.
In the letter, the five members of Congress wrote:
"Given that the U.S. government has established in federal court that the Muslim Brotherhood's mission in the United States is 'destroying the Western civilization from within' -- a practice the Brothers call 'civilization jihad' -- we believe that the apparent involvement of those with such ties raises serious security concerns that warrant your urgent attention."
To put this in context, imagine a political aide to Henry Kissinger being the daughter of two members of the Soviet communist party politburo. There would have been hell to pay.
If the international communist movement posed an ideological threat to the foundational values of the USA and its allies, the challenge posed by the Islamofascist ideology of the jihadi movement is no less. Embedded across the Islamic world as political parties and terrorist groups, the most sophisticated manifestation of their activity is the role of the Jamaat-e-Islami in the Indo-Pakistan sub-continent and the Muslim Brotherhood in the Arab World, with both political movements active inside the United States, Canada and Europe.
So far the allegations about Huma Abedin's parents is coming from the Center for Security Policy headed by Frank Gaffney, the former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense in the Reagan Administration; an Egyptian newspaper al Liwaa al Arabi; Andrew McCarthy, the lead prosecutor at the 1995 World Trade Center terrorism trial, and some other right wing blogs. In summary, here is what they allege:
The father: Prof. Zainul Abedin
Huma's father, Syed Zainul Abedin moved from the US to Saudi Arabia in 1977 with his wife, Saleha, and their two-year-old daughter. In Jeddah, Prof Abedin founded the Institute of Muslim Minority Affairs (IMMA), with offices in both Saudi Arabia, and London, England. In addition, he was a counselor of the Râbitat al-'Alam al-Islâmî, also known as the Muslim World League (MWL) during the 1980s. Both organisations were Islamist in nature and shared the philosophy of the Muslim Brotherhood. The senior Abedin died in 1993.
The mother: Prof. Saleha Abedin
Huma's mother Saleha Abedin took over IMMA after the death of her husband while serving as a Professor in the Department of Sociology, at King Abdul Aziz University in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. More recently, she has been part of the administration of Dar Al-Hekma Women's College, which she helped to create. Earlier this year the Egyptian newspaper al Liwaa al Arabi made the claim, Prof Saleha Abedin belongs to the Brotherhood's secret women's division known as the Muslim Sisterhood also known known as the International Women's Organization (IWO). Significantly, Huma Abedin's mother leads the Sisterhood alongside the wife of president Muhammad Mursi of Egypt.
This allegation may very well be untrue, but the fact remains the writings of Huma Abedin's mother in the IMMA journal are for all to read. In her work, Prof. Abedin promotes the Muslim Brotherhood Islamist ideology without any hesitation, and his harshly critical of western culture and civilization that ostensibly her daughter wishes to serve.
"I can say at the outset that elements of the Muslim Brotherhood, both here [USA] and overseas have supported terrorism. To the extent that I can provide information, I would be happy to do so in closed session, but it would be difficult to do it in open session."
It is therefore no surprise that some American lawmakers have raised the alarm about a jihadi anti-American political party having influence on U.S. foreign or domestic policies.
And if there was a single event that triggered suspicions the Muslim Brotherhood was influencing American foreign policy in the Middle East, it was at a congressional hearing in February 2011.
As stunned members of the U.S. Congress looked on in disbelief, the head of the U.S. Department of National Intelligence, James Clapper, portrayed the Muslim Brotherhood as a "largely secular" group.
What made the quote more disturbing was the fact Clapper was not caught making an off the cuff remark, but was relying on prepared notes. The question that remains unanswered is, who in the State Department or the White House prepared the briefing note for Clapper?
Had this been an isolated incident, it could easily be shrugged off, but it was not.
In April 2009, during the G20 Summit, while greeting Saudi King Abdullah, President Obama stooped low and took a deep bow to hold the monarch's outstretched palm with both of his hands. What was Obama thinking? Not even Pakistani rulers who live off Saudi largesse have ever shown such servitude.
Who advised Obama to subject himself and America to that humiliation?
The same year, Obama decided to reach out to the Muslim world. However, instead of going to Indonesia, which is the largest Muslim country and where the president was raised, he chose Egypt.
In Cairo he insisted that the Muslim Brotherhood be invited to hear him speak and that they be given prominent seating positions among the audience. In doing so, the American president sent a clear message that the U.S. was bestowing official recognition to a banned group as the true representatives of Muslims as against those Muslims who aspire a liberal secular democracy, free from the oppressive authoritarianism of medieval sharia law.
Who in his administration was responsible for according the Brotherhood recognition at the expense of other Muslim political parties?
If this gesture to the Brotherhood was not enough, in 2010 the State Department followed it with the lifting of a visa ban on Tariq Ramadan, a known supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood and grandson of Brotherhood founder, Hassan al-Banna. Someone, somewhere in the State Department and the White House made the decision to lift the ban on Tariq Ramadan. Is it too much to ask who influenced this decision?
Among the Islamist clerics who actively pursue a campaign of hatred towards the West, the most prominent is the Qatar-based spiritual head of the Muslim Brotherhood, the wealthy Sheik Yusuf Qaradawi.
We now learn that this hate-monger's daughter Siham al-Qaradawi was awarded the State Department's Fulbright scholarship for the academic year 2010-2011. Is it too much to ask how the daughter of the world's most anti-American cleric managed to get the U.S. tax payers to fund her higher studies? Perhaps she does not support her father's hateful ideology, but in the absence of any evidence, is it McCarthyism to ask how the Qaradawi daughter became a guest of the US State Department or who was responsible?
It is not just the Qaradawi daughter. Just last month, the U.S. State Department intervened to issue a visa to a known jihadi radical, Egyptian politician Hani Noureddin, a member of the banned Gamaa Islamiya. Who authorized the visa Hani Noureddin, the man who in his meetings with U.S. officials demanded that the Blind Sheik serving a life sentence for his role in the 1993 WTC bombing, be released.
And from Pakistan, the Islamist politician Imran Khan was given a visa to speak at a July 4 fundraiser in Houston to fund his anti-American campaign to block supplies to NATO troops. Is it not the right of a any American, let alone a member of the House of Representatives to ask who authorised an anti-American jihadi politician to do fund-raising in America, and that too on the auspices day of July 4?
Michelle Bachman may not be America's brightest politician, but she and her colleagues are asking legitimate questions, which it seems, are making the Washington establishment very uncomfortable.
It is patently unfair to mock Bachman for her incredulously ridiculous statements on other matters, and project that idiocy of her past to evade the question she has raised. To label her a right-wing racist and a latter-day McCarthyist may deflect attention away from the issue and 50 years from now when State Department papers of our time are made public, the truth will come out. Some of us would like to see that truth today.
As far as Huma Abedin is concerned, she is a bright woman and a role model for Muslim Americans, especially young women who have not succumbed to the pressures of wearing the hijab. So little is known about this stunningly beautiful child of Indo-Pakistani parents that one aide to then Senator Clinton told a reporter, "No one knows anything about her ... She's like Hillary's secret weapon."
Her ability to leave a lasting impression extends beyond politicians. The legendary designer Oscar de la Renta once said, "This might seem too over-saccharine, but I love Huma." He recalled that she had great style, but hastened to point out that "she's a Muslim" and "she's very conservative."
James Carville, the former advisor to President Clinton too seemed to be blown away over by Huma's good looks. "Her appearance is just like, 'Hoh my God!' She takes your breath away. She's an unbelievably, stunningly gorgeous woman. Nobody in that position can be that good-looking; it just doesn't happen."
No wonder Senator John McCain, who also knows Huma Abedin well, went against his own party colleagues to bat for the woman who seems to have bowled over much of DC by her poise and beauty as well as her brains. As early as 2007, Sen. McCain was quoted as saying, "She is a person of enormous intellect with in-depth knowledge on a number of issues -- especially issues pertaining to the Middle East."
Just a year ago McCain had thrashed the Muslim Brotherhood in an interview with the German magazine, Der Spiegel, describing the Islamist political party as "a radical group that first of all supports Sharia law ... [who] have been involved with other terrorist organizations."
In the interview titled, "Dangers of the Muslim Brotherhood," McCain said he believed "they should be specifically excluded from any transition government [in Egypt]. He then went to say, "I am deeply, deeply concerned that this whole movement could be hijacked by radical Islamic extremists."
It seems Senator McCain simply could not entertain the idea that the fashionable 5'6" Huma Abedin could possibly share the political ideology of the Muslim Brotherhood that he himself so abhors. One would have expected him to say "I have talked to Huma about Islamism and she is no apologist for the Brotherhood," but he didn't.
For him, it did not matter that Huma was raised as a child and educated in Saudi Arabia's strict segregated sharia-based society, or that her parents chose to abandon the USA after getting American passports to settle down and serve the most archaic and misogynist societies on earth. For him, it seems, Huma's political or ideological bent of mind was inconsequential. All that mattered was that she broke every stereotype of the Muslim woman and did it in style. That alone seemed to have won him over. He is not alone.
Few if any know anything about Abedin's ideological leaning. The Democratic super-fundraiser Robert Zimmerman is so impressed by her, he says, "I'm so fond of Huma, if she were to run for office, I would volunteer for her campaign." But when pressed for any biographical details about his prospective candidate, Zimmerman said, "I really don't know much of her back story."
But now her "back story" needs to be told. Many Americans would like to know more of Huma Abedin and her political leanings, not just the way People magazine portrayed her, but as the centre of a political storm. She owes it to America to tell it whether she shares her parents' ideological affiliation with the Muslim Brotherhood or not.
This is important because lost in the din of media attacks against the Bachman Five is the fact that both her parents have been closely associated with Saudi-based organisations that were and are Islamist in nature and reflect the ideology and political doctrine of the Muslim Brotherhood. Both were members of the Muslim Students Association (MSA) while studying in the US. MSA is, by the Muslim Brotherhood's own admission, one of their organisations.
The argument that Huma Abedin should not be judged on the political leanings of her parents is absolutely valid. After all the son of another leading Islamist, Syed Maududi turned out to be his harshest critic. Didn't Stalin's daughter turn against her own father?
The problem is that we now find out that Huma Abedin herself was, until late 2008, not only a member of her mother's Islamist organization, the Institute of Muslim Minority Affairs (IMMA), she was an assistant editor.
Andrew McCarthy, who was the lead prosecutor at the 1995 terrorism trial of the Blind Sheik writes that past mastheads of the IMMA's journal have Huma Abedin listed as an assistant editor (to her mother, the editor-in-chief) as far back as 1996, the year she began interning at the Clinton White House.
"The IMMA," he writes "was started in Saudi Arabia in the 1970s by Huma Abedin's parents, with the backing of Abdullah Omar Naseef ... former secretary-general of the Muslim World League, which... has long been the Muslim Brotherhood's principal vehicle for the international propagation of Islamic supremacist ideology. Under the auspices of the MWL, Naseef not only backed the IMMA, he founded the Rabita Trust, which ... is a specially designated international terrorist organization under federal law."
The sooner Huma Abedin steps up to the plate and clears the air, the better it will be for all of us who have admired her rise in stock in the toughest capital of the world. No child should have to pay for their parents' writings or politics, and neither should Huma.
All she needs to do is say she does not share the Islamist political ideology of her mother and that mother and daughter differ comprehensively in their views about the role of women in society. Once that is done, this father of two Muslim daughters will once again celebrate Huma Abedin as my own, as a shining example of what North America offers to its Muslim citizens, if they deserve it.
[An abridged version of this article was first published in The Toronto SUN on July 25, 2012]