Most of the country now knows Khzir and Ghazala Khan as the parents of Capt. Humayun Khan, a brave soldier who was killed in Iraq in 2004. But Khzir Khan’s moving speech at the Democratic National Convention and his wife’s subsequent comments haven’t deterred Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump from attacking their motivations.
Trump surrogate Al Baldasaro began circulating claims on Sunday that Khzir Khan is an agent of the Muslim Brotherhood. It’s a story that comes straight from the Religious Right.
Someone can't handle the truth.
Baldasaro cited a blog post by Walid and Ted Shoebat as evidence for his claim. Walid Shoebat, the author of classics like The Case for Islamophobia, inhabits the fringe orbit of the Religious Right alongside his offspring, Ted. His entire “ministry” is predicated on the claim that he used to be a member of a Palestinian mujahideen before he converted to Christianity; Ted appears to have inherited his father’s weighty mantle. Both men make a living peddling hate against LGBT Americans and Muslims. On their website, the Shoebats accused Khan of being “a promoter of Islamic Sharia Law in the U.S.” Their evidence is flimsy. They uncovered an old paper Khan once wrote on Islamic jurisprudence. Nowhere in it does he advocate for Shariah to be given the force of law in the U.S., but that didn’t stop the Shoebats. In the same post, they accuse Khan of being an agent for the Muslim Brotherhood.
The evidence, again, is flimsy. Khan’s paper does cite the work of Said Ramadan, who the Shoebats identify at various points as either the grandson or son-in-law of Muslim Brotherhood founder Hassan al-Banna. (Ramadan was al-Banna’s son-in-law.)
The Shoebats argue that Ramadan was a terrorist, so if Khan cited his work he must also be a terrorist. The reality is slightly more complicated. Ramadan was indeed a leader of the Muslim Brotherhood during his lifetime. The Muslim Brotherhood has a paramilitary arm that is responsible for violence, and its members do call for a theocratic form of government. So Ramadan’s views were certainly fundamentalist, but it’s still a bit of a stretch to place him in the same category as Osama bin Laden or ISIS’ self-proclaimed caliph, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Why? He never called for violence against the United States. In fact, the Central Intelligence Agency once considered him a potential ally against communism.
If he still holds the views he expressed in his paper, then Khan is best described as a devout Muslim who interprets Shariah in a conservative manner. That does not mean he is an agent of the Muslim Brotherhood, and it does not mean he thinks America should enforce Shariah. The only proof the Shoebats offer to the contrary is Khan’s faith, one citation of Said Ramadan in an old paper, and his sojourn in the United Arab Emirates. If that’s sufficient evidence for convicting someone of terrorist sympathies, a lot of Middle Eastern studies scholars are in trouble.
Put another way: The Shoebats’ argument is roughly equivalent to accusing a Christian of supporting theocracy because he or she once wrote a theology paper urging other Christians to obey the Ten Commandments. So why are the Shoebats so anti-Khan? There’s money at stake. This is their business, and they are well-compensated by the right wing for conducting it.
As I reported last November, the Shoebats regularly deliver training to sessions to police departments across the country. Walid Shoebat received $6,000 from a private vendor, Courses Offering Police Specialization, to “train” officers in Jackson Township, N.J. He’s also instructed officers in Rapid City, S.D.
Shoebat, however, isn’t an expert in anything except fomenting hysteria. Multiple investigations into his background have cast doubts on his backstory. “I have never heard anything about Walid being a mujahideen or a terrorist,” his cousin, Daood Shoebat, told CNN reporters in 2011. “He claims this for his own personal reasons.”
But the facts never stopped the Shoebats, and they probably won’t stop Shoebat supporters, either.