A coalition group that openly advocates for convicted terrorists was warmed received this holiday season by presidential hopeful Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and other lawmakers in Washington. Cyrus McGoldrick, one of the board members of an advocacy group belonging to the coalition, is known for virulently violent pro-terror tweets and advocating for attacks on Americans.
Seemingly a peaceful organization operating in good faith, the lobbying group Coalition for Civil Freedoms (CCF) was recently welcomed on Capitol Hill at multiple congressional offices. Despite the virtuous-sounding name, CCF was founded by convicted terrorist Sami Al-Arian and pays the prison commissary bills of would-be suicide bombers, terrorism financiers and jihadist recruiters, as well as provides for their families. This “terrorist fan club,” as it has been called, is currently lobbying to pass legislation that would handicap law enforcement in their ability to prosecute terrorists and would likely reverse current terrorism convictions.
The foundation’s interests were represented in Washington once again last month when CCF went back to lobby for its new bill, the Entrapment and Government Overreach (EGO) Relief Act, which would decriminalize material support for terrorists and prohibit the use of undercover informants. According to CCF’s own Facebook page, the coalition visited the offices of 60 members of Congress.
McGoldrick, now living in Istanbul, sits on the board of the Aafia Foundation, a CCF member organization that joined the delegation to lobby Congress last month. The foundation is tasked with freeing convicted felon Aafia Siddiqui, aka “Lady Al-Qaeda,” a former FBI “most wanted” terrorist now serving an 86-year prison sentence for attempted murder of U.S. officials in Afghanistan.
When arrested in 2008, Afghani police discovered toxic sodium cyanide in Siddiqui’s possession, along with a flash drive containing WMD manuals, handwritten notes describing New York City landmarks and instructions on how to shoot down drones. While in American custody, Siddiqui attempted to escape, resulting in the attempt to murder her American guards, for which she was eventually prosecuted.
McGoldrick and the Aafia Foundation deny her guilt, claiming that the trial she received was an American setup, and that allegations of terrorist connections, her marriage to Al-Qaeda member Ammar al-Baluchi—the nephew of 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Muhammad—are similarly part of a fabricated, Western, anti-Muslim conspiracy. Selectively decrying Siddiqui’s sham imprisonment, McGoldrick and the foundation refused to account for why ISIS and Al-Qaeda campaigned on Siddiqui’s behalf, even offering to release political prisoners in exchange for her repatriation to Pakistan.
McGoldrick is so controversial that he was forced to resign as the Council of American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) New York’s civil-rights manager amid a scandalous defamation lawsuit. The Islamic convert had also come under fire for his inflammatory rhetoric in support of Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood. He routinely tweeted slogans used by jihadist groups or messages echoing terrorist propaganda and advocated using violence against Israeli civilians on multiple occasions. McGoldrick has also appeared more than a dozen times on Iran’s state-controlled propaganda TV to attack the United States and make anti-Western statements.
McGoldrick revealed in the comments of a social-media post that after leaving CAIR—itself an Islamist front group listed as an unindicted co-conspirator in the United States’s largest terror-financing trial—his views were considered so radical that the Aafia Foundation was the only American Muslim organization that would work with him. McGoldrick’s history of militant social-media posts and articles is perhaps what has isolated him from even established Islamists in the Muslim community.
“To make America great would be to make American Muslim, and it is possible,” wrote McGoldrick in a 2017 article. “As I sit in a city that was once Constantinople, I promise you, God always wins,” he added.
In one social-media post, McGoldrick addressed “eager integrationist” Muslims, and warned them to “Be careful of your narrative for America and your narrative for change. Our method is Da’wah, aqd and jihad. There is no small reform for the USA—we need deep change.”
In another, McGoldrick warned his followers not to mourn for American veterans killed in Iraq and Afghanistan, and said that U.S. soldiers are not “brave,” nor “heroes,” but instead contract killers. He has explicitly called for the destruction of America and questioned whether it had a right to exist, along with the State of Israel, explaining that only “Divine guidance” will save America, “not liberal nonsense.”
Siddiqui is not the only violent criminal McGoldrick has defended. He has also supported Tarek Mehanna, convicted of conspiring to provide material support for Al-Qaeda after traveling to Yemen to train in jihad, and advocated on behalf of Black Panther Jamil al-Amin, who murdered a sheriff’s deputy in Fulton County, Ga.
Al-Amin’s wife, Karima Al-Amin, is an Aafia Foundation advisory board member. Other advisory board members include Siraj Wahhaj, who is linked to the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and whose three children were recently indicted for operating a jihadist training compound for children; and Khalid Zaman, founding member of the Muslim Students Association, which was called an “incubator” of extremism by the New York City Police Department. Many MSA members have been convicted on terrorism charges. Aafia Foundation advisory board member Sulayman Nyang is a council scholar of the International Institute of Islamic Thought (IIIT), a think tank linked to the Muslim Brotherhood and the subject of several investigations involving terror financing after 9/11.
What are we to make of lawmakers lending a sympathetic ear to a blatantly anti-American delegation? The officials meeting with CCF weren’t on the political fringe but included staff from both parties, including candidates for president, such as Warren and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). The willingness of congressional staff to meet with such people signifies either appalling ignorance of these groups’ history and affiliations, or a blatant disregard for the damage such organizations would do to American security if they got their way.
Groups that promote voices like McGoldrick cannot be considered authentic advocates of civil rights. They are part of a theocratic illiberal movement. CCF and Aafia Foundation are just a few of the myriad of Islamist groups seeking to influence Washington. No matter how they whitewash their backgrounds, history makes clear that ultimately, Islamists always side against America and with those that seek to undermine the country.
Karys Rhea is the New York Associate of the Counter-Islamist Grid.