We got it wrong a couple weeks back when we predicted that CAIR-Michigan would come riding to the defense of Houssein Zorkot, the young Lebanese medical student who's been charged with three felonies arising from his deployment to Dearborn’s Hemlock Park with a loaded AK-47. Zorkot is an avid supporter of Hezbollah, and on the day he was arrested declared the beginning of his “personal jihad.”
But rather than coming to his support, neither CAIR, nor CAIR-Michigan, nor the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), (which supports Hezbollah), nor the Arab-American News, (which often apologizes for Hezbollah), have made any public mention of Zorkot at all. Maybe Osama Siblani at the Arab-American News just didn't think Zorkot's arrest was newsworthy, but he covered a much less significant local crime story that week that lacked any potential terrorist angle, or Muslim arrestee. ("Suspect taken into custody for attempted murder").
Zorkot appeared in court last Friday for a preliminary hearing. We thought we’d be there, too, hoping to get some more information about what went on that night. Aside from Zorkot’s father and a couple of boosters from the Dearborn Press & Guide, no one from the Muslim community showed up to give moral support to the suspect.
Zorkot’s attorney asked for additional time to investigate the facts of the case, and the court ordered a competency exam. The hearing was adjourned until November 9, so we still haven’t had a chance to hear what any of the evidence is.
Though we may have gotten our original prediction wrong about Muslim leaders' public response to all this, it’s still significant that there’s been utter silence from CAIR, especially from the local chapter’s interview-hungry director, Dawud Walid, who never tires of repeating accusations of Islamophobia wherever Muslim suspects are involved.
At this stage, I have to think the uncharacteristic quiet suggests just how serious the evidence against Zorkot really is.
The thing is, that thanks to concessions from federal and local law enforcement obtained shortly after 9/11, (see, for example, "1-800-DIG-THIS," and "London BRIDGES"), Muslim leaders get a first glimpse at any prominent criminal actions that might throw unwelcome light on domestic sympathies or cooperation with Islamic terrorism. Because of that, local Muslim wheels often know what police and prosecutors are up to well before the press and public do.
We’re fairly certain something like that went on here, because Zorkot’s arrest and arraignment were such a closely-held secret for days. Instead of following the usual sequence for this kind of arrest, that is, arrest-- followed by news reports of the arrest-- followed by the arraignment of the suspect--Zorkot was arrested on a Friday night and arraigned four days later before the city finally issued a press release later that day. The press release tried to excuse the delay as the result of officials’ fears that “announcing the arrest of an armed Arabic man so close to anniversary of the [9/11] attack would stir anti-Muslim sentiments and fan the flames of terrorism.”
The mayor and the cops then went out of their way to explain that none of the evidence of Zorkot’s deep committment to Hezbollah, jihad, and paramilitary training, (not to mention his purchase, on Day One of his “personal jihad,”of an AK-47), gave them any clues about what Zorkot’s motives were.
Then, when Police Chief Mike Celeski congratulated the eyewitnesses who reported Zorkot’s behavior to police, he said “If it weren't for their quick-thinking — and the actions of our officers — the situation could have quickly escalated.”
Jack O’Reilly said, “Given his actions, his behavior and the way he was dressed, I don't believe a $1 million bond is unreasonable. With any luck, it will keep him in jail until we're able to sort this out.”
All of which tells us that at least the police believed there was a “situation,” that it had the potential to escalate, and that Zorkot’s actions and behavior convinced officials the world was better off with Zorkot behind bars.
We also know that Zorkot's statements when he was arrested led to police obtaining a search warrant for his home, where they seized his laptop upon which, lo and behold, there were numerous Hezbollah-related photographs and other material.
We also know one of the three felonies Zorkot is charged with is carrying a dangerous weapon with unlawful intent. That charge requires evidence that the “defendant carried a firearm or dangerous weapon with the intent to unlawfully use it against another person.” The kind of specificity called for in that language demands more than just being detained with a loaded weapon for no apparent reason, but actual intent to use it against somebody.
My guess is police know more about what Zorkot intended than they are admitting now, because Zorkot told them his intent by way of a statement or admission at the time of his arrest. I also think, though I'm less confident all the facts will come out, that the cops knew enough from what Zorkot said during his arrest to put together the two COMPLETELY UNRELATED concepts of "loaded AK-47 with unlawful intent" and "Hezbollah-supporting jihadist wesbite," at least sufficiently enough to get a search warrant.
I also think the area’s Muslim leaders were shown the prosecution’s case before the September 11 arraignment, to forewarn them not to prematurely rally to Zorkot as an emblem of police overreaction and Islamophobia--only to find themselves, when and if the facts ever come out, trying to defend a real, live terrorist that the public’s not going to sympathize with at all.
For right now, and until the rest of the evidence about Zorkot finally comes out, we can't speculate much further about what he was up to that night.
But as for CAIR, their motives aren’t so hard to read. They don’t like Zorkot and his case because he’s turning out to be the guy they spend all their time telling us doesn’t even exist--except in our fevered, Islamophobic imaginations.