Imam who invited neo Nazi speaker to Muslim event says he "wants to enhance the reputation of Islam thoughout the entire world "
Imam Al Qazwini of the Assadiq Islamic Educational Foundation in Boca says he doesn't mind being called a "towel head "
MIM: Young Imam Qazwini's of the Assadiq Islamic Educational Foundation must have been told by his more experienced handlers probably that going to the press would be one way of exercising damage control caused by the community and public relations debacle which the Assadiq Islamic Educational Foundation incurred after he invited neo Nazi speaker William Baker to address a recent banquet held at the Boca Raton Marriott. In the interview Imam Al Qazwini proves once again that he is a hardcore radical Islamist and his goals are"to revolutionize the old mentality of the Islamic nation" and " to enhance the reputation of the Muslim faith throughout the world", which literally means recruiting more convertsto Islam and impleting shari'a rule worldwide.It should also be noticed that the Assadiq Islamic Educational Foundation's website has been 'sanitized' since the event and is almost inaccessible. After the story about Baker's invitation hit the news, the Assadiq removed photographs and audi tapes made by Imam Al Qazwini . The tapes talked about Jihad and how Muslims had been the real victims of 9/11 have been pulled together with the dripping graphic. (In one of the tapes Al Qazwini also mentioned "an ill individual who has website " who put up information about him and Assadiq.)
In the interview below Al Qazwini boasts about his lineage going back to the prophet Mohamed and the Al Qazwini clan. Many of the Al Qazwinis are known for their virulent antisemitism. In 2002 his uncle Hassan Al Qazwini, was interviewed by a German journalist who expressed shock when Al Qazwini began railing " that Zionists controlled the media." Boca Imam Al Qazwini's disembling that he invited neo Nazi William Baker to improve interfaith relations , and that Jews had "overeacted" to his appearence, is a statement which reveals the Al Qazwini Islamofacist weltaanshaung, which believes that neo Nazi Baker was an ideal person to help introduce the Assadiq Islamic Educational Foundation to the community.
Tuesday, May 10, 2005
Despite controversial start Imam remains steadfast
Wearing the traditional garb of an Islamic cleric, the slight, soft-spoken Mohammad Jawad Al-Qazwini doesn't look like a revolutionary.
But don't be misled by his cherubic face or seemingly unshakable calm.
My ambitions aren't just to have an Islamic center in South Florida and have it running and be successful," the 23-year-old said in an interview last week. "My ambitions are much greater. I want to revolutionize the old mentality of the Islamic nation and enhance the reputation of the Muslim faith throughout the world.
Despite his high-minded ideals, Al-Qazwini's efforts seemed to stumble two weeks ago when he inflamed many in Palm Beach County's Jewish community by inviting a known Holocaust denier to speak at what for many marked the first time they'd ever heard of his Assadiq Islamic Educational Foundation.
Despite criticism from the American Jewish Committee, the Anti-Defamation League and other Jewish organizations, Al-Qazwini refused to cancel the speech by self-proclaimed Muslim-Christian expert William Baker, who was fired by television evangelist Robert Schuller three years ago when his anti-Semitic views became known.
Al-Qazwini makes no apologies for his refusal to bow to community outrage and yank the welcome mat from under Baker. Nor does he think Baker's appearance is at odds with his goal of knocking down misconceptions about the Muslim faith by reaching out to people of all faiths.
"I definitely think they overreacted," he said of the uproar in the Jewish community. "I definitely did not know about Mr. Baker's background and him not being welcome in the Jewish community. I strictly invited him to bring the Muslim and Christian community together. If there's a Mr. Baker out there who can bring the Jewish and Muslim communities together, I would invite him."
Most Jewish leaders — pointing out that there are scores of far more respected and less inflammatory scholars who can talk about interests shared by Muslims, Christians and Jews — said Al-Qazwini could have picked a better way to introduce himself to the community.
Although Al-Qazwini said he has been visiting South Florida for nearly two years and more than a year ago founded the Assadiq center in an office building near the beach on Palmetto Park Road, even leaders of two other Islamic centers in Boca Raton said they hadn't heard of him until the recent flap over Baker's visit.
The son of an imam, nephew of four imams and grandson of one of roughly 200 ayatollahs in the Shiite Muslim world, he said he initially was invited to South Florida by people who were familiar with others in his extended religious family that traces its lineage to the Islamic prophet Mohammed.
He said he spent nearly two weeks in South Florida in 2003, giving lectures in a home in Plantation as part of the observance of the holy month of Ramadan. After he left, he said, he was invited back again and again, each time speaking to a larger and larger crowd.
Eventually, he said, he sat down with Shiite Muslim leaders who wanted him to lead an Islamic center. With members scattered from West Palm Beach to Kendall in southwestern Miami-Dade County, it was decided that Boca Raton would be an ideal location.
Not only was it centrally located, but it was attractive for the same reasons it appeals to scores of non-Muslims.
"We purposely chose the most comfortable place for ourselves and our children and our safety," Al-Qazwini said.
Born in Iran after his family fled Iraq to escape death threats from then-dictator Saddam Hussein, he was raised in California. A religious prodigy, he began his studies when he was barely out of diapers with the help of his grandfather, Ayatollah Sayed Mortada Al-Qazwini; his uncles, who run mosques in California and Michigan; and his father, who directs the Assadiq Foundation in Pomona, Calif.
Al-Qazwini became an imam at age 19 and has lectured — and still lectures — throughout the world. He said he didn't plan to begin his ministry in South Florida.
"In this type of work, you're chosen by God, and I guess South Florida was the place God wanted me to be," he said. "Maybe there are other communities that are larger or already built and don't need so much work, but in South Florida there is a need more than any other community.
"Before I came to South Florida, I found the Muslin community, especially the Shiite community, very weak, very scattered, much in need of a religious authority."
The two other Islamic centers in Boca Raton are Sunni-based, as are most of the mosques in South Florida and throughout the world, said Daniel McBride, spokesman for the Islamic Center of Boca Raton.
Further, Al-Qazwini said, unlike most mosques, where services are conducted in Arabic, he preaches in English.
"It is unusual," he said. "Sadly, it is because most centers try to lean toward cultural backgrounds instead of religious backgrounds."
Instead of having separate mosques for Iranians, Iraqis, Pakistanis or Lebanese, he said, he wants his mosque to be open to all people who worship Mohammed.
Focusing on cultural differences has led to many of the misconceptions about Islam, he said.
"Mistreatment of women is cultural; it isn't Islamic," he said. "Violence isn't Islamic, it's cultural. Islam means peace."
The mixing of culture with religion, he said, has exacerbated ill will between people of different religions.
In fact, he attributed some of the venom directed at Baker as cultural rather than religious.
"I'd like someone to show me one quote from him where he was disrespectful of the Jewish faith," Al-Qazwini said.
He was unimpressed when told that in a 1983 speech, Baker said he hated visiting New York City because it is filled with "pushy, belligerent American Jews."
"That's not about the Jewish faith," Al-Qazwini said.
He said he wouldn't be offended if someone branded him a "towel head" because he wears a turban.
"I would take that as a humorous remark," he said. "But if you say my prophet Mohammed is a liar or a terrorist, that is offensive."
Such hair-splitting stuns many Jewish leaders and even some Muslims, who said they would take offense at being called "towel heads."
Hate is hate, Jewish leaders said. And, they add, it's one thing to invite a speaker who finds Jews pushy and quite another to invite one who denies the Holocaust and who has written books, as Baker has, calling for the destruction of the "Zionist state."
Since the early 1960s, the Roman Catholic Church has said there is no way to separate talk of Jewish people and Israel, said Rabbi Richard Yellin, of Temple Emeth in Delray Beach.
"Anti-Zionism is against the Jewish people," he said. Holocaust denial, he said, "is an act against the whole of Jewish people. Anyone who questions the existence of the Holocaust is anathema to civilization."
Despite lingering controversy over Baker's visit, Al-Qazwini said he is not deterred from his mission to find property to establish a school, a mosque and community center for his congregation, which already numbers nearly 500. He said he is eager to reach out to Jewish leaders.
He has met with Bill Gralnick, regional director of the American Jewish Committee, who was sharply critical of Baker's visit.
"I left them on a good note, and I will pursue my relationship with them," Al-Qazwini said.
Gralnick, who said he was impressed with the young imam's intelligence, indicated that Baker's visit had clouded efforts to work together.
"I'm not one to burn bridges," he said. "But the bridge is a little on the shaky side."
Count him out
BOCA RATON — As the mayor, Steve Abrams gets invited to a lot of parties. On Wednesday, he found himself denouncing one to which he hadn't received an invitation. The Assadiq Islamic Educational Foundation's Web site listed Abrams as a guest of honor at its April 30 celebration of the Prophet Mohammed's birthday, a celebration where Holocaust denier William Baker is scheduled to give the keynote address. "I just want people to know that I am not attending this event and I didn't agree to let my name be used to promote it," Abrams said. Several of Abrams' family members perished in the Holocaust. Abrams said he hadn't heard from Assadiq and was "blindsided" by the news saying he'd attend such an event. He's received e-mails from livid Boca Raton residents since Sunday, when groups that monitor Islamic Web sites alerted the American Jewish Committee to the event. Officials from the Assadiq Foundation did not return phone calls. — Meghan Meyer
Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
Thursday, April 28, 2005
To the disappointment of Jewish leaders, a speech by the former chairman of a neo-Nazi group will go on as planned.
A day after a lawyer representing an Islamic group said William Baker probably would not appear at a gala Saturday night, Mohammad Jawad Al-Qazwini said Wednesday he didn't plan to cancel Baker's speech
The decision made on our behalf to bring Mr. Baker was not against the Jewish community," said Al-Qazwini, the imam of the Boca Raton-based Assadiq Islamic Educational Foundation. "He will be strictly speaking about the prophet Mohammed. He will be strictly speaking about the Islamic faith."
Al-Qazwini said he is continuing to investigate Baker's background and might decide to cancel the speech at the celebration of the birthday of Islamic prophet Mohammed at the event at the Boca Raton Marriott Hotel.
"It's still not certain if he's coming or not," he said. "We're still in the process of due diligence."
However, those familiar with Baker said they can't imagine why a background check would take so long.
"A two-minute Internet search would have revealed who they were dealing with," said Rafael Medoff, director of the David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies in Melrose Park, Pa. "Mr. Baker has a long track record of extremism, anti-Semitism and associating with Holocaust deniers."
Whether Baker espouses anti-Semitic views during Saturday's speech isn't the point, Medoff said.
"The major problem is when... a religious institution such as the Islamic Educational Foundation invites him to speak. It gives legitimacy to someone who should be treated like a pariah," he said.
Al-Qazwini said Baker is a dynamic speaker.
"Mr. Baker is a person who deeply understands" Christianity and Islam, he said. "He's trying to bring both faiths together and I think that's a beautiful thing."
What's not so beautiful is Baker's continual assault on the Jewish community, said Bill Gralnick, regional director of the American Jewish Committee.
Gralnick met with Al-Qazwini and talked to his lawyer, Jonathan Louis, and hoped Baker's speech would be canceled.
He speculated that the Iranian-born Al-Qazwini may have been pressured into believing that he would "lose face" by canceling the speech. While a strange concept to Americans, it is a driving force elsewhere in the world, Gralnick said.
Al-Qazwini said he is upset that some critics haven't talked to him directly.
"The issue is that people who are saying certain things about Mr. Baker could have approached us in a polite way. They spoke to the media before they spoke to us," he said. "It's disrespectful, the route they took. They put clouds on our reputation and my reputation."