WASHINGTON -- The head of Delaware's Republican Party wants Sen. Joe Biden to return money raised by an Iranian-American dentist, but Biden says the fund-raiser has no ties to terrorism and another Iranian-American group accused the state GOP of Muslim-bashing.
Sadegh Namazi-khah, a Los Angeles dentist, hosted a February event for Biden that raised an estimated $24,000 to $30,000.
State Republican Party Chairman Everett Moore on Tuesday demanded Biden return the money. He said Namazi-khah was a "lobbyist" for Iran, which along with Iraq and North Korea forms President Bush's "axis of evil."
"I can't believe that Senator Biden would have a fund-raiser at the home of a pro-Tehran lobbyist two weeks after the White House made it abundantly clear that Iran was aiding the al-Qaida forces in Afghanistan," Moore said in a statement. "Frankly, I am appalled that Senator Biden would have the audacity ... to take money from a lobbyist supporting a country that brutalizes women, ignores human rights, and endorses terrorism."
Biden said the Iranian-American group, the Iranian Muslim Association of North America, does not support terrorism or religious extremism.
"The people I was talking to are opposed to the Taliban. They are opposed to Iraq, and they most certainly are opposed to al-Qaida.
"They think it is the best interest of Iran to build a better relationship with the United States," Biden said. "This just shows that the local Republican Party isn't aware of everything that's going on in U.S. foreign policy - not that they should be."
State Republican Party spokesman Eric Sutton said the party "is not bashing anything. We embrace all religions."
Until recently, Namazi-khah was chairman of the Endodontics Department at the University of Southern California.
He was recovering from surgery and could not be reached for comment, according to a staff person at his Los Angeles office.
The Web site for the Iranian Muslim Association of North America says it is "dedicated to bring the Iranian Muslim community closer together while teaching people of all races and religion about Islam and the Iranian culture."
Namazi-khah also serves on the board of directors of the American Iranian Council, another group pushing for closer ties between the United States and Iran.
"Dr. Namazi-khah is an independent person with no relations to the Iranian government or fundamentalist Muslim group," said Hooshang Amirahmadim a Rutgers University professor and founder of the council.
"The charge is simply Muslim-bashing and I would add Iran-bashing; it is certainly a Biden-bashing attempt as well," he said. "Senator Biden was a host of an American Muslim who happens to be a native of Iran. Is that unacceptable in this great democracy that we have?"
Ibrahim Hooper, spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said such political accusations were increasingly common, and "pretty pathetic."
"You find out if any Muslim has donated to your opponent and then you say those Muslims are tied to terrorism. It's just standard procedure in any political contest," he said.
But Aryo Pirouznia, a Muslim and activist with the Student Movement Coordination Committee for Democracy in Iran, said Biden had sullied himself.
Namazi-khah's group, he said, was trying to polish the image of "one of the most despotic regimes in the world."
Until Bush made the "evil" remark Jan. 29 in his State of the Union address, an increasing number of Iranians had been hoping that U.S.-Iranian cooperation to oust the Taliban from Afghanistan would lead to restoring ties broken in 1980 after Iranians seized hostages from the U.S. Embassy.
Reach Carl Weiser at (202) 906-8134 or firstname.lastname@example.org