Gov. Rick Perry of Texas is a media savvy contender for the GOP nomination for President. That was made official with the rollout of his campaign in Iowa over the weekend culminating in the GOP contenders debate for the Iowa Straw Polls last weekend. A straw poll that put Reps. Michelle Bachmann and Ron Paul in the top two positions and saw former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty drop out. Presumed front runner former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney skipped the Iowa events to concentrate on New Hampshire and his own national campaign. Texas Governor Rick Perry weighed in to attract the social conservatives and possibly elbow Bachmann out of contention. Perry will promote his executive experience in Texas allegedly creating more jobs than any other state in the wake of the financial crisis of 2008 and faltering economy. Perry has also made a public profession of his Christian Evangelical faith by sponsoring a well attended day-long prayer gathering at a Houston stadium and declaring that the US was a “Christian nation.”
However, there is another side to Perry: his connections to Muslim groups in Texas. Perry was endorsed by a billionaire Palestinian American, Farouk Shami who was a contender for the Democratic nomination for Governor in the 2010 race.
Salon.com in an article, “Rick Perry: The pro-Shariah Candidate?”, drew attention to his long term relationship with Harvard -educated Aga Khan IV, the leader of the world wide 20 million Ismaili Naziri Shia sect. The Aga Khan claims descent from the Prophet Mohammed. There is apparently a sizable Ismaili sect population in Texas with over 30,000 adherents. Perry has endorsed Texas public high school Islamic history education programs sponsored by the Ismaili sect and attended a dedication of an Ismaili Mosque in Houston in 2005. Perry warmly received the Aga Kahn in Texas in 2002. In a speech Perry gave in Houston, he noted the illustrious family heritage. This despite the reputations of the Aga Khans being profligate wealthy playboys with large palatial estates in Europe and huge racing stables. His late father married Hollywood actress Rita Hayworth.
If Perry were to reverse course himself, he would be walking away from a long record of good relations with Muslims. As governor he signed off on several Muslim-friendly pieces of legislation, including a consumer protection law ensuring the accurate labeling of food products as halal, or conforming to Muslim dietary restrictions.
And for years, Perry has been close friends with the head of the Ismaili sect, Aga Khan, whom he met in Paris in 2000. Since then, Perry has attended a number of Ismaili events in Texas, brokered a few agreements between the state and Ismailis (including the legislation introducing Islamic curricula into Texas schools), and even laid the first brick at the groundbreaking ceremony for an Ismaili worship center in Plano in 2005.
Perry’s relatively good relations with Muslims have already sparked distrust among some conservative bloggers.
“Scratch him off my presidential list," wrote RoadTest on the conservative site FreeRepublic.com. "We have already seen what a Muslim enabler in the White House can do."
Mustaafa Caroll, executive director of the Houston Council of American Islamic Relations (CAIR) drew the race card in commenting about the anti-Shariah movement in Texas and elsewhere:
I think what is happening is they’re using this anti-Sharia law stuff as a red herring to get everybody fired up in order to show how patriotic you are, [you have to demonstrate] how negative you can be about Muslims.
People are saying things they can’t say about anybody else in society comparing some of the anti-Muslim rhetoric to “nasty, ugly things” political candidates said about African Americans during the Civil Rights era.
Perry’s spokesperson Catherine Frazier cited in the Salon.com article noted this about Perry’s Muslim community relations and the Shariah controversy:
Affirmed that Perry "has a good relationship with the Muslim community in Texas." Asked about his views on Shariah, she wrote: "Gov. Perry took an oath to uphold the U.S. and Texas constitutions, and the principles enumerated in those documents are what guide his leadership."
Then there is the peculiar relationship with Farouk Shami, a Palestinian American salon and hair products billionaire who attempted a run as a Democratic nominee for the Governorship, only to endorse Perry in an October ‘surprise’ in the 2010 contest. The Austin (Texas) Statesman American reported Shami’s endorsement and Perry’s effusive response:
Farouk Shami, a political novice who lost the Democratic gubernatorial primary to Bill White and heads the company that makes BioSilk and CHI products, has endorsed Gov. Rick Perry for re-election, according to the Perry campaign.
"Gov. Perry has not only been true to the values that matter most to the people of Texas, he is also a conservative leader that has led our state in job creation and renewable energy," Shami said in a statement released by the Perry campaign. "As a former Democratic gubernatorial candidate, I believe jobs and the future for Texans is beyond partisanship."
Perry said in a statement that Shami's "dedication to Texas jobs and the environment is a profound example of what our state needs to continue leading the nation."
"I look forward to working with Farouk so we can keep Texas the envy of the nation and continue creating jobs so that every Texan who wants one has one," Perry's statement said.
As thanks for Shami’s endorsement, Perry appointed Shami and Farouk Systems, co-founder, John McCall to his 2011 Inaugural Committee.
Shami, as we have reported in a June NER article, is a board member of the National Defense University Foundation (NDUF) located at Fort McNair in Washington, DC and the American Task Force for Palestine. The latter connection has a dark side, Shami’s late father, Sheik Mohammed. Sheik Mohammed Shami returned in the 1930's from Brooklyn where he migrated in the early 1920's. Sheik Mohammed worked with the notorious Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, the Haj Amin El Husseini's Al Futuwwa (officially designated "Nazi Scouts") that liquidated most of the Palestinian opposition to the Arab Riots of the late 1930's, especially the Nashashibi and Nusseibeh families. These Nazi scouts together with other violent Palestinian groups engaged in attacks that killed more than 400 Jews and 200 British administrators and soldiers. Sheik Mohammed Shami was allegedly involved in organizing defense against the IDF in the areas West of Jerusalem during the 1948-1949 Israeli War for Independence.
Note what Time Magazinewrote about Husseini and these Al Futuwwa youth formations in May, 1947:
The Mufti came up with a tax on Palestine Arabs to raise $900,000 to fight Zionism. Part of the money would go to two Arab "scout armies" called Futuwwa and Najada (together they number about 10,000). Among their avowed purposes is persuasion of Palestine Arabs not to sell land to Jews. The Mufti had his picture taken as he reviewed a visiting Najada detachment. The picture turned out remarkably like the one he had taken in 1943, while reviewing a detachment of Bosnian Moslems he organized in Yugoslavia for the Nazis.
Sheik Mohammed received an Award from the PLO-Fatah in 1995 as the Dean of Palestinian Veterans for his resistance work in the period from 1936 to 1948. At the time the PLO-Fatah was a US designated terrorist group. Sheik Mohammed Shami died in 1999.
Farouk Shami established a Foundation in his late father’s name. In 2009, the Sheik Mohammed Shami Foundation contributed $100,000 to American Charities for Palestine, a sister organization of the AFTP to improve the lighting and sidewalks in his ancestral hometown of Beit Ur Al-Tahta located midway between Ramallah and Jerusalem.
Farouk Shami has entertained the Chief Representative to the PLO to the United States, Maen Ariekat, at social functions Shami sponsored in Texas.
Farouk Shami was reported by the Dallas Morning Newswearing a pro-Palestinian, anti-Israel Kaffiyeh scarf at a Houston Martin Luther King Day parade in January 2010. The scarf had an illustration of the Al Aqsa Dome of the Rock Mosque in Jerusalem. Inscribed in Arabic at one end was Palestine and at the other, "Jerusalem is ours."
While Rick Perry may be “comfortable about his relations with Muslims” in Texas, both he and the NDUF board in Washington, DC ought to think twice about support of generous endorsements and donations from the likes of Farouk Shami. Shami venerates his father’s exploits fighting against Zionists, the British and even fellow Arabs in what would become the Jewish State of Israel.