In a surreal performance, Kamal Saleem took the stage at the conservative Value Voters Summit Friday in Washington and described a life working as a jihadist for a who’s who of Muslim dictators on a mission to destroy America, Israel, and anyone else he disagreed with.
The crowd, virtually entirely right wing and Christian, went wild with applause.
Saleem has been a regular in evangelical circles for the last several years telling his story about how he was a violent terrorist who renounced his wicked ways for Christ.
“How do you change a terrorist? Introduce him to Jesus!” he said in a theatrical Friday speech delivered with a thick, unplaceable accent.
And what a terrorist he was. Saleem said that as a child he “dreamed about killing Jews and Christians” after being told by his mother in Lebanon that it was his sacred duty. From there, he claims, he went on to recruit new talent for the Muslim Brotherhood, study how to properly immigrate to Western countries and infiltrate them with jihadist propaganda, smuggle explosives for PLO leader Yasser Arafat, and run a Libyan terrorist training camp for Muammar Gaddafi — all before reaching adulthood.
“I started working for whoever paid the best to advance Islamism.” he said, pacing back and forth onstage. “Saddam Hussein pays better money than anybody else. He was very generous.”
If Saleem’s story sounds unbelievable it’s because there’s little sign any of it ever happened. News investigations into his past haven’t turned up any corroborating evidence of his terrorist resume, but they’ve found plenty of former colleagues and acquaintances who doubt the veracity of Saleem’s autobiographical details.
For one, Mother Jones reports Saleem, real name Khodor Shami, spent over a decade before his “ex-terrorist” act as a staffer at Pat Robertson’s Christian Broadcasting Network and James Dobson’s Focus on the Family. And despite Saleem’s claims that the FBI relies on him for insight into jihadist thinking, they claim they’ve never heard of him. A 2008 expose by CNN’s Anderson Cooper found similar holes in his story, which paralleled other equally dubious figures making their living off the “ex-terrorist” talk circuit.
But the crowd ate it up at the Value Voters Summit, which featured such speakers as Paul Ryan and a video message from Mitt Romney, as Saleem warned about a government plot to make synagogues and churches illegal.
“Right now it is on the table to be put together,” he warned. “We have something to fight for and that fight is for our children, for the liberty and freedom for the future and the nation.”
President Obama, in this scenario, had of course already handed America over to Saudi Arabia.
“When the president bowed before the King of Islam and bowed his knees — in Islam we bow five times a day, that’s what we used to do, and we kiss the signet ring of the king,” he said. “That means we are under his authority. When we surrender to that authority and apologize to everybody … that is a victory and that is the start of the march now to take over the land … to go from your country and fulfill your purpose and become a united Islamic nation.”
Benjy Sarlin is a reporter for Talking Points Memo and co-writes the campaign blog, TPM2012. He previously reported for The Daily Beast/Newsweek as their Washington Correspondent and covered local politics for the New York Sun.