Just days after it came under fire for engaging with a member of Egypt’s Nazi Party, Georgetown University hosted an event with a 9/11 Truther who has claimed that Osama bin Laden was not involved in the 2001 attacks on the Twin Towers.
A Thursday afternoon panel sponsored by Georgetown was chaired by Boston College Professor Natana DeLong-Bas, who has defended Islamic fundamentalism and maintained that bin Laden played no role in the most deadly terror attack on American soil.
DeLong-Bas was scheduled to be joined on the panel by Rep. Keith Ellison (D., Minn.) and former White House advisor Dalia Mogahed. The event, which focused on the future of Muslim-Christian relations, was organized by Georgetown’s Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding.
The controversial panel took place just days after the Washington Free Beacon reported that Georgetown was slated to host a December 5 event with Muslim Brotherhood sympathizer Ramy Jan, who also is a key member of the country’s Nazi Party.
DeLong-Bas is known to be an outspoken critic of the official 9/11 narrative and has implied that Islamic terrorism is a product of Western intervention in the Muslim world.
"I think that the Western media and the world have given Osama bin Laden more weight [than he has in reality] and exaggerated in depicting the danger he poses," DeLong-Bas said in a now infamous 2006 interview with the Al-Sharq Al-Awsat newspaper.
"Likewise, I do not find any evidence that would make me agree that Osama bin Laden was behind the attack on the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center," she said, according to a reproduction of the interview supplied by the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI). "All we heard from him was praise and acclaim for those who carried out the operation."
She also claimed that America’s support for Israel is justifiably enraging Arab youths.
"American government's tying [the hands of] the U.N. [and preventing it] from adopting any resolution against Israel, have definitely added to the Muslim youth's state of frustration, which then pushes them to—as they understand it—help their brothers do away with the aggression against them, in the various Islamic countries," DeLong-Bas said.
These things, she added, are happening "at a time in which all political options have been closed off. That is why I believe that religion has nothing to do with this."
In addition to downplaying the influence of extremist Islamic scholars, DeLong-Bas praised supposed democracy efforts undertaken by terror group such as Hamas.
"The U.S. made an effort to implement democracy in the Middle East—efforts that did not rise to the level of what Hamas has achieved, for example—we need to give them more time," she said. "Also, I believe that the Islamic groups have clearly demonstrated their agendas in their political and reformist activities in the fields of medical care and education."
Islam does not promote violence against the West, DeLong said in a 2011 interview on the 2001 terror attacks.
The "biggest misconception" about Islam and Wahabism, a particular extremist strand of Islam, is that "violence does not have to be part of the picture," she said in an interview.
Another keynote speaker at Tuesday’s Georgetown event, Karen Armstrong, also blamed the West for the 9/11 attacks, according to those who attended the event.
Armstrong reportedly said that "9/11 was the Brits’ fault," according to one person in the room who was tweeting the event.
Experts say that it is not surprising to see DeLong-Bas and other who share her views heading up an event organized by Georgetown’s Alwaleed Center.
The center has additionally received major funding from Saudi sources.
DeLong-Bas "was a mere research assistant at Georgetown, completing a dissertation on Wahhabism and co-authoring a second edition of Esposito's volume Women in Muslim Family Law," according to an article by terrorism expert Stephen Schwartz.
"When the fact that 15 out of 19 of the 9/11 suicide squad were Saudis came to America's attention, and scrutiny of Saudi Wahhabism began, Esposito introduced DeLong-Bas to the media as an ‘expert’ to counter suspicion about the Wahhabi danger," Schwartz wrote in 2007.
"DeLong-Bas argued in the Boston Globe as early as 2003 that the writings of Ibn Abd al-Wahhab, founder of the eponymous sect, were moderate and unthreatening and treated other Muslims, as well as non-Muslims, tolerantly and fairly," he wrote.
National security and terrorism reporter Patrick Poole said that it is particularly shocking to see a former Obama adviser and Rep. Ellison participating in the panel alongside DeLong-Bas.
"It's hardly surprising that a known Wahhabi apologist would be invited by Georgetown to speak given the millions given by the Saudis to the center and John Esposito's long-time love affair with the extreme side of the Islamic world," Poole said.
"But that they would unashamedly have her chair a panel with a sitting member of Congress and one of Obama's top ‘faith’ advisers is startling," he said. "It raises serious questions about whether the now-rescinded inclusion of a founder of the Egyptian Nazi Party for their upcoming Egypt event was truly accidental."
After the Free Beacon reported on Tuesday about Georgetown’s inclusion of Nazi Party member Jan, his name was quietly scrubbed from the event.
Georgetown officials later admitted that Jan had been disinvited from the event.
The Center’s Associate Director, Christine Kidwell, did not respond to a Free Beacon request for comment on DeLong-Bas’s controversial views.
UPDATE 3:05 p.m.: An earlier version of this article stated that Ellison had participated on the panel. Ellison was invited but did not attend, according to his spokesperson Mike Casca.