Imam of major mosque in DC's ' Wahhabi Corridor' - "We (Muslims) have a license to respond with all force necessary to answer our attackers "
Dar Al Hijrah mosque linked to 9/11 hijackers - Imam is secretary general of Al Qaeda linked Muslim American Society
MIM: Dar Al Hijrah mosque was named as the most dangerous mosque in America by Paul Sperry in his book "Infiltration" and is located in what he calls DC's 'Wahhabi Corridor'.
Dar Al Hijrah has given aid and support to terrorists and is linked to the 9/11 hijackers. The congregation consists of many Muslims who are involved in politics major Muslim organisations and fundraising fronts in the Washington area. The founder of the Free Muslims Against Terrorism , Kamal Nawash, worshipped at Dar Al Hijrah and also solicited clients for his legal practice which was nearby.
New imam defies call for change
Falls Church mosque leader brings political tone to Friday prayers
BY MATTHEW BARAKATTHE ASSOCIATED PRESS Wednesday, July 6, 2005
FALLS CHURCH The voice of the new imam at one of the largest mosques on the East Coast rang loud from the pulpit during Friday services: "The call to reform Islam is an alien call."
People who do not understand Islam are the ones seeking to change it, said Shaker Elsayed, the new spiritual leader at the Dar al-Hijrah mosque, in the Virginia suburbs of Washington.
"Ignorance comes from outside circles who know nothing about us," Elsayed said during noon services to more than 500 men and women, with women worshipping in a separate room. It was one of three services Dar al-Hijrah holds every Friday.
Elsayed, who assumed duties as imam of the mosque June 1, is well known in the Muslim community for his political activism. He has served as secretary general of the Muslim American Society, an advocacy group that some accuse of promoting a fundamentalist strain of Islam.
He has also served as an unofficial spokesman for the family of Ahmed Omar Abu Ali, who is accused of joining al-Qaida while studying overseas and plotting to assassinate President Bush. Abu Ali grew up in Falls Church and worshipped at Dar al-Hijrah. Elsayed has accused the Justice Department of unfairly targeting Abu Ali and other young Muslims for prosecution.
Perhaps not surprisingly, Elsayed's sermons take a political tone.
"Islam forbids you to give allegiance to those who kick you off your homeland, and to those who support those who kick you off your homeland," he told worshippers. "We do have license to respond with all force necessary to answer our attackers."
Elsayed explained after the sermon that opposition to U.S. policy in the Middle East is different from viewing the American people as the enemy.
Asked his views on militant groups such as Hamas, which the U.S. government has designated as a terrorist organization, Elsayed compared Hamas to Nelson Mandela's African National Congress -- organizations that resorted to violent resistance only after decades of injustice.
"Everybody jumps on Hamas," Elsayed said. "When did Hamas first emerge? 1990 or so? Look at how long Israel has occupied [Palestinian lands]. How long did it take to say enough is enough?"
Still, he said support for Hamas' objectives does not mean he always supports the group's tactics, which have included suicide bombings.
"Islam calls for the minimum effective response to aggression," Elsayed said.
M.A. Muqtedar Khan, an expert on Islam and a political scientist at Adrian College in Michigan, said Dar al-Hijrah is not a typical American mosque and Elsayed is not a typical American imam.
"Shaker Elsayed is more like a political figure than a religious figure," said Khan, who worshipped at Dar al-Hijrah for several years while attending graduate school at Georgetown University. "Dar al-Hijrah is a very Arab-centric mosque, very much centered on Arab politics."
The mosque, he said, is more typical of what one might find in the Arab world, with the rhetoric toned down a little bit for fear of drawing excessive attention in a post Sept. 11 world.
"Dar al-Hijrah has always been in the hands of the conservatives" since its founding in 1983, Khan said.
While the leadership is conservative, Khan said, the congregation itself might not hold the same beliefs. For many people, the mosque is simply a convenient place to attend required prayer services.
Dar al-Hijrah's outreach director, Imam Johari Abdul-Malik, said imams have free rein to preach on anything they see as relevant, and it makes sense to discuss politics at a time when world events have a major impact on the Muslim community.
"It has to address the issues facing our community or else our faith will be irrelevant," Abdul-Malik said. "That includes politics, education, health care . . . the whole panoply of human issues."
Elsayed is a good choice to lead Dar al-Hijrah because of his pre-eminence as a scholar and his ability to relate to the immigrant and the native-born communities, Abdul-Mailk said. Elsayed was born in Egypt but is a U.S. citizen fluent in Arabic and English, and has written his own English translation of the Quran.
Abdul-Malik also disputed the claims of critics that Dar al-Hijrah is a bastion of fundamentalism, or that it promotes Wahhabism, a puritanical form of Islam prevalent in Saudi Arabia that some believe promulgates extremism.
In fact, he said, some area Muslims dissatisfied with Dar al-Hijrah's ideological stance formed the Dar al-Arqam mosque just a few miles away. Dar al-Arqam was home to many of the young Muslim men convicted of forming a "Virginia jihad" that used paintball games as a form of paramilitary training for holy war around the globe. Prosecutors convicted a former lecturer at Dar al-Arqam, Ali al-Timimi, of inducing others to levy war against the United States, saying he was the paintball group's spiritual leader and a leading U.S. proponent of Wahhabist ideology.
While Elsayed and Abdul-Malik publicly supported the paintball group and al-Timimi in their criminal case, Abdul-Malik said that doesn't translate to acceptance of their ideology.
Elsayed, for his part, bristled at labels like moderate or conservative. But he said calls to reform Islam, like recent efforts to allow men and women to pray together, are misguided. He also takes a conservative stand on some other cultural issues.
Dating, for instance, is prohibited in Islam, he said. Instead, a young man who is interested in marrying a woman must first receive approval from the woman's family, he said. The woman's family has the right to veto a marriage even if the prospective bride wants to get married, he said.
Khan said such an interpretation comes from Arab culture rather than Islamic values and places Elsayed on the far extreme of religious interpretations on such issues.
Elsayed, though, insisted his views are not that different from those held by many Americans, Muslim or not.
While his sermon included hard-line political rhetoric, he also urged the congregation to reach out to non-Muslims.
"Our mosques are open. Our doors are open. Our homes are open," he said. "If you reach out to people, even if they don't join you, maybe at least they don't join those who attack you."