U.S. President Barack Obama at a campaign ral
U.S. President Barack Obama at a campaign ralAFP/Mandel Ngan

President Barack Obama has sent Muslim Public Affairs Council director Salam Al Marayati, who has said that Israel is a “suspect” in the 9/11 terrorist attacks, to represent the United States at a human rights conference in Warsaw.

The Obama administration chose him to attend the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe’s (OSCE) annual 10-day human rights conference. He told the OSCE participants in Warsaw, “Hate speech that intends to degrade, intimidate, or incite violence against someone based on religion is harmful.”

However, Al Marayati once told a radio host, “If we’re going to look at suspects [behind the 9/11 attacks], we should look to the groups that benefit the most from these kinds of incidents, and I think we should put the state of Israel on the suspect list because I think this diverts attention from what’s happening in the Palestinian territories so that they can go on with their aggression and occupation and apartheid policies.” His comments were reported by The New York Times.

Two years before 9/11, former Democratic Congressman Dick Gephardt, who was a House Minority Leader, selected al-Marayati to sit on a 10-person commission “charged with reviewing U.S. policies on terrorism.”

His human rights record includes a request by his Muslim Public Affairs Council organization (MPAC) that the United States remove the Hamas and Hizbullah terrorist groups from the list of designated terrorist groups. The Investigate Project on Terrorism found that al Marayati has called attacks by Hizbullah “legitimate resistance.”

He also has criticized the arrest of 11 Muslims who yelled racist epithets at Israel Ambassador Michael Oren at the University of California at Irvine and prevented him from speaking for 20 minutes before police escorted them out of the building.

Al Marayati justified the outburst in an article in the Huffington Post, in which he wrote, “One may disagree with the style and tactics demonstrated by the 11 students, but the central issue is not responding to the disruption by the students. Rather, the main focus should be on understanding what led to that action. The protest of Ambassador Oren's speech did not occur within a vacuum, but rather as a reaction to a string of numerous attempts to stigmatize Muslim students of UCI and squelch their free speech….

“The 11 Muslim students took a stand for another people's human rights, for what the best of America represents, and for what millions of people around the world admire Americans [sic]. So I thank the students for reminding me of why I am a proud American -- because I have the responsibility of celebrating my freedom by demanding it for others.”

His record of defending terrorists goes back at least a decade. In 2002 he referred positively to Rashid Ghannouchi, the head of Tunisia's banned Muslim Brotherhood-aligned Al-Nahda Party who was convicted for a bomb blast. Al Marayati said, "Ghannouchi is an example of those who promote this need for dialogue between civilizations, not confrontation.”

After a 1996 suicide bombing attack in Jerusalem that killed one person and injured 23 others, he said that the shooting of the attacker at the scene was a "provocative act,” according to the Investigative Project on Terrorism.

A State Dept. official replied to criticism of the appointment and told the Washington Free Beacon, “Mr. al-Marayati has been involved in U.S. government initiatives for almost 10 years and has been a valued and highly credible interlocutor on issues affecting Muslim communities.”

Josh Block, a former Clinton administration official who now serves as CEO of The Israel Project, told the Free Beacon, “It is inexplicable that a person who blamed Israel for the 9/11 attacks and advocated for terrorist organizations, including Hamas and Hizbullah—which has killed more Americans than any terrorist group in the world except al Qaeda—was chosen to represent the United States.”