GENERAL ASSEMBLY

2 GOP Lawmakers Allege Democrats Have Ties to Terrorism

By Tim Craig
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, October 21, 2007

RICHMOND -- Two Republican state legislators are accusing Gov. Timothy M. Kaine and other Democrats of embracing radical Islamic organizations that support terrorism, an allegation that has outraged the governor and Muslim leaders, who say the GOP is resorting to fear-mongering to win votes.

As Republicans work to retain their majorities in the General Assembly, the two delegates from the Shenandoah Valley say they are conducting an investigation into Democrats' ties to the Muslim American Society and Dar Al Hijrah Islamic Center, both in Falls Church.

Dels. C. Todd Gilbert (Shenandoah) and C.L. "Clay" Athey Jr. (Warren) allege that the society and mosque have links to terrorism, even though federal officials have found no such connection.

The delegates have been trying to connect Kaine and other Democrats to prominent Muslim leaders affiliated with the organizations. On Friday, Gilbert and Athey released a photograph of Kaine speaking at a Muslim American Society dinner this spring.

"It is clear to me that the leadership of the Virginia Democratic Party has compromised the best interests of the citizens of Virginia by cozying up to organizations and individuals that have radical agendas," Gilbert said in a statement Friday. "I am appalled by the utter lack of judgment that Democrats at the highest levels have shown in joining forces with a radical element of the Muslim faith for the sole purpose of filling the ballot box."

Kaine and other Democrats accused the GOP of trying to smear all Muslims.

"Politics and campaigning have stooped to a new low when the governor of Virginia's effort to reach out to people of all faiths and races is characterized as an association with terrorists," said Delacey Skinner, the governor's communications director.

Several political observers predicted the GOP effort to link Democrats to terrorists will backfire and cost the party votes in the Nov. 6 election, when all 140 seats in the legislature are on the ballot.

"The idea is such a stretch, so beyond the realm of believability, this just strikes most people as either ridiculous or just political desperation," said Mark J. Rozell, a political science professor at George Mason University. "The people doing this risk alienating a growing segment of the population and don't really gain anything substantial in return."

Gilbert and Athey, neither of whom have an opponent this fall, say they are focused on Virginia's security, not the election. They say they are just following up on the controversy last month involving Esam S. Omeish, the president of the Muslim American Society. Kaine forced Omeish, who is also a surgeon, to resign from the Virginia Commission on Immigration after videos surfaced of him making controversial statements about Israel.

House Speaker William J. Howell (R-Stafford) hasn't sanctioned Gilbert and Athey's investigation. But the speaker's staff has been helping the delegates distribute their findings to the media.

On Tuesday, Athey and Gilbert released a 2005 photograph of Del. Brian J. Moran (D-Alexandria) standing next to Johari Abdul-Malik, the senior imam at Dar Al Hijrah, which is the largest mosque in Northern Virginia and one of the largest in the country.


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