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Cleveland’s New Terror Imam

Ohio's largest mosque found an extremist replacement for its deported terror-linked leader.

by
Patrick Poole

Bio

July 9, 2008 - 12:00 am
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When Fawaz Damra was deported in early January 2007, he left a sizable leadership void at the Islamic Center of Cleveland, the largest mosque in Ohio where he had served as imam since 1991. Damra was convicted in June 2004 for failing to disclose his ties to three terrorist organizations when he applied for U.S. citizenship and was also named an unindicted co-conspirator in Palestinian Islamic Jihad leader Sami al-Arian’s terrorism trial. The pair had been captured on video tape raising funds for the terrorist organization and recorded on FBI wiretaps discussing raising funds for the families of suicide bombers. Damra had also been caught lecturing his congregation on how Jews were “the sons of monkeys and apes.”

Prior to coming to Cleveland, Damra was one of the three founders of the al-Kifah Refugee Center, the U.S. recruiting office for the Maktab al-Khidamat, a bin Laden-financed precursor to al-Qaeda. He also served as the imam of the al-Farouq mosque in Brooklyn that served as the hub of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing plot and the home of now-convicted “blind sheikh” Omar Abdel-Rahman.

Since Damra’s forced departure, two potential successors have rapidly come and gone. The first intended successor, Mohamad Altabaa, who was hired from another area mosque, was quickly given the heave-ho for being too moderate. Now, however, the Cleveland mosque has settled on a permanent replacement, Egyptian cleric Sayed Ahmed Abouabdalla, who seems qualified to pick up where Damra left off.

Just weeks into his new position, Abouabdalla is already being hailed as a great interfaith leader by the Cleveland Plain Dealer, even though by its own admission Abouabdalla barely speaks English (a translator was needed for his interview with Plain Dealer reporter David Briggs) and has a short track record as a religious leader in the U.S. (his most recent position was as part-time imam for the Islamic Cultural Institute in St. Clair Shores, Michigan).

But considering what happened with Abouabdalla’s most immediate predecessor, Ahmad Alzaree, last October (more on that episode below) you might think that the Cleveland Plain Dealer and the rest of the media would be more cautious, or at least more diligent in researching the background of its newfound interfaith paragon, who, it should be noted, is replacing its old interfaith paragon, Fawaz “Jews are sons of monkeys and apes” Damra.

In fact, there is much in Abouabdalla’s résumé that ought to give his media cheerleaders considerable pause.

One element in the Plain Dealer‘s recent coverage of Abouabdalla’s background that passes without the slightest bit of apparent investigation is the fact that he continues to serve as a faculty member of the Islamic American University (IAU) in Dearborn, Michigan. Of the 19 courses offered by IAU this summer term, Abouabdalla teaches 14 of them.

IAU is a project of the Muslim American Society (MAS), an organization federal prosecutors just recently identified in a federal appeals court brief as being “founded as the overt arm of the Muslim Brotherhood in the United States.” The Muslim Brotherhood has been the breeding ground for virtually every single Islamic terrorist group in the world, and the vast majority of al-Qaeda’s leadership has come through its ranks.

The MAS/Muslim Brotherhood association is just the beginning of IAU’s ties to terror. The honorary chairman of the IAU board of trustees is none other than Hamas spiritual leader Yousef al-Qaradawi — a fact acknowledged on the MAS website — who has been banned from the U.S. since 1999 for his open support of terrorist activities.

Not only has Qaradawi repeatedly issued fatwas defending the use of suicide bombings, but in August 2004 he co-signed a letter with the leaders of both Hezbollah and Hamas calling for al-Qaeda-backed insurgents in Iraq to “purify the land of Islam from the filth of occupation,” meaning U.S. military forces. He has said that “those who die fighting U.S. occupation forces are martyrs,” and he also recently defended the use of women as suicide bombers. Rightly so, the Anti-Defamation League has described Qaradawi as the “theologian of terror.”

Abouabdalla has also served on the Fiqh Council of North America as recently as last summer — an association that the Plain Dealer makes absolutely no mention of. For good reason, it seems, as the Fiqh Council is a “Who’s Who” of convicted terrorist leaders, terrorist fundraisers, unindicted co-conspirators, and terrorist associates. One former member, Abdurahman Alamoudi, is serving a 23-year prison sentence on terrorism charges for working with Libyan intelligence to assassinate the Saudi crown prince.

The Fiqh Council issued a fatwa in 2005 that was much ballyhooed by the media for allegedly denouncing terrorism, though it never defined terrorism or condemned any terrorist group by name. And as I have reported elsewhere, notwithstanding their own terrorism fatwa forbidding any association with terrorists, three members of the Fiqh Council appeared at an event in Qatar in July 2007 honoring Yousef al-Qaradawi and featuring Hamas leader Khaled Mishal — a specially designated terrorist by the U.S. government. The trio’s appearance at the event was noted on Qaradawi’s personal website. Video of the event that originally aired on al-Jazeera shows Fiqh Council member Salah Sultan sitting on the speaker dais right beside Qaradawi and Mishal.

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