Thursday, May 8, 2008

CAIR-OH revisited, 1999: CAIR-OH rushes to aid pre-9/11 dry-run hijackers

Continuing this week’s look at CAIR-Ohio’s past achievements in preparation for their annual banquet this Saturday evening at the Columbus Marriot Northwest, we revisit November 1999 and CAIR-OH’s rush to defend two Saudis (pictured above), Muhammad Al-Qudhaieen and Hamdan Al-Shalawi, which the 9/11 Commission Report identified (page 520, footnote 60) as individuals who ran a pre-9/11 dry-run hijacking on a Columbus-bound America West flight from Phoenix. CAIR-OH helped the pair file a lawsuit against the airline and threatened to file criminal charges against the pilot.

Our two previous installments in the CAIR-OH commemorative series:

1999 CAIR-OH banquet speaker: convicted terrorist and bin Laden operative, Abdurahman Alamoudi

CAIR-OH revisited, 2001: CAIR-OH holds fundraiser for notorious cop killer, Jamal Al-Amin
According to the 9/11 report, Al-Qudhaieen and Al-Shalawi were friends of Arizona-based Al-Qaeda recruiter, Zakaria Mustapha Soubra, who drove them to the airport that day in Qadhaieen’s car. Both men attended the Islamic Center of Tuscon, which counterterrorism expert Rita Katz described in a September 2002 Washington Post article as “basically the first cell of Al-Qaeda in the United States; that is where it all started”.

The men repeatedly tried to enter the airplane’s cockpit to test the flight’s security. Before the plane landed, the flight’s pilots had radioed ahead that Al-Qudhaieen and Al-Shalawi had repeatedly tried to enter the cockpit even after being warned by the flight crew not to attempt further entry, kept changing seats, as well as asking the flight crew strange questions about the plane and its destination. Immediately upon the flight’s arrival in Columbus the pair was taken into custody.

CAIR-OH president Ahmad Al-Akhras then lept into action on the dry-run hijackers’ behalf. Al-Akhras immediately began making accusations of racial profiling and denouncing the FBI’s investigation into the matter. He, along with Andy Amid of Arab Americans of Central Ohio, were quoted in the local, national, and international media protesting the innocence of the two Saudi men. Al-Akhras was quoted by the Columbus Dispatch the following day:

Ahmad Al-Akhras, president of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, Ohio chapter, said that the government and the airline industry appear to be profiling Arabs and Muslims.

“It seems like they single out some individuals because of their name, the way they look or their national origin,” Al-Akhras said. (Roger Alford and Kevin Mayhood, “Airline detains, releases ‘suspicious’ pair at airport”, Columbus Dispatch [November 20, 1999])
Al-Akhras’ comments were also picked up by the Egyptian daily, Al-Ahram, as were Andy Amid’s, who told the Egyptian paper, “Americans are programmed to think of Arabs as terrorists”. Amid also gave the Dispatch his take on the event:

“It’s called Islamophobia,” said Andy Amid, former president of Arab Americans of Central Ohio.
Except in this case, the two men involved were terrorists, Al-Akhras and Amid’s protestations notwithstanding.

CAIR held a press conference with the two Saudi men in Washington D.C. the day after the incident and called for Muslims to boycott America West. Ahmad Al-Akhras threw his weight behind the effort, sending an email to local Muslims on November 21, 1999 saying:


CAIR is pursuing legal action and asking Muslims, Arabs and other concerned people to boycott American West until it investigates the issue and makes corrective measures.

When someone responded that the “innocent” Saudi students should not settle for anything less than the dismissal of the American West pilot, Al-Akhras went further:


CAIR is exploring all leagl [sic] venues at this time and may press charges. i’ll keep you posted. salam.

What legal charges Al-Akhras and this CAIR crew had mind against the flight’s pilot he doesn’t say, but in fact, CAIR filed a lawsuit in 2000 against America West on behalf of the two Al-Qaeda terrorists over the matter, which the judge quickly dismissed. But the damage by Al-Akhras and his CAIR comrades had been done. Instead of beefing up airline security, CAIR’s intimidation tactics were no doubt instrumental in maintaining the status quo in aviation security, that is, until 9/11.

As I have noted here previously, CAIR has quietly scrubbed any mention of the incident from their website.

And whatever happened to Mohammad Al-Qudhaieen and Hamdan Al-Shalawi, who’s innocence Ahmad Al-Akhras and Andy Amid were quick to proclaim? As I reported in a FrontPage Magazine article back in April, “CAIR’s Grievance Theater, the Flying Imams, and 9/11”:

As the 9/11 Commission Report explains, Hamdan al-Shalawi was in Afghanistan in November 2000 training at an Al-Qaeda camp learning to make car bombs and planning to launch “Khobar Tower”-type attacks against the US in Saudi Arabia, and Mohammad Al-Qadhaieen was arrested in June 2003 as a material witness in the 9/11 attacks.
No doubt CAIR-OH, Ahmad Al-Akhras, Andy Amid and “Arab Americans of Central Ohio”, are proud for helping make the most devastating terror attack in American history a reality.