This item is available on the Militant Islam Monitor website, at http://www.militantislammonitor.org/article/id/883
July 28, 2005
MIM: Muzzamil Siddiqui the head of the Figh Council is also the Imam of the Islamic Society of Orange County and was instrumental in converting Adam Gadahn to Islam. Gadahn is now in Waziristan where he was last seen on videotape warning Americans that "blood would run in the streets". When asked about Gadahn Siddiqui commented that "something must have made him angry".
Posted: May 29, 2004
1:00 a.m. Eastern
By Paul Sperry
WASHINGTON – The California imam who helped convert an al-Qaida suspect to Islam headed a Muslim activist group under investigation here for possible financial ties to terrorist front groups.
Muzammil H. Siddiqi, former president of the Islamic Society of North America, ministered to a 25-year-old Muslim convert now the subject of an FBI manhunt.
Adam Gadahn allegedly traveled to Pakistan and Afghanistan to train at al-Qaida camps following his conversion while attending the Islamic Society of Orange County in Garden Grove, Calif., in the late 1990s. Siddiqi is head of the mosque there.
Congress is reviewing the financial records of the Islamic Society of North America, or ISNA, as part of a post-9-11 investigation into alleged ties between tax-exempt Muslim organizations and terrorist groups.
Siddiqi served as president of ISNA from 1996 to 2000. He still serves on its board. ISNA did not return phone calls to its Indianapolis headquarters.
The Senate Finance Committee, which is heading the probe, earlier this year asked the IRS for tax records on ISNA – the nation's largest Islamic organization – to determine the source of the non-profit group's funding. Names of donors are redacted from public tax documents for privacy reasons.
It's suspected that many U.S.-based Muslim groups receive the bulk of their money from Saudi-based charities tied to al-Qaida and other terrorist groups.
Many also have been financially linked to Dallas-based Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development, the largest Muslim charity in the U.S., which was shut down after 9-11 for ties to the terrorist group Hamas. Its assets have been frozen.
ISNA and Holy Land Foundation shared a web portal before authorities raided the offices of the Muslim-owned web hosting company in 2001.
In a TV interview, Siddiqi said Gadahn did not discuss any plans to travel to Afghanistan with him when he attended his mosque in 1996 and 1997.
"Who knew about al-Qaida at that time?" he said. "We had no idea of anything like that."
Siddiqi, who was reared in Pakistani religious politics and studied Islam at a Saudi university, made a public appeal for his former pupil to turn himself in to authorities. Siddiqi held the press conference Thursday after FBI agents questioned him.
He told Gadahn he should not get involved with any group that advocates "terrorism." The thin, mild-mannered Siddiqi asserted in an interview that "Islam is the religion of peace."
According to "Silent No More: Confronting America's False Images of Islam" – a book on the Council on American-Islamic Relations' recommended reading list – Siddiqi is regarded as "one of the most respected Muslim leaders" in America.
In September 2001, President Bush invited him to lead a prayer during the 9-11 memorial at the Washington National Cathedral. He also read from the Quran.
ISNA's website says its mission is to "advance the cause of Islam and Muslims in North America." It lists training imams as its No. 1 goal.
But critics say ISNA is an extremist group disguised as a moderate group.
ISNA "enforces Wahhabi theological writ in the country's 1,200 officially recognized mosques," said terror expert Stephen Schwartz, author of "The Two Faces of Islam: Saudi Fundamentalism and Its Role in Terrorism." Wahhabism, a puritanical, anti-Western strain of Islam, is the official religion of the Saudi government. It's also practiced by Osama bin Laden.
Members of ISNA's board include controversial New York imam Siraj Wahaj, named as an unindicted co-conspirator in the federal case last decade against terrorist Omar Abdel Rahman, a.k.a. the Blind Sheikh.
Siddiqi and Wahaj spoke at the Islamic Circle of North America's 2001 convention in Cleveland together with Saudi Shaikh Abdur Rahman al-Sudais, senior imam at the Grand Mosque in Mecca, who has been quoted vilifying Jews as the "scum of humanity" and "the grandsons of monkeys and pigs." The three were scheduled to speak again in December at an Islamic conference in Kissimmee, Fla.
Siddiqi, who writes a weekly column for a Pakistani publication, has spoken at pro-Hezbollah and pro-Hamas rallies, and has supported an Islamic state in the U.S., while praising martyrdom for the Islamic cause, according to the SITE Institute, an anti-terror watchdog group.
On Oct. 28, 2000, Siddiqi issued a stern warning to America during an anti-Israel rally across from the White House. He and other Islamic leaders had organized the demonstration to protest America's pro-Israel policy and to support what they called just resistance to Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory.
"America has to learn," Siddiqi was quoted as saying, "if you remain on the side of injustice, the wrath of God will come. Please, all Americans. Do you remember that?"
Then he stressed: "If you continue doing injustice, and tolerate injustice, the wrath of God will come."
Abdurahman Alamoudi, the former American Muslim Council president arrested last year on terrorism-related charges, appeared with Siddiqi at the 2000 protest rally. And he proclaimed: "Hear that, Bill Clinton! We are all supporters of Hamas. I wish to add that I am also a supporter of Hezbollah."
ISNA's secretary-general, Sayyid M. Syeed, is the former director of academic outreach at the International Institute of Islamic Thought, a Northern Virginia think tank raided in 2002 by federal authorities on suspicion of terror-financing.
The book "Silent No More" describes Syeed, a native of Kashmir, as a "prominent mainstream Muslim."
The FBI fears al-Qaida is recruiting American converts like Gadahn to blend in to American society and not raise security suspicions before carrying out suicide attacks in America.
Agents are searching for Gadahn and six other al-Qaida suspects in an attempt to disrupt a possible al-Qaida plot to attack America again this summer.
Look who's teaching Johnny about Islam
FBI puts agents through Muslim-sensitivity training
U.S. Qaeda Suspect's Troubled Past
GARDEN GROVE, Calif., May 27, 2004
Adam Yahiye Gadahn was 17 years old when he walked into the Islamic Society of Orange County and asked for permission to worship there. The farm kid who grew up in a home with Christian roots declared himself a Muslim, ready to immerse himself in his new religion.
But his devotion eventually spiraled into trouble — and an arrest.
Gadahn, who was named Wednesday as one of seven suspected al Qaeda operatives sought by the FBI, was later expelled from the mosque after attacking an employee. Records show he pleaded guilty to assault and battery charges in June 1997 and was sentenced to two days in jail and 40 hours of community service.
"He was becoming very extreme in his ideas and views," said Muzammil Siddiqi, the society's religious director. "He must have disliked something."
The other six alleged al Qaeda operatives whose photos and backgrounds were highlighted Wednesday have been the subject of FBI pursuit for months. Gadahn is the only U.S. native among the seven and the only one whose name was first publicly disclosed Wednesday.
Gadahn's alleged journey from student of Islam to suspected terrorist startled his brother, Omar Gadahn, 17, who first heard the FBI's announcement on the news.
"I don't believe it, but I don't know. Anything is possible," he said at the family home in Santa Ana. His brother "wanted to follow what he believed and that's what he did."
Asked about allegations that his brother might be conspiring to act against the United States, the teen said he'd never heard his brother say anything against the country.
His father Phillip Gadahn says Adam Gadahn always was a seeker and on a Web site under his name he wrote he'd found what he was searching for in Islam, reports CBS News Correspondent Bill Whitaker.
"I discovered that the beliefs and practices of this religion fit my personal theology and intellect," he wrote. "Having been around Muslims in my formative years, I knew well that they were not bloodthirsty, barbaric terrorists."
According to the FBI, Gadahn, 25, attended al Qaeda training camps and served as an al Qaeda translator. The agency said he is being sought for "possible terrorist threats against the United States." He also goes by the names Adam Pearlman and Abu Suhayb Al-Amriki.
Omar Gadahn, a college student, said he hasn't seen his brother in about five years. His mother last spoke to him by phone in March 2001. At that time he was in Pakistan, working at a newspaper, and his wife was about to have a child.
The man's father, Phillip Gadahn, said he didn't think his son had been a part of a terrorist organization. He told a local television station that FBI agents told him his son was not wanted and no arrest warrant had been issued for his son's arrest.
"I knew he'd been out of the country, and I thought he was settling down," he said. "I didn't imagine he was involved in anything. ... I'm not sure the FBI really thinks that."
FBI officials in Los Angeles said Adam Gadahn was last known to be in Southern California in 1997 or 1998.
Terror experts say Gadahn, like American Taliban John Walker Lindh, is just what al Qaeda is seeking: a malleable American convert, a true believer who can blend in, reports Whitaker.
Gadahn was home-schooled at the family farm in Riverside County. He did not attend college. Omar said the family was a "more or less Christian household, but no one was particularly religious."
Omar said he doesn't know why his brother converted to Islam. But a statement attributed to Adam Gadahn on several Muslim-related Web sites said he "gradually realized I could not be a Christian."
Gadahn's aunt Nancy Pearlman described her nephew as inquisitive and quick to learn languages. He read about several religions, she said, noting his mother's family is Roman Catholic and his paternal grandfather Jewish.
"He was raised to be religious, to believe in a God," Pearlman said outside her Los Angeles home. "He made his own choice. We all make our own choices in life."
"There was no indication he was involved with terrorists at all," Pearlman added. "He was never fanatical. I never saw it in him."
The other six suspects discussed by federal authorities on Wednesday were Adnan G. El Shukrijumah, a Saudi native who used to live in South Florida; Aafia Siddiqui, a Pakistani woman who studied at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Fazul Abdullah Mohammed, a native of the Comoros Republic; Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani, a Tanzanian who is under indictment for the 1998 embassy attacks; Amer El-Maati, born in Kuwait and wanted by the FBI for questioning; and Abderraouf Jdey, a Tunisian who was among five men who left suicide messages on videotapes recovered in Afghanistan.
Muslim Teen Made Conversion to Fury
By Amy Argetsinger
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, December 2, 2004; Page A03
His father, Philip, was the son of a prominent surgeon of Jewish ancestry. Raised agnostic, he dabbled in the '60s psychedelic rock scene before embracing Christianity and changing his last name from Pearlman to Gadahn, which is derived from the biblical name Gideon. He and his wife, Jennifer, abandoned city life for a 40-acre ranch in a remote part of Riverside County, where he learned how to slaughter goats according to Muslim strictures so he could sell the meat at an Arabic market.
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This item is available on the Militant Islam Monitor website, at http://www.militantislammonitor.org/article/id/883