Last month I reported that Mohammed al-Hanooti was scheduled to appear at Masjid al-Noor — a mosque operated by the Islamic Association of Greater Memphis — from July 13-15 based on an “upcoming events” announcement posted on the mosque’s own website (“Blue Suede Jihad: Major Hamas Fundraiser Welcomed in the Land of Elvis”). Al-Hanooti is an imam from the Washington, D.C., area who has been repeatedly identified by the FBI as a top fundraiser for the Hamas terrorist organization.
No sooner had my article appeared than the mosque scrubbed its website.
The Memphis Commercial Appeal waded into the issue the following week, with an article by reporter Michael Lollar characterizing my initial report as “inaccurate” (“Hamas fundraiser not speaking at mosque”). Lollar quickly brushed aside the fact that the mosque itself had advertised al-Hanooti’s appearance on their own website, quoting a denial by the Islamic Association’s chairman that the event was ever scheduled and expressing bewilderment at how the notice appeared on their website. An accompanying statement from an official from an affiliated mosque, saying that they would have known if a Hamas fundraiser was coming to town, was thrown in as additional proof that the event was never scheduled.
I responded to the Commercial Appeal article (“Blue Suede Jihad: PJM Gets the MSM Treatment”) by noting that Lollar had failed to contact me for comment and that he had dedicated more space to explaining the origins of the PJ Media moniker than to investigating why the mosque had announced al-Hanooti’s appearance on their website. I also observed that the article swiftly dealt with al-Hanooti’s terror-tied pedigree by admitting that he was an unindicted co-conspirator in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing trial, and that I had claimed he was “an active supporter of terrorism and extremist Islamic ideology” — ignoring entirely the dozen government reports, memos, federal wiretap transcripts, and news articles outlining his long-time terror support I had linked to in my initial report.
In the closing of his article, Lollar invoked the authority of the FBI to dismiss our earlier, allegedly “inaccurate” report: “FBI and University of Memphis spokesmen said they were not contacted about any visit by al-Hanooti or other Hamas leaders.”
But it seems that claim by the Commercial Appeal wasn’t true either.
In fact, we’ve been provided copies of two separate classified terror alerts that were sent to Memphis-area law enforcement agencies prior to the publication of my initial report warning them of al-Hanooti’s upcoming appearance.
The first alert, sent on June 25th and marked “Law Enforcement Sensitive/For Official Use Only,” confirms virtually every element of our reporting, most notably that “reliable information” had been received by local counterterrorism officials that this event was scheduled to take place. It also details Mohammed Al-Hanooti’s extensive ties to domestic terrorism, including being named in two separate terrorism trials as an unindicted co-conspirator; having provided references for one of the 1993 World Trade Center bombers; being identified as a top fundraiser for Hamas; and making statements in support of violent jihad.
That terror alert was followed up by another a few days later by the area fusion center, providing virtually the same information as the first. The fusion center coordinates and circulates terror-related information to federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies — including the FBI.
I spoke with Joel Siskovic, spokesman for the FBI’s Memphis Field Office, about the contradiction between the Commercial Appeal article, which claimed the FBI was unaware of the mosque’s al-Hanooti event, and the two separate terror alerts that warned of the upcoming event that had been sent to Memphis-area law enforcement agencies.
Siskovic confirmed that they had in fact been aware of the terror alerts warning of his appearance, and that the mosque disputed after the fact that the event was even scheduled to take place (again, despite them announcing it on their own website as an “upcoming event”). Siskovic told me:
What I was indicating to the reporter is that we had no solid indication of whether this individual was coming to town or not. We had information about the web site posting and there still was some debate whether it was going to happen. … Our comment [to the Commercial Appeal reporter] was that based on our community outreach, we had not been contacted about this event from anyone inside the Muslim community.
That is a decidedly different perspective than what was reported by the Commercial Appeal. The Memphis FBI was well aware that this information had been posted.
As I noted in my response to the Commercial Appeal, I contacted reporter Michael Lollar the day his article appeared both by phone and email to ask about whether he was aware of these terror alerts and to inquire why neither myself or anyone from PJ Media was contacted for his article. So far, Lollar has declined to reply. As I stated earlier, I would have gladly provided copies of these respective terror alerts to the Commercial Appeal had they bothered to contact us before their article appeared.
At best, this case is yet another episode of mainstream media incuriosity when it comes to the issue of radical Islam in the American heartland.
Admittedly, we’ll never know if the Memphis mosque really had intended to host the terror-tied imam, as both the mosque and the Commercial Appeal are now invested in their respective denials despite mounting evidence to the contrary. But with such a credibility gap, it should be no wonder that newspapers like the Washington Post are resorting to literally giving major news divisions away.
But why would the Islamic Association of Greater Memphis have to buy the Commercial Appeal for $1, when they already have it in their pocket for free?