Politics & Policy

More Moderate Muslims

For a preview of the the Ground Zero Mosque, check out Virginia.

If Mayor Michael Bloomberg ever decides to stop buying his way around New York City’s term-limit law, he’d be a perfect fit at the State Department.

Hizzoner was not content with having embarrassed himself by predicting that the attempted bombing of Times Square — the heart of a city that has been a jihadist target for 17 years — would prove to be the work of a disgruntled right-winger upset over the health-care bill. Bloomberg has now treated us to a cri de coeur in favor of the Ground Zero mosque. Funding sources for this project, originally known as the “Cordoba Initiative” in honor of the caliphate that conquered Spain, remain unknown. What is known is that the gigantic Islamic center would be located near the crater where Islamist terrorists killed more than 2,700 Americans while destroying the World Trade Center.

Mayor Bloomberg is clearly ready for prime time in the State Department’s production division: It was only last year that our foreign service used your tax dollars to broadcast, on its website, a little movie called “Eid in America.” Eid, the occasion for this exercise in cinematic hagiography, is the feast that ends what our government takes pains to call “the holy month of Ramadan” and commemorates with gala dinners around Washington. The star of the video was the Dar al-Hijrah Islamic Center — and accompanying mosque — in Falls Church, Va.


Dar al-Hijrah (which means “Land of Migration”) was presented as the moderate face of Islam in America — exactly what Bloomberg and other government officials assure us the Ground Zero mosque will become. Prominently featured was Johari Abdul-Malik, Dar’s soft-spoken “director of outreach,” who positively glowed as he spoke about his community’s growth.

There were, however, a few lines that Foggy Bottom evidently decided were best left on the cutting room floor. Like imam Abdul-Malik’s call for “sabotage” terrorist attacks against Israel. As he put it in 2001: 

I am gonna teach you now. You can blow up bridges, but you cannot kill people who are innocent on their way to work. You can blow up power supplies . . . the water supply, you can do all forms of sabotage and let the world know that we are doing it like this because they have a respect for the lives of innocent people.

Yes, what better way to show respect! Of course, omitting this speech spared State the embarrassment of explaining that it was given at a conference hosted by the Islamic Association of Palestine (IAP). IAP was the Muslim Brotherhood–created headquarters of U.S. support for Hamas. Incidentally, a top IAP official, Nihad Awad, has become one of the Ground Zero mosque’s most visible supporters. Awad also happens to be a founder of the Council on American Islamic Relations, another Muslim Brotherhood creation. CAIR was named as an unindicted co-conspirator by the Justice Department in the Holy Land Foundation case, in which several defendants were convicted for providing Hamas with millions of dollars in funding.

Imam Feisal Rauf, the force behind the Ground Zero mosque, declines to condemn Hamas, which is the Palestinian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood. It has been formally designated a terrorist organization under our law for many years. According to its charter, Hamas’s purpose is to create an Islamic Palestinian state by eliminating Israel through violent jihad.

In “Eid in America,” the State Department also wisely left out imam Abdul-Malik’s 2004 promise of Islamic supremacy in America. He made it in a Friday sermon of the sort that one typically hears at “moderate” mosques like Dar al-Hijra:

Alhamdullilah [Praise to Allah] and we will live, will see the day when Islam, by the grace of Allah, will become the dominant way of life. . . . I’m telling you don’t take it for granted because Allah is increasing this deen [religion] in your lifetime. Alhamdullilah that soon, soon . . . before Allah closes our eyes for the last time, you will see Islam move from being the second largest religion in America — that’s where we are now — to being the first religion in America.

“Outreach,” you’ll be pleased to learn, is just Abdul-Malik’s day job. He is also a director of the National Association of Muslim Chaplains (NAMC). As journalist Paul Sperry recounts in his important book, Infiltration, NAMC’s founder, Warith Deen Umar, is best known for his glorification of the 9/11 hijackers: “Even Muslims who say they are against terrorism secretly admire and applaud” them.

For his part, though, Abdul-Malik is more circumspect. When Sperry asked him about other “sermons” at the mosque that praise violent jihad and “martyrdom,” he couldn’t see what the problem might be. In their own way, he explained, Muslims are like United States Marines, a spiritual force in Allah’s cause: “Telling people to give their all for their faith is not an unusual idea. That’s the same thing as telling Marines in this country semper fidelis.”

I doubt our Marines would be flattered by the comparison.


Dar al-Hijra was established in 1991. Not so coincidentally, that is the same year American leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood wrote an internal memorandum to their global headquarters in Egypt, explaining that they saw their work in the United States as a “grand jihad in eliminating and destroying the Western civilization from within.” Echoing imam Abdul-Malik, the Brotherhood said its tactic would be “sabotage.” (The memo is here, with the English translation following the original Arabic pages.)

The memorandum elaborates that every city should have an “axis” and “perimeter” from which this jihad-by-sabotage strategy is headquartered. That axis, it adds, will be known as “the Islamic Center.” Islamic centers — just like the one at Dar al-Hijra, just like the one planned for Ground Zero — are to become “the ‘base’ for our rise,” the memo says. They are to be the focal point of education, preparation, and the “supply [of] our battalions.” Battalions are small cells of fighters. In Muslim Brotherhood ideology (i.e., Islamist ideology) it is assumed that, at a certain mature point, when Muslim forces are strong enough, violent jihad will be effective, so Islamists prepare for it.

Quite the opposite of assimilation and toleration, the memo envisions each Islamic center as a “seed for a small Islamic society” and a “House of Dawa.” Sheikh Yusuf Qaradawi, the spiritual guide of the Muslim Brotherhood, has proclaimed that dawa, the stealth form of jihad, is the method by which Islam will “conquer America” and “conquer Europe.” As I noted in a column last week, when it was released for Muslim audiences overseas, imam Rauf’s book (released in this country as What’s Right with Islam Is What’s Right with America) was called A Call to Prayer from the World Trade Center Rubble: Islamic Dawa in the Heart of America Post-9/11. In any event, the Brotherhood memorandum also foretold that Islamic centers would be hubs for networking and cooperation between Islamist groups. Dar al-Hijra has certainly fit that bill. Its website, for example, has helped viewers connect to the sites of CAIR and other Muslim Brotherhood tentacles.

We know about the Brotherhood’s 1991 memorandum because it was seized from the home of an operative named Ismail Elbarasse. And wouldn’t you know it: Elbarasse is a founder of the Dar al-Hijra Islamic Center so admired by the State Department. He is a close friend and former business partner of Mousa abu Marzook, currently the number-two official in Hamas — and a man who ran that terrorist organization from his home in Virginia until he was finally expelled from the U.S. in the mid-Nineties. It was to Hamas that, according to the FBI and Israeli intelligence, Elbarasse and Marzook jointly transferred hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Elbarasse may also have listened to one too many of imam Abdul-Malik’s speeches about bridge sabotage: In 2004, he was arrested for allegedly casing the Chesapeake Bridge, driving along slowly as his wife filmed the span up and down, lowering their camera out of sight when passing police vehicles drove by. It was all a misunderstanding, of course. Just recording “scenery,” Mrs. Elbarasse told the FBI — as her husband urged her to pipe down. But when the FBI reviewed the tape, they found it focused on “the cables and upper supports of the main span of the bridge, and also pan[ned] the east bound span of the bridge, filming the support cables and footings of the main span of the bridge. Portions of the footage zoomed in on the bridge joints of the main support span.” “It’s a crime to videotape a bridge?” the agitated Mrs. Elbarasse blurted. The government, for reasons unknown, decided not to pursue the case.

The Dar al-Hijra board has also featured Elbarasse’s friend and college roommate, Esam Omeish. Dr. Omeish, a surgeon, is one of the stars of “Eid in America.” In it, he coos about his community’s rich diversity (apparently meaning it features all kinds of Muslims). Alas, the film did not cover his college days — when he headed up the Muslim Students Association at Georgetown — or his term as president of the Muslim American Society, which is the Brotherhood’s semi-official presence in the United States. Nor was Omeish’s grim foray in Democratic party politics mentioned. He was forced to resign from a state immigration panel, to which he’d been appointed by Virginia governor Tim Kaine, after the emergence of videos that showed him lauding Palestinians for their resort to “the jihad way” against Israel. He later claimed to have been “smeared” by the publication of his own words, but Virginians weren’t buying it — he was drubbed in a 2009 bid for election to the state house of delegates. Reports of a 2004 speech in which he urged Muslims to integrate but resist assimilating into the “evils” of American society were probably not helpful.

Abdelhaleem Ashqar was also on the Dar al-Hijra board, but he is now serving an eleven-year prison sentence for obstruction and contempt after impeding a federal investigation of Hamas’s American support system. Dar al-Hijrah’s original president was Samir Salah, whose rèsumè includes (a) setting up Bank al-Taqwa in Lugano, known as a money exchange for al-Qaeda, and (b) partnering with Osama bin Laden’s nephew, Abdullah, to establish the Taiba International Aid Association, yet another Islamic “charity” that has been shut down by the government for bankrolling terrorism.


Getting Dar al-Hijra built cost chump change compared with the anticipated $100 million Ground Zero mosque. It ran around $6 million. The Saudis have been underwriting the Brotherhood’s dawa efforts for decades. And thanks to Sperry’s exacting work, we know about Dar al-Hijra what we haven’t been permitted to find out about the Ground Zero mosque: how it was financed. Turns out that it followed the standard Saudi/Brotherhood pattern.

The Falls Church land on which the complex sits was purchased in the 1980s by the North American Islamic Trust. NAIT was established by the Saudis and the Brotherhood in 1973 for just this purpose. In 2003, the Center for Security Policy’s J. Michael Waller told a Senate committee that NAIT owns or controls the physical assets of about three-fourths of American mosques — and its partner organization, the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), controls their ideological content. Both ISNA and NAIT were identified as unindicted co-conspirators in the Hamas-financing case. As I mentioned in last week’s column, ISNA was behind the republication of imam Faisal Rauf’s Call to Prayer from the World Trade Center Rubble.

Dar al-Hijra has sported imams that make Johari Abdul-Malik look downright tame. Most infamous was Anwar al-Awlaki, the al-Qaeda terrorist now believed to be holed up in Yemen. From there, Awlaki is said to have inspired Farouk Abdulmutallab, the would-be Christmas bomber who tried to blow up a plane over Detroit. But that’s just a footnote. While imam at Dar al-Hijra, Awlaki ministered to at least two of the 9/11 hijackers. And it was at Dar al-Hijra that he met U.S. army officer Nidal Hassan. Though Awlaki beat it out of town ahead of the 9/11 investigation, he kept up his correspondence with Major Hassan, who, at Fort Hood in 2009, murdered 13 of his fellow soldiers while screaming “Allahu Akbar!”

Other Dar al-Hijra imams have included Mohammed al-Hanooti, a former director of the aforementioned Islamic Association of Palestine. He was the mosque’s prayer leader in the troubled mid-Nineties period after Marzook’s deportation. Hanooti prepared for the Dar al-Hijrah gig with a stint running another Muslim community “axis,” the Islamic Center of Jersey City. There he frequently hosted the Blind Sheikh (Omar Abdel Rahman, whose cell bombed the World Trade Center in 1993). According to the FBI, he also raised millions of dollars for Hamas. Yet, Sperry reports, the State Department often asks Hanooti to be one of its messengers to the Muslim world. It sponsors his speeches, which are featured overseas by the Voice of America network.

And then there’s Mohammed Adam El-Sheikh, a Sudanese member of the Muslim Brotherhood who served as Dar al-Hijra’s imam from 2003 until mid-2005. In his spare time, he was the Baltimore regional director of the Islamic American Relief Agency . . . until 2004, when the Treasury Department designated IARA a global terrorist group, because it had “provided direct financial support” to Osama bin Laden. El-Sheikh was a founder of the Muslim American Society. Shaker Elsayed, who has served as Dar al-Hijra imam in more recent times, also ran the Muslim American Society for several years.

With so motley a crew of founders, backers, and prayer leaders, it is no wonder that Dar al-Hijrah’s worshippers include a “Who’s Who” of the jihad. Marzook was a fixture, as was Major Hassan for a time. And besides the mosque’s being attended by 9/11 hijackers Nawaf al-Hazmi and Hani Hanjour, the center’s phone number was found in the Hamburg apartment shared by the 9/11 ringleaders Mohamed Atta and Ramzi bin al-Shibh.

Other congregants have included Abdurrahman Alamoudi, a terrorist financier who is now serving a 23-year prison term. Before his various shenanigans caught up with him, Alamoudi — a public supporter of Hamas and Hezbollah — was a U.S. government Islamic-affairs adviser and vetted chaplains for service in our armed forces. Another notable Dar al-Hijra attendee was Omar Abu Ali, the valedictorian of the Class of 1999 at the Islamic Saudi Academy in northern Virginia. He is now better known for his post-graduate work: joining al-Qaeda, plotting mass-murder attacks against the United States, and conspiring to murder Pres. George W. Bush — for which he is now serving a life sentence.


Dar al-Hijrah started out as the only mosque in town, so it attracted hundreds of worshippers. Now, after two decades, it draws thousands, overrunning the once-quiet Washington suburb. On Fridays, and especially during Ramadan, the faithful are known to block streets, driveways, and fire hydrants with their parked cars, trampling across neighborhood yards while approaching the mosque on foot. If the true meaning of jihad is to struggle for personal betterment, as apologists like Obama counterterrorism adviser John Brennan maintain, one wonders why manners would degrade as Muslim numbers increased.

But wait: If jihad is actually about struggling to implement sharia as the necessary precondition to Islamicizing a society, it all makes perfect sense — and it fits the 1991 memo’s design. The overflow parking situation in Falls Church became intolerable, and to ease it somewhat, neighboring churches offered the Islamic center the use of their lots. Predictably, Abdul-Malik accepted this ecumenical gesture as a concession. “If Islam really catches on in the area,” he smirked to Sperry, “maybe the neighborhood churches will come over lock, stock, and barrel, and we can all share our parking lots.”

The Brotherhood is happy to expand its American enclaves one piece at a time. That may be fine with the State Department and Mayor Bloomberg, but most Americans are not likely to agree.


— Andrew C. McCarthy, a senior fellow at the National Review Institute, is the author, most recently, of The Grand Jihad: How Islam and the Left Sabotage America.


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