In the past five years, Omar Kader has evolved from a crusading BYU professor to a full-time activist for Arab Palestinians, and finally, to a businessman selling security systems at the highest levels of American government.
But he says there's a common thread in those vastly different jobs - he's used them each to fight terrorism, to educate Americans about Palestinians and to promote peace.That has made him one of the better known Palestinians in America - even though he was born and raised in Provo, Utah, to Palestinian immigrants, and is a convert to the LDS Church, now serving in a bishopric.
Kader is still often sought by Arabs for help in lobbying, or by the press to explain Palestinian views. For example, he often appears on CNN's "Crossfire" to defend Palestinians.
And he is adept enough that on the day he was interviewed by the Deseret News, some pro-Israeli Jews refused to appear with him on "Crossfire" that evening. "I told CNN that if it ever bumped me off a show because of objections from Israeli Jews, it need never call me again to appear on another show," he said. CNN kept him on as scheduled.
Kader's views have never been exactly mainstream, either as an Arab Palestinian or a Utah Mormon.
"I'm really a pacifist. I couldn't find any tradition of pacifism as an Arab, but I could in Mormonism," he said. He was so much a pacifist that he became a chaplain's assistant in the Army so he wouldn't have to bear arms.
"Being a pacifist, I wondered why people would commit international acts of violence and terrorism." He eventually wrote a dissertation on the subject - and spent much of his life trying to figure out what motivates different types of terrorists and how to stop them.
For example, he feels some terrorists are ideological fanatics devoted to a religious cause, and virtually nothing will stop them but death; others want to reclaim the land they believe belongs to their people. "You can negotiate with them . . . . Giving them incentives for peace and sanctions for war through foreign aid would work."
While Arabs may be surprised at a pacifist Palestinian, Utah Mormons may have been surprised by Kader as an outspoken Brigham Young University political science professor who attacked Republicans and Israelis. He says he left BYU largely because his actions were rubbing some of his superiors the wrong way.
"I remember shortly after Orrin Hatch was elected senator that he was getting a lot of press and said a lot of things that went unchallenged. A few of us Democrats decided to organize a group, just for the heck of it, to have lunch once a month to criticize Orrin. We invited the press," he said.
When his comments started showing up in the media - along with other pro-Palestinian statements - he said some superiors personally felt that top administrators or church leaders would disapprove of the controversy he was creating.
Until recently, he said, he didn't realize how common such worries are in any organization. "I was in a group working on some Arab issues. Something came up, and someone said, `Beirut won't like that.' I had to chuckle because it was so much like someone back home saying, `the brethren won't like that,' " he said.
Kader left BYU in 1983 for Washington, D.C., to work full time for Palestinians - the Arabs native to the region that became modern Israel. They lost control of the area when it became a Jewish homeland.
He was a fund-raiser for the United Palestinian Appeal, raising $1 million for Palestinians in a 14-month period. He then worked for the Arab American Anti-Discrimination Committee, a civil rights group.
While there, he ran into the violence he detests. One of his subordinates in California, Alex Odeh, was assassinated. He found many Arab Americans "still deathly afraid" and being discriminated against all across the country.
"People tend to stereotype Palestinians, like they do Mormons," he said. That's hard to overcome, but Kader has tried through lobbying, interviews and other activities.
He said part of the problem is lobbying and heavy political donations from Jews who are afraid of Arab Palestinians in Israel. They want no concessions with Palestinians, no matter what their merit or whether they would further peace.
When asked how he views Congress in relationship to the Palestinians, he said, "Bought. Completely bought. Scandalously bought. Bought to the point of going against American national security interests for Israel. I just want Congress to be pro-American."
He has spent much of his time in Washington lobbying on behalf of Palestinians. One success story, he said, is that officials from Jordan have built respect with many Utah congressmen and with LDS people, and grew themselves to admire the LDS Church enough to allow some missionary work.
Kader's life took yet another turn shortly after he had organized an anti-terrorism seminar for Time magazine. A man called later and described some security measures he needed for an overseas concern and asked if Kader knew any company that could provide it.
He vaguely remembered an exhibitor at the seminar who might, and looked him up for his friend. Kader and his friend were so impressed with the computerized security system they found that they obtained the rights to distribute it in foreign nations, and later in America.
That led to the formation of Pal-Tek, a small company of which Kader is now president, based in Alexandria.
"People think the name stands for `Palestinian Technology.' Actually it came because I have a friend who calls everyone `pal.' " The name stuck because the company wanted to suggest that its computers are pals, and are user-friendly.
Kader cannot reveal publicly what government buildings use his system, but they are among some of the most important and sensitive in U.S. government.
The computer system he markets can make identification cards, show pictures of everyone in the system on monitors to guards before they allow someone to enter a building. It can also automatically revoke entry privileges to someone without forcing them to turn in the card, and can automatically trace who enters and who let them in.
The business draws on his experience in trying to stop terrorism and keep the peace.
Although he said he is surprised by the amount of work needed to organize a business, he can still find time to occasionally lobby or do press interviews on behalf of Palestinians and the problems they face.
"I will always be a political activist. It's important," he said.