Minneapolis Imam Decries 'the Hell of Living in America'

As the FBI has ongoing investigations in numerous cities across the country looking into the disappearances of possibly dozens of young Somali men who have left the country to presumably  join the jihad and train in terror camps back home, attention has recently been focused on one Minneapolis imam. Hassan Mohamud (Jamici) has been singled out by some in that community as being one of the radicalization influences in the Twin Cities.

Minneapolis has the largest Somali population in the country. In an interview with USA Today, Mohamud denied any connection to the missing men. But the findings of one recent news report by the Minneapolis Fox News affiliate is sure to keep Mohamud in the spotlight.

According to that Fox News report, the imam appeared in a fundraising video posted on YouTube (now since removed) for his mosque, the Islamic Daw'ah Institute in St. Paul. In his appearance he encourages viewers to donate to the mosque's project, which he says "can save you from the hell of living in America."

When questioned by reporter Tom Lyden, Mohamud attempted to clarify (with his attorney immediately at hand) that by "hell" he was using a religious term denoting "suffering and pain" and general hardships in America, not the travail of living with non-Muslims. Having offered that explanation, however, he did not explain why the video had been taken down from the website.

He was also asked about the following comments he had made two years ago when he was interviewed by Minnesota Law & Politics magazine about the legitimacy of suicide bombings for an article:

L&P: The Quran equates the taking of an innocent life with killing all of humanity, yet some Muslims say suicide bombings are justified. Can you explain this contradiction?

HM: There are scholars who say that there is one place where suicide is not prohibited. It's an exceptional case for them because they have no other means. It is Palestine. This is because it is the only means they have to free their country. Otherwise, any other places in the world, suicide means becomes prohibited.

Mohamud contends that he was not offering his own opinion. When asked if he believed that suicide bombings were wrong under any condition, he had to stop the interview three separate times and consult his attorney before responding. That prompted Lyden to comment, "It may be complicated, but if it's difficult for the imam some may wonder how clear it is for the young people he's teaching." Coincidentally, Mohamud is also an attorney and teaches a course on Islamic law at the William Mitchell College of Law.

This confusion on Mohamud's part is compounded when considering that he is the vice president and director of the Islamic Law Institute of the Muslim American Society (MAS)-Minnesota chapter. On this very issue of suicide bombings, the national MAS magazine, The American Muslim, featured a fatwa in their June 2002 issue by Lebanese Muslim Brotherhood leader Faisal Al-Malawi endorsing "martyrdom operations." The FBI has stated in court documents that MAS was "founded as the overt arm of the Muslim Brotherhood in America".

Mohamud also openly expressed his support for the terrorist group Hamas in a March 2004 article published in Somali on the Somalitalk website, where he laments the assassination of Hamas founder Sheikh Ahmed Yassin and recounts the death of other Hamas leaders previously killed in targeted strikes by Israeli Defense Forces. Yassin's picture is featured prominently with the essay.

Abdirahman Warsame of the Terror Free Somalia Foundation provides this translation of the opening sentences of Mohamud's article:

He was the founder of Hamas, the Mujahedin group who fights in a jihad. They are true and brave warriors. He was killed this morning by Israel in an American-made plane. The pilot was given his orders directly by Israel Prime Minister Sharon (terrorist), but he is not the first mujahid killed in a terrorist attack by Israel.

His most recent statements are not the first time that Hassan Mohamud has waded into controversy. In 2007, he was one of four Islamic religious leaders who signed a fatwa on behalf of MAS-Minnesota calling on Somali licensed cab drivers at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport to refuse service to any passenger with a dog or carrying alcohol. As reported by Robert Spencer, Mohamud also organized a rally in defense of the right of Somali cab drivers to deny service to passengers at the public facility, saying that requiring them to transport a dog or alcohol would violate their religion.

As FBI agents continue to investigate the circumstances surrounding the dozens of missing Somali men from Minneapolis and other areas, none of Hassan Mohamud's present qualifications to his previous statements really quell the concerns of those eager to understand the radicalization process behind the disappearances. In fact, his statements and positions raise more questions than they answer.