D.C. Event with Assad Regime Figure Canceled

An event with an Assad regime supporter was canceled after a threatening speech was found on YouTube.

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A strange note appeared on the Foundation for Middle East Peace website Monday night:

"Due to unforeseen circumstances the forum to which addressees had been invited featuring remarks by Ahmad Badreddine Hassoun, Mufti of Syria... has been cancelled."

The American nonprofit that works to promote a two-state solution for Israel and Palestine gave no other explanation on its site. But the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), a major Muslim rights organization, said it knew why the event was canceled.

The planned guest speaker, Grand Mufti Ahmad Badreddine Hassoun, described by Der Spiegel as "the highest Islamic authority in Syria," has long been a supporter of the brutal Syrian regime and its president, Bashar al-Assad.

In October 2011, a YouTube video showed the cleric threatening suicide bombings on the the U.S. if Western countries intervened in the violence in Syria.

"I say to all of Europe and to the U.S.: We will prepare martyrdom-seekers who are already among you, if you bomb Syria or Lebanon. From now on, it will be 'an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth,'" he said.

(Watch the full video above.)

The event featuring the Muslim cleric had been condemned by the Syrian Expatriates Organization and other Syrian activist groups.

CAIR says it received an E-mail Monday from Philip Wilcox, the president of the Foundation for Middle East Peace, which read:

"We have canceled the Thursday program because the Mufti's YouTube comments, of which [we] were not informed, were entirely incompatible with the theme we were led to believe he would project, 'Coexistence and Dialogue.'"

A request for comment from the Foundation for Middle East Peace was not immediately returned.

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  • Elizabeth Flock is a staff writer for U.S. News & World Report. You can contact her at eflock@usnews.com or follow her on Twitter and Facebook.