When Dominic Grieve — the Tory U.K. shadow home secretary and attorney general — took to the podium at the grotesquely misnamed 2008 Global Peace and Unity event, he pulled no punches.
While thanking his hosts for the opportunity to speak, he became highly unpopular with the audience when he attacked other event speakers who espouse conspiracy theories and extremist interpretations of Islam and who reflect a “deranged or deeply-warped mindset.”
One of those he mentioned by name was Yasir Qadhi.
Yasir Qadhi, a Houston-based cleric, is quite popular in Islamic circles, speaking around the world and appearing regularly on Middle East television networks. Qadhi also serves as an instructor for the Al Maghrib Institute, aka “Jihad U.” It is in that capacity that he is coming to my hometown of Columbus, Ohio, this week to conduct a three-day seminar for Qabeelat Hayl, the Columbus Al Maghrib chapter.
What specifically troubled Dominic Grieve about his joint appearance with Qadhi was the Islamic preacher’s recorded statements denying the Holocaust and claiming that Hitler never intended to kill the Jews, amongst other anti-Jewish statements. Grieve was referring to a sermon Qadhi delivered in 2001 where he directed his listeners to a book entitled The Hoax of the Holocaust:
All of these Polish Jews which Hitler was supposedly trying to exterminate, that’s another point, by the way, Hitler never intended to mass-destroy the Jews. There are a number of books out on this written by Christians, you should read them. The Hoax of the Holocaust, I advise you to read this book and write this down, The Hoax of the Holocaust, a very good book. All of this is false propaganda and I know it sounds so far-fetched, but read it. The evidences [sic] are very strong. And they’re talking about newspaper articles, clippings, everything and look up yourself what Hitler really wanted to do. We’re not defending Hitler, by the way, but the Jews, the way that they portray him, also is not correct.
Qadhi went on to elaborate that Jews infiltrated the Islamic studies departments at American universities because “they [the Jews] want to destroy us:”
You can use this against them (Jews) so easily. … You go to America, you find that 95 percent of the Islamic Studies professors are Jews, you know that? 95 percent of Islamic Studies [sic] are Jews. And 0 percent of Judaic Studies [sic] are Muslims. I am not advising any Muslim to waste his time studying Judaism but I’m saying, why are Jews studying Islam? There is a reason, not that they want to help us, they want to destroy us … they want to bring about doubts, look at the doubts that exist, look at the divisions, the discord, look at the disunity, look at all these ideologies that are being spread. Know that the Yahood [Jews] and the Kuffar [Infidels] like this type of thing.
Interestingly, I posted a short clip of these statements taken from his sermon on YouTube to request comment from local Jewish organizations. No sooner had the clip appeared than Qadhi’s media company, EmanRush, filed a copyright claim and had the video removed. I did, however, find that the clip is still available elsewhere (which undoubtedly Qadhi will promptly have removed as well).
Now in fairness to Qadhi, after the U.K. policy think tank Policy Exchange circulated a dossier prior to last year’s Global Peace and Unity event noting these statements, and U.K. bloggers also took up the cause, Qadhi published — seven years after the fact — an explanation saying that he had been tricked into making these statements because he didn’t know that the Holocaust-deniers he relied upon would actually be pushing Holocaust-denial.
But no sooner had Qadhi walked back his previous statements than he appeared at last year’s Islamic Society of North America conference (also in my hometown of Columbus) defending notorious Holocaust-denier David Irving (video is here). As I observed in an article more than two years ago, Qadhi had also posted links to articles by another Holocaust denier, Alexander Baron, on an Islamic online forum.
As I noted back then, Holocaust-denial and anti-Jewish hate speech appear to be a staple for Al Maghrib instructors. The head of Al Maghrib, Muhammad al-Shareef, has published an article entitled “Why the Jews were Cursed,” in which he expounds on such “moderate” themes as the international Jewish control of the media. Another Al Maghrib instructor, Waleed Basyouni, gave a speech in 2006, where he repeats several anti-Jewish libels from the Quran, explaining that from the time of Mohammed, Jews had conspired to subvert Islam:
Do you think Christian know who is God? Do you think Jewish [sic] know who is God? … Seven years the prophet and his companions suffered from the Jew in Medina. Seven years, the Jew try to destroy this, a new Muslims’ country. … They try everything. They try to kill him [Mohammed]. … They try to make deals with the Kufar, so they could attack Muslims. They support the hypocrites. They start everything. Seven years, suffering from them.
Comments made by another Al Maghrib instructor, Ashraf Ismail, were recorded in 2006 by operatives from the Investigative Project on Terrorism. During his speech, he instructed the video camera operators to turn off their equipment and explained how Islam was destined to become preeminent throughout the world. The tape recorders of the Investigative Project operatives, however, continued to roll.
Qadhi’s extremism and associates have not gone unnoticed within the Muslim community. In April, the U.K.-based Quilliam Foundation, an organization funded by the U.K. government to help combat radicalism, put out an alert noting Qadhi’s statements denying the Holocaust and attacking Shia Muslims, where he said that Shia Islam is “the most lying sect of Islam” and adding that “the Shias are allowed to lie and it is their religion to lie.” Qadhi quickly responded by calling the alert “fear-mongering” and “defamatory.”
As I have documented, it is little surprise that such Islamic hate speakers would be coming to Columbus. But the Al Maghrib Institute is a special area of concern. According to local authorities, one former leader and founder of the local chapter was none other than now-convicted al-Qaeda cell member Nuradin Abdi, who pled guilty to conspiring to blow up a Columbus-area shopping mall. As I reported elsewhere, another Al Maghrib student, Daniel Maldonado, was captured in 2007 by Kenyan forces while he was fighting with the al-Qaeda-backed Somali Islamic Courts Union. He was later returned to the U.S. and pleaded guilty to training with a foreign terrorist organization. Maldonado’s profile is still posted on the Al Maghrib forums.
If the example of Abdi and Maldonado are any indication, when Yasir Qadhi comes to Columbus this week bringing his special brand of hate to his three-day Al Maghrib Institute seminar at McPherson Labs on the Ohio State University campus, there is ample cause for concern. No doubt his supporters will enlist the help of the Columbus Dispatch to reassure their readers of Qadhi’s moderation and recount my extensive history of “Islamophobia.” But as our area was home to the largest known al-Qaeda cell in North America since 9/11, and that cell’s alleged direct connections to Al Maghrib (Nuradin Abdi), Yasir Qadhi’s brand of “moderation” is one Central Ohioans could do without.