Employed as a communications specialist for the Council on American-Islamic Relations in Washington, D.C., police stopped Randall “Ismail” Royer for a traffic violation in September 2001.
The officers found in Royer’s automobile an AK-47-style rifle and 219 rounds of ammunition. Two years later, Royer was indicted along with 10 others for conspiring to levy war against the United States and to provide material support to al-Qaida. For agreeing to cooperate with the government, he pleaded guilty to lesser weapons and explosives charges, and was sentenced to 20 years in prison.
Now, released after serving nearly 14 years of his sentence, Royer, an American convert to Islam, says he is a changed man and rejects terrorism.
The Washington Post gave Royer space to write a column this month, noting in his bio he serves as a research and program associate at the Religious Freedom Institute in Washington. Since his release from prison in December 2016, the Post said, he has “worked in the nonprofit sector developing strategies to promote religious liberty and undermine extremist ideology.”
A feature by Quartz magazine in May 2017 said Royer’s goal now is “to fight fanatical ideologies, such as those held by extremist groups like ISIL and al-Qaeda.”
To those who question the decision of federal authorities to let him out of prison, Royer asked: “Don’t you believe in redemption? Are you saying that there’s no good a person can do after having made mistakes?”
On his Twitter profile, Royer describes himself as a “lover of freedom” and admits he hasn’t “quite got it all figured out.”
So, what’s not to like?
M. Zuhdi Jasser, an observant Muslim known as a fierce critic of CAIR and other promoters of political Islam, has embraced repentant radicals such as Tawfik Hamid who have become allies in his work with the American Islamic Forum for Democracy. His Phoenix-based non-profit’s mission is “to advocate for the preservation of the founding principles of the United States Constitution, liberty and freedom, through the separation of mosque and state.”
And Jasser has hopes for Royer as a “work in progress,” but he sees evidence in the Post column that the former CAIR staffer still adheres to the doctrines of Islamic supremacism that threaten the sovereignty of the United States.
In an interview with WND, Jasser agreed that people can change, but he wants Royer to be precise about which ideologies he is rejecting as well as which ones he is now embracing, noting Royer cites a Muslim Brotherhood leader as an example of an imam with whom American evangelicals can work on social issues.
“Americans are always willing to accept a story of redemption and rehabilitation,” Jasser told WND. “But just being anti-terrorism is not the barometer.”
The public needs to know, he said, not only whether such outspoken figures have abandoned violence, but also whether they have rejected doctrines that insist Shariah, or Islamic law, should be the law of the land, above the U.S. Constitution.
“Have they embraced Americanism, have they embraced liberty and have they rejected Islamism?” asked Jasser, a physician who specializes in internal medicine and nuclear cardiology.
WND reached Royer’s office at the Religious Freedom Institute, but he did not reply to a request for an interview before publication of this story.
“The public has a right to be tougher on folks who are former radicals,” said Jasser, who has had exchanges with Royer on Twitter. “It’s not like taking some innocent person and saying, ‘We demand you have a litmus test if you speak out publicly.’ That’s not what America is about – but he was incarcerated, he was on the verge of committing acts of terror.”
Royer “paid a price” for his actions, Jasser said, “but now, in order to get any public respect, he needs to prove that he’s abandoned certain core precursor ideologies to violent Islam and those precursor non-violent ideologies.”
Jasser pointed out that the premise of Royer’s Post column “was that he believes we (Muslims) share family values and other beliefs with evangelicals – which many of us as conservatives have said for a long time – but then he said the lack of cooperation is a bigotry problem” on the part of evangelicals.
“For a guy who supposedly went through rehab and reform in prison, the first piece he writes in a national newspaper blames everybody else for our own problems,” said Jasser.
“You would think that somebody at a religious freedom institute would be talking about how the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is incompatible with most of the Shariah books that would tell you to wear a niqab (facial covering) and all these other things that don’t make sense.”
He concluded that more Muslims aren’t engaging with evangelicals on social issues because of “evangelical antipathy toward Islam,” such as “opposition to mosque-building in local communities, anti-Muslim screeds on social media and bans on travel from Muslim countries.
After publication of this WND story, Royer wrote an email to WND in which he said that the headline the Post put on his column — “Muslims like me don’t have theological beef with evangelicals. It’s the prejudice against us that’s the problem” — didn’t accurately reflect his piece. His original was: “I’m a pro-life Muslim: I believe there is lots of common ground between evangelicals and Muslims.”
Royer pointed out that he also wrote that American Muslims “have work to do as well,” stating that a “community that perceives itself under siege tends to prioritize on the basis of self-preservation, and Muslims have tended to be prisoners of this mentality.”
‘Rejection of Islamism’
A good start for Royer, Jasser said, would be to sign the declaration of the Muslim Reform Movement and begin writing and talking about it.
In short, explained Jasser, the declaration’s signatories reject “any recognition of any Islamic state based in Shariah and, instead, embrace Western secular society and Western systems of governance.”
The declaration also embraces “unrestricted free speech, and an American version in which you can criticize any and all forms of religion.”
And it calls for “equality of men and women, and freedom of apostasy and blasphemy,” the doctrines that require death for anyone who abandons Islam.
“Then will come a rejection of Islamist groups, including the one he praised in the Washington Post piece,” Jasser told WND.
Royer cited Mohamed Magid of the All Dulles Area Muslim Society in Northern Virginia as an example of an imam to emulate.
Magid served two terms as president of the Islamic Society of North America, or ISNA, which theU.S. government established in court is a front for the Muslim Brotherhood. ISNA was designated by the Justice Department as an unindicted co-conspirator in a plot to fund the terrorist group Hamas.
A document presented at the Hams-funding trial, confiscated in an FBI raid of a Muslim Brotherhood house in Northern Virginia, states that ISNA was among the groups engaged in the Brotherhood’s “work in America” of carrying out “a kind of grand Jihad in eliminating and destroying the Western civilization from within and ‘sabotaging’ its miserable house by their hands and the hands of the believers so that it is eliminated and Allah’s religion is made victorious over all other religions.”
Jasser recalled that as a Navy officer he attended an ISNA convention in which Siraj Wahhaj, the former vice president of ISNA, held up a Quran and said that the goal of every Muslim is to “replace the U.S. Constitution with this book.”
“Wahhaj, last time I checked, is still a good friend of Mohamed Magid,” Jasser said.
Wahhaj also is a former board member of CAIR and was named as an unindicted co-conspirator in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. The radical Brooklyn imam was close to convicted terrorist Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman, known as “the blind sheik,” and defended him during his trial.
Magid’s All Dulles Area Muslim Society, known as the ADAMS Center, was founded by a prominent Muslim Brotherhood leader. The center’s Herndon, Virginia, office was raided by federal agents in 2002 as part of a terrorism investigation into a network tied to the Brotherhood.
Magid was appointed by President Obama in 2011 to serve on the Department of Homeland Security’s Countering Violent Extremism Working Group and became a regular visitor to the White House. In his role, Magid pressed the DHS to eliminate any suggestion that terrorists were inspired by Islamic doctrines, leading to a “purge” of intelligence and training materials.
Jasser testified in 2016 at a hearing of the Senate Judiciary subcommittee titled “Willful Blindness: Consequences of Agency Efforts To Deemphasize Radical Islam in Combating Terrorism” in which he called for, among other things, a lifting of the Obama administration ban on using Islamic terms and an investigation of CAIR and other U.S.-based groups that promote a supremacist interpretation of Islam that seeks to impose Islamic law in the U.S and worldwide.
Royer explained to WND in an email that he admires Magid for his work with evangelicals and doesn’t know if he and the ADAMS Center are still affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood.
“As with me, I believe in giving people space to move beyond their pasts, and his work with conservative Christians is a good sign,” he wrote. “I likewise believe that the Muslim Brotherhood is problematic, but I believe humans must be judged as works in progress, and if we’re looking for ideological purity we’ll find fault in everyone.”
He pointed WND to a piece he wrote in 2015 while in federal prison in which he explained in detail his assessment of the Muslim Brotherhood, concluding “Islamist extremism is not Islam; rather, it is a cancer eating away at the soul of the Muslims.”
In a tweet this past weekend, Royer said he wished he had been able to attend a conference in Fullerton, California, that features scholars such as Muneer Fareed, a former secretary general of the Muslim Brotherhood group ISNA.
In a tweet Sunday, Royer remarked: “This week I’ve been takfired by an ISIS fanboy & by Muslim SJW’s, & called a terrorist by Robert Spencer! #winning,” meaning he had been accused of apostasy by both followers of ISIS and by Muslim “social justice warriors,” or progressives, while being criticized by the well known director of Jihad Watch and author of many books about Islamic supremacism.
— Ismail Royer (@IsmailRoyer) February 18, 2018
Royer was referring to Spencer’s commentary Tuesday for Front Page Magazine regarding the Washington Post column. But Spencer did not accuse Royer of being a terrorist.
Spencer repeatedly has emphasized the fact that “terrorism” is not the enemy. It’s a tactic, and one among many that Islamic supremacists employ to achieve their aim of replacing the U.S. Constitution with Shariah.
“The American constitution is a work of genius that, among other things, establishes a way of living together that respects and protects the individual’s fundamental right to seek the truth and to believe, or not believe, as he or she sees fit. This is an ideal and goal that every American Muslim should support,” Royer wrote to WND.
However, CAIR leaders, such as co-founder and former chairman Omar Ahmad, are among Muslims in the United States who have insisted they support the Constitution but have been shown to believe otherwise.
Ahmad, though he denies it, was credibly reported to have told Muslims at a meeting in the San Francisco Bay Area that they were in America not to assimilate but to assist in the objective of making the Quran the supreme law of the land. And CAIR’s longtime chief spokesman, Ibrahim Hooper, is on record saying he wants to see the rule of Islamic law in America, not through violent means but through “education.”
Some skeptics of Ahmad’s sincerity point out there is a doctrine of “Taqiyya” in various schools of Islamic tradition that allows for concealment or denial of religious belief and practice when perceived to be under threat of persecution or compulsion. Though emphasized mostly in Shia Islam, it is also permitted in Sunni Islam in certain circumstances, according to some scholars.
Royer noted to WND that he has debated with Muslims about the First Amendment, arguing in a piece on his blogsite that all Muslims should value it.
Spencer, in his column, wrote that he would like to know precisely what “extremism” Royer is now rejecting, noting Royer’s criticism of evangelicals who have legitimate concerns about the national security threat that supremacist Islam poses to America.
Spencer wrote that the Post published someone who engaged in terrorism and worked for a Hamas-linked group “as if he were a legitimate spokesman for Muslims in the United States.” But the paper “wouldn’t be caught dead” publishing “an article by me or anyone else who is defamed by the hard-Left smear machine the Southern Poverty Law Center as an ‘anti-Muslim extremist.'”
The Washington Post ran a story in July 2017 noting that while incarcerated at Colorado’s SuperMax facility, Royer came into contact with terrorists such as shoebomber Richard Reid, with whom he engaged in a vigorous debate through letters over whether or not Islam justifies acts of violence against civilians.
The Post said Royer “observed as the ideology of his fellow inmates evolved from Osama bin Laden’s style of jihad — careful, methodical planning — to the barbaric, chaotic terrorism that characterizes the Islamic State. And now that he’s out, he says he’s ready for the next step in his own evolution.”
“I’ve learned a lot through this whole thing,” Royer told the Post. “It would be a critical mistake not to hear what I have to say.”
Spencer told WND he believes Royer’s argument with Reid, though significant in one sense, ultimately amounts to differences over tactics and the definition of civilians in the conduct of jihad. It avoids the crucial question of whether or not Islamic law should be supreme over all of life, including the political realm.
‘Supremacism and fascism’
Jasser, the author of “A Battle for the Soul of Islam,” pointed to Maajid Nawaz and Tawfik Hamid as examples of former radicals who now “articulate the supremacism and fascism of theocratic Islam and are working to defeat it.”
“They recognize Islamism as the problem,” he said.
Jasser said he had a Twitter exchange with Royer in which Royer criticized Canada’s banning of the Islamic niqab, which covers a woman’s face.
Jasser argued there is no right to cover one’s face in public, citing Supreme Court cases that consider it a security matter.
Royer pushed back, calling it a religious freedom issue.
“He initially was pretty adamant and responded very typically in a way the Salafist who believe in that dress would respond,” Jasser said.
Jasser said it appears from Royer’s writing and from his exchanges with him that Royer “believes in limiting criticism of Islam.”
Royer replied in an email to WND that he doesn’t believe that.
“Anyone should be free to criticize any idea without coercion by the state,” he wrote.
CAIR: Royer also worked for Starbucks
The Post bio for Royer doesn’t mention that he was arrested while he was employed by CAIR, a front for the Muslim Brotherhood, according to FBI evidence, and an unindicted co-conspirator in a Hamas-funding case, prompting the FBI to cut off its formal relationship with the Islamic group. In addition, an Arab Gulf nation, the United Arab Emirates, designated CAIR as a terrorist group.
Royer, in fact, is one of more than a dozen figures related to CAIR who have been either accused or convicted of terrorism-related activities.
The Investigative Project on Terrorism pointed out that according to a biography posted on IslamOnline.net, Royer began working as a CAIR communication specialist in 1997. He continued to work for CAIR at least through the beginning of October 2001, after his arrest.
The June 2003 indictment charged that Royer engaged in propaganda work for Lashkar-e-Taiba and “fired at Indian positions in Kashmir,” IPT noted.
While at CAIR, Royer led the Virginia Jihad Network, which trained to kill U.S. soldiers overseas, cased the FBI headquarters and cheered the space shuttle Columbia tragedy. Al-Qaida operative Ahmed Abu Ali, convicted of plotting to assassinate President George W. Bush, was among those who trained with Royer’s Northern Virginia cell.
CAIR co-founder Ahmad has minimized CAIR’s ties to Royer, noting Royer was also “a former employee of Starbucks Coffee.”
In an interview with WND in 2006, Ahmad insisted CAIR is no different than any other organization that might have workers who run afoul of the law.
However, Ahmad himself, along with his organization, was named an unindicted co-conspirator in the Hamas-funding case.
Here are some of the CAIR figures, along with Royer, accused of aiding or engaging in terrorism:
|FBI agents arresting Ghassan Elashi in 2002.|
- Ghassan Elashi: One of CAIR’s founding directors, he was convicted in 2004 of illegally shipping high-tech goods to terror state Syria and is serving 80 months in prison. He was also convicted of providing material support to Hamas in the Holy Land Foundation terror-financing trial. He was chairman of the charity, which provided seed capital to CAIR. Elashi is related to Hamas leader Mousa Abu Marzook.
- Muthanna al-Hanooti: The CAIR director’s home was raided in 2006 by FBI agents in connection with an active terrorism investigation. Agents also searched the offices of his advocacy group, Focus on Advocacy and Advancement of International Relations, which al-Hanooti operates out of Dearborn, Michigan, and Washington, D.C. Al-Hanooti, who emigrated to the U.S. from Iraq, formerly helped run a suspected Hamas terror front called LIFE for Relief and Development. Its Michigan offices also were raided in September 2006. In 2004, LIFE’s Baghdad office was raided by U.S. troops, who seized files and computers. Al-Hanooti is related to Sheik Mohammed al-Hanooti, an unindicted co-conspirator in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.
“Al-Hanooti collected over $6 million for support of Hamas,” according to a 2001 FBI report, and was present with CAIR and Holy Land officials at a secret Hamas fundraising summit held in 1993 at a Philadelphia hotel. Prosecutors added his name to the list of unindicted co-conspirators in the Holy Land case.
Although Al-Hanooti denies supporting Hamas, he has praised Palestinian suicide bombers as “martyrs” who are “alive in the eyes of Allah.”
- Abdurahman Alamoudi: Another CAIR director, he is serving 23 years in federal prison for plotting terrorism. Alamoudi, who was caught on tape complaining that bin Laden hadn’t killed enough Americans in the U.S. embassy bombings in Africa, was one of al-Qaida’s top fundraisers in America, according to the U.S. Treasury Department.
- Siraj Wahhaj: A member of CAIR’s board of advisers, Wahhaj was named as an unindicted co-conspirator in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. The radical Brooklyn imam was close to convicted terrorist Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman and defended him during his trial.
Imam Siraj Wahhaj
“Muslim Mafia,” citing co-author’s Sperry’s previous book “Infiltration” as well as terror expert Steven Emerson’s research, reports that Wahhaj, a black convert to Islam, is converting gang members to Islam and holding “jihad camps” for them. With a combination of Islam and Uzis, he has said, the street thugs will be a powerful force for Islam the day America “will crumble.”
Wahhaj was a key speaker at CAIR’s 15th annual fund-raising banquet in Arlington, Virginia, in 2009.
- Bassam Khafagi: Another CAIR official, Khafagi was arrested in 2003 while serving as CAIR’s director of community affairs. He pleaded guilty to charges of bank and visa fraud stemming from a federal counter-terror probe of his leadership role in the Islamic Assembly of North America, which has supported al-Qaida and advocated suicide attacks on America. He was sentenced to 10 months in prison and deported to his native Egypt.
- Laura Jaghlit: A civil-rights coordinator for CAIR, her Washington-area home was raided by federal agents after 9/11 as part of an investigation into terrorist financing, money laundering and tax fraud. Her husband Mohammed Jaghlit, a key leader in the Saudi-backed SAAR network, is a target of the still-active probe. Jaghlit sent two letters accompanying donations – one for $10,000, the other for $5,000 – from the SAAR Foundation to Sami al-Arian, now a convicted terrorist. In each letter, according to a federal affidavit, “Jaghlit instructed al-Arian not to disclose the contribution publicly or to the media. “Investigators suspect the funds were intended for Palestinian terrorists via a U.S. front called WISE, which at the time employed an official who personally delivered a satellite phone battery to Osama bin Laden. The same official also worked for Jaghlit’s group. In addition, Jaghlit donated a total of $37,200 to the Holy Land Foundation, which prosecutors say is a Hamas front. Jaghlit subsequently was named an unindicted co-conspirator in the case.
- Nihad Awad: Wiretap evidence from the Holy Land case puts CAIR’s executive director at the Philadelphia meeting of Hamas leaders and activists in 1993 that was secretly recorded by the FBI. Participants hatched a plot to disguise payments to Hamas terrorists as charitable giving. During the meeting, according to FBI transcripts, Awad was recorded discussing the propaganda effort. He mentions Ghassan Dahduli, whom he worked with at the time at the Islamic Association for Palestine, another Hamas front. Both were IAP officers. Dahduli’s name also was listed in the address book of bin Laden’s personal secretary, Wadi al-Hage, who is serving a life sentence in prison for his role in the U.S. embassy bombings. Dahduli, an ethnic-Palestinian like Awad, was deported to Jordan after 9/11 for refusing to cooperate in the terror investigation. (An April 28, 2009, letter from FBI assistant director Richard C. Powers to Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz. – which singles out CAIR chief Awad for suspicion – explains how the group’s many Hamas connections caused the FBI to sever ties with CAIR.) Awad’s and Dahduli’s phone numbers are listed in a Muslim Brotherhood document seized by federal investigators revealing “important phone numbers” for the “Palestine Section” of the Brotherhood in America. The court exhibit showed Hamas fugitive Mousa Abu Marzook listed on the same page with Awad.
- Omar Ahmad: U.S. prosecutors also named CAIR’s founder and chairman emeritus as an unindicted co-conspirator in the Holy Land case. Ahmad, too, was placed at the Philadelphia meeting, FBI special agent Lara Burns testified at the trial. Prosecutors also designated him as a member of the Muslim Brotherhood’s “Palestine Committee” in America. Ahmad, like his CAIR partner Awad, is ethnic-Palestinian. (Though both Ahmad and Awad were senior leaders of IAP, the Hamas front, neither of their biographical sketches posted on CAIR’s website mentions their IAP past.)
- Nabil Sadoun: A CAIR board member, Sadoun has served on the board of the United Association for Studies and Research, which investigators believe to be a key Hamas front in America. In fact, Sadoun co-founded UASR with Hamas leader Marzook. The Justice Department added UASR to the list of unindicted co-conspirators in the Holy Land case. In 2010, Sadoun was ordered deported to his native Jordan. An immigration judge referenced Sadoun’s relationship with Hamas and the Holy Land Foundation during a deportation hearing.
- Mohamed Nimer: CAIR’s research director also served as a board director for UASR, the strategic arm for Hamas in the U.S. CAIR neglects to mention Nimer’s and Sadoun’s roles in UASR in their bios.
- Rafeeq Jaber: A founding director of CAIR, Jaber was the long-time president of the Islamic Association for Palestine. In 2002, a federal judge found that “the Islamic Association for Palestine has acted in support of Hamas.” In his capacity as IAP chief, Jaber praised Hezbollah attacks on Israel. He also served on the board of a radical mosque in the Chicago area.
- Rabith Hadid: The CAIR fundraiser was a founder of the Global Relief Foundation, which after 9/11 was blacklisted by the Treasury Department for financing al-Qaida and other terror groups. Its assets were frozen in December 2001. Hadid was arrested on terror-related charges and deported to Lebanon in 2003.
- Hamza Yusuf: The FBI investigated the CAIR board member after 9/11, because just two days before the attacks, he made an ominous prediction to a Muslim audience. “This country is facing a terrible fate, and the reason for that is because this country stands condemned,” Yusuf warned. “It stands condemned like Europe stood condemned because of what it did. And lest people forget, Europe suffered two world wars after conquering the Muslim lands.”