Editor’s note: This is the second of a three-part WND report by Sherrie Gossett, who went inside a recent “mainstream” Muslim conference in Florida to expose the true attitudes and ideas of the leaders of the 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 analyzed the words and backgrounds of some of the keynote speakers at the conference – imams and sheiks who openly voice their disdain for America, Jews and “unbelievers” in general, and who defend the practice of suicide bombing. In today’s installment, Gossett further explains the true beliefs of Islamists who headline Muslim conferences and reports how funds from the movement make their way to terrorist organizations.
The Islamic Society of North America, or ISNA, leadership was represented at last month’s “Islam for Humanity” conference in Orlando, Fla., by Dr. Muzammil Siddiqui, director of Islamic Society of Orange County, Calif., and former president of the Islamic Society of North America, or ISNA, from 1996-2000. Dr. S.M. Syeed, secretary general of ISNA, also spoke.
Imam Siraj Wahhaj, who sits on the board of directors of ISNA, though invited, was not present. Wahhaj was named a potential unindicted co-conspirator of the 1993 World Trade Center bombings.
Media reported Siddiqui, addressing U.S. support of Israel at a recent Washington rally, said, “If you remain on the side of injustice, the wrath of God will come.”
Siddiqui spoke at an Oct. 28, 2000, “Jerusalem Day” rally in Washington, that media reported degenerated into a hate-fest in which the crowd chanted, “Death to the Jews!”
Wahhaj, who sits on the advisory board of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, or CAIR, has urged followers to overturn the U.S. system of government and set up an Islamic dictatorship. He also testified as a character witness for convicted terror mastermind Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman.
An ISNA-sponsored conference this past summer in Dallas featured Imam Zaid Shakir, (another Orlando conference invited guest speaker) who said in a 1992 educational video that Muslims can’t accept the American political system because “it is against the orders and ordainments of Allah.” Also present were Wahhaj, Syeed and Siddiqui of the Orlando conference.
At a 1998 ISNA conference, Orlando speaker Siddiqi was the moderator for a panel discussion which included Qazi Ahmad Hussein, supporter of the bloody Kashmiri jihad. The topic was: “Human Dignity and the Muslim World: The Case of Pakistan and Algeria.”
In addition to hosting Hussein, leader of Jama’at-I-Islami, the Islamic Society of North America has hosted other radical speakers and terror promoters, including Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, a well-known ideologue of the Muslim Brotherhood movement, which spawned Islamic Jihad, Hamas, al-Qaida and other terrorist groups.
Al-Qaradawi is well known for legitimizing suicide bombings via his own radical interpretation of Islamic theology.
His fatwa on suicide bombings entitled “Hamas Operations Are Jihad and Those Who [Carry it Out and] Are Killed are Considered Martyrs” is posted on the Hamas website.
Al-Qaradawi’s CDs were on sale to conference-goers in Orlando, including titles on “Islamic Jurisprudence” and “Ethics and Purification.” In total, 32 of the leader’s books on CD were hawked at the site of the event, Silver Spurs Arena.
ISNA has hosted a number of speakers from the radical Muslim Brotherhood movement, including Rashid Ghanushi, the exiled leader of the Islamic Tendency Movement in Tunisia, a Muslim Brotherhood offshoot.
In his sermons, Ghanushi has referred to Israel as a “cancer” and to Jews in particular as being “Satans.”
Rod Dreher, editor with the Dallas Morning News says, “ISNA’s advisory board is thick with men who have espoused extremist opinions and have troubling associations,” adding, “They all have been affiliated with a brand of Islam that most Americans would, and should, find frightening. We are entitled to ask why. ”
Defending terror suspects and convicts
Another prominent feature of the media-dubbed “mainstream, moderate” Islamic groups represented at the Orlando conference is consistent support for suspected, indicted and convicted terrorists, often as a “civil rights” issue.
In 1995, ISNA defended the Hamas terror organization by establishing a legal defense fund on behalf of Hamas leader Musa Abu Marzuq. Abu Marzuq was arrested at Kennedy Airport in July of 1995 and held in New York’s Metropolitan Correctional Center until 1997, when he was deported to Jordan.
Following the arrest of Sheikh Ahmad Yassin in 1989, Abu Marzuq took over the leadership of the movement. From 1989 until 1992, he appointed leadership and sent directives to the West Bank and Gaza from his home in Falls Church, Va.
During that time Abu Marzuq appointed Muhammad Salah of Bridgeview, Ill., to be in charge of Hamas’ “military affairs,” which made him responsible for appointing commanders of the Iz Al-Din Al-Qassam Battalions – the wing of the movement responsible for terror attacks – in the West Bank and Gaza. He also disbursed funds and directed their distribution for the terror activities of Hamas by using his own bank accounts. From 1990 to 1994, six Hamas attacks were carried out with funds provided by Abu Marzuq. The terrorists who carried out the attacks were recruited by members of the Al-Qassam Battalions who were appointed by Abu Marzuq from the United States.
At its annual convention in September 1998, ISNA announced the establishment of a legal defense fund for Salah as well.
In January 1993, Salah was arrested in Israel for attempting to distribute funds totaling $370,000 to the Iz Al-Din Al-Qassam Battalions of Hamas. He was sentenced to five years in prison and was released in November 1997. Subsequent to his arrest in Israel, Salah was officially labeled a “Specially Designated Terrorist” for “facilitation of terrorist activities in the Middle East” during the early 1990s.
Seven months after he was released from prison in Israel, the FBI arrested Salah at his home in Chicago in June 1998 and seized $1.4 million in assets belonging to him, his wife Azita, and a nonprofit organization named the Quranic Literacy Institute located in Oak Lawn, Ill. Included in the seizure was $130,000 from two bank accounts owned by Salah. According to press reports, Salah was alleged to be involved in a money laundering operation to fund Hamas terror activities in Israel.
ISNA is heavily funded by Saudi contributions and has been described in congressional testimony by terrorism expert (and Muslim convert) Stephen Schwartz as one of the chief conduits through which the radical Saudi form of Islam passes into the United States.
Orlando conference leaders did not respond to repeated requests by WND for comment.
Follow the money to Florida
In 1995, a chain of events starting with a terrorist group in Israel would send ripples back to South Florida, to a group associated with ISNA.
On Oct. 29, 1995, the Islamic Jihad Movement in Palestine, or IJMP, a terrorist group, officially announced that Ramadan ‘Abdallah Shallah, whom it identified as being from Damascus, Syria, was designated as the movement’s new secretary general. Shallah replaced Fat’hi Al-Shiqaqi who was shot to death Oct. 26, 1995, while traveling on the island of Malta.
From 1990 to 1995, Shallah lived in the United States, where he allegedly continued activities similar to those that he had engaged in while he was in the United Kingdom –coordinating activities of the IJMP by sending orders to Gaza and West Bank cells and reviewing field reports.
Operating from an organization officially named the Islamic Concern Project, or ICP, which was also known as the Islamic Committee for Palestine, IJMP distributed its official literature via a post office box in Tampa, Fla.
Subsequent to the announcement of Shallah’s rise to the leadership of IJMP, federal agents carried out a search of a think tank called the World Islam and Studies Enterprise, or WISE, created by former University of South Florida professor Sami al-Arian and affiliated with the USF. Shallah had been the administrative director for WISE. WISE offices were searched on Nov. 20, 1995.
After September 11, Al-Arian was suspended from his teaching position at USF.
The affidavit that was used to procure the search warrants described WISE and ICP as front organizations for Islamic Jihad. In April 1998, an Immigration and Naturalization Service investigator’s affidavit characterized WISE as a “front organization used to raise money and provide support for terrorism against Israel.”
On Dec. 11, 1991, Shallah, then the administrative director for WISE, had written a letter to the director of the University of South Florida’s International Affairs Center identifying the International Institute of Islamic Thought, or IIIT, as the main financial backer of WISE.
He wrote: “Our largest contributor is the Washington-based International Institute for Islamic Thought. A brochure describing IIIT and its activities is enclosed.”
The International Institute for Islamic Thought in Herndon, Va., is one of a number of charitable organizations and businesses that were established in Virginia by the Al-Rajhi banking family of Saudi Arabia. It is also a part of the Islamic Society of North America.
Syeed, who addressed the Orlando conference on the first night, Dec. 19, was director of academic outreach for ten years (1984-1994) at IIIT. Nevertheless, he is held by many to be a moderate and a sincere harmonizing influence on the inter-faith community. No controversy surrounding ISNA has been linked to him.
Bashir Al-Nafi’, one of the founding leaders of the Islamic Jihad movement, worked for WISE and was a researcher at IIIT. In 1996, Al-Nafi’ was named in an INS investigator’s affidavit as being linked to Islamic Jihad.
On June 5, 2002, the Islamic Jihad Movement in Palestine (also known as the Palestinian Islamic Jihad) carried out a brutal suicide car bombing at the Megiddo junction in the north of Israel. At 7:20 a.m. a suicide bomber drove a van packed with over 220 pounds of explosives alongside an Israel commuter bus and detonated himself, creating a massive fireball that burned 17 people alive and wounded 38 others.
Shallah, the secretary-general of Islamic Jihad, along with Hezbollah, claimed responsibility for the bombing, asserting it was carried out to commemorate the anniversary of the 1967 Six-Day War.
He was reported by official Iranian television to have stated, “America had declared war on Islam and the freedom-loving people of the world,” one of the recurring themes being expressed on the Muslim “conference circuit” in the U.S.
Sponsoring radical speakers
The most prominent of radical figures sponsored by WISE funds (which were said to come primarily from IIIT) was Sheikh ‘Umar Abd Al-Rahman, who served as the “spiritual leader” of the 1993 World Trade Center bombers and was convicted in 1995 of being involved in a plot to blow up New York area landmarks.
WISE also sponsored the 1991 U.S. visit of Sheikh Abd Al-‘Aziz Al-‘Awda, the spiritual leader of the Islamic Jihad Movement in Palestine. Al-‘Awda is classified by the United States as a “specially designated terrorist” and was named as an unindicted co-conspirator in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.
Speaking at a conference in Chicago in 1990, the sheikh said, “Now Allah is bringing the Jews back to Palestine in large groups from all over the world to their big graveyard, where the promise will be realized upon them.”
The sheikh also appeared at a WISE-sponsored 1989 conference called “Palestine, Intifada, and Horizons of Islamic Renaissance.” The speakers included Al’Awda, and other speakers from the Muslim Brotherhood.
Representatives of IIIT and ISNA addressed that same conference, including Taha Jabir Al-‘Alwani, who was then president of the International Institute of Islamic Thought; Mahmud Rashdan, the former secretary general of the Muslim Students’ Association in the United States and Canada, and head of the educational department of the IIIT; and Ahmad Zaki Hammad, then-president of the Islamic Society of North America.
Two representatives from the African-American Muslim community also participated in the conference: Imam Warith Deen Muhammad, leader of the Muslim American Society, and Imam Jamil al-Amin of Atlanta (the former H. “Rap” Brown).
After the departure of Shallah from WISE, Mazen Al-Najj?r, a founding member of the ICP and executive director of WISE, was reportedly linked to Islamic Jihad activities in the U.S.
Agents of the Immigration and Naturalization Service in sworn testimony have described al-Najj?r as “a mid-level operative of a terrorist front group.”
The ‘tip of the iceberg’
Al-Najj?r and other leaders of Islamic Jihad remain the focus of an ongoing federal investigation into the activities of Islamic Jihad and other terrorist organizations in the United States.
John Loftus, a lawyer for federal whistleblowers within the U.S. intelligence community, filed a lawsuit in March 2002 in Hillsborough County, Fla., alleging for more than a decade U.S. federal agents were told to drop key terrorist investigations due to politics with Saudi Arabia.
“As long as the Saudis were pumping billions into oil contracts, they could do no wrong,” Loftus said.
The former Justice Department prosecutor says he had highly classified information from several of his confidential clients concerning a Saudi covert operation in Florida, whose tactics called for intimidating or murdering Palestinians who were willing to work with Israel for peace.
Specifically, Loftus said the Saudi government was laundering money through Florida charities run by USF’s al-Arian for the support of terrorist groups in the Middle East, including al-Qaida, Hamas and Islamic Jihad.
Loftus told WND, “They want to make sure no Palestinian cooperates with Israel.
“They need the bogeyman of the Israeli oppressor in order to maintain control over their people. If there were to be a democracy in Palestine, they’re afraid it would spread to Saudi Arabia.”
Loftus believes the indictments handed down in the post-9/11 world are evidence the FBI is now being allowed to do its job.
“I believe we’ll see more indictments like that of Alamoudi coming down,” Loftus said, adding that those issued thus far are, “just the tip of the iceberg.”
Loftus once held some of the highest security clearances in the world, with special access to NATO Cosmic, CIA codeword, and top-secret nuclear files.
Grover Norquist and the Islamic Institute
In terms of who “fixed the cases” and how the entities could operate for more than a decade immune from prosecution, Loftus points a finger at Republican power broker Grover Norquist.
Last month, Frank J. Gaffney Jr., formerly a senior official with the Reagan Defense Department and currently president of the Center for Security Policy in Washington, wrote a scathing indictment of Norquist’s relationship with controversial Islamists, including Alamoudi who is currently in jail on suspicion of being a senior terrorist operator.
“[Norquist] is the guy that was hired by Alamoudi to head up the Islamic Institute, and he’s the registered agent for Alamoudi, personally, and for the Islamic Institute,” Loftus said.
Norquist’s Islamic Institute had the stated purpose of cultivate Muslim-Americans and Arab-Americans whose attachment to conservative family values and capitalism made them potential allies for the Republican Party in advance of the 2000 presidential election.
As Gaffney’s article recounts, the Islamic Institute was initially financed by Alamoudi, a supporter of Hamas and Hezbollah, who told the Annual Convention of the Islamic Association of Palestine in 1996, “If we are outside this country we can say ‘Oh, Allah destroy America.’ But once we are here, our mission in this country is to change it.”
“Grover appointed Alamoudi’s deputy, Khaled Saffuri to head his own organization. Together they gained access to the White House for Alamoudi and al-Arian and others with similar agendas who used their cachet to spread Islamist influence to the American military and the prison system and the universities and the political arena with untold consequences for the nation.” Gaffney wrote.
In the U.S.-based English language newspaper Al Zaitohnah, dated June 2, 2000, Alamoudi stated: “We are the ones who went to the White House and defended what is called Hamas.”
Gaffney pointed out that in addition to the seed money from Alamoudi, Norquist’s Islamic Institute has also received funding from organizations described by the Washington Post as a “secretive group of tightly connected Muslim charities, think tanks and businesses based in Northern Virginia [and] used to funnel millions of dollars to terrorists and launder millions more” – a number of whom are currently part of the “largest federal investigation of terrorism financing in the world.”
Says Loftus, “Grover Norquist’s best friend is Karl Rove, the White House chief of staff, and apparently Norquist was able to fix things. He got extreme right wing Muslim people to be the gatekeepers in the White House. That’s why moderate Americans couldn’t speak out after 9-11. Moderate Muslims couldn’t get into the White House because Norquist’s friends were blocking their access. ”
Alamoudi was at one time “regional representative” for ISNA’s Washington, D.C., chapter. In 1998 he moderated a panel at an ISNA conference, called “Guilty Until Proven Innocent: Prisoners of Conscience in the U.S.” The panelists included Sami al-Arian.
Alamoudi, like al-Arian, insists he’s a community-minded “moderate” who is innocent.
A ‘queer alliance’
While as the media has pointed out Alamoudi’s behavior does not necessarily impugn others, it contributed to another controversy: the joining of conservative Christian and Jewish clerics with ISNA to fight homosexual marriage.
The Alliance For Marriage has ISNA director Syeed sitting on its board.
While Syeed is thought of by many as a moderate, ISNA’s track record was enough to leave writer Evan Gahr howling over the “queer alliance.”
Andrew Sullivan, homosexual Republican blogger and author, quipped, “Hey, it’s one thing the mullahs and Richard John Neuhaus can agree upon.”
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.
Tomorrow: How Islamists intimidate the press and true moderate Muslims into silence.
Read Part 1: “WND goes inside ‘mainstream’ Muslim conference”