Top American Islamic Cleric Threatens U.S. on Egyptian TV
Islamic cleric Salah Sultan appeared on Egypt's Al-Nas TV last week and delivered a warning of death and destruction for America. Not only did he attack the U.S. for its military support of Israel in its fight against the Hamas terrorist organization, but he vowed retaliation such that more Americans would be killed than those Palestinians (and, presumably, Hamas terrorists) killed in the present conflict in Gaza, emphasizing that this would take place "soon":
America, which gave [Israel] everything it needed in these battles, will suffer economic stagnation, ruin, destruction, and crime, which will surpass what is happening in Gaza. One of these days, the U.S. will suffer more deaths than all those killed in this third Gaza holocaust. This will happen soon.
He also invoked a notorious Islamic hadith on the inevitable annihilation of the Jews by Muslims:
The stone, which is thrown at the Jews, hates these Jews, these Zionists, because Allah foretold, via His Prophet Muhammad, that Judgment Day will not come before the Jew and the Muslim fight. The Jew will hide behind stones and trees, and the stone and the tree will speak, saying: "Oh Muslim, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him." The only exception will be the Gharqad tree.
This harangue would be nothing new on television in the Islamic world; in fact, it is commonplace. What is unique about Sultan's threats against America is that he holds U.S. permanent residency status and, according to one federal law enforcement official, travels regularly on a U.S. passport. And as I have reported elsewhere, Sultan is pursuing U.S. citizenship (the status of his application is unknown due to federal privacy laws). Thus, Salah Sultan has lived quite comfortably for more than a decade under the protections of the very country he now threatens with death and destruction.
It should be noted that Salah Sultan is not some obscure figure in the American Islamic world. He serves as a member of the Fiqh Council of North America. Touted as the top Islamic governing body in the U.S., the Fiqh Council is an arm of the Islamic Society of North America. Sultan founded and served as president of the Islamic American University in Southfield, Michigan; he was the national director of tarbiyah (Islamic instruction) for the Muslim American Society; and he continues to operate the American Council for Islamic Research, based in my hometown of Hilliard, Ohio.
Sultan's Al-Nas TV appearance last week was recorded and translated by the indispensable Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI). Curiously, as soon as MEMRI published the video clips of Sultan's harangue, references to Sultan's membership with the Fiqh Council were scrubbed from its website. His name has been removed from its list of council members, even though he appeared there as recently as early last week. However, Sultan is still listed as a member on the Fiqh Council's brochure posted online (no doubt that will be remedied as soon as they are informed of this report).
This is not the first time that Sultan has been the subject of a MEMRI report for his statements made and activities conducted outside of the U.S. In July 2007, MEMRI reported on a conference held in Doha, Qatar, in honor of Hamas spiritual leader Yusuf Al-Qaradawi, who has been banned from the U.S. since 1999 for his active support of Islamic terrorism. One of the conference's keynote speakers was Hamas head Khaled Mash'al, a "specially designated global terrorist" by the U.S. government who praised the terror cleric for his fatwa endorsing Hamas suicide bombings against Israeli civilians. Sitting beside Mash'al and Qaradawi on the speaker's dais was none other than Salah Sultan, who gave two separate addresses during the conference honoring his mentor, Qaradawi.
This appearance by Sultan with two terrorist leaders directly violates the much-ballyhooed 2005 anti-terrorism fatwa issued by the Fiqh Council and signed by Sultan himself prohibiting such contact. Sultan also spoke at a July 2006 pro-Hamas rally in Istanbul held by the extremist Saadet Party, which also featured an address by Hamas political leader Ismail Haniyeh -- again, a glaring violation of the Fiqh Council's terrorism fatwa.
But with several former Fiqh Council members in prison on terrorism-related charges (former council trustee Abdurahman Alamoudi, currently serving a 23-year prison sentence), deported for concealing their terrorism ties (Fawaz Damra), fingered in illegal terrorist fundraising (current member Muhammad Al-Hanooti), and named as unindicted co-conspirators in terrorism trials (former chairman Taha Jaber Al-Awani), it should be apparent that the group is not rigorous in the fatwa's enforcement. The Investigative Project has published a dossier on the extensive roster of Fiqh Council members tied to the international Islamic terrorist network.
May 2006 saw Salah Sultan's first starring role in a MEMRI report when he was recorded on Al-Risala TV saying the U.S. government was behind the 9/11 terror attacks, which he claimed were then used to declare war on Muslims worldwide, and also praising Osama bin Laden mentor and "specially designated global terrorist" Abd-al-Magid Al-Zindani (see the MEMRI video clip and transcript of Sultan's Al-Risala interview). These comments were made just two weeks after the Columbus Dispatch published a lengthy defense of Sultan as a moderate and the Central Ohio Islamic school that he was religious director of at the time.
Sultan's Middle East media appearances also caught the eye of the Los Angeles Times in July 2007. The paper cited him by name in an article by Borzou Daragahi on a group of Islamic clerics who "share the outlook of al-Qaeda" and who were "glorifying holy war" on Bahraini TV. Sultan was a regular guest on a program hosted by Muslim Brotherhood cleric Wagdi Ghoneim, who was expelled from the U.S. in December 2004 and banned from reentering for his ties to Islamic terrorism. As noted by Bahraini blogger and journalist Mahmoud Al-Yousif, their television program was shut down by the Bahraini government after extensive criticism by members of parliament and the media.
Considering Salah Sultan's lengthy résumé of Islamic extremism and regular association with designated terrorist leaders -- much of it captured on video -- you might think that the Department of Homeland Security would take some action with respect to his permanent residency status (despite owning a home in Ohio, he spends most of his time in Bahrain, disqualifying him for permanent residency), if not ban him completely from the country. You would be wrong, however. In fact, Sultan spent most of December touring mosques in Central Ohio before jetting off to Egypt last weekend for his Al-Nas interview.
But now that Salah Sultan is publicly inciting violence against the U.S. and predicting the deaths of hundreds or even thousands of our citizens through foreign media outlets, on what basis can Homeland Security officials continue to ignore this very real and extensively documented terror threat, his connections to leading U.S. Islamic groups notwithstanding? That remains to be seen.