A radical Tunisian sheik who has called for the murder of U.S. troops abroad and was banned from the United States for supporting the terror group Hamas is scheduled to headline an event on Tuesday at Yale University focusing on Islamic law and civilization, the Washington Free Beacon has learned.
Sheikh Rachid al-Ghannouchi, the head of Tunisia’s controversial Islamist Ennahda Movement, is scheduled to head a lecture Tuesday afternoon Yale’s Law School, according to the school’s website.
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Al-Ghannouchi’s upcoming appearance at the Ivy League school could become controversial given the sheik’s longtime support for radical terror groups and his past calls for Muslims to wage "unceasing war against the Americans."
Al-Ghannouchi is the leading figure in Tunisia’s previously banned but hugely popular Islamist Ennahda ("Resistance") political party, which despite being billed as "moderate" by many, has a history of violence inside and outside of Tunisia.
Al-Ghannouchi was a founding trustee and board member of a group that signed onto a notorious 2004 fatwa endorsing the murder of U.S. troops in Iraq and has personally urged the Muslim world to "burn and destroy" U.S. interests across the globe.
"There must be no doubt that we will strike anywhere against whoever strikes Iraq," the sheikh said during a speech in the early 1990s and reported on by Middle East scholar Martin Kramer.
"We must wage unceasing war against the Americans until they leave the land of Islam, or we will burn and destroy all their interests across the entire Islamic world," al-Ghannouchi was quoted as saying. "Muslim youth must be serious in their warning to the Americans that a blow to Iraq will be a license to strike American and Western interests throughout the Islamic world."
The sheik’s violent rhetoric, radical leanings, and endorsement of Hamas led him to be banned from entering the United States for a time.
Al-Ghannouchi has allied himself with the radical regime in Iran, according to Kramer, who noted that the sheik has served as "a constant ally of Iran and Sudan."
Hostility towards Israel and the peace process has also been a part of al-Ghannouchi’s radical agenda.
"I think that the approach of Palestinian Islamists must be the liberation of Palestine from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea," he was quoted as saying by Kramer. "Any part that is liberated is a gain, provided the price is not the sale of the rest of Palestine. Palestine belongs to the Muslims and must be liberated in its entirety."
Al-Ghannouchi’s opposition to Israel has led him to endorse Hamas and encourage the terror group to "get rid of the Zionist cancer."
In 2009, Al-Ghannouchi ruffled feather on television when he praised Palestinian terrorism as "wonderful" and said that he admires rockets fired at Israel by a Palestinian terror outfit known as the Al Qassam Brigades.
"In fact, the phrase ‘to strike terror into them’ is amazing because preparing power and strength does not mean to kill the others but rather to prevent them from attacking or carrying on aggression against you," he said, according to a broadcast complaint filed following the comments aired. "That is why I quite like the Qassam rockets."
In other television appearances, the sheikh has praised the mothers of suicide bombers.
"I would like to send my blessings to the mothers of those youth, those men who succeeded in creating a new balance of power," he said, according to the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI). "I bless the mothers who planted in the blessed land of Palestine the amazing seeds of these youths, who taught the international system and the Israeli arrogance, supported by the U.S., an important lesson. The Palestinian woman, mother of the Shahids [martyrs], is a martyr herself, and she has created a new model of woman."
In addition to his own violent rhetoric, al-Ghannouchi’s political party has been implicated in terror strikes and caught fostering hatred toward Tunisia’s small Jewish community, according to the Jerusalem Post.
"The party supported the 1979 embassy takeover in Iran, and evidence suggests it was responsible for bombing four tourist hotels in the 1980s," the Post reported. "In 1991 its operatives attacked the headquarters of Ben Ali’s party, killing one person and throwing acid in the faces of several others, and that same year Ghannouchi called for attacks on U.S interests in the Middle East in response to America’s invasion of Iraq in the Gulf War."
"Ghannouchi is the poster child for the problem of embracing so-called ‘moderate Islamists'–a policy fully adopted by the Obama administration," said terrorism analyst and reporter Patrick Poole, referring to incidents in which the Obama administration has praised other Muslim clerics who also signed the 2004 fatwa endorsing the killing of U.S. soldiers.
"He's hailed by the U.S. foreign policy establishment for condemning terrorism, but in the early 1990s he was attending conferences in Khartoum with virtually every Islamic terror leader on the planet, including Osama bin Laden," Poole said. "His supporters claim he renounces violence, but fail to explain how that squares with his unapologetic and ongoing support of ‘moderate' Hamas suicide bombings and rocket attacks targeting civilians."
In addition to his violent rhetoric, Ghannouchi was filmed attending a secret meeting of "hardcore Islamists," Poole noted.
While "the Arab world is casting off double-talking ‘moderate Islamists' like Rachid Ghannouchi, the foreign policy think tanks in Washington, D.C., and Yale Law School shouldn't be trying to fool the rest of us," Poole said.
Multiple emails to Yale University spokesmen asking if they were aware of al-Ghannouchi’s controversial past were not returned by press time.