McCaul's Islamic 'Rescue'

Congressman jumps on wrong bandwagon in quest to show his anti-terrorist stripes

In recent weeks, Republican Rep. Michael McCaul of Austin has been championing a documentary, Karachi Kids, that purportedly told the story of two American boys being held against their will at a radical madrassa (Islamic holy school) in Pakistan after being sent there by their father, an Atlanta cab driver. The representative of Congressional District 10, which stretches from Austin to Houston, even went so far as to introduce legislation “Encouraging the United States Secretary of State to work with the Govern-ment of Pakistan to secure the return to the United States of all American children being educated in madrassas in Pakistan,” and he met with Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf to secure the boys’ release.

But in the famous words of Gilda Radner’s Emily Litella character: “Oh. Never mind.”

On Sunday, CNN aired a report showing that the filmmaker, Imran Raza, apparently focused on the wrong madrassa. The teenage boys, Noor Elahi Khan and Mahboob Elahi Khan, were sent to the Jamia Binoria SITE madrassa in Karachi, but CNN received documents, actually sent to them from McCaul's office, noting that, "because of its name, this madrasa is often confused with the more prominent and powerful Binori Town Madrasa" – an avowedly radical and pro-Taliban madrassa located right across the street. CNN also quoted U.S. State Department officials saying, "The Jamia Binoria SITE Madrassa is known to U.S. officials as a moderate institution favored by Pakistani-Americans for its moderate and tolerant Islamic instruction."

According to CNN, the boys' father, Fazal Khan, was "astonished" by the allegations made by the film and said McCaul never contacted him. The boys said that they never received any sort of militant training and were only taught to read the Quran. "I wasn't brainwashed at all," said one of the boys. McCaul may have some apologizing to do: On Fox News, McCaul said, "I think we have to question the loyalty of this father."

Filmmaker Raza stands by his depiction of the teens' education, but, "I take responsibility" for "errors that sort of spun out of control" in Karachi Kids, including allegations that Osama bin Laden spoke at the school before 9/11. He said he'll be re-editing the film.

At press time, McCaul's office had not responded to the Chronicle, but told CNN: "The Taliban is known to recruit from Deobandi [an Islamic revivalist movement] madrassas, including Jamia Binoria, and train their recruits as terrorists. ... Any Americans among the recruits represent a potential threat to the United States because of their unfettered access to this country."

Jon Niven, spokesman for McCaul's Demo­cratic opponent, Larry Joe Doherty, called McCaul's actions a "failed publicity stunt." McCaul, he said, "has been proclaiming 'Mis­sion Accomplished' for weeks, and now we find out it was all a fraud. Just as the director of this documentary is taking responsibility, Michael McCaul must take responsibility instead of shifting the blame."

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More Michael McCaul
Michael McCaul’s “Town Hall”
Michael McCaul’s “Town Hall”
Like many of his colleagues, the congressman decided to not show up

Jana Birchum, March 3, 2017

No Regrets for a Disappointed Doherty
No Regrets for a Disappointed Doherty
Larry Joe Doherty didn't win the race, but he made it winnable, which was no small feat

Lee Nichols, Nov. 7, 2008

More by Lee Nichols
From the Music Desk
From the Music Desk
On Willie, Billy, Stevie Ray, Blaze, and more highlights from four decades of covering Austin music

Sept. 3, 2021

Game Changer
Game Changer
A new football culture for Austin bars

Oct. 23, 2015


Michael McCaul, Larry Joe Doherty, election

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle