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Imam Who Addressed Sanders Rally Has Said ISIS is ‘Connected’ to Israel

Imam Sayed Hassan Al-Qazwini speaks about non-violence as a group of interfaith religious leaders join him in front of the Islamic Center of America in Dearborn, Mich., in 2012. (File photo: Rebecca Cook/Reuters)

An imam who spoke at a campaign rally for Senator Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.) on Saturday has a history of controversial statements regarding same-sex marriage and Israel.

In a sermon posted on YouTube in July 2015, Imam Sayed Hassan Qazwini, who has previously met with presidents Clinton, Bush, and Obama, criticized the Supreme Court’s decision to legalize same-sex marriage.

“Unfortunately, due to the lobbying of homosexual groups, the United States had to succumb to their pressure, and come to a point at which instead of telling Americans that homosexuality is a form of disorder, they are telling Americans that there is nothing wrong with homosexuality,” Qazwini said. Later in the sermon the imam said, “We are legalizing something that is abnormal, something that is against human nature.”

In a September 2015 profile in USA Today, Qazwini said of American Muslims, “We cannot sit aside and blame the Jews, continue to blame the Zionists for our pain.” However, in a sermon with the heading “Connection Between ISIS and Israel?” uploaded to YouTube just two months later, Qazwini suggested just that.

“ISIS somehow is connected to Israel,” Qazwini said, “and ISIS is playing the role of the arm of the Zionists in the Muslim world…so people can defame the name of Islam.”

Qazwini is a prominent Shi’ite cleric whose family fled Iraq after family members were targeted for persecution by Saddam Hussein. The family initially arrived in Iran, but settled in the U.S.

Qazwini has had multiple meetings with U.S. presidents, and the imam attended a 2003 rally with President Bush in Dearborn, Mich., at which anti-Hussein Iraqi expatriates cheered Bush’s overthrow of Hussein. At the Sanders rally on Saturday, Qazwini struck a different note.

“[Bush] came to us and said he would care about Arab Americans, fight racial profiling…We were stunned and we will not repeat that mistake,” Qazwini said.

Send a tip to the news team at NR.

Zachary Evans is a news writer for National Review Online. He is a veteran of the Israeli Defense Forces and a trained violist.

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