A prominent Islamic leader in the U.S. regarded as a moderate for his interfaith efforts has been arrested on an indictment linking him to terrorist groups.
Imam Fawaz Mohammed Damrah
Imam Fawaz Mohammed Damrah, head of the Islamic Center of Cleveland, allegedly withheld information on his membership or affiliation with several groups, including the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, which is on the U.S. list of terrorist organizations.
Damrah, also known as Fawaz Damra, was filmed making a 1991 fund-raising speech in Chicago for Palestinian Islamic Jihad in which he urged attacks on Jews.
“[Muslims should be] directing all rifles at the first and last enemy of the Islamic nation, and that is the sons of monkeys and pigs, the Jews,” he told the audience.
The Muslim leader, born in the West Bank in 1961, became a permanent U.S. resident in 1988 and a citizen in 1994. Accused of giving false information to obtain U.S. citizenship, he could face up to five years in prison, a $5,000 fine and loss of citizenship.
After the fund-raising tape aired on Cleveland television in 2001, Damrah apologized, attributing his remarks to youthful prejudices he grew up with in the contentious environment of the West Bank. He also noted Islamic Jihad was not recognized at the time as a terrorist group by the U.S.
“The person who made those comments had absolutely no interaction with the Jewish/Christian community, or have [sic] any idea what extraordinary people they are, as I now do,” Damra wrote in an Oct. 1, 2001, op-ed in the Cleveland Plain Dealer newspaper.
“As all of us go through evolution in our life, intellectual and spiritual, so did I, and I will now do everything in my power to continue to show the community that I am the peacemaker they have come to know me as,” he said.
Prior to coming to Cleveland in 1990, Damrah was the head of the al-Farooq mosque in Brooklyn where he was succeeded by Sheik Omar Abdel-Rahman, an Egyptian cleric serving a life sentence for conspiring to blow up New York City landmarks.
Damrah was one of the 170 possible co-conspirators in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing named by the U.S. attorney for the southern district of New York. He was not arrested in connection with the bombing after being questioned by the FBI.
The indictment brought yesterday against Damrah does not specify his activities related to the terrorist groups.