Every time you fill up your tank, you may be helping to finance an Islamic mosque in America.

If that sounds far-fetched, consider this:

Some of the largest mosques and Islamic centers in America are funded by the royal government of Saudi Arabia, which gets most of its revenues from oil exports. And America is its biggest customer.

“You certainly can say that U.S. oil purchases end up funding U.S. mosques,” said Daniel Pipes, a former State and Defense department official who now heads the Middle East Forum in Philadelphia.

So what? More and more, Saudi is embracing a radical
and acutely violent strain of Islam called
“Wahhabism,” one that is spreading rapidly from its
borders. Most of the Saudi people adhere to this
increasingly anti-American sect.

Saudi was home to 15 of the 19 Sept. 11 hijackers, as well as their leader, Osama bin Laden. And it has been
a reluctant ally in America’s war on terror. Now federal authorities are investigating whether Saudi laundered money to Islamic terrorist groups through
U.S.-based Muslim charities. Some 80 groups have recently received subpoenas for financial records.

Of the more than 1,200 mosques in America, more than 80 percent have been built within the last 20 years – thanks in large part to Saudi money, according to Reza F. Safa, author of “Inside Islam.”

“Saudi Arabia alone has spent $87 billion since 1973 to spread Islam throughout the United States and the Western hemisphere,” Safa said.

For example, King Fahd of Saudi pledged as much as $8 million to build a new mosque at the site of the Masjid Bilal Islamic Center, the large black mosque in South Central Los Angeles. Last year, Saudi’s Islamic Development Bank committed an additional $295,000 for the construction of the Bilal Islamic Primary and Secondary School.

Bilal is just one of many black mosques funded by Saudi. Most of them, including Bilal, are associated with Imam W. Deen Mohammed, head of the Chicago-based Muslim American Society, or MAS, which has been credited with helping convert more than a million U.S. blacks to Islam.

A spokesman for the group said “hundreds of American mosques are associated with” MAS, explaining that each major city has “one main mosque and two or three smaller centers in the suburbs.” The Chicago area, for example, has a MAS mosque and three related centers, he says.

Black converts make up the fastest-growing segment of the Muslim population in America.

An estimated 60 to 90 percent of all U.S. converts to Islam are black, Safa says.

“Eighty percent of these converts were raised in the church,” he added.

Christianity Today predicts that if the conversion rates continue, Islam could become the dominant religion in black urban areas by 2020.

Nation of Islam

Mohammed originally took over the Nation of Islam after the death of his father, Elijah Muhammad, who founded the group. A rift with Louis Farrakhan, then a rising Nation of Islam star, led him to found MAS, which is considered less radical than Farrakhan’s Nation of Islam today.

But Pipes notes that Mohammed has recently been steering MAS toward fundamentalism to cater to the growing number of immigrants attending his mosques.

His for-profit Collective Purchasing Conference, also based in Chicago, sells members orthodox Muslim clothing and “halal” meats butchered according to the Koran, the sacred book of Muslims.

Mohammed’s father, Elijah, “hated” the U.S. and celebrated when Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, Pipes said. He was arrested and served three years in jail for draft evasion.

Though he expressed “shock” at the Sept. 11 terrorism, W. Deen Mohammed didn’t categorically condemn the attacks in a statement to MAS members.

That Saudi Arabia is stoking the black Muslim movement in America does not comfort Islam-watchers, given growing resentment of Saudis toward the U.S. – which, as it happens, dovetails with black attitudes, recent polls show.

Sixty-four percent of Saudis have an “unfavorable” view of the U.S., according to a Gallup poll taken December and January, after the terrorist attacks.

That compares with 57 percent of black Muslims who think America is an “immoral society,” according to a Zogby International poll taken November and December.

Black attitudes

Like the Saudis, the vast majority of black Muslims oppose U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East.

Fully 70 percent, in fact, blame the Sept. 11 attacks on that policy, the Zogby poll says. Echoing Saudis, most black Muslims say America should stop aiding Israel and support a Palestinian state.

Tellingly, the Saudi government prevented Gallup from asking the following questions of its citizens:

  • Is U.S. military action in Afghanistan morally justifiable?

  • Do you believe news reports that Arabs carried out the Sept. 11 attacks?

  • Do you like or dislike President Bush?

Analysts speculate Saudi officials feared the answers would make their country look like it hates its putative ally.

That’s actually not far from the truth, judging from recent actions.

Since Sept. 11, Saudi has refused to let the U.S. use its bases as staging areas for military operations in Afghanistan, and now it’s saying the bases are off-limits for any military campaign against Iraq.

“We will not accept in our country even a single (American) soldier who will attack Muslims or Arabs,” Saudi Defense Minister Prince Sultan said late last year.

Saudi also has been slow to freeze financial assets of terrorist groups, forcing President Bush to plead for cooperation. (Bush’s family and friends have been in business with the Saudi government for years.)

Little known is that Saudis have been accused of involvement in two terrorist attacks on Americans in Saudi Arabia – the 1996 Khobar Towers bombing in Dharhan, which killed 19 U.S. airmen, and the 1995 bombing of a Riyadh military center that left five Americans dead.

Even less known is that Saudi-born bin Laden had closer links to Saudi intelligence than to the CIA during the Afghan-Soviet war.

During the ’80s, he was “effectively working as an arm of Saudi intelligence,” said Peter Bergen, author of “Holy War Inc.: Inside the Secret World of Osama bin Laden.”

Bin Laden comes from a wealthy and connected Saudi family, as did some of the hijackers.

Still over a barrel

Despite Saudi Arabia’s growing anti-American extremism, attempts to reduce U.S. dependence on Saudi oil have fallen flat.

America imports more than half its oil supply, and
Saudi is its biggest overseas supplier, shipping more
than 1.5 million barrels here a day, according to the
American Petroleum Institute. (Canada is actually
America’s biggest overall foreign supplier.)

API and the Energy Department don’t break out U.S.
purchases of Saudi crude by oil-and-gas company. But
of household names, Sunoco buys the least Persian Gulf
(of which Saudi is the largest producer) oil, Energy
says. Chevron, Exxon and Amoco buy the most.

Last week, Senate Democrats and a handful of
eco-friendly Republicans killed a proposal in Bush’s
energy plan to open up the Alaskan wilderness reserve
to oil drilling. Curiously, the initiative went down
without much more than a whimper from the White House.

Opening up the area to exploration would produce an
estimated 6 billion to 16 billion additional barrels
of domestic crude – potentially replacing all of what
America imports from the Saudis for the next 30 years,
according to the National Center for Public Policy
Research.

That would, in turn, dry up some major Saudi money for mosques and the spreading of Islamism in America.

With the defeat of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge drilling bill, Alaskan caribou are safe. Question is, are Americans?

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