The U.S. military’s Muslim chaplain program was founded by a terror-supporting convict while the Army’s first Islamic chaplain, who is still serving, has been associated with a charity widely accused of serving as an al-Qaida front.
Following a plot uncovered last week to target Fort Hood’s Army base – one year after the same base was the subject of a shooting massacre by a Muslim army psychiatrist – closer scrutiny of the military’s Islamic chaplain program may be warranted.
Pfc. Naser Abdo was arrested just days ago with a backpack full of explosives. He reportedly admitted planning a terror attack on Fort Hood soldiers.
In previous media profiles, Abdo, a convert to Islam, described becoming more religious after he signed up for the Army.
In a television interview with HLN News, a spinoff of CNN, Abdo discussed a conversation he had with a Muslim army chaplain. Currently, there are only six Muslim chaplains in the U.S. military.
Terror supporter founded chaplain program
The military’s Muslim chaplain program was founded in 1993. It was guided by Abdul Rahman al-Amoudi, an Islamic cleric who served as an Islamic adviser to President Bill Clinton.
Al-Amoudi currently is serving a 23-year sentence for illegal terrorism-related financial transactions with the Libyan government and for his alleged role in a Libyan conspiracy to assassinate then-Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah.
Al-Amoudi was described as an “expert in the art of deception” in a report by Newsweek journalists Mark Hosenball and Michael Isikoff.
The Newsweek article noted Al-Amoudi espoused moderate, pro-American views while lobbying for Muslim causes in the U.S., but then he expressed support for Hamas and Hezbollah at an Islamist rally.
Al-Amoudi founded the American Muslim Council, a lobbying group to advocate on behalf of Muslims in the United States, in 1990.
He also co-founded the American Muslim Armed Forces and Veterans Affairs Council, which worked with the U.S. government to establish the Army’s Muslim chaplain program.
Al-Amoudi reportedly handpicked the army’s first Islamic chaplain, Imam Abdul-Rasheed Muhammad, who serves until today.
Al-Amoudi was instrumental in selected several other of the military’s six Islamic chaplains.
Army’s first chaplain tied to ‘al-Qaida front’
A closer look at Muhammad, the military’s first chaplain, is instrumental.
Muhammad was recommended for appointment by Al-Amoudi’s American Islamic Council.
Indeed, Al-Amoudi attended Muhammad’s swearing-in ceremony just as he was present for the 1996 swearing-in of the military’s second Muslim chaplain, Lt.JG Monje Malak Abd al-Muta Ali Noel, Jr.
Each Muslim chaplain must first be endorsed by an official Islamic agency.
Muhammad’s endorsing agency reportedly was the Islamic Society of North America, or ISNA.
The ISNA subsequently became an unindicted co-conspirator in a scheme to raise money for Hamas.
WND has reported on the ISNA’s deep ties to the Muslim Brotherhood.
Muhammad is a convert to Islam. In 1974 he joined the Lost-Found Nation of Islam, a Black Muslim group that espoused racial separatism and Black Nationalism. Muhammad later said he did not fully subscribe to the radical group’s philosophy, but was attracted by what he said was the organization’s emphasis on personal responsibility and self-help.
“In the projects where I grew up,” Muhammad said, “the women were exploited. In the Nation of Islam the men were always polite. They were always clean cut. I felt the Nation of Islam had more to offer than the church.”
In a 1993 interview with Muslehuddin Ahmed of Islam4all.com, Muhammad detailed his association with the Muslim World League, or MWL, a Saudi-funded Muslim charity accused of terrorism financing and ties to al-Qaida.
The website reports Muhammad was in dialogue with the charity to help establish the army’s Muslim chaplain program.
During the period of Muhammad’s association with the MWL, the group spawned multiple Muslim charities that were alleged fronts for al-Qaida and Osama bin Laden.
Muhammad recounted to Islam4all how he was an “honored guest” of the MWL for his Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca.
“He was also full of praise for the Muslim World League for its excellent arrangements, which it had made for its guests, and was highly impressed by its dedicated Secretary General Dr. Ahmad Muhammad Ali, who symbolized for him a model Muslim leader,” reported Islam4all.
The Islamic website reported Muhammad offered to work closely with the MWL and that he began an “ongoing interaction with the MWL in shaping and developing a vital Islamic presence within the U.S. Armed Forces.”
The website reported Muhammad “evinced keen interest in the magazines and other publications of the Muslim World League and other similar organizations for support in his Dawah work.”
The MWL, meanwhile, was founded in Mecca in 1962 and bills itself one of the largest Islamic non-governmental organizations.
But according to U.S. government documents and testimony from the charity’s own officials, it is heavily financed by the Saudi government.
The MWL has been accused of terror ties, as have its various offshoots, including the International Islamic Relief Organization, or IIRO, and Al Haramain, which was declared by the U.S. and U.N. a terror financing front.
Indeed, the Treasury Department, in a September 2004 press release, alleged Al Haramain had “direct links” with Osama bin Laden. The group is now banned worldwide by United Nations Security Council Committee 1267.
There long have been reports citing accusations the IIRO and MWL also repeatedly funded al-Qaida.
In 1993, bin Laden reportedly told an associate that the MWL was one of his three most important charity fronts.
An ADL profile of the MWL accuses the group of promulgating a “fundamentalist interpretation of Islam around the world through a large network of charities and affiliated organizations.
“Its ideological backbone is based on an extremist interpretation of Islam and several of its affiliated groups and individuals have been linked to terror-related activity.”
In 2003, U.S. News and World Report documented that accompanying WML’s donations, invariably, are “a blizzard of Wahhabist literature.”
“Critics argue that Wahhabism’s more extreme preachings – mistrust of infidels, branding of rival sects as apostates, and emphasis on violent jihad – laid the groundwork for terrorist groups around the world,” the report continued.
An Egyptian-American cab driver, Ihab Mohamed Ali Nawawi, was arrested in Florida in 1990 on accusations he was an al-Qaida sleeper agent and a former personal pilot to bin Laden. At the same time he was accused of serving bin Laden, he also reportedly worked for the Pakistani branch of the MWL.
The MWL in 1988 founded the Al Haramain Islamic Foundation, developing chapters in about 50 countries, including for a time in Oregon until it was designated a terror organization.
In the early 1990s, evidence began to grow that it was funding Islamist militants in Somalia and Bosnia, and a 1996 CIA report detailed its Bosnian militant ties.
The U.S. Treasury designated Al Haramain’s offices in Kenya and Tanzania as sponsors of terrorism for their role in planning and funding the 1998 bombings of two American embassies in East Africa. The Comoros Islands office was also designated because it “was used as a staging area and exfiltration route for the perpetrators of the 1998 bombings.”
The New York Times reported in 2003 that Al Haramain had provided funds to the Indonesian terrorist group Jemaah Islamiyah, which was responsible for the 2002 Bali bombings that killed 202 people. The Indonesia office was later designated a terrorist entity by the Treasury.
In February 2004, the U.S. Treasury Department froze all Al Haramain’s financial assets pending an investigation, leading the Saudi government to disband the charity and fold it into another group, the Saudi National Commission for Relief and Charity Work Abroad.
In September 2004, the U.S. designated Al-Haramain a terrorist organization.
In June 2008, the Treasury Department applied the terrorist designation to the entire Al-Haramain organization worldwide
Bin Laden’s brother-in-law
In August 2006 the Treasury Department also designated the Philippine and Indonesian branch offices of the MWL-founded IIRO as terrorist entities “for facilitating fundraising for al Qaida and affiliated terrorist groups.”
The Treasury Department added: “Abd Al Hamid Sulaiman Al-Mujil, a high-ranking IIRO official [Executive director of its Eastern Province Branch] in Saudi Arabia, has used his position to bankroll the al-Qaida network in Southeast Asia. Al-Mujil has a long record of supporting Islamic militant groups, and he has maintained a cell of regular financial donors in the Middle East who support extremist causes.”
In the 1980s, Mohammed Jamal Khalifa, Osama bin Laden’s brother-in-law, ran the Philippines offices of the IRRO. Khalifa has been linked to Manila-based plots to target the pope and U.S. airlines.
The IRRO has also been accused of funding Hamas, Algerian radicals, Afghanistan militant bases and the Egyptian terror group Al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya.
The New York Post reported the families of the 9/11 victims filed a lawsuit against IIRO and other Muslim organizations for having “played key roles in laundering of funds to the terrorists in the 1998 African embassy bombings,” and for having been involved in the “financing and ‘aiding and abetting’ of terrorists in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.”
‘Saudi government front’
In a court case in Canada, Arafat El-Asahi, the Canadian director of both the IIRO and the MWL, admitted the charities are near entities of the Saudi government.
Stated El-Asahi: “The Muslim World League, which is the mother of IIRO, is a fully government funded organization. In other words, I work for the Government of Saudi Arabia. I am an employee of that government.
“Second, the IIRO is the relief branch of that organization, which means that we are controlled in all our activities and plans by the Government of Saudi Arabia. Keep that in mind, please,” he said.
Despite its offshoots being implicated in terror financing, the U.S. government never designated the MWL itself as a terror-financing charity. Many have speculated the U.S. has been trying to not embarrass the Saudi government.
With research by Brenda J. Elliott