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Congressional Muslim Staffers Hosted Second Al-Qaeda Cleric on Capitol Hill

The group previously hosted the now-wanted al-Qaeda cleric Anwar al-Awlaki in the weeks after 9/11.

by
Patrick Poole

Bio

October 14, 2010 - 12:00 am

Last month, I reported exclusively at PJM about video showing al-Qaeda cleric Anwar al-Awlaki leading prayers on Capitol Hill for Muslim congressional staffers and officials for the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR). Sitting beside now-convicted terrorist (and former CAIR communications specialist) Randall “Ismail” Royer in the video was Congressional Muslim Staff Association founder and former president Jameel Johnson. Also present was Nihad Awad, CAIR’s executive director.

But a recent New York Post article about how Johnson’s former employer, Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-NY), complained to Homeland Security in 2006 about the questioning of another al-Qaeda-linked cleric, Anwar Hajjaj, stated that Hajjaj was then leading prayers for the Muslim staffers on Capitol Hill.

In fact, Meeks invoked Hajjaj’s continued presence on the Hill to demonstrate that he was a “highly regarded” Islamic scholar:

Meeks described Hajjaj as a “highly regarded” professor of Islamic studies who leads Friday Muslim prayers at the Capitol.

Meeks said Hajjaj was “a pioneer in distance-based learning of Islam” through the American Open University in Virginia, according to a copy of the Sept. 30, 2006, letter to Chertoff, which was obtained by The Post under a Freedom of Information Act request.

At the time that CMSA was hosting a second al-Qaeda cleric, it was being lauded by the New York Times as a voice of moderation on Capitol Hill.

The NY Post article states that Meeks became aware of Hajjaj’s plight through Johnson, who was then Meeks’ chief-of-staff. As I reported here at PJM in December 2007, Johnson arranged — under the auspices of Meeks’ congressional office — an Islamic conference that was cancelled at the last minute by the House sergeant-at-arms because of the terrorism ties of the invited speakers. In January 2008, Jameel Johnson was appointed associate vice president of government relations for NASDAQ.

Why the scrutiny by Homeland Security for CMSA’s Capitol Hill prayer leader?

Anwar Hajjaj was the long-time head of an Islamic charity, Taibah International Aid Association, which the U.S. government identified as an al-Qaeda fundraising arm in May 2004 and designated as a terrorist organization. The UN also designated Taibah as a terrorist organization.

Hajjaj’s terrorism fundraising efforts were aided by American al-Qaeda bagman Abdurahman Alamoudi, who served as Taibah International’s vice president and who is currently serving a 23-year prison sentence. Prior to his arrest, Alamoudi was responsible for establishing the Muslim chaplain program for the Defense Department, and was appointed a “goodwill ambassador” to the Middle East by the State Department.

When Alamoudi was arrested in 2003, prosecutors identified Alamoudi’s work with Taibah in court documents as evidence of his “material financial support” for al-Qaeda. In July 2005, the U.S. government said that Alamoudi’s arrest was a “severe blow” to al-Qaeda’s fundraising operations.

As the NY Post article observes, Taibah is not Anwar Hajjaj’s only link to al-Qaeda. Hajjaj was also director of the American branch of the Saudi-funded World Assembly of Muslim Youth (WAMY) with Osama bin Laden’s nephew, Abdullah bin Laden. WAMY’s Northern Virginia offices were raided in June 2004, and Hajjaj’s partner Abdullah bin Laden subsequently left the country. The FBI began its investigation into WAMY in 1996 for being a “suspected terrorist organization.”

Hajjaj’s bio on his America Islamic Information Center website, and Meeks’ letter to Homeland Security on his behalf, notes that he is a professor at the American Open University. In fact, the university’s current phone number is the same used by Taibah International on its last IRS Form 990. The president of AOU, Jaafar Sheikh Idris — who has attacked the Western notion of separation of church and state and authored a tract on “The Process of Islamization” for the Muslim Student Association — was stripped of his religious worker visa and deported from the U.S. in July 2004.

Hajjaj is also the former education chairman of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), and the former president of the Dar-al-Hijrah mosque in Falls Church, Virginia. Dar-al-Hijrah is the mosque where Anwar al-Awlaki served as imam and at least two of the 9/11 hijackers attended services. Hajjaj continues to teach weekly at the mosque.

The presence of two al-Qaeda clerics on Capitol Hill — hosted by Muslim congressional staffers — is problematic on several levels. As we see in Rep. Meeks’ intervention in Hajjaj’s case, it is his involvement with Muslim staffers on the Hill that was invoked to demonstrate his acceptability. Thus, these high-level government contacts give these terror-tied clerics legitimacy and cover from media and public scrutiny.

Another deleterious effect was identified by a group of Muslim leaders who spoke on Capitol Hill earlier this month, hosted by Rep. Sue Myrick (R-NC), who complained that the mainstreaming of terror-tied Islamic clerics by government officials ends up crowding-out the voices of true moderate leaders — many of whom have been openly critical of Muslim Brotherhood-backed infiltration efforts.

But the stories of al-Qaeda clerics Anwar al-Awlaki and Anwar Hajjaj leading prayers on Capitol Hill raise even more questions about who else the Congressional Muslim Staff Association has been hosting in the People’s House. That’s a question members of Congress and other media outlets ought to be asking.

Patrick Poole is a national security and terrorism correspondent for PJMedia. Follow me on Twitter.
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