Militant Islam Monitor > Weblog > Did Duka's Al Aqsa mosque get federal & Saudi funding for facade redecoration via Philly Street Empowerment & Marwan Kreidie?
Did Duka's Al Aqsa mosque get federal & Saudi funding for facade redecoration via Philly Street Empowerment & Marwan Kreidie?
June 15, 2007
The six Muslims plotting a terrorist attack on Fort Dix focused attention on Masjid Al Aqsa ,where they worshipped and had started to repair the roof for free.In 2005 a facade redecoration took place under the guise of a community project which received state and federal funding. After the arrest of their roofers Al Aqsa spokesman Marwan Kriedie of the State Civil Service Commission attempted another form of damage control:
Last week, representatives of both mosques [The Islamic Center of South Jersey] decried violence and radicalism. Marwan Kreidie of Al-Aqsa said the Duka brothers had been working on the roof of the mosque before they were arrested. They were providing the work free of charge, Kreidie said. But he said they had attended prayer services there "very rarely."
Acccording to one report:
About two months ago, Ibrahim Shnewer, 53, the father of the fourth defendant, Mohammed Ibrahim Shnewer, 22, was worried about a delay with his citizenship papers and asked if Al Aqsa could intervene with the feds. "That told me . . . he didn't have a clue," what his son allegedly was planning , said Kreidie.
MIM: As usual Kreidie obstructs counter terrorism efforts and makes the request of Ibrahim Schnewer to expedite his citizenship papers appear innocuous when it is the opposite. The plot was being followed for over a year and it unlikely Schnewer's father was unaware that something was going to occur since the brothers had been shown an intense interest in acquiring firearms, shooting and playing paintball during that time. In all likelihood he hoped to strengthen his position by becoming a citizen and asked Kreidie to help him. It is unclear if the mosque will be searching for non terrorist connected roofers to complete the job. One renovation project which was completed at Al Aqsa took place in 2005. The façade mural project which was billed as a community effort and ironically titled "The Master Peace-Doorways to Peace Mural". Incredibly it received federal funding from among others the Philadelphia Street Empowerment Zone which is billed as:
" A community development and economic revitalization program, created federally and guided locally. The EZ guides and funds the implementation of strategies and programs that improve public safety, advance human development, create a welcoming environment, and invigorate commerce.
[Perhaps the next Al Aqsa project will be a multi cultural exchange program with the prison system titled "Jihadi's on the Roof".]
MIM:Federal funding for the Philadelphia's Al Aqsa mosque redecoration has come partly from the Philadelphia Street Empowerment Zone, a federally funded program. The Arab American Development Corporation which also contributed to the project is run by Marwan Kreidie, resident fifth columnist, who is linked to the and the AAI and the Saudi funded Arab American Anti American Discrimination Committee. The offices of the AADC also happens to be located the Al Aqsa mosque raising serious questions about conflict of interests.
After the arrest of the Duka brothers Kreidie maintained there was "no terrorism to see here folks- move on".
Marwan Kreidie, 47, acting spokesman for Al Aqsa, thinks nothing of calling the FBI to advise them of something suspicious, or of helping a Muslim having a problem with a federal agency....Yet, four of the six defendants arrested Monday for conspiring to kill soldiers at Fort Dix, briefly prayed at the North Philadelphia mosque and the three Duka brothers - Eljvir, Shain and Dritan - even began to repair its roof at no cost...About two months ago, Ibrahim Shnewer, 53, the father of the fourth defendant, Mohammed Ibrahim Shnewer, 22, was worried about a delay with his citizenship papers and asked if Al Aqsa could intervene with the feds."That told me . . . he didn't have a clue," what his son allegedly was planning , said Kreidie.8/18/2006 http://www.philly.com/dailynews/local/20070511_TERROR_SHOCK.html
For more on Marwan Kreidie see:
2004 Marwan Kreidie: "More Obstruction of Counterterrorism, More Rewards" http://www.danielpipes.org/blog/354
Founder and executive director of the Philadelphia Arab-American Community Development Corporation
Member of the National Leadership Conference of the Washington, DC-based Arab-American Institute
Professor of Political Science at Immaculata College and Villanova University
Opposes U.S. government's counter-terrorism measures
Marwan Kreidie is the founder and executive director of the Philadelphia Arab-American Community Development Corporation (PAACDC), which exists to help the city's Arab-American residents access social services and assistance with immigration problems and discrimination complaints. Kreidie is also a member of the National Leadership Conference of the Washington, DC-based Arab-American Institute, and he consults with many organizations about "Arab and Muslim Cultural sensitivities."
Kreidie was born in New York City and raised in Beirut, Lebanon until 1976. He graduated from Drew University in 1983 and earned a Master's Degree in Political Science from Temple University five years after that.
0in 0in 0pt; mso-margin-top-alt: auto; mso-margin-bottom-alt: auto" tclass="MsoNormal">From 1997-2005, Kreidie was a Civil Service Commissioner for the City of Philadelphia. In May 2005, Pennsylvania Governor William Rendell appointed him as a State Civil Service Commissioner.
0in 0in 0pt; mso-margin-top-alt: auto; mso-margin-bottom-alt: auto" tclass="MsoNormal">In addition to his aforementioned duties, Kreidie teaches Political Science at Immaculata College and Villanova University. He has previously taught at Lincoln University, Temple University, and Philadelphia College of Textiles and Science.
Kreidie has repeatedly damned the U.S. government's counter-terrorist measures and, according to scholar of Islam Daniel Pipes, has never approved of a single one. For example, he:
Condemned the American government's plan to interview some 5,000 male non-citizens who had come to the U.S. on temporary visas from countries hosting active terrorist cells; Kreidie characterized the initiative as "sloppy police work" and "ridiculous."
Was "appalled" by measures requiring some arriving foreigners to provide fingerprints, photographs, and details about their travel plans. "For me as an American citizen, it's frightening," said Kreidie.
Furiously compared the Terrorism Information and Prevention System (TIPS), a national system by which concerned workers can report suspicious activity, to the notorious Stasi secret police in East Germany.
Opposed the USA Patriot Act, saying that it had created an "open [hunting] season" on Arabs and Muslims.
Indignantly condemned the government's offer to reward "reliable and useful" information about terrorists with a fast track to U.S. citizenship: "It's bribery and it's disgusting."
Decried the focus on deporting illegal aliens hailing from Arab and Muslim countries - the source of nearly all the terrorism in America - as "biased."
Denounced FBI interviews of Iraqi immigrants as having a "zero" chance of turning up useful information.
More broadly, Kreidie rejects law-enforcement counter-terrorist efforts as "massive intrusions on civil liberties" that have "enraged" Arab and Muslim Americans. He has even characterized anti-terrorism efforts as "unconstitutional."
Kreidie condemned what he called the "assaults on human rights mounted by President Bush and his [then-] Attorney General, John Ashcroft." He accused Bush of "a litany of anti-Arab and [anti-] Muslim actions," and on one occasion referred to the Attorney General as "that lunatic Ashcroft."
Kreidie denies that American Muslims have anything to do with terrorism. "Nobody in my community supports Osama [bin Laden]," he has announced, thereby preemptively exonerating all Muslims of connections to Al-Qaeda. After the U.S. President personally signed the papers to close down the Holy Land Foundation, a fraudulent Islamic "charity" that the Treasury Secretary described as an organization that "exists to raise money in the United States to promote terror," Kreidie insisted that the foundation was a legitimate charitable organization. When Pennsylvania State Treasurer Barbara Hafer suspected that $210,000 stolen by individuals with Arabic names could be connected to terrorism, Kreidie jumped on her statement as baseless and inflammatory.
10.5pt">Summing up his whole outlook, Kreidie has said that for American Arabs and Muslims, working with the FBI to combat terrorism is "a waste of time."
This profile is adapted from the article "Federal Bureau of Islamists," written by Daniel Pipes and published by FrontPageMagazine.com on July 6, 2004.
The ADC is one of the organisations which are slated to receive some of the Prince Al Waleed Bin Talal's millions which he promised to US Muslim groups to "improve the image of Islam in the United States" aka da'wa.
Bin Talal hosted a telethon to raise money for suicide bombers and his 10 million dollar donation for WTC attack victims was refused by then NY mayor Rudi Giuliani. For more on Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal see:
American Muslim Anti Discrimination Committee gets 6 ml from Saudi ... ... ADC Global Achievement Award - HRH Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Bin Abdul Aziz ... Al Walid bin Talal Al Saud, recipient of ADC's Global Achievement Award. ... www.militantislammonitor.org/article/id/671
MIM:The Arab American Development Corporation head Marwan Kreidie is a convienient front to channel Saudi funding to community projects being done under the guise of diversity. In some ways the ADC is more perfidious then CAIR since it has been embraced by the government as a moderate group while it's primary aim is to push an Islamist/.Arab supremacist agenda and hinder counterterrorism efforts by slapping agencies like the FBI and JTTF with discrimination lawsuits when they focus on Arab and Muslim Americans.
The ADC always uses the word Arab and rarely if ever mentions Islam, which makes it easier to hide their radical agenda.The mosque redecoration project in Philadelphia which is portrayed as a benign exercise in multi culturalism and community bridge building represents a cynical exploitation of public funding for spreading Islam and free money ( and labor) for their renovations.
[Note that the Duka brothers who are now facing terrorism charges in a plot which targetted Fort Dix were worshippers at Al Aqsa and were in the process of repairing the roof when they were arrested.]
Another example of an Islamist/Arab supremacist activity receiving public funding is the Al Bustan camp being held each summer at the Philadelphia Arboretum connected to the ADC.
The camp receives state and federal money is another example of how Kreidie and his
cronies in various Islamist organisations are using his position to promote Islam and Wahhabism using as much taxpayers moneyas they can get.
Kreidie is the poster boy and go between for Arab and Muslim relations in Pennslyvania. In 2005 he was appointed by governor Ed Rendell to be:
Chairman of the State Civil Service Commission, a three-member, bipartisan, independent administrative commission.
Governor Rendell said Kreidie was nominated on April 13, 2004 and was confirmed for a full, six-year term on June 28, 2004.
The Commission is comprised of: the Bureau of Employment Services; the Bureau of Personnel Assessment; the Bureau of Information Technology Systems; the Bureau of Audit and Technical Services; the Office of Personnel Services; the Office of Budget and Fiscal Control; and the Office of Administrative and Support Services.
The relationship between the Arab American Development Corporation [AADC] and the American Arab Anti Discrimination Committee [ADC]have much more in common then just the same acronym and Marwan Kriedie and appear to be different branches of the same organisation.
"...On Sunday, November 14, 2004, the MasterPeaceTM Doorways to Peace Mural was dedicated. Doorways to Peace is a collaboration of the Al-Aqsa Islamic Society, the Arts and Spirituality Center, the Mural Arts Program, artists Joe Brenan, Cathleen Hughs, and Fadwa Kashkash and neighbors, and community organizations of Kensington South. Preparations for this project began over a year ago as the collaborators planned for ways to strengthen neighborhood relationships and bridge cultural barriers and to create needed beauty in the neighborhood.
Participating schools included the Al-Aqsa Academy, LaSalle Academy, Moffet Elementary Public School, and Hancock St. Johns United Methodist After School Program..." "...School children and community members of diverse faiths joined with the artists to create an exquisite ceramic tile mosaic and painted mural that adorns two sides of the Al-Aqsa Islamic Society building with distinctive and lasting beauty. The mural on the mosque entrance side adds a unique example of Islamic mosaic art to the Philadelphia landscape while the community mural reflects the strengths of each cultural group and depicts the experience of a shared humanity and desire for peace..." Doorways to Peace is one of the first programs of the Arts & Spirituality Center?s MasterPeaceTM, a citywide initiative launched on September 11, 2003. MasterPeace engages schools, community groups, and congregations of different faiths in responding to needs for peace or justice in their community through art making and spiritual expression..." "...
Doorways to Peace was also generously supported by the Al-Aqsa Islamic Academy, the American Street Empowerment Zone, the Anna H. and Elizabeth M. Chace Fund, the Arab American Development Corporation, and the Independence Foundation.citypaper.net/articles/062697/article004.shtml
MIM: The Al Bustan camp is another project which is funded by by a ADC and the U of Penn Middle East Studies Center also received state funding in the form of a grant from the Philadelphia Arts Council. They have also been permitted the use of the taxpayer funded Arborateum as a premises. http://www.albustanseeds.org/about.html
MIM: More proof that Marwan Kreidie is using his political influence to promote the ADC's radical Islamist agenda is the recent 'outreach' aka da'wa project which was announced by the ADC. http://www.phillyadc.50megs.com/custom3.html
The ADC Philadelphia Chapter has recently established an educational free public service to assist area schools, organizations, and groups by providing informative, useful & thought-provoking speakers in a variety of topics regarding the Arab World, Arab-Americans, culture, religion, politics, economics, social life, and current events.
Our goal is to build an open dialogue among the members of the Arab community in order to strengthen communication and achieve a better understanding between Arab-Americans, and the larger American society.
If interested in obtaining one of our speakers, please allow at least one week notice. When arranging for a speaker, provide the following information via email: firstname.lastname@example.org
1) Name of school/organization 2) Date & Time of the event 3) Event location & directions 4) Approximate size of audience 5) Contact person's name & phone number
MIM: The ADC founded Al Bustan camp uses a public venue for their activities which take place at the Morris Arboretum. In an abject display of dhimmitude the director of the Arboreteum waxed lyrical about how the Camp experience was such a wonderful initiative in light of of 9/11. Arboretum director Robert Gutowski even wrote a piece entitled "Lessons Learned from an Arabic Language and Culture Day Camp".
url for Arboretum website:
Has the camp come under any criticism for teaching Arabic culture and language? If so, how did you deal with this? In the couple of months before the first camp took place in 2002, there were some concerns raised within the Arboretum community about why such a program was taking place, mostly as a reaction to the then recent events of 9/11/01, but the administration of the Arboretum took those criticisms as a teaching opportunity to educate and reach out to people about the importance of supporting such an initiative, as the Arboretum is a public garden, with non-discriminatory policies, and a clear priority to children's education. Robert Gutowski, the Public Programs Director even published an article for a national association of gardens and arboreta, "Context Charged Communication: Lessons Learned from an Arabic Language and Culture Day Camp." The Arboretum's principled stance deserves the support of Arab-Americans everywhere.
MIM: Founder and ADC member Hazami Sayed says he started the camp to provide children with an Arabic cultural experience in Philadelphia without going to the Middle East. The camp has a working relationship with a non Muslim Quaker school whose students 'have learned to write their names in Arabic calligraphy' further proof of the da'wa agenda of the initiative which enjoys both public funding and a public venue.
MIM: The Al Bustan camp has also received state funding through the Philadelphia Arts Council for an Arabic drum course:
Through funding from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts (PCA), 2004 and 2005 Apprenticeship in Traditional Arts http://www.culturalpartnerships.org/whatsnew.asp#PCA2004awards), Al-Bustan Seeds of Culture established an apprenticeship for children to study Arabic percussion with Joseph Tayoun, a master Arab-American percussionist.
MIM:The Arab American Anti Discrimination Committee placed this interview with a founder of the camp who also happens to be an ADC member - which once again shows that their are zero degrees of separation between Saudi funding - the ADC- and Al Bustan camp.
ADC spoke with Al-Bustan founder and ADC member, Hazami Sayed, about the summer camp and the opportunity it presents for simultaneous learning and fun.
INTERVIEW BY SOPHIE PARISH
What do you think the Al-Bustan summer camp provides that is different from traditional summer camps? While many camps offer an arts and nature-study curriculum, Al-Bustan Camp is unique in that this curriculum is centered around immersion in Arabic language and culture. Last summer, kids learned about the 14th Century explorer, Ibn Battuta, and interacted with things in nature and in the culture that he "witnessed" in his travels. They also learned about the olive tree and its importance to the Arab culture and economy. They saw a real olive tree and made their own sculptured replica. Language instruction is not an "add-on," but an integral part of these experiences. The kids also benefit from a reciprocal visiting relationship with nearby William Penn Charter School's Day Camp (run in the Quaker tradition) in which we share their sports facilities and they share in activities like learning to write their names in Arabic calligraphy.
The camp was founded in 2002 and has been a great success, what was the impetus for its founding? The idea for the camp really began from my personal desire to provide my young boys an opportunity to use the Arabic language with other kids here in America, for them to have the Arabic culture be a part of their everyday life. I grew up in Kuwait and Lebanon and came to the U.S. as a freshman in college. When my husband (who is also Arab and came to the US for his graduate studies) and I decided to settle in the U.S. and start a family, we were very keen to raise our kids in a bi-lingual environment, convinced that the strongest connection they could have to their heritage would be through the language. As we realized that traveling with our kids to the Middle East each year wasn't always feasible, I looked into ways to provide them that cultural experience here in Philadelphia. And it so happened that after taking some time off from my architecture job a year earlier, I decided in 2002 to take the initiative and look into creating a summer camp program that my kids and others could enjoy and benefit from.
MIM: Besides working together with the William Penn Charter School the ADC has set up a program for Muslim students at a the North East high school in Philadelphia which claims that ' 9/11 and the on going Palestinian -Israeli conflict' have left these students with a sense of their identity challenge unable to express themselves and share their cultural and politcal identities".
Which begs three questions.
Why is a public high school allowing Muslim students to propagate their cultural and political identities on their premises. Why are these Muslim students who feel so victimised not in Islamic schools. Three how many non Muslim students are being recruited into sharing these activities under the guise of multiculturalism and diversity? http://www.adc.org/index.php?id=2483http://www.pacouncilonthearts.org/
MIM: The 'Arab American Youth Leadership and Cultural Initiative' at Northeast High School in Philadelphia is touted as an after school program for Arab students who have " expressed feeling disempowered with their sense of identity challenged and unable to express themselves and express their cultural and political identities". "This feeling of 'disconnection from their school community whch has 'lead to disiplinary infractions'. Given that the leadership of the 'Palestinians' is epitomised by people like Sheik Yassin, Hamas, and Islamic Jihad, and that terrorism and suicide bombings have become the expression of Arab 'cultural identity, one wonders what new 'disiplinary infractions' will be manifested by students who are part of the Arab Youth Leadership and Cultural Intiative ... http:www.albustan.org/seedsOut.html
Since November of 2003, Al-Bustan Seeds of Culture has offered an after-school program at Northeast High School in Philadelphia to support the school's Arab-American students, who are mostly of Palestinian descent. In the context of post 9/11 and the ongoing Palestinian-Israeli conflict, many of these students have expressed feeling disempowered with their sense of identity challenged, unable to express themselves and share their culturual and political identities. The feeling of disconnection from their school community has led some to academic disengagement and disciplinary infractions. Over the past year, Al-Bustan -- with the volunteer support of other educators, artists, professionals and graduate students in the Arab-American community -- has helped students form an afterschool Arab-American student club. Over the past year, Al-Bustan -- with the volunteer support of other educators, artists, professionals and graduate students in the Arab-American community -- has helped students form an afterschool Arab-American student club. During these weekly meetings students have a space to work collectively to share their knowledge, experiences and stories. Our initiative seeks to have the students conduct oral histories of their country of origin and explore their stories and experiences through the arts photography, video art, music, dance and literary expression. The students will later be able to share their discoveries and understandings with other students, teachers and the larger Philadelphia community. Through grant funding obtained from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts Five County Arts Fund, a video artist, Laureen Griffin, is working this spring semester with the students, helping them use video as a medium through which to explore aspects of their own culture and identity.
Secondary School and Community Outreach Raising cross-cultural awareness among secondary school children and various community associations is another effort Al-Bustan Seeds of Culture has been pursuing in order to promote better understanding of Arab cultural traditions. Some of the topics and curricula developed for the Camp are the basis for raising corss-cultral awareness among secondary school children and various community associations. A series of presentations has been made by architect Hazami Sayed, on the architecture and urban development of Islamic Cairo and its traditional design and use of domestic spaces, at several schools, among them William Penn Charter High School, West Philadelphia Catholic High School, and Kimberton-Waldorf High School.
MIM: One also wonders if anyone has ever asked for a translation of the Arabic slogans which are together with the pictures of the flag of the non existent country of Palestine, and if any of the teachers at Northeast High School have bothered to inform the Arab students of their geographical ,historical, and factual ignorance on this subject.
MIM:Both ADC's (The Arab American Anti Discrimination Committee, and the Arab American Development Corporation] enjoy a close working relationship with the Middle East Studies Center at the University of Pennsylvania, as do these other groups which were listed in an article on the ADC website after the fundraising banquet in 2005. Marwan Kreidie, the Executive Director of the Arab American Development Fund, is also the co founder of the Al Bustan camp. Some of the groups at the ADC banquet, such as the Palestine Children's Relief Fund, and the Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies Department of Villanova, have direct working relationships with radical Islamist in the Middle East. The MES Department of Villanova is connected to Al Azhar University in Egypt which is the HQ of the Muslim Brotherhood and alma mater of Abdullah Azzam, the mentor of Osama Bin Laden. MIM:The head of the PCRF is Steve Sosebee, a convert to Islam who married a Muslim. (At a speech in the UAE where he receives funding, Sosebee railed about the Jewish controlled media. A spokeswoman for the PCRF was Rosemary Davis aka Shadya Hantouli, who in addition to her role as spokewoman for the PCRF and a another children's 'charity' called the Palestinan Children's Welfare Fund, ran a website which contained a picture gallery in honor of suicide bombers called 'Palestine 4 Ever'. The site was shut down after it was exposed and pressure was put on the ISP provider.)
ADC events http://www.phillyadc.50megs.com/whats_new.html Due to the presence of representatives from organizations like yours, this year's Philly ADC Banquet was an overwhelming success. We are proud to announce that we had our most diversified group of attendees ever. Many new faces represented numerous local NGOs including, but not limited to: Al-Awda Pennsylvania, The Friends of Philly (AFSC), Palestine Children?s Relief Fund (PCRF), Playgrounds for Palestine (PFP), St. George Orthodox Church, St. Charbel Maronite Church, St. James Church of Collegeville, CAIR Philly, Al Bustan Seeds of Culture, The Jewish Peace Network (PJPN), SUSTAIN Philadelphia, Philadelphia International House, Pitt Students for Justice in Palestine, Penn Arab Students Society (PASS), the Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies Department of the University of Villanova, the Middle East Center of the University of Pennsylvania, as well as Professors and students from Drexel and Temple Universities. List of faculty members of the Middle East Studies department at the U of Penn http://mec.sas.upenn.edu/faculty.html Link to the Middle East Studies program at the U of Penn http://mec.sas.upenn.edu/studies.html
MIM: Marwan Kreidie fifth columnist and poster boy for legal Islamism.
Marwan Kreidie was appointed to the State Civil Service Commission by Governor Edward G. Rendell and confirmed by the Pennsylvania State Senate on June 28, 2004. He was appointed to the position of Chairman of the State Civil Service Commission by Governor Rendell on May 2, 2005.
Prior to his appointment to the Commission, Chairman Kreidie served as a Civil Service Commissioner for the City of Philadelphia. He has served in numerous other appointed as well as professional positions in local government including Transportation Planner, Assistant to a Township Manager and helping to create a recycling program for the City of Philadelphia. Chairman Kreidie also served as a research analyst for "Solutions for Progress." In this role, he was responsible for preparing policy papers on a variety of topics including urban policy/affairs, solid waste management and the Middle East peace process. Chairman Kreidie is founder and executive director of the Philadelphia Arab-American Community Development Corporation (AACDC). The AACDC provides services to the Arab-American community including health care, access to social services, English as a second language and citizenship classes. Chairman Kreidie is an active member of the National Leadership Conference of the Arab-American Institute in Washington, D.C.
http://www.state.pa.us/papower/cwp/view.asp?A=11&Q=442641GOVERNOR RENDELL APPOINTS KREIDIE AS CHAIRMAN OF STATE CIVIL SERVICE COMMISSION -- HARRISBURG: Governor Edward G. Rendell today appointed Marwan Kreidie of Philadelphia to as Chairman of the State Civil Service Commission, a three-member, bipartisan, independent administrative commission. Governor Rendell said Kreidie was nominated on April 13, 2004 and was confirmed for a full, six-year term on June 28, 2004. The Governor said Kreidie's unique perspective to the Commission based upon his experiences, training and education will service him well as Chair. "Marwan's credentials and his proven experience in the community will lend themselves well to his becoming a member of the State Civil Service Commission," Governor Rendell said. "Commission members are charged with ensuring that those within Civil Service are of the highest integrity to serve the Commonwealth and to oversee a merit system in the promotion process." Kreidie is the founder and executive director of the Philadelphia Arab-American Community Development Corporation that provides services to the Arab-American community including health care, English and as a Second Language and citizenship classes. Prior to founding the organization in 1989, Kreidie was a research analyst for Solutions for Progress where he wrote police papers on topics ranging from urban policy solid waste management and the Middle East peace process. Kreidie is a PhD candidate at Temple University where he also holds a master's degree. He also holds a bachelor's degree from Drew University and currently serves as an adjunct faculty member at Immaculata College. The State Civil Service Commission was administers the merit system in Pennsylvania and has the authority to conduct investigations, hold public hearings, render decisions on appeals and record findings and conclusions in cases of demotion, furlough, suspension or removal. The Commission is comprised of: the Bureau of Employment Services; the Bureau of Personnel Assessment; the Bureau of Information Technology Systems; the Bureau of Audit and Technical Services; the Office of Personnel Services; the Office of Budget and Fiscal Control; and the Office of Administrative and Support Services. Chairman Kreidie currently serves as an adjunct professor in the Department of Political Science at Villanova University. He has also taught courses at Immaculata University, Lincoln University, Temple University and the Philadelphia College of Textiles and Science. Chairman Kreidie earned a Bachelor's degree from Drew University and a Master's degree in Political Science from Temple University.
MIM: Kreidie's function as Al Aqsa spokesman does seem to indicate a conflict of interests as does the fact that he has used his position as "go to guy" for the FBI to help put in a good word for people like the father of terrorist plotter Ibrahim Schnewer who asked him to use his "protekzia" to expedite his citizenship papers three months before his son's arrest.
Excerpt from: A radical shift in reputation for 6 men
The Fort Dix suspects were "just regular boys," working and friendly, to friends and neighbors who knew them.
Of all the mosques in the Philadelphia area, Al Aqsa Islamic Center was the last place one would expect to find "homegrown terrorists."
Long before 9/11, the mosque and Islamic school, on Germantown Avenue at Jefferson Street, had been in the forefront of interfaith efforts to stop hate crimes.
Its leaders regularly work with city police, the FBI and other law-enforcement agencies.
In fact, Marwan Kreidie, 47, acting spokesman for Al Aqsa, thinks nothing of calling the FBI to advise them of something suspicious, or of helping a Muslim having a problem with a federal agency.
In other words, Al Aqsa is not a radical, Islamic fundamentalist hate-spewing mosque breeding terrorists.
Yet, four of the six defendants arrested Monday for conspiring to kill soldiers at Fort Dix, briefly prayed at the North Philadelphia mosque and the three Duka brothers - Eljvir, Shain and Dritan - even began to repair its roof at no cost.
About two months ago, Ibrahim Shnewer, 53, the father of the fourth defendant, Mohammed Ibrahim Shnewer, 22, was worried about a delay with his citizenship papers and asked if Al Aqsa could intervene with the feds.
"That told me . . . he didn't have a clue," what his son allegedly was planning , said Kreidie.
The elder Shnewer prayed regularly at the mosque, his son less frequently and the Duka brothers once or twice, according to Al Aqsa.
This week, the 1,000-member Al Aqsa community was in such shock that Imam Mohammed Shehata issued a statement:
"We have constantly urged our community members to report, either to us, or to law enforcement, any suspicious incidents. Had we noticed anything about these individuals that would have aroused suspicions, I can assure you, it would have been reported."
The FBI and Philadelphia Police confirmed they have worked with Kreidie, who is also executive director of the Arab American Development Corp.
MIM: The arrest of the Duka brothers is not the first time that Al Aqsa has been associated with terrorist activity and Marwan Kreidie was on hand to spin the arrests as an affront to Muslims. When police counter terrorism chief O'Connor stated in 2005 that Philadelphia was a "hub of terrorism" he was demonised by Kreidie and (Muslim) police chief Slyvester Johnson. He was forced to apologise at a dinner held in Al Aqsa. What a different 2 years makes!
PHILADELPHIA, PA. – U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials in Philadelphia announced that Mohamed Ahmed Hassan Ghorab, a 47-year-old citizen of Egypt, was returned from the United States to his native Egypt this morning by ICE Detention and Removal Operations officers. Ghorab, the Imam of the Ansaar Allah Islamic Society in Philadelphia, first entered the United States on March 29, 2000 on a business visitor (B-1) visa via New York, N.Y. On March 25, 2003, ICE agents assigned to the Philadelphia Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) arrested Ghorab and placed him into deportation proceedings for violating the terms of his visa. The following month, an Immigration Judge allowed Ghorab to be released from custody after he posted a $50,000 bond. On February 23, 2004, an Immigration Judge ordered that Ghorab be removed from the country, prompting an appeal by Ghorab to the Board of Immigration Appeals. On May 27, 2004, ICE agents assigned to the Philadelphia JTTF took Ghorab back into custody for violating the terms of his bond. On the same day, Internal Revenue Service agents, along with agents from ICE and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, executed criminal search warrants at the Ansaar Allah Islamic Society facility, at Ghorab's home, and at another location in Philadelphia. On August 23, 2004, the Board of Immigration Appeals dismissed Ghorab's appeal and affirmed the previous removal order. Ghorab then successfully argued for a stay of removal from the Third U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. On November 30, 2005, the Third U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals dissolved the stay of removal, effectively clearing the way for Ghorab's removal from the country. "Arresting and deporting those who violate the terms of their visas is a critical part of ICE's efforts to restore integrity to the nation's immigration system," said Thomas Decker, the Field Operations Director for ICE Detention and Removal Operations in Philadelphia. "The removal of Mr. Ghorab represents the latest in ICE's effort to ensure that there are consequences for violations of U.S. immigration laws." In the past two fiscal years, ICE has removed more than 293,500 illegal aliens and immigration status violators from the United States. --------------------
Philadelphia Tells Muslim Police to Trim Beards or Lose Jobs www.bloomberg.com/apps/news October 19 (Bloomberg) -- Philadelphia police officer Kenneth Wallace, a nine-year veteran of the force, is serving his second month-long suspension for refusing to shave. Wallace, a 31-year-old Muslim, has asked for an arbitration hearing to challenge the department's 1/4-inch limit on the length of beards. Muslim city workers sued Philadelphia, the fifth-largest U.S. city, beginning in February to challenge grooming and dress codes they claim violate their rights to religious expression. "The Philadelphia community has a very large and visible Islamic core," said Craig Thorpe, a lawyer for one of the plaintiffs. "It's kind of an anomaly that the police department and the fire department seem to be out of step." Muslims account for about 2 percent of Philadelphia's 1.5 million population, almost equal to the 2.4 percent, or 7 million, for the entire U.S. The city's Muslim population is the 18th largest in the nation. Muslim emergency workers have challenged grooming policies in cities including New York, Washington, D.C., and Detroit, saying the Koran and other religious teachings require the wearing of untrimmed beards or head coverings. Philadelphia Police Commissioner Sylvester Johnson, who Islamic groups say is the only Muslim running a U.S. police department, softened decades-old rules in August 2003 to allow some beards. He has refused to budge on a requirement that whiskers be no more than a 1/4-inch long and neatly trimmed, said Corporal Jim Pauley, a department spokesman. `Too Long' "You don't wear religion on your face," Johnson said in a Sept. 18 story in the Philadelphia Inquirer, the city's largest newspaper. "You wear it in your heart and mind." Two months earlier, Johnson told the paper that the police department was a "paramilitary organization" requiring neatness and uniformity. Johnson declined to be interviewed for this story. Pauley said the department doesn't keep track of the religious beliefs of the 6,400-member force. "Either it's too long or not neat enough," Wallace said of supervisors' complaints. "I don't like it, but it's in God's hands." Discrimination complaints from Muslim Americans rose 70 percent to 1,019 in 2003, the latest year available, with 234 in the workplace, the Council on American-Islamic Relations said last year. Complaints picked up after the Sept. 11, 2001, hijackings of four jetliners by 20 Muslim terrorists. Johnson began allowing beards four years after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1999 that two Muslim police officers in Newark, New Jersey, could keep theirs because of their religious significance. `Remove the Scarf' Women on the Philadelphia force are still barred from wearing the scarf known as khimar or hijab, which many Muslims believe is mandated by Allah to show their modesty. Kimberlie Webb, the 43-year-old Philadelphia police officer represented by Thorpe, is suing for the right to wear the khimar. Webb became a Sunni Muslim two years after joining the Philadelphia force in 1995, according to her federal lawsuit. The department denied her requests to wear the khimar, made in 1998 and again in 2003, and threatened Webb with disciplinary action unless she removed the covering at work, the suit said. "They gave her an ultimatum: Either remove the khimar or be fired," said Thorpe, a practicing Muslim who sports a short beard. "As a single mother with five kids, she made the practical decision." Department officials said the scarf posed a safety risk because it could be grabbed by a suspect. Newspapers and Muslim Web sites reported on Webb's complaints through 2003. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ruled in her favor that November and urged the department to relax its rules. Fire Safety "We've seen more cases involving employers, both in the private and public sector, who refuse to accommodate women who want to wear the hijab," said Laila Al-Qatami, spokeswoman for the Arab-American Anti-Discrimination League in Washington. "Employers just don't get that the scarf is the equivalent of a yarmulke for a devout Jewish man." Philadelphia fire officials, too, cite safety to justify their department's ban on beards. Curtis DeVeaux, a firefighter who was suspended without pay in February for refusing to shave, plans to appeal a Pennsylvania judge's decision last month to uphold the rule. "It's really a shame there is so little understanding about religious freedom and why we protect it so carefully in this country," said Mary Catherine Roper, an attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union who is representing DeVeaux. Fire officials argued that DeVeaux's beard might disrupt the seal on his respirator. DeVeaux, 25, said he converted to Islam in 2000 and shaved to join the department the following year. He sought an exemption from the rule last year after speaking to firefighters in Washington who wore beards and were using the same equipment. "It's the practice of Muslim men to grow their beards," said DeVeaux, who now installs satellite-television dishes for a living. "I love the job, but I have to adhere to the rules of my beliefs."
A faith forged on a policeman's beat By Gaiutra Bahadur Inquirer Staff Writer A Koran sits open on the highest shelf in the Philadelphia police commissioner's office. A nameplate on his desk, an Egyptian souvenir from his son the FBI agent, spells out "Sylvester Johnson" in curlicued Arabic script. The office props point out a background that Philadelphia's top police official is otherwise low-key about: He is a Muslim. He may be the only police chief in the country who is; five national Islamic advocacy groups who track the accomplishments of Muslims know of no other. Johnson's faith - a rare one for a public official in the United States - became an issue for some in the city when, earlier this month, he publicly contradicted and upbraided his department's counterterrorism chief, Inspector Joseph E. O'Connor, who had angered local Muslims by saying the city was "notorious" for funding and recruiting terrorists. Johnson, in a rare interview focusing on his faith, acknowledged that Islam did shape how he handled the fallout from O'Connor's comments Sept. 1 at the Al-Aqsa Mosque on the edge of Northern Liberties.
Despite murmurs from some quarters that he goes to mosque only for political show, he said his race and his religion have affected his approach to his job, sensitizing him to unfair branding of any group. "That's wrong, to say that mosques in Philadelphia harbor extremist people... unless you come out and be more specific," Johnson said. "Islam does not teach killing people. Islam does not teach crime. Islam does not teach violence or terrorism. That is not Islam," he said. "For him to make that statement, and blanket the entire Islamic community, is totally wrong." O'Connor declined further comment on the incident. Johnson said he is evaluating whether O'Connor should keep his current job. Several federal officials expressed reluctance to get involved in what some perceive as an internal police matter. They declined to comment publicly on whether Philadelphia is known as a hub for Islamic extremists, but they pointed out that terrorism-related cases are rare in Philadelphia
. Johnson became a Muslim after joining the police force in the mid-1960s, when the Nation of Islam gained adherents in neighborhoods across the country with its message of self-reliance and black power. He said the racial slurs to which he was subjected as a young officer on the beat - and the roughhouse demeanor of his fellow police officers toward his fellow African Americans - drove him to a Nation temple in Oak Lane. The sermons against racism and police brutality resonated. While Islam gave Johnson the strength and discipline to cope, it also complicated his life on the force. The head of homicide, where Johnson worked, questioned him about belonging to the Nation of Islam. Johnson did not deny it, and none of his colleagues wanted to work with him. "It was uncomfortable because, really, people in the Nation didn't trust you because you were a police officer," he said, "and people in the Police Department didn't trust you because you were a Muslim." The department has come a long way - as has Johnson - since he converted and became one of its first Muslim officers. Muslims now number in the hundreds in a force of 7,000.
Johnson no longer belongs to the Nation of Islam. He now worships at Masjidullah on Ogontz Avenue, a mosque tied to Warith D. Muhammad, the Nation leader who broke with the group because of its separatist philosophy and urged his followers to become mainstream Sunni Muslims. Most of Johnson's family - his wife and two of his three sons - are not Muslim. Some question how Muslim the police chief is himself. "He's someone who says he's a Muslim. There's a difference between a Muslim and a practicing Muslim," said police officer Kenneth Wallace, a Muslim. Wallace grew his beard beyond the department's quarter-inch regulation length in observance of Islam and was ordered home until he trimmed it. Following the example of the Prophet Muhammad, many Muslim men wear beards, and some scholars say it is a religious obligation. Wallace is now in a standoff with the department, waiting to be told if he is fired. Johnson is not backing him, just as he did not support a female officer who wants to wear the hijab, the traditional Islamic head scarf, with her uniform. "You don't wear religion on your face," the commissioner said. "You wear it in your heart and mind." The stance has not won him friends among some Muslim leaders. "He seems determined to show he's not going to favor Muslims," said Isa Abdul Mateen, imam at the Masjid al-Quran in North Philadelphia. "That was good of the commissioner to say what he did [about O'Connor's statement]. It's good that he's not totally turning his back on the Muslim community, just partially."
Still, Johnson, citing religious freedom and civil liberties, had department rules rewritten to allow officers to wear a beard within limits. He wants an imam who instructed U.S. soldiers heading to Iraq on Islamic customs to do the same for his officers and for trainees at the police academy. And he considers it a duty to maintain friendly ties with mosques in Philadelphia - and to defend them against charges of coddling terrorists. "What history shows us is, a lot of terrorists have used the religion of Islam," he said. "If you have a good relationship [with the Muslim community], these are the people who will bring them to our attention." "They're doctors. They're lawyers. They're professional people. They're citizens of Philadelphia," he said. "I wouldn't have to call them to ask who it is. They would automatically call me and tell me who it is." Marwan Kreidie, head of the Philadelphia Arab-American Development Corp. and an organizer of the Sept. 1 sit-down at the Al-Aqsa Mosque with O'Connor, said the Philadelphia Police Department is fair when it comes to Muslims in a post-Sept. 11 landscape. "The Police Department is such that people in the Arab American and Muslim community feel safe in Philly [while] people get stopped in the suburbs based on ethnic looks," Kreidie said. "And that's a view that comes from the top." MIM: The Muslim version of the raid ignores the fact that the Imam was arrested for being tied to terrorism and blames the police for not taking off their shoes during the raid.
According to a book written by former policeman Sean Griffin in "Black Brothers Inc".
Many Philly mosques have served as arsenals, knowing that Federal agents would be criticised for raids on the premises of a 'house of worship'.
MIM: Muslims reacted straight from the playbook when mosques were raided.
Fri, Jun. 11, 2004
Muslim protesters say feds defiled mosque during raid Associated Press PHILADELPHIA - Federal agents desecrated a mosque when they detained an imam during a raid two weeks ago, leaders of local mosques said Friday. The 150 federal agents defiled the Ansaar Allah Islamic Society when they entered the mosque with weapons drawn and dogs, said Isa Abdulmateen of the Majlis Ash-Shura of Philadelphia and the Delaware Valley, an umbrella group of local mosques. "They defiled our house of worship on this bogus pretense of terrorism," Abdulmateen said. About 100 people protested the raid outside the Philadelphia federal building, many shouting "Allahu Akbar!" meaning "God is great" in Arabic. Protesters waved signs reading "Stop state terrorism of Muslims" and "Mosques are the house of Allah, not dogs." Federal offices were closed Friday in observance of President Reagan's funeral service. Local imams said the raid was meant to intimidate and antagonize Muslims, and federal officials should have handled the situation more sensitively. "It is a disrespect to Muslims all over America that you (federal agents) would bring your dogs into our house of worship - and without taking your shoes off," Imam Shahdeed Baiian said. Internal Revenue Service agents searched the mosque and an adjacent home in the city's Bridesburg section, plus a third home in Northeast Philadelphia on May 27. No one was arrested on criminal charges, but immigration authorities detained Egyptian cleric Mohamed Ghorab, the imam of the small mosque.
MIM: "A radical shift in reputation for six men"
Fort Dix suspects were "just regular boys," working and friendly, to friends and neighbors who knew them.
By George Anastasia
Inquirer Staff Writer
http://www.philly.com/inquirer/home_top_stories/20070513_A_radical_shift_in_reputation_for_6_men.html MICHAEL PEREZ / Inquirer Staff Photographer The Al-Aqsa Islamic Society Mosque in North Philadelphia. The Duka brothers did free roofing there, but a spokesman said they seldom had attended prayers. »More images They were twentysomethings who played video games, surfed the Internet, and shot one another with paintball guns. Friends described them as polite and hard-working sons of immigrants who came to this country in the last two decades to find a better life. Relatives, the few who would talk, said they were "good boys." Federal authorities say they are terrorists. Arrested Monday in what prosecutors said was a plot to attack soldiers at Fort Dix, the six suspects were ordered held without bail after individual detention hearings Friday in U.S. District Court in Camden. A 27-page FBI affidavit filed at the time of the arrests provides the government's account of what they allegedly intended to do. More difficult to determine is who they really are and why they may have wanted to do it. "These were young people who came to this country, but who developed an empathy toward the ideology of al-Qaeda," said Chief Inspector Joseph E. O'Connor, head of the Philadelphia Police Department's counterterrorism bureau. O'Connor's assessment was based on information gathered by nearly a dozen law enforcement agencies during a 16-month investigation into what New Jersey authorities described as a homegrown radical Islamist plot. It is decidedly at odds with many of the descriptions provided by friends, neighbors and fellow workers of the six suspects. "They were just regular boys flirting with girls," said Hydee Rentas, 23, of Pennsauken, recounting her experience growing up with two of the suspects, brothers Shain and Eljvir Duka, who at one time worked in a pizzeria in her neighborhood. "They were funny," added Anna Gonzalez, 19, also of Pennsauken. "I would never have expected this . . . not in a million years." In addition to Shain Duka, 26, and Eljvir "Elvis" Duka, 23, arrested last week were their brother Dritan Duka, 28; Mohamad Shnewer, 22; Serdar Tatar, 23; and Agron Abdullahu, 24. The Dukas and Shnewer are from Cherry Hill. Tatar is a former Cherry Hill resident living in Philadelphia. Abdullahu lives in Atlantic County. On the surface, at least, their experiences in coming to America mirrored the immigration story of dozens of other ethnic groups - a story that has been playing in a continual loop for a century and a half. They were part of what the junior high school civics books used to refer to as the American melting pot. Now it's paintball instead of pinball, and video instead of radio, but like the sons and daughters of immigrants a century ago, the Dukas, Shnewer, Abdullahu and Tatar - all to varying degrees - adapted to the new ways of their new world. Only in the last two or three years did they appear to become radicalized. The reasons may lie at the heart of what the government alleges was the conspiracy to kill American soldiers. Were they alienated and angry young men looking for a sense of identity and finding it in the philosophy of Osama bin Laden, as authorities allege? Or were they - in a parallel to inner-city youths who gravitate toward the gang and drug culture - upset over a lack of opportunity, a failure to succeed, or their inability to fit in to the world around them? "Certainly a big part of homegrown terrorism in Europe has to do with alienation, a sense of not belonging, being shut out, and not blending in," said Daniel Benjamin, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and former director of counterterrorism for the National Security Council. "You don't want to destroy a society you feel part of." Shnewer, who was born in Jordan, is a U.S. citizen. Tatar, born in Turkey, and Abdullahu, an ethnic Albanian from the former Yugoslavia, are legal resident aliens. The Duka brothers, also ethnic Albanians from what is now Macedonia, entered the country in the mid-1980s and are here illegally, authorities said last week. All held jobs. At least three are married. Dritan Duka's wife is an American. They have five children. Yet somewhere along the way, if the government's charges are sustained, the six became radicalized. They sought an identity not in their new country, but in the philosophy of jihad.
"He seemed like a great kid," Pat Manna said when asked last week about Mohamad Shnewer. Manna runs Gaetano's Pizza in a small shopping strip just off Route 70 West in Pennsauken. Shnewer's father, Ibrahim, operates Plaza Food Market & Halal Meats a few doors away. Manna said Shnewer was polite, friendly and outgoing; quick to open a door for a friend or customer; and always ready for a pickup basketball game with coworkers. "Sensible, bright," Manna said. "I would have sworn it's the wrong kid you had." But the tapes made by an FBI informant who befriended Shnewer tell a different story and offer a different picture of the stocky 22-year-old. "My intent is to hit a heavy concentration of soldiers," Shnewer said in one discussion of the plan to attack Fort Dix, according to the FBI affidavit. ". . . You hit four, five or six humvees and light the whole place [up] and retreat completely without any losses." That tape was cited again Friday when prosecutors successfully argued against bail for Shnewer, who they said posed "a serious danger" to the community. The hearing also provided some additional background on the suspect. Shnewer graduated from Cherry Hill High School West in 2003 and has attended Camden County College, according to his attorney, Rocco Cipparone. Cipparone said his client had come to the United States with his parents from Jordan as a 2-year-old. The family lived in Philadelphia for nine years before moving to Cherry Hill. Shnewer dropped out of college recently to go back to work to help support his family, which includes four younger sisters, one of whom is married to Eljvir Duka. Shnewer worked for a time at the family food market, but apparently had a falling out with his father, who nevertheless helped him get a job with All City Cab in Philadelphia. In addition to running his food market, Ibrahim Shnewer drives a cab. Recently, he bought his son a van to use on the job. James Atalah, a manager at the cab company, said in an interview last week that the elder Shnewer appeared troubled by his son's recent change in attitude, complaining that "in this country, you can't tell your own son what to do." "Personally, I think the kid is lost," Atalah said. At his food market earlier in the week, Ibrahim Shnewer, a slightly built man with a close-cut, dark-gray beard, said it was not the time to talk. "He is my son," he said while standing in the dimly lit grocery. "One day I will give a quote and talk to all media, but now I have nothing to say."
The Duka brothers arrived in the United States around 1984 by way of Mexico, said Michael Huff, the lawyer for Dritan, the oldest. They spent time in Texas, then moved to Brooklyn, N.Y., before settling in Cherry Hill in 1996. Shain and Eljvir attended Cherry Hill High School West, but did not graduate. Last week, George Munyan, an assistant high school principal at the time, described Shain and Eljvir as "incredibly disruptive" and recalled that their father, Ferik, once threatened to attack a principal after being called to the school because of Eljvir's behavior. Police were summoned to remove the father, Munyan said. Munyan, who retired in September, said he frequently had disciplined Eljvir for disrupting or cutting class and generally challenging authority. But when they met privately, he said, Eljvir was very confident, charming and articulate. Munyan said Eljvir had spoken proudly of being Muslim, but "never came across as being involved in any religious or political extremism." The Duka family is part of an extended clan of ethnic Albanians who trace their origins to a small town not far from the border with the troubled former Serbian province of Kosovo. And while some friends remember Shain and Eljvir as funny and happy-go-lucky while working at an uncle's pizza shop in Pennsauken several years ago, Shain and Dritan presented an entirely different image two years ago while selling a pizza shop they owned in Washington Township. "Surly" and "arrogant" were the words Mario Giordano used to describe the brothers, from whom, he said, he bought what is now Tony Soprano's Pizza in 2005. "This place was a rat trap when I bought it," said Giordano, a former Camden police officer. "Very ugly. I don't think they did any business. It was horrible." Giordano remembered one other thing about the bearded brothers. "They would always have the Koran out," he said. "I thought that was unusual. I'm a Catholic, and I don't keep the Bible open." Whether the Duka brothers were devout Muslims before they came to the United States or whether that devotion blossomed during their alleged radicalization is impossible to determine. The Duka and Shnewer families attended the Al-Aqsa Islamic Society Mosque on Germantown Avenue in North Philadelphia and the Islamic Center of South Jersey on Garfield Avenue in Palmyra. Last week, representatives of both mosques decried violence and radicalism. Marwan Kreidie of Al-Aqsa said the Duka brothers had been working on the roof of the mosque before they were arrested. They were providing the work free of charge, Kreidie said. But he said they had attended prayer services there "very rarely." Naseem Badat of the Islamic Center said that she did not know the boys very well, but that they were polite and well-mannered. She also said she was concerned that the center might be wrongly portrayed as a place where a terrorist plot was hatched. That would be "disgraceful," she said. "This is a benign place." In Cherry Hill's Old Orchard section, where the Dukas live, the arrests sparked varied reactions. Ferik and Naza Duka moved their extended family into the Colonial-style house at 215 Mimosa Drive seven years ago, and the house quickly became a meeting place for relatives and friends. In addition to the three brothers who have been charged, a younger brother and a younger sister live at the house. Ferik Duka and his sons operated roofing and construction businesses from the residence and at one point reportedly had farm animals in the backyard. Neighbors last week recalled roosters, chickens and goats. In fact, one neighbor moved because of the Dukas' lifestyle, said Greg Hilbert, who lives across the street. "When my neighbor looked out her kitchen window and saw them slaughtering a lamb in the backyard, that was the final straw," he said. Other neighbors, however, said the Dukas were friendly and, while certainly of a different ethnic background, hardly disruptive. They would wave and bring over baskets of backyard-grown tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers, they said. Michael Levine, 38, who lives at 219 Mimosa, said the Dukas' 16-year-old son was a good friend of his 14-year-old's and would occasionally come over for dinner or to swim in their pool. "They seemed like normal people. You'd have no idea this would happen," he said. Levine said he never discussed religion or politics with the family, but knew the Dukas were religious.
'An easygoing guy'
He used to joke about his "Uncle Benny." Until his arrest last week, everyone laughed. Uncle Benny was Agron Abdullahu's reference to Osama bin Laden. Abdullahu, as he worked in the bakery of a ShopRite supermarket in Williamstown, Gloucester County, would tease his fellow workers about the futile attempts of the United States to capture bin Laden. "U.S., no matter what they do, cannot catch my Uncle Benny," he would say. That was the account Bob Watts provided for ABC's Good Morning America when asked about Abdullahu, his coworker for more than two years. "He was an easygoing guy, made you laugh all the time," Watts said in the television interview. "He was somebody you really enjoyed working with." Watts said he sometimes warned Abdullahu about his comments, pointing to the sensitivity of people in the post-9/11 era. "You're going to get yourself in trouble," Watts said he had told his friend. But Watts also said he had not seen anything to indicate that Abdullahu harbored any hatred for America. Watts, contacted Friday, said because of an employment relationship he had with ABC, he would not comment beyond what he had told the morning show. Of all the suspects in the case, Abdullahu may be the most puzzling. The FBI affidavit described him as a "former sniper" in Kosovo. He came to the United States in 1999. At least some reports indicate he was part of a massive influx of ethnic Albanian Muslims after the "ethnic cleansing" massacres that ripped the former Yugoslavia apart. Targeted by Serbians in the bloody civil war that raged in the late 1990s, the Muslims who survived were saved in large part due to the intervention of the United States, which launched air attacks to stop the Serbian onslaught. Many of the refugees brought to the United States were processed through and temporarily housed at Fort Dix. Abdullahu is the only defendant not charged with plotting to kill American military personnel. But he does face charges of aiding and abetting illegal immigrants - the three Duka brothers - in obtaining weapons. Abdullahu lived with his mother and father and two younger brothers and sister in a stone bungalow on Cains Mill Road just off the Black Horse Pike in Collings Lake. Two boats and three cars were parked outside the house one day last week, but those inside declined to be interviewed. Several individuals were busy boarding up the windows with plywood. A reporter who knocked on the door was told to "go away."
Serdar Tatar used to deliver pizzas to military personnel at Fort Dix. Last week he was accused of plotting to kill them. The Turkish-born deliveryman was charged, among other things, with supplying a map of the base to his fellow suspects and with taking part in shooting practice and paintball games that authorities described as training sessions for the assault. Tatar allegedly got the map from Super Mario's Pizza, which his father, Muslim, owns and operates just outside the base. Attorney Richard Sporaco said after Friday's detention hearing that his client was "distraught" over the charges and over the case's impact on his family, including his wife, Khalid, who is expecting twins in five months, and his mother, who was hospitalized last week while visiting family in Turkey. The Tatar family came to the United States from Turkey in the late 1980s or early 1990s, settled in Cherry Hill, and later moved to Cookstown, near Fort Dix. Serdar Tatar attended Cherry Hill High School West from 1998 to 2000, dropping out in 11th grade. He went to work in his father's pizzeria, but later set out on his own, moving to Philadelphia and getting a job as a clerk in a 7-Eleven. He most recently began working as a manager at the chain's store on the Temple University campus just off North Broad Street. He and his Russian-born wife live in an apartment in the 2100 block of Tremont Street in the Bustleton section of the city. His wife, through a neighbor, described her husband last week as "everything in my life." She said he took care of her and her 11-year-old son from a previous marriage. She said he was "very religious." "He follows the Koran," she said. On the tapes recorded by the government informant, Tatar expressed concern about providing "protection" for his family before the assault on Fort Dix was launched. In what turned out to be a prescient comment, he also wondered whether the cooperator was "a fed," according to the FBI affidavit. But in a later conversation, he said that didn't matter. "I don't know you that much," Tatar said. "I don't know whether you're FBI . . . or an agent. Don't know. [But] whether you are or not, I'm gonna do it. Know why? . . . It doesn't matter to me whether I get locked up, arrested, or get taken away. It doesn't matter. Or I die. Doesn't matter. I'm doing it in the name of Allah." Contributing to this article were Inquirer staff writers Jennifer Moroz, Rita Giordano, Melanie Burney, Dwight Ott, Jan Hefler, Cynthia Burton, John Shiffman, Jennifer Lin, Robert Moran, Daniel Rubin, Joseph Gambardello and Edward Colimore. -------------------------------------------------------------- 8/18/2006
Of all the mosques in the Philadelphia area, Al Aqsa Islamic Center was the last place one would expect to find "homegrown terrorists." Long before 9/11, the mosque and Islamic school, on Germantown Avenue at Jefferson Street, had been in the forefront of interfaith efforts to stop hate crimes. Its leaders regularly work with city police, the FBI and other law-enforcement agencies. In fact, Marwan Kreidie, 47, acting spokesman for Al Aqsa, thinks nothing of calling the FBI to advise them of something suspicious, or of helping a Muslim having a problem with a federal agency. In other words, Al Aqsa is not a radical, Islamic fundamentalist hate-spewing mosque breeding terrorists. Yet, four of the six defendants arrested Monday for conspiring to kill soldiers at Fort Dix, briefly prayed at the North Philadelphia mosque and the three Duka brothers - Eljvir, Shain and Dritan - even began to repair its roof at no cost. About two months ago, Ibrahim Shnewer, 53, the father of the fourth defendant, Mohammed Ibrahim Shnewer, 22, was worried about a delay with his citizenship papers and asked if Al Aqsa could intervene with the feds. "That told me . . . he didn't have a clue," what his son allegedly was planning , said Kreidie. The elder Shnewer prayed regularly at the mosque, his son less frequently and the Duka brothers once or twice, according to Al Aqsa. This week, the 1,000-member Al Aqsa community was in such shock that Imam Mohammed Shehata issued a statement: "We have constantly urged our community members to report, either to us, or to law enforcement, any suspicious incidents. Had we noticed anything about these individuals that would have aroused suspicions, I can assure you, it would have been reported." The FBI and Philadelphia Police confirmed they have worked with Kreidie, who is also executive director of the Arab American Development Corp. After praying at the mosque yesterday, Mohammed Elsheikh, 31, a taxi driver by day and Widener University math student by night, said the defendants "are just going to make us [Muslims] look worse." "They need to learn Islam," he added. "You have to start with yourself. You learn to be truthful. "Only ignorance lets you do this," he added. The colorfully painted Islamic Center, rehabbed from a furniture warehouse in the early 1990s, features Sunni sermons in Arabic with translation services. Its K-12 school has an enrollment of 200 students. And it houses a mortuary; a food store specializing in halal foods, which are ritually fit according to Islamic law; and an Arabic library. Members of Mishkan Shalom, a reconstructionist synagogue in Manayunk, have worked closely with the mosque for years. For the past three years, the Interfaith Walk for Peace and Reconciliation started at Al Aqsa before stopping at a Catholic church and then a synagogue in Center City. The upcoming June 3 walk will be in Germantown. Meanwhile, in Staten Island, Ferid Bedrolli, an imam at the Albanian Islamic Cultural Center, said the Duka family had attended that mosque before moving to South Jersey. Bedrolli said Dritan and his brothers belonged to an extended clan of 40 to 50 families, ethnic Albanians born in Debar, a remote town on Macedonia's rugged border with Serbia's Kosovo province. Many had moved to the New York area, but some, like the Dukas, later relocated to Cherry Hill. The Duka brothers are illegal immigrants. Dritan's wife, Jennifer Duka, 28, reportedly denied that her husband, a roofer, or his brothers, were involved in terrorist activities. "He prays. He never did anything violent. He gives money to charity," she told the New York Post. Jennifer Duka couldn't be reached yesterday. "Everybody knows them," Bedrolli said of the Dukas. "They lived in Brooklyn." But since moving to New Jersey, he said, he had seen them only infrequently. "They are hard-working family," Bedrolli said. None of them ever gave any evidence that they were involved with Islamic radicals, he said. "Even back home [in Albania and Macedonia]. I listen to the news [from overseas]. Every single person" is in disbelief, Bedrolli said. "The U.S. is one of our best friends, the only country who really support us," during the ethnic-cleansing campaign of the Serbians during the 1990s. "Fort Dix was a second home for the Kosovars." Many families from Kosovo were brought to Fort Dix by the U.S. Agron Abdullahu, one of the six arrested in the terrorism plot, was among the Fort Dix refugees. "We all have been supporters of America. We were always thankful to America for its support during the wars in Kosovo and Macedonia," a cousin, Elez Duka, 29, told the Associated Press in Debar. "These are simple, ordinary people, and they've got nothing to do with terrorism." Ismail Badat, president of the Islamic Center in Palmyra, Burlington County, which the Duka brothers attended, said everyone there was dumbfounded. "These were religious kids. They were hardworking boys. They were very friendly, well-behaved, well-mannered. There was nothing to indicate they were going off the path," he said. "We don't talk about hatred at our mosque. We come to pray. Islam denounces terrorism." *