The Brooklyn imam whose son has been accused of training children at a New Mexico compound to commit school shootings contends the incident is being used as propaganda against Muslims, characterizing his son as “high strung” but not a religious extremist.
In a video posted Thursday on Facebook, Siraj Wahhaj of the At-Taqwa mosque insisted it amounted to a domestic situation that has nothing to do with Islam.
As WND reported, the son of Siraj Wahhaj, Sirah ibn Wahhaj, is being held without bail with four other adult relatives for alleged child abuse and for training children to commit school shootings. Court documents say authorities who raided the compound Friday found 11 hungry children living in filthy conditions along with assault rifles.
The elder Wahhaj was named as a possible co-conspirator in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and, as WND has reported, is on record urging a violent overthrow of the “filthy” U.S. government, assisted by jihad warriors armed with Uzis.
In the Facebook video, mosque spokesman Ali Abdul-Karim Judan asked Wahhaj to comment on how media is characterizing him, including references to the World Trade Center bombing.
Wahhaj called it “fake news” and warned “Allah is watching.”
“It’s not just against me, it’s against any Muslim group, any Muslim leader. So, today is Imam Siraj. … Then you find out that it’s ICNA, it’s MAS, it’s CAIR. It’s this leader, it’s that leader, he said, referring to the Islamic Circle of North America, the Muslim American Society and the Council on American-Islamic Relations, groups formed in the U.S. by the Muslim Brotherhood that were named as co-conspirator in a plot to fund Hamas.
“Their true agenda is coming out,” he said of his critics. “They hate Islam. They hate Muslims.”
Commenting on being named an unindicted co-conspirator, Wahhaj argued he was one of 172 people put on a list by U.S. Attorney Mary Jo White in 1995 and has never been investigated by the FBI.
However, he didn’t mention that he invited the infamous “blind sheik” convicted in the bombing, Omar Abdel-Rahman, many times to address his congregation. And a number of congregants – for whom Wahhaj testified – were convicted for providing material support for Islamic terrorists before the bombing.
Nor did Wahhaj mention his numerous declarations of support for violent jihad and the overthrow of the U.S. government.
In 1992, for example, he told a gathering of Muslims in New Jersey of his desire to have Muslims seize control of the United States and replace the country’s constitutional government with an Islamic caliphate.
What made my children act that that way?
The imam said the 11 children found at the compound Friday were either his biological grandchildren or members of his family through marriage. The remains of one child, a severely disabled boy, also were found. The imam’s grown children are among the five adults arrested on child abuse charges.
In the Facebook video, Wahhaj said he wanted “to find out what made my children act in such a dramatic way,” noting they had cut off relations with family and friends.
He said he plans to go to New Mexico to try to retrieve his grandchildren.
Wahhaj told CNN he rejected the Taos County Sheriff’s characterization of his son’s religious beliefs as extreme.
But he acknowledged his son’s behavior could be “extreme” and described him as high-strung.
However, “to do something as extreme as this doesn’t make sense,” he said.
The elder Wahhaj told CNN he was the one who provided authorities with the location of the New Mexico compound after a plea for help came from his daughter via Facebook, who wrote that they were starving.
Taos County prosecutor Timothy Hasson charged the imam’s son “poses a great danger to the children found on the property as well as a threat to the community as a whole due to the presence of firearms and his intent to use these firearms in a violent and illegal manner.”
Sheriff Jerry Hogrefe of Taos County said in a statement the children had been at the site for months without food and were so skinny their ribs were showing.
“I’ve been a cop for 30 years. I’ve never seen anything like this. Unbelievable,” he told ABC News.