California grocer -trustee of the Islamic Center of Orange County-scrutinised for ties to Hizb ut Tahrir and Al Muhajiroun leader Bakri
December 26, 2005
"...Hilal said he fell out with Hizb ut-Tahrir in 1997 after a disagreement with the head of the London wing of the organization, Omar Bakri Mohammed, at a conference in London, Syed said. "He didn't agree with certain ideologies that were being put forth," Syed said. "He was a scheduled speaker, but when he saw the orientation of the conference, hesaid, "This is not the organization I joined."
"...Another thing that needs to be understood is that the ALM of today is very different than the group it began as in 1996. It started off as a group seeking to bridge the differences amongst the many Islamic movements worldwide. It also called for healthy dialogue amongst people of different faiths. Little did many of us know that ALM would turn into something much more worse than HT. In mid-1998, however, and to the shock of those of us here the group began assuming pro-jihadist stances. This was quite paradoxical as Bakri earlier had written a detailed treatise rebutting claims by militant Islamists that jihad was a valid modus operandi to establish an Islamic state. Nevertheless, this was the point when many of us began having second thoughts, and one after the other, almost all of us eventually left..."
Garden Grove grocer under scrutiny
By GWENDOLYN DRISCOLL, VIK JOLLY and ANN PEPPER
An Orange County grocery store owner has been questioned by the FBI in connection with his membership in an Islamic group banned in parts of Europe and the Middle East for its radical views, according to FBI and Islamic Institute of Orange County officials. Iyad K. Hilal, 56, an amateur writer and philosopher on Islamic themes, earlier this month was accused by a Fox News commentator, John Loftus, of being the head of the California-based faction of Hizb ut- Tahrir, or Party of Liberation, a fragmented group of Muslim scholars and activists in Europe, the Middle East and the U.S. No charges have been filed against Hilal. The FBI declined to describe its inquiries as a formal investigation. "We're looking into the matter," said FBI spokeswoman Cathy Viray. The Fox News allegations sparked media interest into the California group's activities and writings, which espouse, among other things, the incompatibility of Islam and democracy, and the return to the ancient Caliphate political system in Muslim countries. "They hold a very idealistic, romantic view of how Muslims should live in a Muslim majority country," said Hussam Ayloush, head of the Southern California Council on American Islamic Relations. "They oppose the integration of Muslims into and their participation in the political process here in America." Ayloush said the U.S. faction of the group was not known to be violent or to support violent groups.
Hilal, who was seen praying and talking with members of the Islamic Society of Orange County on Wednesday, did not return calls. His Garden Grove duplex was shuttered while staff at his small grocery off Cerritos Avenue in Stanton said he had not come to work. Officials at the Islamic Society of Orange County who talked with him after 1 p.m. prayers said he appeared concerned that the FBI had questioned him and that Fox News had made allegations that he was linked to last month's bombings in London. Hilal told the officials that the FBI had quizzed him about his involvement in any terror attacks. "He said he never ever was involved. He's rejected even Hamas and PLO methods," said religious director Muzammil Siddiqi. " 'I have my views, but that doesn't mean I have supported violence,' " Hilal told him, Siddiqi said. "He said, 'Why are they putting this on me? What did I do? Have I committed a crime?' " Hilal also told officials that he has not been associated with the Hizb ut-Tahrir since a conference about seven years ago in England split the party. Friends described him as a soft-spoken man with conservative views who had been unsuccessful in attracting more than a few hundred followers during the group's heyday in the early 1990s. Hilal has written several books including "Studies in Usul ul Fiqh," which does not bear a publication date nor a Library of Congress number. Haitham Bundakji, spokesman of the Islamic Society of Orange County said a fracas erupted in the early 1990s when Hizb ut-Tahrir members were prohibited from distributing their newsletter, "Khalifornia," on the grounds of the Islamic Society Garden Grove complex, which includes a mosque and a religious school.
By 1995, however, the group had declined in popularity and visibility, with Hilal coming infrequently for prayers, Bundakji said. The California wing of Hizb ut-Tahrir is described as the smallest and weakest of four splinter groups within a political movement that varies in membership size and political rhetoric. The party doesn't really have any major influence in the U.S. whatsoever," according to Fawaz Gerges, a professor of Muslim and Arab politics at Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville, N.Y. " The European and Middle East branches, particularly the British faction of Hizb ut-Tahrir, are said to be larger and more radicalized. The UK faction's former head, Sheikh Omar Bakri Mohammed, called the Sept. 11 hijackers "the magnificent 19" in an interview with The Jamestown Foundation in Washington, D.C., in 2004. Mohammed fled the country after British Prime Minister Tony Blair proposed banning the U.K. faction of the group after the July 7 bombings in London. -------------
http://www.ocregister.com/ocr/2005/08/26/sections/local/local/article_649852.php Friday, August 26, 2005 Muslim leader says accused man, family hiding
By GWENDOLYN DRISCOLL and ERIC CARPENTER
The Voricks were not available for comment Thursday. A police patrol car was parked across the street from their house much of the day. In an Aug. 7 broadcast on the Fox News program "Weekend Live" Loftus, a former federal prosecutor, accused Hilal of being head of a "terrorist group" with "direct ties" to groups under suspicion in connection with the July 7 subway and bus bombings in London. Loftus did not return e-mail requests for comment. His voicemail was full. FBI officials said they knew of the allegations but declined to describe subsequent inquiries as an investigation.
Hilal said he fell out with Hizb ut-Tahrir in 1997 after a disagreement with the head of the London wing of the organization, Omar Bakri Mohammed, at a conference in London, Syed said. "He didn't agree with certain ideologies that were being put forth," Syed said. "He was a scheduled speaker, but when he saw the orientation of the conference, he said, 'This is not the organization I joined.' "
Bakri Mohammed, a cleric who has praised the Sept. 11, 2001, hijackers, fled the United Kingdom in August after British Prime Minister Tony Blair proposed banning Hizb ut-Tahrir in connection with the London bombings. Bakri Mohammed identified Hilal as the head of the U.S. branch of Hizb ut-Tahrir in an interview he gave to The Jamestown Foundation in Washington, D.C. Hilal described that statement as an act of mischief, Syed said. Hilal said Bakri Mohammed "didn't like him and he continued to dislike him," according to Syed. In that interview, Bakri Mohammed characterized Hizb ut-Tahrir as a fractured movement of at least four groups of varying sizes and influence in the United States, Europe, and the Middle East, with the U.S. branch of the organization described as a small group of "reformers."