February 20, 2005

Ideological strangulation

Posted by Mary Madigan

In May, 2004, Asra Q. Nomani wrote about how her local mosque was being taken over by extremists:

“Not long ago in my little mosque around the corner from a McDonald’s, a student from the university here delivered a sermon. To love the Prophet Muhammad, he said, “is to hate those who hate him.” He railed against man-made doctrines that replace Islamic law, and excoriated the “enemies of Islam” who deny strict adherence to Sunnah, or the ways of Muhammad. While he wasn’t espousing violence, his words echoed the extremist vocabulary of Wahhabism, used by some followers to breed militant attitudes.”
Near Chicago, the Bridgeview mosque was also overtaken by extremists. It became a political outreach center for local extremists and supporters of Hamas. The moderates fought the extremists for control of the Bridgeview mosque and lost.
Moderate Muslims still pray at the mosque, but some say conservatives have created an environment that is overly political, too rigid in its interpretation of Islam and resistant to open debate. These members also worry that the Muslim Brotherhood, a controversial group with a violent past, has an undue influence over the mosque. Despite these concerns, the critics largely remain silent, fearful of being called “unIslamic” by mosque leaders.
Connections between Saudi-influenced mosques and terrorist groups have been made in the Netherlands, after the killing of Theo Van Gogh, and in Spain after the 3/11 attacks. According to Sufi scholar Hisham Kabbani more than 80 per cent of American mosques are “controlled by extremists”. Most of those extremist mosques are supported and funded by Saudi charities.

The Center For Religious Freedom, a division of Freedom House, founded
more than sixty years ago by Eleanor Roosevelt, Wendell Willkie, and other pro-democracy Americans, studied the influence of hate propaganda in America by the government of Saudi Arabia.

This project * was started after many Muslims requested the Center’s help in exposing Saudi extremism “in the hope of freeing their communities from ideological strangulation”

Their report concluded that:

..the Saudi government propaganda reflected a “totalitarian ideology of hatred that can incite to violence,” and the fact that it is “being mainstreamed within our borders through the efforts of a foreign government, namely Saudi Arabia, demands our urgent attention.” The report finds: “Not only does the government of Saudi Arabia not have a right – under the First Amendment or any other legal document – to spread hate ideology within U.S. borders, it is committing a human rights violation by doing so.”
The press had a variety of responses to this story. From the Houston Chronicle:
To be clear, Freedom House's study is not comprehensive. It examined a small number of U.S. mosques, choosing the larger and more influential ones. It would be unfair to conclude that these findings represent all American mosques, or for that matter all American Muslims. The Saudis are the real villains in this study.

Still, these findings are alarming. The report identifies the spread of Wahhabist thought in this country as a national security threat. The war for the hearts and minds of Muslims is being fought here, too. The U.S. government allows the foreign enemies of freedom and tolerance to spread jihad ideology on the home front. Why?

From the Chicago Tribune:
Are there Muslims who espouse bigoted views? The answer to that question is `yes,' just like any other minority of any other faith,” said Tabbara. “What Freedom House is doing is unfortunately smearing all mosques in the United States and all mosque-goers by extension.”

If the researchers broadened their study, controversial literature would likely also turn up in other houses of worship, Kaiseruddin suggested.

“We are aware that there are books written with a little inflammatory language,” he said. “I don't think books on Islam have a monopoly on those. There are books on other faiths that use inflammatory language. I don't know that they can be classified as promoting hate.

[if there are books on other faiths that say things similar to these Saudi statements:
  • Jews “are worse than donkeys.” They are the corrupting force “behind materialism, bestiality, the destruction of the family, and the dissolution of society.”

  • Muslims who convert to another religion “should be killed because [they] have denied the Koran.”

  • Democracy is “responsible for all the horrible wars” of the 20th century, and for spreading “ignorance, moral decadence, and drugs.”
..I'd like to see them too.]
“The only thing we've received from Saudi Arabia is a package of dates during the month of Ramadan,” [Kaiseruddin] added. “We don't reject that. We distribute it and we eat them. I don't know that promotes any hatred among anybody.”
From the Boston Globe:
It is important to note that most Muslims do not share the xenophobic Wahhabi dogma. Freedom House undertook its study in part because ''many Muslims … requested our help in exposing Saudi extremism in the hope of freeing their communities from ideological strangulation.” Now that Freedom House has done so, it is up to moderate American Muslims to purge their mosques of the Saudi toxin, and to ostracize the extremists.

And it is up to Washington to end the pretense of US-Saudi harmony. President Bush last week referred to Saudi Arabia as one of ''our friends” in the Middle East. But friends don't flood friends' houses of worship with hateful religious propaganda. We are in a war against radical Islamist terrorism, and Saudi Arabia supplies the ideology on which the terrorists feed. Until that incitement is stifled, the Saudis are no friends of ours.

According to Arnaud de Borchgrave of the Washington Times:
Worshippers at Al Farooq are told, “If a person says I believe in Allah alone and confirms the truth of everything from Muhammad, except in his forbidding fornication, he becomes a disbeliever. For that, it would be lawful for Muslims to spill his blood and to take his money.”

The Brooklyn mosque was a favorite of Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman, the blind sheik ringleader of the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center, on his fund-raising tours in the late 1980s. Several co-conspirators in the Landmark bomb plot (whose targets were the United Nations and New York City's tunnels) also used Al Farooq as a safe meeting place.

Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman, who was convicted in 1995 along with nine followers of conspiring to bomb the United Nations headquarters in Manhattan and several other buildings, bridges and tunnels in New York preached at the popular Al Salam mosque in Jersey City.

Joel Mowbray, (the only journalist who has ever been detained by the US government for asking the wrong questions about the Saudi/State Department Visa Express program) also notes the connection between extremist mosques and extremist activity:

The former imam at the El-Tawheed Islamic Center in Jersey City, Alaa Al-Sadawi, was convicted in 2003 of attempting to smuggle more than $650,000 to the terrorist organization Global Relief Fund in Egypt.

One of Al-Sadawi’s former spiritual followers murdered in the name of Allah. Alim Hassan, then 31, killed his pregnant wife, her mother, and her sister on July 30, 2002. He reportedly stabbed the women more than 20 times each because they refused to convert to Islam. According to reports, Hassan prayed regularly at El-Tawheed.

Mowbray notes a possible connection between this extremist influence and the recent murders of the Armanious family in Jersey City. This possible connection was also noted by ABC news a few days after the murders.
But ABC News has learned that a cousin of the slain family has been a translator working for the prosecution in the trial of Lynne Stewart [link added by ed]. She is the radical lawyer accused of smuggling messages from imprisoned Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman, to terrorist cell members and associates
In any case, it’s pretty clear that the Saudi government is exporting more than dates to American mosques. According to the Freedom House report, moderate Muslims have been watching their religion get shanghaied by extremists for years. Has our government been listening to them, or have they been listening to Wahhabi-sponsored groups like CAIR?

The problem is not getting better. The question is, what does the government plan to do about it?

* View the full report (pdf)

Posted by Mary Madigan at February 20, 2005 9:42 AM

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