Last week, on CNBC's Kudlow & Co., I appeared alongside Edina Lekovic, Communications Director and spokesperson for the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC), to discuss the recentPew Research Center poll on Muslims in America, and posted about it here. At the end of the segment, I asked Ms. Lekovic about her former position as "managing editor" of al-Talib, a newspaper published by the Muslim Students' Association at UCLA, specifically the July 1999 "The Spirit of Jihad" issue, which – almost a full year after al Qaeda's devastating attack on the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania – refers to Osama bin Laden as a "great Mujahid (someone who struggles in Allah's cause)," instructs Muslim readers to "defend our brother" Osama bin Laden, and "refer to him as a freedom fighter, someone who has forsaken wealth and power to fight in Allah's cause and speak out against oppressors. We take these stances only to please Allah." In that issue, Ms. Lekovic's name clearly appears as "managing editor."
In response, Lekovic accused me of "sloppy research" and flatly denied ever having worked for the publication. However, on Friday, Ms. Lekovic sent me an email titled, "My response to the Al-Talib accusation," in which she admitted to having "briefly worked" for al-Talib, claiming that a "printing mistake" was responsible for her name appearing in the July 1999 issue, and asked that I publish her response on this website. I will gladly oblige her request.
From: Edina Lekovic [mailto:[email protected]] On Behalf Of Edina Lekovic
Sent: Friday, May 25, 2007 3:50 PM
To: [email protected]
Subject: My response to the Al-Talib accusation
Below is my response to your accusation against me on Kudlow & Company this week, which both shocked and horrified me. I want to set the record straight loudly and clearly. I ask that you print this response on your website alongside the piece that appears there.
Sincerely, Edina Lekovic
Muslim Public Affairs Council
During an interview on CNBC's "Kudlow & Company" on Wednesday, May 23, Steve Emerson engaged in his latest desperate attempt at mudslinging, this time against me, a well-respected mainstream Muslim American leader. At the tail end of an interview about a Pew Research Center poll on Muslim Americans released this week, Emerson maliciously attempted to paint me as a supporter of terrorism based on a student publication I briefly worked with while an undergrad at UCLA.
Mr. Emerson's witch hunt this time centered around a July 1999 issue of Al-Talib magazine, to which he referred in the interview and later on his website. And this time, his witch hunting stumbled on a printing mistake which I had no part in, but which he has exploited to serve his agenda. For reasons unknown to me, given that I had already graduated at that time, my name is listed in the staff box as a managing editor of that issue. I had graduated and had no participation in campus life by that time. I had no role in the publication of that issue of the magazine and I had no part in the writing of the article to which he refers.
I am shocked and saddened that my name has been falsely attached by Mr. Emerson to sentiments that I in no way support, and that are antithetical to the work I do day in and day out in the service of my community and my country.
My time as a student journalist at UCLA was indeed memorable to me, but has been misrepresented and distorted by Mr. Emerson. I was the editor in chief of the Daily Bruin, which won several prominent journalism awards for news reporting and overall excellence under my leadership. I wonder how in his relentless digging expedition Mr. Emerson neglected to note my award-winning work.
Check the facts -- I wasn't a student when this issue was published. I had no role in its publication, and I abhor the sentiments expressed in the article to which Mr. Emerson refers. Mr. Emerson's style of shock, smear and distortion have proven once again that the value and validity of the information he claims to offer to the American public is little more National Enquirer-style reporting.
Remember initially, Lekovic denied having worked for al-Talib altogether. Now she has changed her story to a "brief" stint with the publication, and accuses me of "falsely attach(ing)" her name to a newspaper (in which her very name appears) blaming that on a "printing mistake."
So let's examine Ms. Lekovic's role with al-Talib. From October 1997 to May 2002, in addition to the July 1999 "The Spirit of Jihad" issue, there are at least 11 other issues of the newspaper which list Ms. Lekovic as either "managing editor," "copy editor," "assistant editor" "writer," or give her "special thanks." A curiously high amount for someone who initially claimed she never worked for the newspaper or now says she only "briefly worked" for it.
Here are other al-Talib issues that bear Lekovic's name – perhaps these are also "printing mistakes":
October 1997 - Edina Lekovic is listed as receiving "Special Thanks."
December 1997 - Edina Lekovic is listed as receiving "Special Thanks."
November 1998 - Edina Lekovic is listed as both "Managing Editor" and "Writer."
January 1999 - Edina Lekovic is listed as "Managing Editor."
May 1999 - Edina Lekovic is listed as "Managing Editor" and "Writer." This issue is notable as it contains an article titled, "Commercialization of the Holocaust," which minimizes the nature and scope of the Holocaust, and contains the following "Author's note":
"For the purpose of this piece, so as not to get derailed from the main argument, I'm assuming that traditional Holocaust history is true, though of course there are libraries of compelling evidence to indicate that the numbers, accounts, and narratives are either exaggerated, or in some cases, wholly imaginary. Suffice it to say that proponents of a less-gory account of Holocaust history are no longer fringe racists spouting nonsense, but now include a number of once-prominent historians who have been ostracized from university and intellectual circles that once held them in high esteem. The mere mention that things might be different than that of conventional wisdom is usually enough to brand a once well-regarded professor an anti-semite, a radical, and for the growing number of JEWISH scholars questioning standard Holocaust history, a "self-hating Jew." The author's position is that rather than open a topic that can generate volumes of work, we'll assume that standard history is true. Readers are nevertheless encouraged to explore the growing body of literature detailing alternative accounts on their own accord."
September 1999 - Edina Lekovic is listed as an "Assistant Editor." This issue is notable because it contains an article entitled, "Shaykh 'Umar 'Abd al-Rahman - Tortured in Prison Cell," claiming that the notorious "Blind Cleric" was "falsely accused" of involvement in the first World Trade Center bomb plot:
Shaykh 'Umar 'Abd al-Rahman - Tortured in Prison Cell… "Rochester, MN- CNN interactive confirmed on August 10, 1999 that Shayk 'Umar 'Abd al-Rahman was attacked by a prison officer and suffered contusions. The attack occurred while the Shaykh was using the prison toilet. As a result of the attack, he fell down and then seems to have been dragged to his cell. Shaykh 'Umar is the spiritual guide of the Jama'ah al-Islamiyyah in Egypt. The depth and support of this movement is witnessed by the fact that 70,000 associates of the group are now in Egyption dictator Mubarak's prisons. In 1996, Shaykh 'Umar was falsely accused of being a conspirator in the World Trade Center bombing, and was sentenced to life in prison.
November 1999 - Edina Lekovic is listed as "Copy Editor."
July 2000 - Edina Lekovic is listed as "Copy Editor" and "Writer."
December 2000 - Edina Lekovic is listed as "Copy Editor."
March 2001 - Edina Lekovic is listed as "Writer."
May 2002 - Edina Lekovic is listed as "Writer."
As you can see, well after Ms. Lekovic graduated in 1999, and well after the article she claims to "abhor" was published in July of that same year, Lekovic was still contributing to al-Talib.
And while Ms. Lekovic is suddenly and curiously coy about her stint at al-Talib, such was not always the case. Just a few short months after 9/11, a December 2001 MPAC event program (See Page 6), titled, "The Rising Voice of Moderate Muslims," included a bio for Ms. Lekovic, which proudly stated, "While at UCLA, Ms. Lekovic also was the managing editor of Al-Talib (The Student), a nationwide Muslim student publication."
If Ms. Lekovic was embarrassed by her association with al-Talib – which had referred to Osama bin Laden as a "great Mujahid" and "freedom fighter" almost a year after he ordered the bombing of two U.S. embassies in Africa resulting in more than 200 deaths and over 5,000 injuries while her name was on the masthead as a "managing editor" - it certainly was not evidenced in MPAC's December 2001 event program, ironically for an event supposedly dealing with "Moderate Muslims." Clearly, in certain venues, including MPAC-sponsored conferences, being the "managing editor" of al-Talib is considered a source of pride. Why else include it in her bio?
The rest of Lekovic's response, as is typical of MPAC officials, is a series of off-topic, ad hominem slurs, in a blatant attempt to play the victim and distract the American people from the issue at hand, which in this case is the level of radicalism within the Muslim American community.
As the worrisome results in the Pew poll show, radicalism is not just those who turn to violence themselves, but rather, it includes those who support individual terrorists or terrorist groups who resort to violence and suicide bombings to achieve their ends. Clearly, the al-Talib article in question falls squarely into that category.
According to the recent Pew poll (See Chart on Page 54 of the Report), 26% of American Muslims from ages 18-29 say suicide bombers targeting civilians in the name of Islam can be justified, with 15% saying suicide bombings are "often" or "sometimes" justified. Which is hardly surprising, considering that publications such as al-Talib, targeted towards Muslim American college students, have lionized the most infamous anti-American terrorist in the world, instructing Muslim youth to defend him as a "freedom fighter."
According to Lekovic, the fact that she graduated several months before the publication of this article is proof she had nothing to do with the issue. Yet her name appears on at least 7 al-Talib issues after her graduation. Did she have nothing to do with those issues as well? That is quite a lot of "printing mistakes." Is she going to demand that al-Talib apologize and write a retraction for sullying her good name?
Lekovic now claims to "abhor" the article in question. Fair enough, I suppose. Yet she apparently did not have strong enough feelings about the article to have her association with al-Talib left out of her official MPAC bio – more than two years after the offending article was published - plenty of time to determine that a job, high-level or otherwise, with al-Talib was unworthy of inclusion in an official bio.
Will Lekovic now accuse the MPAC employee who wrote her bio of engaging in "mudslinging" and a "witch hunt" worthy of the National Enquirer? Was she "shocked and saddened" to read her bio in the MPAC program back in December 2001? Perhaps considering MPAC's cavalier and "sloppy" research which, similar to my own research, resulted in linking Lekovic to al-Talib, she now considers her current employer to be "Islamophobic"? Or maybe the MPAC program, like the July 1999 al-Talib itself, merely contains a "printing mistake."
In typical fashion, when facts like these are brought to light, MPAC officials run for cover and engage in a vain attempt to smear the messenger and falsely and unfairly claim "Islamophobia."
Which brings us to the larger issue, MPAC's pretense as a "moderate" Islamic organization. As demonstrated clearly above, despite Ms. Lekovic's contention, it is not my research that is "sloppy," but rather her words, choices and associations – and those of her organization – that are sloppy, if they supposedly represent an organization claiming to be "moderate." Lekovic allowed her position with al-Talib to be included in an official MPAC bio, yet all of the sudden, we're supposed to believe she's ashamed of it?
As anyone who has spent any amount of time or effort researching MPAC knows, Lekovic's connections to al-Talib are only one of the many blatantly non-moderate positions that MPAC officials have taken over the years. MPAC's support for terrorist groups like Hezbollah and Hamas is well-documented, including its lobbying to have both organizations taken off the State Department list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations.
MPAC, like its sister Islamist organizations, is notorious for sending mixed messages, talking a good game on "moderation," to the media, law enforcement and government agencies, all the while promoting radical organizations and causes to their constituents. Despite furiously trying for years, MPAC cannot have it both ways. Either MPAC is a genuine moderate organization, or it advocates having Hamas and Hezbollah un-designated as terrorist groups by the federal government. Either MPAC is a true moderate outfit, or it hires an individual for a prominent position who had a top job at a publication that hailed Osama bin Laden as a "freedom fighter" after he had launched major attacks that killed innocent Americans, Kenyans, and Tanzanians. Which is it? It is long past time since government officials and agencies, as well as the media, tell MPAC: you cannot have it both ways.
Cross-posted at Counterterrorism Blog