Despite rebuke from counter-terrorism officials and the media, a former Obama appointee turned politician has doubled down on his controversial praise for the so-called 9/11 mosque outside the Washington suburbs, calling it “an important member of the Northern Virginia community.”
Virginia State Del. Alfonso H. Lopez, D-Arlington, earlier this month sponsored a resolution “commending” the notorious Dar al-Hijrah Islamic Center “as an expression of the General Assembly’s admiration” for the center.
The resolution, which passed the full Virginia state legislature by voice vote March 7, was met with harsh criticism from terrorism experts as well as Fox News, which called it a “slap in the face of 9/11 victims.”
“What the Virginia State House has done is blatant acquiescence to America’s sworn enemies,” said terror expert Walid Shoebat. “It is treasonous, it is traitorous, it is criminal, and any state legislator who voted for it has violated the most important oaths of office.”
Former special FBI agent John Guandolo said Lopez’s resolution amounted to “public support for a terrorist organization.” He called its sponsors “criminally negligent” for not taking the time to research Dar al-Hijrah’s terrorist record.
“Is there a functioning brain cell at the state house in Richmond?” Guandolo demanded.
The large Falls Church, Va., mosque is a known breeding ground for terrorists, counting some of the Sept. 11 hijackers as well as the Fort Hood shooter as members. Late al-Qaida cleric Anwar Awlaki, moreover, once preached from Dar al-Hijrah’s pulpit.
“Almost no other mosque in the country has been linked to so many cases of alleged terrorism,” the Washington Post wrote in a long article on Dar al-Hijrah in 2011.
Still, Lopez, who is assigned to the assembly’s Militia, Police and Public Safety Committee, last week defended the mosque in a DailyKos.com posting, dismissing its connections to terrorists as “smears” and “a right-wing media attack” while exalting Dar al-Hijrah for its charitable work.
“In 2013, the members of the center provided more than $80,000 in assistance to community members struggling to pay their rent,” said Lopez, who previously served in the Obama administration as a Small Business Administration official and is now running for U.S. Congress.
But Fairfax County, Va., property records obtained by investigative journalist Paul Sperry, author of “Infiltration” and “Muslim Mafia,” show the North American Islamic Trust, a recently named unindicted co-conspirator in the largest terror-financing case in U.S. history, holds the deed to the radical mosque.
Built in 1991 with a generous grant from the Saudi Arabian Embassy, Dar al-Hijrah employed Awlaki as its prayer leader from 2000 to 2002. Awlaki, aka Aulaqi, counseled at least two of the Sept. 11 hijackers in closed-door meetings and is believed to have played a central role in the terror plot. He also radicalized Fort Hood terrorist Nidal Hasan.
Dar al-Hijrah’s leadership is closely tied to the radical Muslim Brotherhood, a worldwide jihadist movement.
In fact, the mosque is directly affiliated with the Muslim American Society, or MAS, a group formed as “the overt arm of the Muslim Brotherhood in the United States,” according to a 2007 Justice Department court filing.
A May 4, 2011, MAS press release praised al-Qaida kingpin Osama bin Laden as “a visionary who believed in an Islamic state in Afghanistan.”
Stunningly, Lopez’s resolution acknowledges Dar al-Hijrah’s affiliation with MAS but then goes on to describe MAS merely as “a national religious, educational, cultural, and charitable organization.”
“Delegate Lopez should be ashamed,” said Richard S. Saunders of Virginia Beach, Va., in a letter to the editor of the Hampton Roads Pilot. “He knows the history of the Dar al-Hijrah Islamic Center, yet out of political correctness and his desire to pander to the center in return for its support and the almighty vote, he could not do the right thing.”
An Aug. 28, 2002, U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement document, moreover, describes Dar al-Hijrah as “a mosque operating as a front for Hamas operatives in U.S.”
Hamas is the Palestinian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood.
Another cleric at the mosque, associate imam Johari Abdul Malik, has preached to American Muslims that they are within Islamic law to “blow up bridges” and other infrastructure.
“You can do all forms of sabotage,” he said in a 2001 Hamas conference.
Johari, likewise, 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 his flock at Dar al-Hirjah in 2004. “You will see Islam move from being the second largest religion in America to being the first religion in America.”
Malik, whom Lopez has invited to pray before the Virginia state legislature, was a close friend of Awlaki and even joined him on a tour of Mecca in 2003 – after Awlaki fled the U.S.
Federal investigators say Dar al-Hijrah – known by law enforcement as the “Row Street mosque” – is a dangerous breeding ground for terrorists. The roster of its former members and leaders reads like a crime blotter. They 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, Dar al-Hijrah 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 al-Qaida presidential assassin whose father worked for the Saudi Embassy.
- Sabri Benkahla, who was arrested in connection with the the Virginia Jihad Network investigation and later convicted for making false statements before a federal grand jury.
- Abdullah bin Laden, Saudi nephew of the al-Qaida leader whose name appears on the federal terrorist watch-list.
- Maj. Nidal Malik 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 phone number for Dar al-Hijrah in the Hamburg, Germany, apartment of one of the planners of the terror attacks, Ramzi Binalshibh, now a Gitmo detainee.
The following Virginia state assembly delegates co-sponsored House Joint Resolution No. 484 “commending the Dar al-Hijrah Islamic Center”: