“Khan job” by Frank Gaffney

Originally posted at Front Page Magazine.

The casual observer might think nothing of the candidacy of a fellow named Suhail Khan for election to one of two open seats on the Board of Directors of the American Conservative Union – the political Right’s largest and most influential grassroots umbrella organization.  Certainly, for most Americans, the man’s faith would be of no interest.  If the fact that Khan is an adherent to Islam were even known, it probably would be seen as an asset ­– another Muslim-American seeking to become more involved in the political process just like, for example, Rep. Keith Ellison, the Muslim convert who recently won a Minnesota seat in the House of Representatives.

Something else appears to be at work here, however.  The tip-off is the fact that anti-tax activist Grover Norquist, who sits on the ACU Board, is promoting Khan’s candidacy.  Even that association, however, could be construed as nothing more than a calculated effort by a skillful conservative operative to insinuate a reliable ally into a useful post as the former struggles to overcome the damage done to his reputation and influence – and that of the Republican Party – by his scandalous collaboration with convicted felon Jack Abramoff.

Unfortunately, there seems to be another and more insidious motivation for the Khan candidacy – one of a piece with a longstanding, if largely hidden, Norquist agenda that I first documented in these pages over three years ago.  In a 12,000-word report titled “A Troubling Influence,” published on December 9, 2003 with a validating introduction by David Horowitz, I described the nature and extent of Norquist’s involvement in a political influence operation in the service of a number of Mr. Ellison’s co-religionists. Most, like Suhail Khan, have troubling ties to individuals and organizations with well-established sympathies for the ideologues known as Islamists.  Some of the latter have been directly tied to terrorism.

An Incomplete Resume

How many ACU members will be aware of this background as they cast their votes for the two open Board of Director seats – a process that is supposed to be concluded today – is unclear.  After all, most will probably be voting on the basis of nothing more than the highly sanitized resumé supplied together with the ACU’s on-line poll:


A lifelong conservative activist, Suhail Khan is presently serving as Counselor under U.S. Secretary Mary Peters at the U.S. Department of Transportation where he was awarded the Secretary’s Team Award in 2005. Previously Suhail served as Policy Director and Press Secretary for U.S. Congressman Tom Campbell (R-CA) where he worked closely on legislation relating to health antitrust reform, religious freedom, the preservation of the Second Amendment, tort reform, the reform of race-based affirmative action, and the 1998 impeachment proceedings in the House of Representatives.

After the 2000 elections, he aided the White House Office of Public Liaison in outreach efforts. In a volunteer capacity, Suhail is an active participant in the Republican National Committee’s 72-hour program and has been deployed to key races in states including Colorado, Washington, Iowa, Louisiana, Virginia, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Born in Boulder, Colorado, to parents who emigrated to Wyoming and Colorado from southern India, Suhail grew up in California and earned his B.A. in political science from University of California at Berkeley in 1991 and his J.D. from University of Iowa in 1995.

Khan’s Other Credentials

The foregoing account of Suhail Khan’s personal history omits a number of details that ACU members – and, more importantly, the rest of us – should know.  Khan has contested the thrust of the following, inconvenient details about his family’s Islamist connections.  He has denounced those like me who have called attention to them.

Khan has tried with some success to secure retractions from publications that ran articles referring to unsettling aspects of his background and associations – but without providing the evidence that they are wrong.  When “A Troubling Influence” appeared three years ago, David Horowitz offered Norquist and Kahn an opportunity to respond. Norquist, a first seemed ready to respond, then begged off saying he had a “revolution to run” and no time for such matters. Suhail Kahn submitted a letter challenging the specific claims in my article which were most damning – that his father, as head of a Wahabbi mosque in California, had hosted Osama bin Laden’s number two man, Ayman al-Zawahiri, and raised money for him, and that as a member of the White House staff – a position Norquist engineered for him – he had authorized radical Islamists to meet with President Bush.  Kahn’s denials were submitted to me and I rebutted them. But when Kahn was invited to respond, he went silent. Then, three years later, he challenged the same points when I repeated them in an article for Frontpage.

In other words, for three years Suhail Khan has attempted to challenge the information I supplied in 2003 but without actually refuting it. For the record, and as a public service in particular to members of the American Conservative Union, I reprise here the most troubling parts of the Khan clan background:

Mahboob Khan

The Khan family did not simply settle into its adopted country after emigrating from southern India. Over their years in the United States, the parents and to some degree their eldest son, Suhail, played prominent roles in several organizations associated with the Wahhabi strain of Islamism – a particularly virulent ideology that has this country in its cross-hairs.

Suhail Khan’s father was the late Mahboob Khan, a PhD in solid-state physics.  His biography claims that he helped establish the Muslim Student Association (MSA) while a student in Boulder (presumably, this refers to the MSA chapter at the university as the parent organization was established in 1963).  The MSA is present on scores of American campuses and serves to recruit, proselytize and indoctrinate on behalf of Saudi-backed Islamists.[1] It is pro-Hamas – the MSA at UC Irvine even demanded that its members be allowed to wear Hamas armbands at graduation  – and openly sympathizes with terrorists. Dr. Khan held the post of MSA vice president and Western Zone representative.

The elder Khan also served as member of Majlis a’Shura (the governing council) of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), which was created by the Muslim Student Association (MSA) in 1977 to promote the Islamist agenda among Muslims and the general population.  Another MSA arm is the North American Islamic Trust, the Saudis’ vehicle for providing the financing of, by some estimates, as many as 80% of the mosques in America.  That financing, and the control arising from holding title for the mosques’ real estate, affords the Saudis and their proxies the ability to determine: who will serve as imams in their American mosques; what materials are distributed to the congregations[2] and taught in the madrassas (mosque schools)[3]; to what purpose are the members’ obligatory tithes applied; which congregants will be eligible to make the haj pilgrimage to Mecca; etc.

Mahboob Khan founded one such mosque after he moved the family from Colorado to southern California in 1975.  The mosque, together with an Islamic center and an elementary school, comprises the Islamic Society of Orange County (ISOC), of which Dr. Khan served as president before moving on to San Jose in 1980.

The Islamist character of the ISOC was evident in a visit there in December 1992, by Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman – better known as the Blind Sheikh, who was later convicted in connection with the first attack on the World Trade Center in 1993.  On the occasion of his fundraising visit to Orange County, Rahman “dismissed nonviolent definitions of jihad as weak. He stressed that a number of unspecified enemies had ‘united themselves against Muslims’ and that fighting them was obligatory. ‘If you are not going to the jihad, then you are neglecting the rules of Allah.’”[4]

The Blind Sheikh’s remarks were translated by Dr. Khan’s successor as the ISOC’s director: a fellow Indian expatriate and former president of the Islamic Society of North America, Imam Muzammil Siddiqi. Press reports credit Siddiqi with converting American jihadi Adam Gadahn to Islam. Gadahn now sports the nom de guerre “Azzam the American” and serves as a kind of Tokyo Rose for al Qaeda, producing propaganda videos in which he glories in the prospect of slitting “the throats of infidels.” (More on Siddiqi in a moment.)

After Dr. Khan relocated to the San Francisco Bay area, he established in 1983 the Muslim Community Association (MCA), whose Board he chaired.  The MCA, which declares its affiliation with the Islamic Society of North America, is made up of not one but two mosques, a cultural center and an elementary school.  According to the FBI, one of these institutions – the Masjid An-Noor Mosque – was the site of two fund-raising trips on behalf of the radical Islamist terror group known as Islamic Jihad.[5]  The solicitation was made by the man who is now Osama bin Laden’s Number 2, Ayman al-Zawahiri, who reportedly met with the “leaders of the An-Noor mosque in Santa Clara.”[6] If such a meeting did indeed occur, Dr. Khan would presumably have been among the participating MCA leaders, as he did not pass away until April 1999.

Malika Khan

Suhail Khan’s upbringing must have been further shaped by his mother, Malika Khan, who has her own troubling associations with pro-Islamist organizations.  She was a founding member and served on the Board of the Muslim Community Association.[7] She also has been a Board member of the California chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR).[8]

The man who successfully put Sheikh Rahman behind bars, Andrew McCarthy, has noted that CAIR was “birthed by a Hamas creation: the Islamic Association for Palestine (IAP).” [9] IAP was started by “high-ranking Hamas operative Mousa Mohammed Abu Marzook,” who is wanted on federal terrorism charges. In addition, McCarthy reports that CAIR’s founder and executive director, Nihad Awad – was a “high-ranking IAP officer.” The former federal prosecutor also observes that the Hamas/IAP tie is “so incestuous” that “in 2004 a federal judge found the IAP liable for Hamas’ terrorist murder of an American citizen in Israel.” Finally, four of CAIR’s executives have been successfully prosecuted on terrorism-related charges.[10]

In light of all this, even liberal Democrats have taken to distancing themselves from CAIR.  New York Democratic Senator Charles Schumer has said of CAIR, “we know [it] has ties to terrorism.”[11] The Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin has noted that the organization is “unusual in its extreme rhetoric and its associations with groups that are suspect.”[12] And most recently, California Democrat Barbara Boxer rescinded a “certificate of accomplishment” given to the executive director of Mrs. Khan’s chapter of CAIR in Sacramento, Basim Elkarra. According to Newsweek, Boxer’s press spokeswoman said the Senator “‘expressed concern’ about some past statements and actions by the group, as well as assertions by some law enforcement officials that it ‘gives aid to international terrorist groups.’”[13]

Khan, Troubling in His Own Right

Given Suhail Khan’s family background, it is hardly surprising that he, too, has spent a considerable amount of time associating with the sorts of organizations favored by his parents.  According to a December 2003 press release issued by the Islamic Society of North America, he served on one its committees.[14]  He has repeatedly been a featured speaker at MSA, ISNA and CAIR events, as well as those of other problematic groups, including the California-based Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) and the Islamic Institute (II, also known as the Islamic Free Market Institute or IFMI).  For example, Khan spoke most recently at an II meeting in December 2006.

The Islamic Institute was established by Grover Norquist in 1998 with $20,000 in seed money from Abdurahman Alamoudi (who is currently serving a 23-year federal sentence for terrorism-related activities). II is the principal vehicle for the Islamists’ influence operation aimed at the Bush Administration and Republican and conservative circles. Norquist was its founding president; Alamoudi’s long-time deputy, Khalid Saffuri, was its first executive director; and II’s offices continue to be housed in the downtown Washington office suite rented by Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform.

In fact, Grover Norquist is the Islamic Institute’s chief enabler.  As Arab-American pollster, John Zogby, put it to the New Republic in November 2001, “[Grover]’s played the role of interlocutor. With all respect, many of the leaders [of the Muslim-American community] are immigrants and don’t have years and years of experience. Grover has filled that void.” He went on to say that “absolutely, [Grover is] central to the White House outreach.”

As detailed at length in “A Troubling Influence,”[15] Norquist has for years used his weekly Washington “Wednesday Group” meetings of what he calls the “Center-Right Coalition” to promote Saffuri, Khan and others associated with the Islamic Institute team as movement conservatives, or at least as reliable allies.  Saffuri and Khan are routinely accorded privileged seating at these events. On occasion, in Norquist’s absence, Khan has actually chaired the meeting – a private-sector role of political activism during business hours that seems unlikely to be consistent with the guidelines for conduct of his day-job with the federal government.

If Suhail Khan is useful to Norquist today, he was incalculably valuable in his previous capacity.  Prior to becoming a political appointee in the Transportation Department’s Federal Highway Administration (where he reportedly has access to highly sensitive information about the movement of military convoys and nuclear and other hazardous materials and contingency plans),[16] Khan was responsible not just for “outreach” in the White House Public Liaison Office (as his sanitized ACU resume puts it); he oversaw Muslim outreach.  Presumably, that had something to do with why when a White House access list of Muslims to be invited to meetings in the presidential complex was prepared, it actually had Norquist at its top.

Interestingly, most of the others on that list were drawn from the various Saudi-funded, pro-Islamist and generally anti-American groups that purport to comprise the so-called “Muslim-American leadership.” People now serving hard time like Abdurahman Alamoudi and Sami al-Arian were at various points among those Khan, Norquist and Saffuri considered appropriate for courting by the Bush team. Others were individuals, like Jamal Barzinji, a board member of several Islamist-sympathizing organizations that were raided and investigated by the FBI on suspicion of fundraising for terrorists.

A Case Study: Siddiqi

Another on that list was the Khans’ old family friend, Muzammil Siddiqi, even though he had a documented record of pro-jihadist remarks (including some made during a March 2000 rally outside the White House)[17] and ominous associations.  Siddiqi was nonetheless allowed after September 11, 2001, to have a private meeting with the President, at which he presented the latter with a Koran.

Worse yet, this imam was selected for the high honor of representing his faith three days after 9/11 at an ecumenical prayer service held at the National Cathedral.  Not surprisingly, his remarks to the distinguished audience were a grave disappointment.  As Charles Krauthammer caustically observed afterwards, Siddiqi could not even bring himself to condemn the terrorists.[18]

It almost turned out very differently.  Siddiqi was running late in getting to the National Cathedral and for a few moments, another Muslim cleric – Sheikh Hisham Khabbani – was mistaken for the imam from Southern California and ushered into the holding area for speakers, only to be sent packing when Siddiqi arrived.

If only the head of the peaceable, pro-American and law-abiding Sufi sect in North America had been given a chance to speak, instead of the radical imam based in Orange County, several things would surely have happened.  For one, it is certain that the terrorists would have been searingly condemned for their actions.

Sheikh Kabbani would also have unambiguously denounced the ideology, organizations and nations that animate and support Islamofascist terrorism.  We know this because both points were features of the forceful presentation made when he appeared at the Secretary of State’s Open Forum in 1999, a chillingly prescient forecast of the mayhem our common, Islamist foes seek to inflict.[19]

In fact, the very course of the war may have been different had Sheikh Khabbani been given the sort of access to President Bush and the American people which Suhail Khan and his friends generally denied the Sufi leader – but were only too happy to provide to the likes of Muzammil Siddiqi.

Sheikh Kabbani’s religious authority would have helped the United States rebut the charge that it was attacking all of Islam when it sought to counter and defeat the Islamists.  The President would have had the latitude to be clear and direct about the threat, not encouraged to use euphemisms – such as “the war on terror” – out of a misplaced fear of giving offense to truly peaceable Muslims.  We now know that such euphemisms have merely served to confuse the American people and made it far more difficult to develop, and sustain popular support for, the counter-ideological warfare our actual Islamofascist enemies require.

The Bottom Line

It is hard fully to calculate the magnitude of the damage done by the pro-Islamist influence operation run by Grover Norquist and his friends.  Law enforcement agencies have been forced to receive “sensitivity training” from the Council on American-Islamic Relations.  Norquist has lent conservative political cover to those who would weaken our counter-terrorism authorities and techniques.  He has helped place into positions of trust and official responsibility people whose often-undisclosed past associations at least raise questions about their reliability.

In short, thanks in part to the Norquist operation, America’s enemies have been emboldened.  And the United States is at considerably greater risk.

It is time, once and for all, for conservatives to take a hard look at what Norquist and his associates have been doing in the guise of Muslim “outreach.” A good place to start would be for the membership of the American Conservative Union to reject the “Khan job” being perpetrated by Norquist’s influence operation.


[1] See Steven Schwartz, “The Muslim Student Association: A Wahhabi Front,” Frontpage Magazine.

[2] See the Center for Religious Freedom (then at Freedom House), “Saudi Publications on Hate Ideology Fill American Mosques,” January 28, 2005.  Texts distributed to U.S. mosques by the Saudi embassy included such passages as: “To be true Muslims, we must prepare and be ready for jihad in Allah’s way. It is the duty of the citizen and the government.”

[3] See a study by the Center for Religious Freedom concerning Saudi textbooks being used in American and other Saudi-funded madrassas including such passages as: “Jews and the Christians are enemies of the [Muslim] believers” and that “the clash” between the two realms is perpetual and that the spread of Islam through jihad is a “religious duty.”

[4] See “Azzam the American,” by Raffi Khatchadourian.

[5] “Top Bin Laden Aide Toured the State,” San Francisco Chronicle, October 11, 2001.

[6] A San Jose Mercury News article published in 1996 makes clear that Mahboob Khan was at that time the “chairman of the Muslim Community Association.” (“Islamic School Battle Continues Impasse: Santa Clara Factions Argue over Industrial Site Used by Religious Center,” Tom Schmitz, San Jose Mercury News, January 29, 1996.)

[7] See “Anniversary Events- 10th Year Anniversary Dinner & Symposium.”

[8] Op.cit.

[9] See Andrew McCarthy, “Singing CAIR’s Tune, on Your Dime,” National Review Online.

[10] For a comprehensive assessment of CAIR’s history, goals and modus operandi, see “CAIR: Islamists Fooling the Establishment,” by Daniel Pipes and Sharon Chadha Middle East Quarterly, Spring 2006.

[11] FDCH Political Transcript, September 10, 2003.

[12] “Bad CAIR Day: Ex-Staffer Pleads Guilty to Terror Charges, Senate asks Questions on 9/11 Anniversary,” Center for Security Policy.

[13] McCarthy, op.cit.

[14]  Curiously, a number of Islamist organization web pages that refer to Suhail Khan and his family are no longer operational.  A tantalizing excerpt from this December 24, 2003, item remains cached, however: “Unable to attend [an ISNA function] was new committee member Suhail Khan of Washington, D.C.” (Emphasis added.)

Perhaps the disappearance of such documents amounts to a coincidence. Yet, we know for a fact that Khan has lately been demanding that certain publications expunge documents that he seems to feel are inconvenient to his political ambitions. (Emphasis added.)

[15]  See Gaffney, op.cit.

[16]  See Debbie Schlussel, “Jihad on Fox’s ‘24’”, Frontpage Magazine.

[17]  Kenneth Timmerman reported in Insight Magazine (“Pipes Objects to Fox in the Henhouse,” Insight, March 19, 2004) that, “During an anti-Israel rally outside the White House on Oct. 28, 2000, Siddiqi openly threatened the United States with violence if it continued its support of Israel. ‘America has to learn … if you remain on the side of injustice, the wrath of God will come. Please, all Americans. Do you remember that? … If you continue doing injustice, and tolerate injustice, the wrath of God will come.’” Timmerman went on to note: “Siddiqi also has called for a wider application of shari’a law in the United States, and in a 1995 speech praised suicide bombers. ‘Those who die on the part of justice are alive, and their place is with the Lord, and they receive the highest position, because this is the highest honor,’ he was quoted as saying by the Kansas City Star on Jan. 28, 1995.”

[18] Charles Krauthammer, “The Silent Imams,” “At the solemn National Cathedral ceremony just three days after Sept. 11, the spokesman for the American Muslim community made no statement declaring the attacks contrary to Islam. There was no casting out of those who committed the crime. There was no fatwa against suicide murder. Instead, Dr. Muzammil Siddiqi, spiritual leader of the Islamic Society of North America, offered that to “those that lay the plots of evil, for them is a terrible penalty.” Who are these plotters of evil receiving retribution? Did he mean the terrorists? Or did he mean that America had it coming? He never said.”

[19] See “Provocative Moderate: a Conversation with Sheikh Hesham Kabbani,” San Jose Mercury News.

Frank J. Gaffney, Jr. is the founder, president, and CEO of The Center for Security Policy. During the Reagan administration, Gaffney was the Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security, the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Nuclear Forces and Arms Control Policy, and a Professional Staff Member on the Senate Armed Services Committee, chaired by Senator John Tower (R-Texas). He is a columnist for The Washington Times, Jewish World Review, and Townhall.com and has also contributed to The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, The New Republic, The Washington Post, The New York Times, The Christian Science Monitor, The Los Angeles Times, and Newsday.

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