Last year, on September 29, friends and colleagues of Jamal Khashoggi, a member of Muslim Brotherhood and an affiliate of Al Qaeda, launched his “brainchild” – a new pro-Islamist thinktank named Democracy for the Arab World Now (DAWN) in Washington DC. This dubious organization is led by Sarah Leah Whitson.
Washington Post’s poster-child Khashoggi was an open supporter of violent, theocratic Islamist movements such as Muslim Brotherhood. His public commentary included open support for designated terrorist organizations, radical Islamic jihad and unabashed anti-Semitism. Sitting in the US, Khashoggi opted a tricky formula of reinventing and proclaiming himself to be an “exiled human rights” dissident – only when he lost influence in Saudi Arabia after rise of reformist Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
But, editors at the Washington Post did not bother reading Khashoggi’s fascistic posts on Twitter and other social media platforms. Although Post editors said, Jamal Khashoggi’s columns were “shaped” [and funded] by a top official of the Qatari regime’s multi-billion-dollar Qatar Foundation, they never admitted – Khashoggi was not a crusading voice for a better world; he was a spin doctor for theocrats in Doha and Ankara [and may be also in Tehran].
Under the garb of promoting human rights and democratic ideals, DAWN would certainly follow the footstep of Khashoggi and continue defending radical Islamic terror, extremism and religious totalitarianism.
Among DAWN’s inaugural publications is a presentation of the extremist Saudi cleric, Salman Al-Odah, showing him as an innocent reformist, though Al-Odah was clearly an anarchist and an agent of radical Islamic extremism.
Salman Al-Odah was first jailed in the 1990s after he called on his followers to engage in jihad in Afghanistan and Iraq. He even served at one point as a mentor to Al-Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden.
Al-Odah claimed to have moderated while in jail. But in 2005, he again issued a call for jihad in Iraq. Since then, in 2012, he insisted that the Holocaust was exaggerated and turned into a “myth” and “a source for extortion.” He has promoted various antisemitic theories, justified cyber-attacks on “un-Islamic” websites, and as recently as 2017 issued a fatwa prohibiting women from wearing trousers in front of others as, according to him, they show the size of women’s sexual organs, causing “sedition and excitement.”
Nonetheless, DAWN presents this anti-Semite, women-degrading, violence-supporting preacher of hate as a “popular scholar,” known for his “reformist” and “peaceful” views.
DAWN’s investigation into the alleged persecution of Al-Odah relied on “information, court memoranda, and other legal documents.” It may come as little surprise that this information – including “court memoranda, and other legal documents” – was provided by Al-Odah’s son, Abdullah Alaoudh, who, it turns out, is a DAWN researcher.
It is instructive to look at DAWN’s other officials. Let us have a glimpse on the front soldiers of DAWN, those who will be pursuing Khashoggi’s “dream of democracy and human rights in the Arab world”, and would make attempts of brainwashing the policymakers in Washington DC with their propaganda materials.
One board member of DAWN is Asim Ghafoor.
In filed corporation documents, DAWN is registered to Ghafoor’s address. Presented as a leading attorney on “high-profile cases related to national security and terrorism,” Asim Ghafoor in fact worked for and represented several prominent Al Qaeda charities subsequently designated by the US government.
He served, for example, as a spokesman for the Global Relief Foundation, which was designated by the US in 2002, with the federal government reporting it “has connections to, has provided support for, and has provided assistance to Usama Bin Laden, the al Qaida Network, and other known terrorist groups”.
Ghafoor also represented the US branch of the AL Haramain Foundation (AHF) charity, which was designated in 2004. An investigation run by the IRS, FBI and ICE found that the AHF’s US branch had “direct links” to bin Laden.
AL Haramain Foundation engaged in “money laundering offenses,” in which funds it claimed to use to purchase a prayer house in Missouri were in fact earmarked for jihadists in Chechnya. The Treasury Department reports that “funds were donated to the AHF with the intention of supporting Chechen refugees were diverted to support mujahideen, as well as Chechen leaders affiliated with the al Qaida network”.
Other board members of DAWN include several leading Islamist activists such as Nihad Awad, co-founder of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), which federal prosecutors named as an unindicted coconspirator in a 2007 terror finance case. Before founding CAIR, Awad worked for the (now defunct) Islamic Association for Palestine, which fundraised for mega-terror outfit Hamas and published pamphlets warning about “America’s Greatest Enemy: THE JEW!” Awad himself had made regular antisemitic statements over the years.
Support for one of the world’s most infamous theocratic movements does seem to be a possible requirement for membership. DAWN’s other officials (described as non-resident fellows) include Nader Hashemi, who argues that Islamists such as the Muslim Brotherhood offer a bulwark against jihadists, and, perversely, that when “moderate forms of political Islam are crushed and denied a public voice, radical Islam thrives.”
Hashemi’s colleague at DAWN, political science professor Khalil Al-Anani, offers similar ideas. He is apparently incapable of imagining a Middle East without Islamism, claiming that it would be similar to a “China without Han” and declaring it better to “move beyond this obvious fact.” Aside from it being illogical to compare a theocratic ideology to an ethnicity, more than 90 percent of China’s population is Han. According to Al-Anani’s analogy, not only would the near-totality of Middle Easterners be Islamists, but it would also be impossible for them to be anything else.
Another of DAWN’s non-resident fellows, Emad Shahin, fled Egypt shortly before being charged “along with several senior leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood with conspiring with foreign organizations to undermine national security.” He was later convicted in absentia of “conspiring with foreign armed groups, including Hamas and the Lebanese group Hezbollah to destabilize Egypt.”
Last year, DAWN even published an article by Amr Darrag, a former minister in the short-lived despotic Morsi regime, painting the notorious Morsi regime as an honest, committed guardian of liberal democratic ideals, in contrast with the “instability” of Egypt’s current (equally authoritarian) government.
Although, according to DAWN’s Whitson, the organization hopes to expand its work eventually to all countries in the Middle East and North Africa, she states it will be focusing for the moment on Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Egypt – as these are “governments with close ties to the United States and […] that is where we have the greatest responsibility”. It seems to us unlikely a coincidence that DAWN is just focusing on the greatest antagonists of the Qatari regime.
According to Martha Lee, research fellow of Islamist Watch, a project of the Middle East Forum, DAWN was only launched recently, but from its ideological alignment with violent radical movements in the Middle East, to its officials’ connections to Al Qaeda and Hamas networks, and its vision of democracy entwined with Islamism, it is patently clear that DAWN is yet another Islamist-support organization, determined to advance an illiberal, anti-democratic agenda, all somehow under the cover of liberal, democratic rhetoric.