Former Terrorists to Speak at AF Academy

February 5, 2008

The Air Force Academy will host three “former terrorists” as speakers Wednesday to the cadet wing, despite warnings that at least one of them has fabricated portions of his past and protests that the purpose is to promote Christianity.

Critics say the speakers, who have converted to Christianity, were invited to profess evangelical beliefs, inappropriate in a government academic setting.

The academy didn’t return numerous phone calls late Monday.

Part of an annual political forum at the academy, the three speakers are Walid Shoebat, Kamal Saleem and Zak Anani.

A news release said the academy invited them “so that the cadets can better under- stand the Islamic mind set in our war on terror.”

The speeches are slated for 8:30 a.m. Wednesday.

Critics charge that Shoebat and Saleem preach evangelical Christianity, calling for destruction of the Muslim world.

On his Web site, Shoebat criticizes Palestinian sympathizers.

Shoebat has also been accused of misrepresenting his past and of “manipulating the fears and whipping up hatred between Jews and Muslims,” according to a Saturday article on a Web site,

The author, “civilian journalist” Eileen Fleming, wrote that she spoke with one of Shoebat’s relatives who said he made up his biography.

His bio at states that he was a member of the Palestinian Liberation Organization and participated in acts of terror and violence against Israel. After he was imprisoned for a time, he said, he continued a life of violence and rioting in Bethlehem and the Temple Mount.

In the U.S., he worked as a counselor for the Arab Student Organization at Loop College in Chicago and continued his anti-Israel activities, the Web site says. He later converted to Christianity and is now an American citizen living under an assumed name.

Kamal Saleem’s Web site says his mission is to teach others “on radical Islam’s true agenda, and the power of praying for Muslims around the world.”

The Web site, at, says Saleem was born to a large Sunni Muslim family in the “heart of the Middle East.” Saleem was recruited by the Muslim Brotherhood and completed his first mission to Israel at age 7. He, too, was recruited by the PLO and other radical Muslim groups. Years of terrorist training resulted in Saleem’s “mastering every form of offensive and defensive terrorist tactics,” the Web site says.

He converted to Christianity when a Christian helped him after a car crash, the site says.

Despite the speakers’ selfdescribed knowledge of radical Islam, the goal of the seminar isn’t to enlighten cadets to other belief systems, said David Antoon, a 1970 academy graduate and a member of a group that has accused the academy of encouraging Christian proselytizing.

“What’s troublesome to me is this is pure ideology and it has nothing to do with academics,” Antoon said. “This is the Air Force Academy. It used to be an academic institution of excellence. It has become a political Bible college with the evangelicals holding so much influence with what’s going on there.”

In response to issues raised by the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, the academy adopted a religion sensitivity program several years ago.

The foundation filed a federal lawsuit last fall alleging religious discrimination in the military as a whole.

Foundation founder Mikey Weinstein of Albuquerque, an academy graduate, said the foundation’s researchers haven’t confirmed the speakers’ connections to terrorist activities or organizations.

“If they are indeed terrorists, why are they not being prosecuted, jailed or deported or sent to Guantanamo Bay, or is it because they’ve accepted fundamental Christianity?” Weinstein said. “Or if this is fabricated and it’s a total fraud, why are they being invited to the academy?”

Rod Mitchell, publicist for the three, said they are being unfairly maligned.

“I’ve been working with these people long enough to know what they represent,” he said, noting he’s provided publicity for them for three years. “Yes, they are Christians. They became Christians straying away from the practices of fundamental Islam faith and, as such, they had quite an awakening.”

He said he didn’t know how much, if anything, the men will be paid for their academy visit. For some speeches, they’re paid only air fare and hotel expenses. “Some places, they take an offering,” he said.

He said the academy contacted the Shoebat Foundation; the men didn’t contact the academy.

Representatives of Northern Command, the nation’s homeland defense command, which analyzes intelligence on terrorists, said they didn’t know about the lecture and couldn’t say Monday whether any of the speakers have been or are on terrorist watch lists.





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