Dar Al-Hijrah: D.C.’s Own Terror Factory
When five young Muslim-American men were captured in Pakistan in December 2009 attempting to join up with a terrorist group, it was no surprise that they were quickly linked to the Dar al-Hijrah mosque in Falls Church, Virginia.
Newsweek reported that at least one of the men attended Dar al-Hijrah, while another recent report indicated that the others attended an associated spin-off mosque in Alexandria. They were also all leaders of Muslim Student Association chapters in the Washington, D.C., area (I have reported on the MSA’s extensive terror ties here at PJM).
No sooner had the men been arrested than did the usual terror apologists (CAIR, et al.) hold a press conference -- covered by all the establishment media -- expressing shock and amazement at the plot. Speaking at the press conference that day was Dar al-Hijrah Director of Outreach Imam Johari Abdul Malik, who feigned ignorance at how these young men had been recruited for jihad right under their own noses.
If Rep. Peter King (R-NY), chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, really wants to get to the bottom of radicalization in the American Muslim community -- as he has promised upcoming congressional hearings on the issue -- he doesn’t have far to look. A long line of terrorists and terrorist supporters from Dar al-Hijrah have regularly popped up in the news since 9/11. But Dar al-Hijrah is not some small strip-mall mosque; it is one of the largest Islamic centers in the eastern United States
The Pakistan Five case was not Johari Abdul-Malik’s first go-around with this sort of thing. After Dar al-Hijrah attendee Ahmed Omar Abu Ali was arrested in Saudi Arabia and confessed to being part of an al-Qaeda cell that was planning to assassinate President George W. Bush, in an interview with the New York Times Abdul-Malik compared Abu Ali to civil rights icon Rosa Parks.
But Abu Ali was hardly a marginal figure at Dar al-Hijrah. He not only was a youth leader at the mosque and regularly delivered prayers there, he taught Islamic studies at the center and was a camp counselor for their youth summer day camp. During his trial, current Dar al-Hijrah senior Imam Shaker el-Sayed served as the Abu Ali family spokesman and chauffeur. Abu Ali was convicted on a range of terrorism charges and sentenced to a 30-year prison term. A federal appeals court overturned the sentencing, and ordered the district judge to impose a life sentence in accordance with federal sentencing guidelines.
The Dar al-Hijrah star pupil made news last year when his request for copies of Barack Obama’s books -- Dreams From My Father and The Audacity of Hope -- was denied by federal prison authorities on grounds that the books were “potentially detrimental to national security.”
Even more notorious than Ahmed Omar Abu Ali is former Dar al-Hijrah Imam Anwar al-Awlaki, the wanted al-Qaeda cleric currently subject to a presidential kill-or-capture order. Awlaki was the imam for Dar al-Hijrah in 2001 and 2002, during which time he was spiritual leader to at least three of the 9/11 hijackers. Two of them, Nawaf Alhazmi and Hani Hanjour, followed the imam from San Diego to Virginia and attended the mosque.
But Awlaki’s terrorist connections go back long before he appeared at Dar al-Hijrah. After the 9/11 attacks, Awlaki was repeatedly questioned by the FBI about his contacts with the hijackers and was cited in a 2003 congressional joint inquiry for his possible knowledge of the plot. A raid on the home of one of the plotter’s co-conspirators, Ramzi Binalshibh, in Germany yielded the phone number of the mosque in his personal phone book.
During Awlaki’s tenure at Dar al-Hijrah, he was known for fiery anti-American sermons, but after the 9/11 attacks he told the New York Times that such sentiments “we won’t tolerate anymore.” That didn’t prevent him from -- a couple weeks later -- defending the Taliban in an online chat for the Washington Post and telling National Geographic magazine that Israel was responsible for the 9/11 attacks.
One of Awlaki’s Dar al-Hijrah terror protégés was Fort Hood killer Major Nidal Hasan, who attended the mosque while Awlaki was the imam. The pair were in email communication before Hasan’s attack, which killed 13 armed service members. After the Fort Hood massacre, Johari Abdul-Malik was once again cited in a PBS Newshour report claiming that Awlaki had been radicalized after he had left the mosque’s employment and claiming that FBI harassment had driven him to al-Qaeda. After the Fort Hood killings, Awlaki called Major Hasan “a hero” on his website.
Yet another senior U.S. al-Qaeda operative who attended and was actively involved at Dar al-Hijrah was Abdurahman Alamoudi, who is currently serving a 23-year prison sentence for his role in a Libyan intelligence assassination plot that targeted Saudi Crown Prince (now King) Abdullah and was intended to utilize al-Qaeda operatives. Alamoudi had appeared with President George W. Bush just days after the 9/11 attacks despite statements he had made in 2000 expressing his support for Hamas and Hezbollah at a rally just steps from the White House. Alamoudi had been the most prominent Muslim-American political activist working in Washington, D.C., and was consulted by both Presidents Clinton and Bush.
After Alamoudi’s arrest, it was revealed that he was a financial conduit for Osama bin Laden who funneled money to the “Blind Sheikh” Omar Abdel Rahman (who is currently serving a life sentence for his role in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and the follow-up “Day of Terror” plot). And in 2005, the U.S. Treasury Department identified him as a long-time top al-Qaeda fundraiser.
But al-Qaeda isn’t the only terrorist group that has benefited from Dar al-Hijrah’s institutional support for terrorism. Two U.S-based Hamas operatives, Abdelhaleem Ashqar and Ismail Elbarasse, are long-standing figures at the mosque. Ashqar served on Dar al-Hijrah’s executive board and Elbarasse was a founding member.
When Elbarasse was arrested in August 2004 as a material witness in a Hamas terror support case, Dar al-Hijrah financial documents were found during a search of his home. That search by federal agents also yielded a number of other items, including the archives of Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood in North America found in a sub-basement in Elbarasse’s home. Ashqar was sentenced to 11 years in prison for his refusal to testify before a grand jury about his knowledge of the Hamas networks in the U.S., though prosecutors had sought a life sentence.
So Dar al-Hijrah has not only produced actual terrorists and major terrorist support figures, but also one of the most notorious al-Qaeda leaders in the world today, Anwar al-Awlaki.
I’ll show in future articles here at PJM that Dar al-Hijrah is far from the only prominent mosque in America that has proven to be a reliable terrorist factory. If Congress is serious about addressing Islamic radicalization and homegrown terrorism, it can’t shy from the mountain of immediately available evidence.