Christian houses of worship are lending their parking lots to a radical Washington-area mosque that aided some of the hijackers who attacked the Pentagon on Sept. 11, despite warnings from FBI agents and local anti-jihad watch groups that such brotherly outreach is only helping the Islamic center expand and potentially attract future terrorists.
When Dar al-Hijrah Islamic Center was first built two decades ago in a quiet neighboorhood in Falls Church, Va., it quickly attracted throngs of Muslim worshipers. The mosque eventually outgrew its parking lot, so much so that it violated local ordinances. The traffic congestion disturbed residents, and they complained to zoning authorities.
The mosque had no extra land to widen its parking lot, so officials turned to neighboring churches for help. The First Christian Church and the Falls Church Church of Christ offered their large parking lots on Fridays, the Muslim Sabbath. They’ve also agreed to accommodate overflow parking during the busy Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
Thanks to their kind gestures, the mosque has continued to grow, and now is one of the largest in the country.
It’s also one of the most dangerous.
Almost since its opening in 1991 – made possible by a generous grant from the Saudi Embassy – Dar al-Hijrah has been a hive of terrorist activity.
From 2000 to 2002, it employed the notorious imam Anwar Awlaki as its prayer leader. Awlaki counseled two of the 9-11 hijackers in closed-door meetings, and helped them secure housing and ID. He also helped radicalize Fort Hood shooter Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, who also worshiped at Dar al-Hijrah.
The U.S. last year designated Awlaki a “key leader of al-Qaida” and froze his assets. “Anwar al-Awlaki is extraordinarily dangerous,” said Stuart Levey, Treasury undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence.
Several other mosque members have been the subject of FBI terrorism investigations, including the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and a post-Sept. 11 al-Qaida plot to assassinate the president. Dar al-Hijrah’s leadership is closely tied to the radical Muslim Brotherhood, a worldwide jihadist movement.
“If we chained off our churches, they’d be out of business,” said an official for one of the churches sharing their parking lots. He says it’s the duty of Christians, however, to help their neighbors.
Mike Tune, pulpit minister of the Church of Christ, which in contrast to the mosque has seen its own membership shrink in recent years, complains of trash left behind by mosque worshipers. But he says mosque officials have been more attentive to the problem lately.
Tune takes off most Fridays to avoid the traffic congestion. He seems less concerned with the terrorist connections across the street, which have been cataloged by FBI agents. Both the church and mosque front Leesburg Pike.
The minister says Dar al-Hijrah officials have asked to also use his church’s 10 upper-level parking spots reserved for ministers and official church business. The church has declined those requests and been roundly rebuked by the mosque and members of the local Muslim community.
Shutting down the entire parking lot would invite widespread scorn, Tune worries.
“We’ve considered the public relations nightmare we’d encounter,” he said. “It’s a no-win situation for us.”
On the other side of the parking controversy, the church has felt pressure from local anti-jihad watchdog groups to shun the mosque.
James Lafferty, founder of Virginia Anti-Shariah Task Force, or VAST, has pointed out the danger of aiding a mosque that has proven ties to terrorism. But he says his warnings have fallen on deaf ears.
“I offered all sorts of help and moral support,” Lafferty said, “and he (Tune) just stopped talking to me.”
Lafferty says Dar al-Hijrah is an enemy outpost that promotes violent jihad. He says it also promotes sedition against the U.S.
In fact, its spokesman Johari Abdul-Malik has called for Islamic supremacy in America.
“We will see the day when Islam, by the grace of Allah, will become the dominant way of life,” Malik told the Dar al-Hijrah flock in 2004. “You will see Islam move from being the second-largest religion in America to being the first religion in America.”
Federal investigators say Dar al-Hijrah – known by law enforcement as the “Row Street mosque” – is a dangerous breeding ground for terrorists. Former members include:
- Fugitive Hamas leader Mousa Abu Marzook, a former mosque leader.
- Ismail Elbarasse, a founding mosque member, Saudi government employee, and Muslim Brotherhood leader who was arrested for allegedly casing the Chesapeake Bay bridge for attack.
- Abdelhaleem Ashqar, mosque leader and suspected Hamas operative recently convicted for obstruction of justice.
- Mohammed al-Hanooti, a longtime mosque leader and unindicted co-conspirator in both the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and recent Holy Land Foundation terror finance case.
- Top al-Qaida fundraiser Abdurahman Alamoudi, now serving 23 years in federal prison for terrorism.
- Ahmed Omar Abu Ali, the would-be President Bush assassin whose father worked for the Saudi Embassy.
- Abdullah bin Laden, Saudi nephew of the late al-Qaida kingpin whose name appears on the federal terrorist watchlist.
- Maj. Hasan, accused of murdering 13 and injuring 30 others in a jihad-inspired shooting spree at Fort Hood, Texas.
- Hani Hanjour, 9/11 hijacker and Saudi national who flew the jumbo jet into the Pentagon.
- Nawaf al-Hazmi, 9/11 hijacker and Saudi national who joined Hanjour on the Pentagon flight and acted as second in command of the entire al-Qaida operation behind hijacking ringleader Mohamed Atta.
The mosque, in fact, helped Hanjour and al-Hazmi obtain housing in the area.
After Sept. 11, investigators found the fax number for Dar al-Hijrah in the Hamburg, Germany, apartment of one of the planners of the Sept. 11 attacks – Ramzi Binalshibh, now a Gitmo detainee. Authorities believe instructions for the plot may have been transmitted to Awlaki and-or the hijackers from Germany via the mosque fax machine.
The mosque has never been raided by the FBI or local police and continues to operate freely.