White House volunteer ‘misled’ about talk show

Panel had members of anti-Western group under U.S. scrutiny

By Jacqueline L. Salmon
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, October 24, 2009

A Muslim member of President Obama’s faith council says she was misled about the nature of a British TV talk show on which she was recently interviewed. It was hosted by a representative of Hizb ut-Tahrir, which the State Department has condemned for an anti-Semitic, anti-Western ideology that officials said might indirectly generate support for terrorism.

Dalia Mogahed, senior analyst for the Gallup Center for Muslim Studies, did a phone interview on the Oct. 8 show. It was hosted by a member of the group, Ibtihal Bsis Ismail, and featured as another guest the group’s women’s media representative, Nazreen Nawaz.

Mogahed said Friday that she did not know about the affiliation of Nawaz until Nawaz was introduced on air, and only learned later about Ismail’s association with Hizb ut-Tahrir (Party of Emancipation).

She said that she would not have agreed to the interview had she known of their affiliation beforehand and that she believed that Ismail “misled us” to score propaganda points for an ideological movement.

“I don’t regret anything I said,” she said. “My regret is that I went on the show.”

Mogahed is one of 25 faith representatives who sit on a volunteer council that advises the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships on policy issues.

Mogahed said she thought that Gallup’s public relations department booked her appearance on the show to discuss her data on Muslim women. Mogahed has directed several studies of Muslims, including an analysis of the attitudes of Muslim women in 2005, and she is the co-author of the 2009 book “Who Speaks for Islam?: What a Billion Muslims Really Think.”

During the 45-minute discussion on the show “Muslimah Dilemma,” which is broadcast on a small British network, Nawaz, Ismail and callers variously condemned democracy, praised sharia law and advocated the restoration of the caliphate — government inspired by Islamic law.

Mogahed said she grew uncomfortable with the discussion and considered hanging up. “I didn’t because I didn’t want to create a story by doing anything dramatic. I just wanted to get through it and say what I could about my research like I had 100 times before and just never go on this show again.”

On the show, Mogahed described the results of her research into the attitudes and beliefs of Muslims worldwide.

Hizb ut-Tahrir, a 55-year-old organization that started in Jerusalem and spread to 40 countries, has been under U.S. government scrutiny for years. The State Department has included it for the last decade in its worldwide report on terrorism.

In its latest annual report, “Country Reports on Terrorism,” the State Department said that although it has no evidence that Hizb ut-Tahrir has committed acts of international terrorism, the group has publicly called on Muslims to travel to Iraq and Afghanistan to fight coalition forces.

Staff writer Michelle Boorstein contributed to this report.

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