Who Was That Mosque Man?

Earlier this month USF’s controversial Palestinian professor, Sami Al-Arian, spoke to the Suncoast Tiger Bay Club in St. Petersburg. Al-Arian, who denies charges that he has ties to terrorist groups in the Middle East, hasn’t made many such public appearances of late. So this Sami sighting drew a big media turnout.

Now we learn that Bay News 9 has been asked by the FBI to turn over its videotape for possible use by a federal grand jury. It’s problematic, however, as to what the feds would learn other than Al-Arian is well-and-out spoken, calculated and smart.

Smart enough to make no more appearances on the O’Reilly Factor. And smart enough to appear in public now to declare his innocence and love of America, free speech and academic freedom a few weeks before Judy Genshaft has to declare him fired or re-hired. Also smart enough to bring his lawyer.

And calculated enough to bring his son and wife. Harder to demonize a family man. He’s even added an after-dinner joke whose punch line lampoons scapegoating.

But the feds would also learn this: Al-Arian the Palestinian activist is uncannily unlucky. No one gets misquoted, misinterpreted and mistranslated more than this tenured computer science professor. Not even Charles Barkley, who was “misquoted” in his own autobiography, is so misunderstood.

Caught on tape declaring “Death to Israel,” Al-Arian explains it in Nelson Mandela-esque terms. “DTI” really means “death to apartheid, death to oppression, death to occupation.” But obviously not death to hyperbole. Besides, who could give a rousing stem-winder to an all-Arab audience without the obligatory, rhetorical overkill of “Death to Israel”? Nothing personal, just playing to the home crowd with killer applause lines. Sort of like Steve Spurrier used to do with Gator boosters.

Then there was Ramadan Abdullah Shallah, the guy he sponsored and hired for his USF think tank, World and Islam Studies Enterprises. As luck would have it, doesn’t Shallah surface later as the leader of Islamic Jihad, the notorious Mid East terrorist outfit. Talk about your PR hits. But who was to know? There was no hint in his vita . Even Sami still asks, “Who was that mosque man?”

When the feds look at the Al-Arrant tape, they will see and hear for themselves; this guy is really unlucky.

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