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Philly Imam blames "white Christian men " for "anti Muslim bias ignores beard rules made by black Muslim police chief

Imam who is tied to mosque which resulted in terror arrests criticises law enforcement for not taking off shoes before raid
January 30, 2006

Black Muslim chief of police accused of race, gender, and religious bias for upholding beard ban
January 29, 2006

MIM: Imam Isa Abdulmateen who is Chairman of the Majlis Ash Shura Justice and it't oxymoronically named Integrity Division neglects to mention that his mosque was raided for by law enforcement which resulted in the arrest of Imam Gorab who was deported this year from the United States on 'immigration violations', and was known for his radical Islamist views. Instead of deploring the fact that an Imam with ties to Salafists and other terrorist groups had been arrested a mosque under the jurisdiction of his Majlis Ash Shura, Abdulmateen used the occasion to attack the police for not taking off their shoes during the raid and further 'pontificated' that:

"They defiled our house of worship on this bogus pretense of terrorism"

Another member of the mosque Atef Hasan Ismail Idais, was also arrested and is being deported for failing to disclose membership in Hamas. (see article below)

In his zeal to lambaste law enforcement Abdulmateen shows how absurd his claims are by citing that the policy anti beard policy was made up by "Christian white men who wanted to keep blacks, women, and Muslims off the force " . The false claim of racism made by Imam Abdulmateen is further evidenced by the fact that Slyvester Johnson, the Chief of Police of Philadelphia, (who is upholding the beard ban on the ground that "the police is a paramilitary force" )is himself black and a Muslim.(!) Abdulmateen also ignores the fact that in 2003 the black Muslim chief of police relaxed the beard ban and allowed police to sport '1/4 inch neatly trimmed' beards, so there is no beard ban at all.

The Imam's racist contention that"white christian men" used the beard ban to keep blacks and others from joining the police force appears to be more then a lame victimisation ploy - it looks like what's really riling Abdulmateen is that the police chief is not Islamist enough (and the beards not long long enough) for to suit his fundamentalist proclivities.


Police beard policy shows anti-Muslim bias

The Philadelphia Police Department's quarter-inch policy on beards is archaic, arbitrary and discriminatory against Muslims ("Police officer who refused to trim beard will be fired," Jan. 14).

The policy is archaic because it was written many years ago by white Christian men who had no intention of allowing blacks, women or Muslims on the police force. Today, Muslims serve Philadelphia as school principals, dentists, state representatives, postal workers, and in many other ways. Philadelphia is home to tens of thousands of Muslims. A modern police force should not exclude Muslims.

The policy is arbitrary because the wearing of a longer beard does not in any fashion hamper one's ability to serve as a police officer. Police Commissioner Sylvester Johnson has said that the police are a paramilitary force, so they have to shave. Perhaps that is what's wrong with the Police Department. They think they are an army instead of public servants.

Muslims bring credibility to the table because we have a historic record of benefiting our communities. If our youth saw more Muslim police officers, they would see someone they could talk to and trust to be fair. A Muslim police officer could mediate disputes and be respected because Muslims already do that.

The policy is discriminatory because it forces Muslims to choose between their religion and their job. There is also a Muslim woman police officer who is being persecuted because she insists on covering her hair, as required by her faith.

Commissioner Johnson has publicly opposed the wearing of longer beards and head coverings by Muslim officers. This is an odd stance since he has:

Publicly supported a transgendered officer.

Supported the reinstatement of a police supervisor who drove while intoxicated, crashed his car into a pillar, then conspired with a sergeant to cover it up.

Refused to fire an officer who injured a minister at the airport, costing the city thousands of dollars in a lawsuit, and punched a court officer in front of a judge.

Somehow, officers are constantly found to have beaten citizens unjustly, but they retain their jobs. Yet Muslim officers face firing because of beards and head scarves.

It is time to change the antiquated police uniform policy to reflect Philadelphia's diversity and tolerance.

Imam Isa Abdulmateen


And Integrity Division Philadelphia [email protected] MASJID is a division of the Majlis Ash Shura of Philadelphia and the Delaware Valley, a consultative body of Muslim leaders in the region.


Posted on Fri, Dec. 09, 2005

Imam held after raid is deported

Mohamed Ghorab was arrested on immigration charges in a raid last year at his East Frankford mosque.

By Gaiutra Bahadur

Inquirer Staff Writer

An Egyptian cleric arrested during a high-profile federal raid last year on his East Frankford mosque has finally been deported.

Mohamed Ghorab, the imam or spiritual leader at the Ansaar Allaah Islamic Society on Wakeling Street, arrived in Cairo escorted by U.S. immigration agents yesterday morning.

The cleric had sought asylum in the United States, saying he feared persecution in his native country as a member of Dawaa Salafia, an Islamic sect whose members have been repeatedly imprisoned by Egyptian authorities.

A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit ruled last week that Ghorab had waited too long to ask for asylum.

He came to the United States in 2000 on a tourist visa that soon expired. First he tried to stay by claiming marriage to a U.S. citizen, and then by applying for a religious worker's visa. Immigration judges rejected both petitions.

Ghorab, more recently, has focused on the backlash that he says awaits him in Egypt. He has said Cairo police seized his mosque and interrogated him on numerous occasions before he fled to the United States.

Salafi Islam urges believers to reclaim the strict ways and values of the Prophet Muhammad and his earliest followers. Some Salafi offshoots are peaceful. Others are militant.

The Egyptian government arrested members of Ghorab's sect in 2003 after Salafists were implicated in a terrorist bombing in Morocco.

Federal authorities in the United States ultimately held Ghorab only on charges of overstaying his visa. But the May 2004 raid on his mosque - conducted with rifles, dogs, and search warrants for wire-transfer records a day after well-publicized warnings of an al-Qaeda plot to attack the United States - raised fears that the mosque was linked to terrorist groups.

Ghorab, held in immigration custody at the York County Correctional Facility since the raid, is known as a purist. He preached that a grocery-store owner couldn't sell pork, alcohol or lottery tickets and still be a true Muslim.

Meriem Moumen, who says she is Ghorab's wife, has defended him, saying his conservative religious views do not make him a terrorist.

"He's not going to change God's word so he can please you," she said last year. "If pork is forbidden, it's forbidden. In my religion, it's easy. Just follow the Koran. It's not strict. It's not crazy."

She met Ghorab three years ago at the mosque. They had a religious wedding in 2003 and have a 4-month-old daughter but have not legally married. Moumen, a U.S. citizen, had tried to sponsor Ghorab.

Moumen could not be reached yesterday. The phone number at their house, next to the mosque, has been disconnected. And the Ansaar Allaah Islamic Society, a converted warehouse across from a porn video shop on Wakeling Street, is now closed.

"The attendance dropped off," said Sarah Frazier, who had attended the mosque on occasion. "Everyone was afraid of going to the mosque. They were afraid the FBI or whoever was watching, and they could be deported."

At least one other member of the mosque, Atef Hasan Ismail Idais, is awaiting deportation. Federal authorities arrested him a few months after the raid and charged him with falsifying a student visa application by failing to disclose a 1999 arrest in Israel.

Idais, a 28-year-old Palestinian, was convicted in Israel of throwing stones, disturbing the peace, and being a member of Hamas, listed as a terrorist organization by the U.S. State Department.

During his trial, Idais disavowed membership in Hamas. He was convicted, sentenced to time served, and handed over to immigration authorities in September.

Dean Boyd, a spokesman for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, said he did not know whether Ghorab had been taken into custody by Egyptian authorities or released.

Contact staff writer Gaiutra Bahadur at 215-854-2601 or [email protected].


December 8, 2005


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

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."

To contact the reporter on this story:
Sophia Pearson in Wilmington, Delaware [email protected]


Posted on Sun, Sep. 18, 2005

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."

Contact staff writer Gaiutra Bahadur at 215 854-2601 or [email protected]. Inquirer staff writer John Shiffman contributed to this article.


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 - many Philly mosques have served as arsenals, knowing that Federal agents would be criticised for raids on the premises of a 'house of worship'.

June 11, 2004

Posted on 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.

This item is available on the Militant Islam Monitor website, at