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'Flying imams' rewarded for ominous airline 'stunt'?

It’s a jubilant night over at CAIR.

The nation’s self-proclaimed foremost Muslim civil-rights group, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, is celebrating what it calls a “victory for justice and civil rights” and an end to the fear of “flying while Muslim,” thanks to a legal settlement reached earlier today.

But a best-selling new book, which definitively exposes CAIR as an arm of the dangerous Muslim Brotherhood, reveals the highly disturbing “rest of the story” of the six “flying imams.”

Most Americans remember the Nov. 20, 2006, spectacle of the half-dozen Muslim clerics who were kicked off a US Airways Minneapolis-to-Phoenix flight after engaging in behavior that alarmed both passengers and crew before takeoff. Many on board feared the imams – who prayed loudly in Arabic, refused to sit in their assigned seats, fanned out in the cabin in pairs to occupy the front, middle and rear exit rows, ordered seat-belt extenders they didn’t need, criticized the Iraq war and President Bush, talked about al-Qaida and Osama bin Laden and other disconcerting behaviors – were testing security procedures in a dry run for a future hijacking.

The imams, who insisted they were acting innocently, were booted off the plane, detained for several hours and questioned by airport police, the FBI and Secret Service, and prevented from booking a later flight on US Airways.

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As a result, in a high-profile lawsuit championed by CAIR and argued by a CAIR-affiliated attorney, the “flying imams” brought suit against not only US Airways and the airport authority, but even the fearful passengers, or “John Does,” who had simply reported the suspicious activity.

Outraged at the obvious chilling effect the case had on citizens who had been encouraged post-9/11 to be vigilant about security, Congress passed a law to protect citizens from being sued for reporting suspicious behavior to law enforcement. The passengers were subsequently dropped from the case.

But after Judge Ann Montgomery of the U.S. District Court of Minnesota ruled the “John Doe” law didn’t immunize law-enforcement officers named in the “flying imam” lawsuit, the case went forward.

Today, both sides announced that an out-of-court settlement involving payment to the imams had been reached, though the amount was undisclosed per mutual agreement.

Nihad Awad

“The settlement of this case is a clear victory for justice and civil rights over fear and the phenomenon of ‘flying while Muslim’ in the post-9/11 era,” said CAIR National Executive Director Nihad Awad. “We thank all those who supported the imams through the lengthy and difficult legal process.”

According to the judge, the imams had been subjected to “extreme fear and humiliation of being falsely identified as dangerous terrorists.”

That’s the story being told by most of the media today. However, as reported in “Muslim Mafia: Inside the Secret Underworld That’s Conspiring to Islamize America,” by former federal agent P. David Gaubatz and investigative journalist Paul Sperry, there’s another, far more ominous and threatening side to the flying-imam story – and CAIR’s involvement with it – that has not been told until now.

“CAIR brags this is a ‘victory for civil rights.’ It’s not a victory for civil rights,” Sperry said today in response to the settlement. “It’s a victory for future hijackers. This settlement will have a chilling effect on law enforcement and security at our nation’s airports. Even pilots will now think twice about bouncing from flights any Arabs or Muslims acting suspiciously and threateningly.”

“The victims in the case are not the imams,” Sperry emphasized. “The victims are passengers who are now more vulnerable to terrorist attack – thanks to CAIR, which according to documents revealed in ‘Muslim Mafia’ manipulated this whole case from the start,” he said.

According to the hot-selling book, the ringleader of the flying
imams, Omar Shahin, was involved in an eerily similar disturbance
aboard another airline several years earlier, as was CAIR.

“Rewind to 1999,” says “Muslim Mafia.” “That year, two Muslim college students were removed from an America West flight to Washington from Phoenix after twice attempting to open the cockpit. The FBI later suspected it was a ‘dry run’ for the 9/11 hijackings, according the 9/11 Commission Report.”

“At the time, however, authorities didn’t have enough suspicion to hold the students. And as soon as Hamdan al-Shalawi and Muhammed al-Qudhaieen were released, they filed racial-profiling suits against America West, now part of US Airways.”

Representing the two Muslim students was none other than CAIR, which held a news conference condemning “this ugly case of racial profiling” and urging Muslims to boycott America West.

“Muhammed and Hamdan had done absolutely nothing wrong,” CAIR’s Awad insisted. “Their crime was being Arab, speaking Arabic.”

In a bizarre prequel to the flying-imam event, the two Muslims aboard the America West flight spoke loudly in Arabic despite being fluent in English, also switched their seats and roamed the plane from the tail section to the cockpit, as did the six imams, all the while asking suspicious questions about the plane and its routes.

Omar Shahin displays Quran at Tucson Islamic Center in June 2001 (Photo: University of Arizona Daily Wildcat)

“‘Flying Imams’ ringleader Omar Shahin is familiar with such shenanigans,” reports “Muslim Mafia.” “Witnesses say he prayed loudly in Arabic before boarding his US Airways flight – which also originated from Phoenix. And once on board, he asked for a seatbelt extender even though he didn’t need one and never used the one provided him. (He and another imam left the extenders on the floor of the plane.) And he roamed the cabin and tried to switch seats with another imam.”

The plot gets thicker.

Shahin also knew both of the students who were kicked off the America West flight, as documented in “Muslim Mafia,” which reports that Shahin ministered to them at his former mosque in Tucson, Arizona, where they had attended college on visas from Saudi Arabia. When they were arrested, Shahin rushed to their defense – along with CAIR.

Incredibly, reveals “Muslim Mafia,” “Shahin has admitted to being a former supporter of Osama bin Laden while running the Saudi-backed Islamic Center of Tucson, which functioned as one of al-Qaida’s main hubs in North America.”

FBI investigators believe bin Laden operated a cell at that same mosque. Hani Hanjour, the Saudi hijacker who piloted the plane that hit the Pentagon, worshiped there along with bin Laden’s one-time personal secretary, according to the 9/11 report. Bin Laden’s former chief of logistics was president of the mosque before Shahin took over.

“These people don’t continue to come back to Arizona because they like the sunshine or they like the state,” said FBI agent Kenneth Williams. “Something was established there, and it’s been there for a long time.”

And the America West pair and their imam were right in the middle of it.

Al-Qudhaieen’s name turned up in Williams’ investigation of Islamic flight-school students in the Phoenix area and he later became a material witness in the 9/11 investigation. And as it turns out, his partner al-Shalawi – far from being an innocent random passenger – had contacts with al-Qaida operatives, according to the 9/11 report, and trained for attacks in Afghanistan. Both were deported back to Saudi Arabia.

Shahin, the spokesman for the six flying imams, is a native of Jordan, and currently leads the North American Imams Federation, a sister organization to CAIR, both controlled by the international Muslim Brotherhood, which federal authorities recognize as the parent organization of both al-Qaida and Hamas. In fact, Shanin was returning from a private federation conference in Minneapolis when he was removed from the flight. During the conference he had met with newly elected Minnesota congressman Keith Ellison, who had just spoken the previous night at a CAIR event.

Piecing together the events surrounding the removal by law enforcement of the six imams from US Airways Flight 300, “Muslim Mafia” poses a chilling question: was the “flying imams” spectacle really an “orchestrated stunt”? Here’s the timeline:

Shahin, who has raised funds for the Holy Land Foundation (convicted of terror-financing by the U.S. government) and other charitable fronts for Hamas, was the public face of the flying imams in their fight against US Airways and the passengers who were fearful of them.

CAIR quickly signed legal-retainer agreements with Shahin and the other imams, promising them “large compensation,” according to notes taken during one of CAIR’s conference calls.

“CAIR is taking care of our case,” Shahin told the press.

Indeed, the case was so important to CAIR that not only did it provide the imams their attorney, Omar Mohammedi, a board member of CAIR’s New York chapter, it also coordinated an in-depth public-relations campaign to garner sympathy for the case.

This document, titled “Public Relations Strategy for Six Imams’ Case,” from the “Law firm of Omar T. Mohammedi, LLC,” is one of thousands of CAIR documents obtained during a daring, six-month undercover operation by three volunteer interns, including Chris Gaubatz, son of co-author P. David Gaubatz, that provided much of the data for “Muslim Mafia.”

National-security implications

If the flying-imams case is over, its implications are just beginning to be understood.

“The suspicious confluence of events – combined with the imams’ deliberate attempts to raise suspicions on the plane – has led some law-enforcement officials to conclude that CAIR and (the North American Imams Federation) staged the controversy to create public sympathy for Muslims and an outcry against airline profiling and counterterror measures in general,” reports “Muslim Mafia.” Indeed, both CAIR and Rep. Ellison, a former civil-rights attorney, immediately used the incident as a platform to call for the criminalization of such profiling.

Comments New York Police Department detective Edward Sloan: “Acts of staged controversy could … be used to desensitize security personnel by making activity that common sense would deem suspicious instead seem routine and not worth any special effort.”

By suing John Doe passengers, moreover, CAIR intimidated crew and passengers alike, possibly making them more reluctant to report suspicious behavior. Though CAIR later dropped the claims against the tipsters, there may be a residual “chilling effect,” Sloan warned, according to “Muslim Mafia.”

In addition, the detective points out, engaging in deliberately suspicious behavior in order to distract federal air marshals or other security and law-enforcement authorities – a tactic that has been discussed on Islamist message boards – is against the law.

Earlier today, officials with the Metropolitan Airports Commission, which operates the Minneapolis–St. Paul International Airport and is a defendant in the suit, responded to the settlement through their general counsel, Tom Anderson, who said: “Law-enforcement officials did what they believed was appropriate to ensure the safety of travelers based on the information available at the time. We will continue to be vigilant in maintaining the security of Minneapolis–St. Paul International Airport and the safety of travelers who use it.”

Arizona-based US Airways, another defendant in the suit, didn’t issue a comment today.

If you’re a member of the media and would like to interview Paul Sperry, Dave Gaubatz or Chris Gaubatz, e-mail WND’s marketing department or call Tim Bueler at (530) 401-3285.


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