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Sami Al-Arian Indicted in Virginia RULE Background

Posted: August 20, 2008

Indicted In Virginia
Original Indictment

Sami Al-Arian was born in Kuwait in 1958 to a Palestinian family and grew up in Cairo, Egypt. He came to the U.S. on a student visa in 1975 and in 1986 he began teaching computer science at the University of South Florida.  In 1989 he received permanent residency status. His five children were born in the United States and are American citizens. His own bid to become a United States citizen was denied in 1996.  In September 2001 he was suspended from teaching.


In 1988, al-Arian and his brother-in-law, Mazen al-Najjar founded a non-profit organization, the Islamic Committee for Palestine, also known as the Islamic Concern Project (ICP). Al-Najjar was subsequently deported on visa violations charges in August 2002.


During the 1980s and early 1990s, ICP hosted conferences in which speakers expressed support for Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) and during which funds were solicited for the group.


According to reports and video footage, during one of the conferences sponsored by ICP, al-Arian told the audience: "Jihad is our path. Victory to Islam. Death to Israel."


In another conference, one of the speakers, Imam Fawaz Damra, a former spiritual leader of the Islamic Center of Cleveland, stated that ICP is "the active arm of the Islamic Jihad Movement in Palestine, and we like to call it the Islamic Committee for Palestine here for security reasons."  Damara was listed as an unindicted co-conspirator in the first al-Arian trial. 


At an ICP event, Damra, who was deported to the West Bank in 2007 for concealing his ties to the PIJ on his citizenship application, also said, "terrorism and terrorism alone is the way to liberation." Sharing the podium with al-Arian, he called for "directing all the rifles at the first and last enemy of the Islamic nation and that is the sons of monkeys and pigs, the Jews."


An ICP invitation to its 1990 conference, titled "Islam: the road to victory," included graphics of a map of the Middle East with a Shield of David sign over Israel, an American flag over Saudi Arabia and an illustration of a horse-mounted army storming under the banner of Islam (a flag with the Islamic declaration of faith printed on it).


In 1991, al-Arian founded another organization called World and Islam Studies Enterprise (WISE), a think tank that was associated with the University of South Florida. In 1995, WISE's director, Ramadan Abdullah Shallah, who was listed as a co-defendant in al-Arian's indictment, moved to Damascus, Syria and assumed leadership of the PIJ.


WISE was shut down by federal authorities in 1995. The U.S. government alleged in a 53-count indictment that al-Arian and others used WISE and other educational and charitable entities, a parochial school in Tampa called the Islamic Academy of Florida, as part of the "PIJ enterprise."

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