Editor’s note: Today WND features the first of a three-part report by Sherrie Gossett, who went inside a recent “mainstream” Muslim conference in Florida to discover the true attitudes and ideas of the leaders of the Islamic movement in the U.S. Gossett attended portions of the conference after all other media representatives had packed up and left the event.
In Part 1, Gossett analyzes the words and backgrounds of some of the keynote speakers at the conference – imams and sheikhs who openly voice their disdain for America, Jews and “unbelievers” in general, and who defend the practice of suicide bombing. On Monday, Part 2 will further explore who the heroes are in the world of U.S. Muslim activists and what kind of activities they fund.
The soothing baritone rises effortlessly to navigate an exotic series of microtones and complex rhythmic cadences.
The voice is that of Abdul Malik, imam of Oakland, California’s Masjid Al-Islam mosque.
He is delivering a prayerful invocation in perfect Arabic before followers of one of the most ancient religions of mankind – Islam.
Soon he’ll address a very contemporary subject: Media.
Shatan’s (Satan’s) media, that is.
The imam isn’t alone in his criticism of media coverage of Islam in America.
Out of the conflict and criticism have come loaded words like “prejudice,” “intolerance,” “civil rights,” “terrorism,” “militant,” “radical” and “extremist.” These terms have a powerful emotional pull, as they are tethered to values close to American’s hearts – values like freedom, diversity, tolerance, national security and patriotism.
Critics from diverse camps blame media for reporting either public-relations fluff or hysterical fear-mongering. Right-wing media blames mainstream media. Mainstream media wonders why right-wing media is in such a huff. Left-wing media blames right-wing media. And Malik? Well, he just blames them all.
Shatan’s work, they’re doing, he says. Extinguishing the light of Islam.
“Know that God is displeased and hates the unbeliever,” he warns.
Now, even as a handful of Islamic groups holding themselves out as the true “mainstream” have come to dominate the media landscape, critics contend the groups are little more than white-washed extremists, equipped with PR savvy, an intolerant political agenda and a knack for marginalizing the “real” moderates.
Is it a case of terrorism or intolerance? Or perhaps misunderstood and ignored complexities? To answer some of these questions, WorldNetDaily traveled to an Islamic conference in Orlando, Fla., that generated significant controversy before it even opened. This is the report of that event, its broader implications, and the interlocking ideologies and causes that traverse continents and provide unifying principles primed for political expression.
KISSIMMEE, Fla. – Just as a Florida Islamic conference was trying to recover from one media controversy, they were mired in another when Islamic speakers who have voiced support for suicide bombers and referred to Jews as “Jewish crackers,” “apes” and “pigs” freely addressed the crowd and were warmly embraced by conference leaders.
The speakers addressed the crowd just hours after Islamic leader Dr. Sayed M. Saeed assured media that those present represented “mainstream” Islam, and radical rhetoric or “misguided imams” would not be tolerated. The controversial leaders addressed the crowd after all media (except for WND) had left. One addressed the attendees in only Arabic in a separate room.
The Universal Heritage Foundation, organizers of the December conference, first ran into controversy when media learned a planned three-day conference called “Islam for Humanity” was advertising it would feature a Saudi Arabian sheikh famous for virulent, racist rhetoric.
Last April, while addressing 2 million followers at the Grand Mosque in Mecca, chief cleric Sheikh Abdul Rahman al-Sudais prayed to God to “terminate” the Jews, who he called “the scum of humanity, the rats of the world, prophet killers … pigs and monkeys.”
Al-Sudais also urged Arabs and Muslims to abandon peace initiatives with Israel. His comments were carried worldwide by Reuters and the Associated Press. The racist characterization of Jews was not a singular occurrence, as suggested by some media. Al-Sudais has variously described Jews as “evil,” a “continuum of deceit,” “tyrannical” and “treacherous”
Al-Sudais, was listed as a “specially invited guest” of the conference, which was slated to be held at the 31-acre Kissimmee campus of Universal Heritage Foundation, near Disney World, but was later moved to the nearby county-owned Silver Spurs Arena.
Following media exposure, al-Sudais’ name disappeared from conference materials. Later, Imam Siraj Wahhaj’s name also was dropped from a new issue of the program.
Wahhaj was deemed a potential unindicted co-conspirator of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and sits on the board of directors of the Islamic Society of North America, or ISNA, and the advisory board of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, or CAIR.
On the opening night of the conference, Dec. 19, Dr. S.M. Syeed, secretary general of the ISNA, addressed the controversy directly, with media present.
Syeed said the conference presented and “extraordinary opportunity” since the public and media are “waiting to see what we’re saying.”
“We would never allow such statements to be made on our stage,” Syeed said. “That kind of rhetoric has no place in our conference, projects or programs. We need to be sensitive and we should certainly distance ourselves from them.”
Referring to the prior media controversy, Saeed said, “This does not represent the Islam mainstream … these misguided imams. …We should clearly announce they are not representing us or the message of the prophet as mercy to mankind.”
The Los Angeles Times, Orlando Sentinel and Fox Channel 35 filed reports that night.
‘Allah bless those martyrs’
Early the next day, the moderator announced that an address by Egyptian cleric Sheikh Wagdy Ghunaim would be re-scheduled from 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The moderator said Ghunaim was “in town” but was not present at the Silver Spurs Arena.
The sheikh had previously referred to Jews as “monkeys” and “pigs” during a Brooklyn College conference of the American Muslim Alliance on May 24, 1998.
Before leading the audience in anti-Jewish verse, Ghuneim said: “The Jews distort words from their meanings. … They killed the prophets and worshipped idols. … Allah says he who equips a warrior of jihad is like the one who makes jihad himself.”
The Brooklyn event, entitled “Palestine: 50 Years of Occupation,” was sponsored by the Islamic Association for Palestine, the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development, CAIR, ISNA and the Islamic Circle of North America, or ICNA, among others.
Advertisements for the Orlando conference program also featured leaders of CAIR, ICNA and ISNA, organizations that are mainstays of the American Islamic “conference circuit.”
An Arabic audiotape from the Dec. 29, 1997, annual conference of the Muslim Arab Youth Association, in Ontario, Calif., documents another Ghuneim speech, which referred to four suicide bombings that took place in Israel in 1996.
“Those young people who explode themselves to kill the Jews were not committing suicide but jihad,” Ghuneim said, “They are mujahedeen because there is no way to struggle and fight the Jews except that way. Allah bless those martyrs.”
Ghuneim CDs were on sale at the Orlando conference despite Dr. Syeed’s previous statements about the need to be “sensitive” about CDs and books that were on sale.
‘That ain’t suicide; that’s martyrdom’
By noon on Saturday, Dec. 20, conference leaders also presented Imam Malik of Masjid Al-Islam.
(Malik is also referred to as Abdul Malik Ali, Abd Al-Malik and Amir Abdel Malik Ali. Note: This individual is not Imam Abdul R. Malik Ali.)
Malik said he had just come from addressing diplomats at the United Nations the day before. (Malik was on the conference schedule the night before but was not present.)
The imam has previously voiced empathy and support for suicide bombers, denied Muslims were involved in 9-11, characterized the war on terror as a conspiratorial Zionist plot designed to destroy Islam and Muslims, and blamed attacks on affirmative action on “the rise of the Jewish cracker,” according to media reports and audio/video recordings obtained by WND.
Last year, the Golden Gate Xpress, San Francisco State University’s online student newspaper, and the Jewish Bulletin News of Northern California reported Malik, while speaking at Malcolm X Plaza, urged a crowd of roughly 500 to 800 to “stop calling them suicide bombers . When a person commits suicide, they are oppressed, without hope, depressed. Palestinian mothers are supporting their children who are suicide bombers, saying, ‘Go honey, go!'”
The Golden Gate Xpress, quoted Ali as saying, “That ain’t suicide; that’s martyrdom.”
The Muslim religious leader and San Francisco State graduate also was quoted by both the school newspaper and Hillel saying that Israelis ought to return “to Germany, to Poland to Russia. The Germans should hook y’all up. You should go back to Germany.”
The statements were made within earshot of a Holocaust remembrance table being manned by 50 Jewish students and Hillel staff.
Witnesses say some members of the audience gasped, while others applauded Malik’s statements.
Following in the footsteps of Malcolm X
Malik is also a leader in the “Sabiqun Movement,” also referred to as the As-Sabuqin Movement.
His mosque belongs to the Masjid Al-Islam affiliation constituting several mosques that state as their central tenet the establishment of the religion of Allah (Iqaamatul-Deen/”Actions and Efforts in the Way of Allah”). Toward that end, they are focused in the development of an organized “Islamic Movement” in America capable of producing individuals and institutions in “total, complete and uncompromised service of Allah.”
Sabiqun Movement draws inspiration from El-Hajj Malik El-Shabbat (Malcolm X). A now-defunct website featured a portrait of Malcolm X performing salaat.
Like Malcolm X, Malik’s oratory skill, lifestyle and passion have attracted youth towards the movement. An electrifying presence, Abdul Malik Ali preaches what he views as an uncompromising Islamic message of striving for one’s personal best through discipline, hard work, fasting, studying, honoring women and abstinence from “sins” like promiscuous sex and drug use.
“In Muslim countries next to the Masjids you have places of sport and play where people are drinking and belly-dancing and gambling and opening up casinos and downloading by satellite pornography in some of the holiest places of Islam!” Malik thunders from the podium in Orlando. “Who do you blame for that? You can’t blame America. You can’t blame Europe.
“You have to blame those in authority in Islam who would allow the young minds of young Muslims to be corrupted!”
Malik sees a future where devout young Muslims will have a profound impact on observers, generating respect, then social justice and political impact for his brand of Islam. He also strongly emphasizes independence for Muslim communities, who he says should strive to build their own hospitals, schools, study centers and take care of the needy among them.
Young Muslims seem to see in the message a route to esteem, pride, a sense of purpose and an invitation to a compelling spiritual destiny as they are called to sacrifice all to reclaim the ancient “glory of Islam.”
Reports from England seem to document a similar movement among disaffected youth who are leaving behind the traditional Islam of their parents.
The teachings also seem to emphasize the immediacy of this particular epoch in history, which is expected to see a worldwide victory of Islam as Judaism and Christianity, along with all other “false” religions, fall by the wayside in the struggle and nations merge into a pan-Islamic government serving Allah alone.
“House slaves’ in WASP America
Malik’s rhetoric evokes strong racial overtones as he warns young people about moderate American Muslims who he says have compromised their integrity to be “liked,” becoming nothing more than “house slaves” in the mansion of a racist, imperialistic and destructive America.
The remarks seemed in line with repeated warnings conference goers heard from Dr. Ihsan Bagby against losing distinctiveness through “assimilation” into the “WASP” culture of America. Babgy characterized Muslim life in the U.S. today as being similar to persecutions of Irish Catholics who were killed and whose churches were burned.
A recurring theme is a cataclysmic crisis of Islam, which has its roots in racism, as the colonial oppressor – the U.S. – is pitted against Muslims worldwide.
Malik also has cited news coverage of the Oklahoma City bombing as evidence of racist bias against Muslims in the U.S. He viewed the early suggestions of an Islamic radical connection, followed by the dissemination of a photo of a firefighter holding a “blond-haired, blue-eyed child,” as hostile editorial decisions intentionally designed to provoke violent antagonism toward the Muslim community.
“It’s bad enough when they’re coming after your wives,” said Malik, “but when they come after your babies …”
In July 1999, Malik was one of the principal organizers of and speakers at a San Francisco rally that praised the terrorist group Hamas.
At the rally, Imam Abdul-Alim Musa, head of the Sabiqun Movement and leader of the Masjid Al-Islam in Washington, D.C., displayed a cashier’s check made out to “Hamas, Palestine,” to protest the “unjust” 1996 U.S. law which declared Hamas a terrorist organization.
“Muslims must reject such a designation,” he told the rally crowd, “since Hamas is involved in a legitimate struggle for freedom and it performs numerous humanitarian and social functions, such as providing support to widows and orphans.”
Hamas also pays for the simple material required for a suicide bomber to carry out an attack. It includes: the cost of tailoring a custom fit belt wide enough to hold six or eight pockets full of explosives and the explosive device itself, which consists of nails, sometimes ball bearings, gunpowder, mercury, acetone, a battery, an electrical switch and a short cable. The largest expense item is providing transportation to an Israeli site of the bombing.
The total cost of a single suicide bombing averages $142.29.
Following the attack, Hamas provides for the material needs of the bomber’s family by giving each family between $2,800 and $5,000.
Hamas has obtained much of the money it pays for killing abroad right here in the United States, money originally raised by the Holy Land Foundation – a tax-exempt charity based in Richardson, Texas, that raised $13 million from people in America in 2001 alone before its assets were frozen by President Bush.
At the San Francisco rally, Musa also announced he planned to distribute copies of the cashier’s check at the next rally in Los Angeles held Aug. 27, 1999, to draw attention to the fact that he does “not believe in obeying an unjust law.”
“We want the authorities to know that we are supporting Hamas because it is fighting for its rights,” he said. “For the U.S. government to take a position against Hamas is to betray its own principles and violate its constitution.”
Hamas: Martyrs or terrorists?
Hamas views all Israelis as occupying “troops” and “usurpers” of the land and therefore potential targets for murder. Children who are killed are “collateral damage.” Muslims and Americans have also died in suicide bombings. (Hamas is the Arabic acronym for Harakat Al-Muqawama Al-Islamiya – The Islamic Resistance Movement.)
The group has claimed responsibility for numerous suicide bombings and shootings in Israel, which have killed hundreds of Israelis.
Referring to operatives who carry out suicide bombings as shuhada, or “martyrs,” and to the suicide bombings as ‘amaliyat istishadiya, or “acts of martyrdom,” Hamas lauds its operatives who carry out such attacks and provides them with full Muslim burial rites.
Experts say truly mainstream Islam in America forbids suicide bombings and moderate American Islamic groups like the Islamic Supreme Council of America vehemently denounce and oppose such teachings as abhorrent and heretical.
Supporters of the San Francisco rally said the immediate effect of Imam Musa’s campaign had been to give a boost to the self-confidence of Muslims, especially those of immigrant background.
“They now feel that they are not alone,” said Tahir Mahmoud of Crescent International, a publication that describes itself as the “newsmagazine of the global Islamic movement.”
Malik has yet to respond to WND’s question “How do you reconcile your preaching of support for widows and orphans with the Sabiqun Movement’s support for a group (Hamas) that creates widows and orphans through suicide bombings?”
Nor did he respond to WND’s questioning about whether he and/or his organization was currently funding Hamas.
While acceptance in America for Hamas as legitimate war fighters is usually relegated to the Islamic radicals and the hard left, a recent book on the history of warfare suggests adopting a new paradigm similar to that used by terrorist apologists and present in the rhetoric of the Islamic conference circuit.
In “Battle: A History of Combat and Culture,” John A. Lynn, a professor of history at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign advises against labeling terrorism as “evil” and insists it should be included in the “realm of war.”
He says, “A case can be made that terrorism is essentially a poor man’s form of warfare.”
Col. Robert A. Doughty, a professor and head of the department of history at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, praised “Battle” as an “extremely interesting and provocative book,” adding, “A really good book is not one that accords completely with readers’ views but one that challenges readers to consider old issues in new ways and to think through long-held views.”
Often missing in media and academic analyses is the global scale of Hamas’ ideology as well as that of other jihad groups. Middle East experts told WND that in contradiction to mainstream Islam, which accepts Jews as fellow believers in monotheism, Hamas is characterized by a theological anti-Semitism that regards Israel and Jews as an embodiment of evil in the world that will, in time, be destroyed as part of the divine plan.
Hamas, like its precursor, the Muslim Brotherhood, views Jews and Christians as “infidels” or “disbelievers,” or enemies of the divine revelation received by Muhammad. In time, however, the “disbelievers” will be vanquished in a cataclysmic war, or jihad, which will result in the global victory of Muslim forces.
Iranian political analyst Amir Taheri notes a similar impetus for Hezbollah, explaining that the ideology is fundamentally Manichean and is based on the division of all phenomena into good and evil. Mankind is also divided between the Partisans of Allah and those who support Shatan or Satan; the war between the two must continue until the complete victory of the Partisans of Allah. Every aspect of Satan’s presence must be removed, by violence if necessary, so divine society can become a reality.
In the words of Sheikh Ibrahim al-Amin, one of the Hezbollahs’ leaders: “We want to see Islam prevail throughout the world.”
Victims of ‘ameriKKKa’?
In addition to supporting Hamas, Malik’s Sabiqun Movement, along with other groups represented at the Orlando conference, like ISNA and CAIR, have all spoken out against the arrest and conviction of Imam Jamil al-Amin (formerly Black Panther H. Rap Brown) on charges related to the shooting death of a sheriff’s deputy.
Al-Amin held one of four seats on ISNA’s Shura Council.
Sabiqun also provided telephone scripts to activists as part of a community action effort geared to educate others and generate support for al-Amin.
Jamil al-Amin is said to have never been shy about invoking Islam in his struggle against white “ameriKKKa.” And like Orlando conference speakers Malik and Bagby, he has chastised American blacks for being too integrated into their country’s life.
“Islam is under attack on a global scale by those who wish to control the world,” al-Amin wrote after his 1995 arrest. The words resonate with the teachings of foreign fundamentalist Islamic groups like the Jama’at-I-Islami of Pakistan and were reminiscent of warnings Malik has given to Muslims in America.
In 1995, two members of al-Amin’s Atlanta mosque were convicted of illegally shipping more than 900 firearms to groups in Detroit and Philadelphia, and to an Islamic gang linked to Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman, the “blind sheikh” of New York, according to media reports.
Officials with these groups also see Rahman as having been “railroaded” and framed for the 1993 World Trade Center bombings. Malik’s speeches abound with references to CIA and law-enforcement corruption. The stance on Rahman is identical to that emanating from leaders of foreign Islamic fundamentalist groups.
Meanwhile, leaked transcripts of wiretaps of prison conversations between Rahman and indicted hard-left lawyer Lynn Stewart show Rahman issuing fatwas to Egyptian brethren, commanding them to end to a cease-fire and ordering them to “fight the Jews and kill them wherever they are.”
Rahman is the spiritual leader of Gamaa al-Islamiyya, Egypt’s largest militant Islamic group, which was responsible for November 1997 attacks at Luxor that killed 58 foreign tourists and a June 1995 attempt to assassinate Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Senior members of Gamaa signed Osama bin Ladin’s fatwa in February 1998 calling for attacks against the United States. And in early 2001, leader Rifa’i Taha Musa published a book in which he attempted to justify terrorist attacks that would cause mass casualties. It is now a party split between those who want to forgo violence and those still dedicated to violent jihad and whose primary goal is to overthrow the Egyptian government and replace it with an Islamic state.
Al-Amin has been praised by CAIR for his “moral character.”
Speakers at the Orlando conference, like Saeed, Dr. Muzzamil Siddiqui, Altaf Ali, Dr. Zulqifar Ali Shah, Dr. Muhammed Yunus and Dr. Mokhtar Maghroui, are all leaders of or veterans of the Islamic conference circuit. The conferences engage in fund-raising, education and recruitment and teach how to get and use media coverage for political leverage.
‘An extremist fringe’
“The conference is certainly not mainstream but constitutes an extremist fringe,” Khalid Dur?n told WND. Dur?n is a well-known scholar of the history, sociology and politics of the Islamic world.
An author of five books on world affairs, Dur?n has conducted field tests of Muslim societies in transition and is also known for his work as a scholar with the Foreign Policy Research Institute (Philadelphia) and the Institute for International Studies (Washington, D.C.).
“There is so much contradiction,” Dur?n said regarding those involved with the Orlando conference. “The same people have many times said that nowhere in the world are Muslims having it so good as here. They would not be able to hold this conference in Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco or Pakistan. Many of the speakers are barred from those states.”
Continued Dur?n, “Many participants, such as Dr. Syeed, belonged to an extremist party based in Bangladesh, India and Pakistan called Jama’at-I-Islami. It is the parent group of several organizations indicted as terrorist such as Lashkare Tayyiba.
“Jama’at-I-Islami helped Osama bin Laden in the creation of al-Qaida, and he wrote that from 1980-84 he used to frequent their headquarters in Lahore to hand over donations.”
Jama’at denies the al-Qaida link and insists criticism is based in profound misunderstandings between East and West and U.S. “propaganda” emanating from, again, a racist perspective.
The ‘midwife of the Taliban’
Dr. Zulfiqar Ali Shah was president of ICNA before becoming chairman and CEO of the Universal Heritage Foundation Inc. in Orlando, which produced the inaugural “Islam for Humanity” conference. Also representing ICNA at the Orlando conference were Dr. Talaat Sultan, the current president, and Dr. Mohammad Yunus.
Like ISNA, ICNA boasts affiliations with many mosques and groups, and is active in education and fund-raising relief efforts.
ICNA has already been documented as voicing support for Hamas, violent jihad and as engaging in jihad fund-raising. It is sometimes called the North American branch of Jama’at-I-Islami or is described as “allied” or “linked” with JI.
Both ISNA and ICNA have featured Jama’at-I-Islami speakers and ideology at their conferences. JI ideology can be found woven throughout convention speakers’ expositions.
Called the “midwife of the Taliban,” Jama’at-I-Islami hopes to turn Pakistan into a fundamentalist Islamic state and is active in the Kashmiri jihad. The Jama’at views the Kashmiri cause as a jihad, or holy war, against India. Experts say the Jama’at-I-Islami ultimately seeks to overthrow the Pakistani government and create a radical Islamic state.
The head of Jama’at-I-Islami, Qazi Ahmed Hussein, has been a frequent guest speaker at both ICNA and ISNA conferences. He has also made successful moves to convince Americans that his movement is moderate, appearing at the Brookings Institute among other venues.
Supporters point out that the JI leader issued a statement condemning 9-11 as an act of “blatant terrorism.”
Five days later at another meeting, however, Qazi Hussein sounded less empathetic, stating that the incidents that took place in New York and Washington were an outcome of misdeeds and the wrongs of U.S. society.
On Sept. 16, 2001, he denied Muslims were involved, while at a concurrent meeting in Mansoora, the party’s secretary-general, Syed Munawwar Hasan, was pointing the finger at “white Americans” and saying bin Laden was not responsible.
The ‘key of Kashmir’
Jama’at-I-Islami was credited with intelligence sources and worldwide media as being the primary mover behind a bloody 1992 Islamic jihad that was designed to capture two-thirds of Kashmir from Indian forces to turn it into an Islamic state.
The mujahedeen soon lost any sympathy they had had from rural people when activities devolved to include the kidnapping and gang rape of young women and forced induction into the terrorist ranks.
The events reached the nadir of depravity when one Mrs. Girja Tiku of Terehgan, Kupwara, was abducted, gang-raped and her body left shredded on the ground.
In the end, 1,585 men and women including 981 Muslims, 218 Hindus, 23 Sikhs and 363 security personnel were killed. Among those killed were 12 political leaders and 510 government officials
Supporters of the mujahedeen blame Indians for brutal behavior while inter-governmental reports indicated Indians found to be acting in such a manner were in the minority and quickly removed from their posts. Kashmiri women reported that the mujahedeen threatened them in order to force them to accuse Indians of rape.
Pakistani representatives of Islamic fundamentalist groups have called for the strategic recruitment of black Americans into their ranks to offset the “venal influence” of the “Hindu-Jewish” vote in the U.S. (also referred to as the “powerful Indian-Israeli lobby”).
One young convert from Jamil al-Amin’s Atlanta mosque joined Islamic separatists in Kashmir, where he was killed attacking an Indian army post.
“Kashmir shall go on bleeding until Kashmiris are given right to decide their future,” namely to establish an Islamic state, Hussein has told foreign media.
Syed Mahmoodullah, the former Taliban envoy in Karachi, and a supporter of the Kashmiri jihad stressed the global aspiration of the battle in words that echo declarations by Hamas and Hezbollah: “Jihad being a continuous process against apostasy and other anti-Islamic forces, could not stop at a certain point of time and space within or beyond one’s borders.”
Editor’s note: WND thanks the counterterrorism department of the American Jewish Committee for sharing open-source research on Islamic Jihad and Hamas for this report.
Monday: Part 2 – Funding terror through religion.