New York, NY, January 11, 2010 … As the number of American Muslim extremists allegedly involved in terror plots in the U.S. and abroad continues to grow, major Muslim-American organizations have publicly acknowledged the existence of a problem in their community and vowed to tackle it head on.
But the initial effort to root out radicalization – announced by a few of these groups in the wake of the arrests in Pakistan of five Muslim-American students from Virginia for allegedly attempting to join a terrorist group – has proven to be a sham and a cover for anti-Semitism and extremism, according to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL).
The Muslim American Society (MAS) and the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA) held a major community convention in Chicago in December 2009 where the convention chair called for an Islam "clean and clear of all extremism."
But the convention, which had been specifically identified by MAS and the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) as the venue to begin the effort to combat radicalization, failed to seriously address the problem. In fact, it provided a platform for extremist views, according to ADL. The Chicago convention, which attracted more than 1,000 participants, served as a forum for religious scholars and political activists to rail against Jews, call for the eradication of the state of Israel and accuse the United States government as waging a war against Muslims at home and abroad.
"It is shocking that this conference, identified by some major Muslim-American groups as the venue to start the process of reform at a time of growing attacks and threats by American Muslim extremists, was a sham and nothing more than a cover for the dissemination of hateful anti-American and anti-Israel views and anti-Semitism," said Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director. "The fact that it provided a platform for extremist views calls into question the sincerity of the effort to serve as a legitimate counterbalance to radicalization. No legitimate blueprint for change can emerge from a convention permeated by messages conveying hatred of Jews, the denial of Israel's right to exist and the idea that the U.S. is at war with Islam."
ADL pointed to numerous troubling speeches and other developments during the annual convention of the Muslim American Society (MAS) and the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA) held December 23-27:
· Religious scholars and political activists railed against Jews from both a political and theological standpoint. Rafiq Jaber, former President of the Islamic Association of Palestine, a Hamas-affiliated anti-Semitic propaganda organization, described Jews to the audience as "the worst kind of people," who came to Jerusalem "with false pretenses."
· Hamed Ghazali, Chairman of the MAS Council of Islamic Schools and professor at the Islamic American University in Michigan, told the audience in Arabic that "Allah gave us the Jews" as the primary historical and religious example of those who "take the wrong path."
· Other speakers argued that the eradication of the state of Israel is a religious duty. Sheikh Raghib Al Serjani, an author and physician from Egypt, declared in Arabic, "It is the duty for all Muslims to liberate all of Palestine from the North to the South, from Al Quds to the sea, it's a duty for all Muslims to liberate one complete full land of Palestine… It's not just about liberating Al Quds. It's all occupied!"
· Materials sold at the convention included books and CDs by radical anti-Semitic sheikhs such as Yusuf al-Qaradawi, a leading Muslim Brotherhood ideologue based in Qatar who is known for his support of terrorist groups such as Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Hezbollah; and Anwar al-Awlaki, a U.S. born Muslim cleric based in Yemen who has encouraged American Muslims to attack non-Muslims and Western targets.
· Another theme repeated throughout the convention was the notion that the U.S. government is attacking Islam as a religion. According to several speakers, the American government targets Muslims in the U.S. through its policies and Muslims abroad through its wars.
Even from the inception of the convention, serious questions arose as the organizers sought to draw participants by advertising two known anti-Semitic extremists from abroad as keynote speakers: Zaghloul Al Najjar, an Egyptian cleric who has described Jews as "devils in human form," and Ra'ed Salah, leader of the Northern Branch of the Islamic Movement in Israel, who served jail time for financing Hamas. Neither of the advertised speakers attended the convention.
In 2009 alone, an alarming number of American Muslim extremists were charged, convicted or sentenced on terrorism charges, including terror plots in the U.S. and abroad. From the shootings at Fort Hood and at an Army recruiting center in Little Rock, Arkansas to plots in New York, Chicago, Massachusetts and elsewhere, the suspects were fueled by an extremist ideology that demonizes America, Israel and Jews.