Homeland Security

Imam Who Threatened Ayaan Hirsi Ali with Death for Apostasy Led Interfaith Service After Paris Attacks

A Pennsylvania imam who was fired last year by the Bureau of Prisons for his claims that author and Harvard lecturer Ayaan Hirsi Ali deserved to be killed under Islamic law for apostatizing from Islam recently led an interfaith prayer service after the ISIS attacks in Paris last November.

Fouad ElBayly, the imam at the Islamic Center of Johnstown, led the Nov. 21 prayer event, where he said:

The Islamic Center of Johnstown and all the Muslim communities in our region condemn the evil doing of the people who carried out that terrible attack against innocent people.

This is similar to the statements he made at a March 2002 prayer service for the 9/11 victims on United Flight 93, which crashed in Shanksville, PA, not far from ElBayly’s mosque:

Imam Fouad El Bayly of the Islamic Center of Johnstown and Somerset asked people to be tolerant. He said the Muslim extremists who hijacked the plane also hijacked the Islamic faith.

“In the name of God, in the name of peace, in the name of brotherhood, in the name of mankind, let there be peace,” he said. “We cannot condemn a nation, a religion, for the acts of a few.”

But peace and tolerance are are apparently hard concepts for ElBayly to follow himself.

Last year he was fired as a Bureau of Prisons chaplain at the Federal Correctional Institute of Cumberland, MD, after it was reported he was hired under a $10,500 February 2014 federal contract despite his 2007 comments calling for the killing of Ayaan Hirsi Ali. He later received another $2,400 contract to teach Islam in the same federal prison in December 2014.

In January, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, wrote to the Bureau of Prisons inquiring about the flaws in their hiring process that led to ElBayly’s employment.

After it was revealed that ElBayly had been hired, Hirsi Ali penned an editorial in the Wall Street Journal expressing surprise that the imam who had threatened her with death was now employed by the Justice Department.

She also appeared on Bill O’Reilly’s program to discuss the controversy:

After his firing by the Bureau of Prison, ElBayly claimed his prior comments were “taken out of context.” And yet his own wife was quoted by the local media expressing the same sentiments:

“She is slandering God almighty himself, and making fools of anybody who believes in God,” said his wife, Patricia, a Somerset County native.

The issue between ElBayly and Hirsi Ali goes back to an invitation she received from the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown in April 2007 to speak at the school, an event that ElBayly and the founder of the Johnstown mosque wanted shut down.

When Hirsi Ali appeared at the event, she was flanked by security guards. At the time, ElBayly was quoted by the local media saying he had to restrain the mosque attendees from lashing out:

Islamic leaders tried unsuccessfully to convince university officials to cancel her appearance, arguing that her attacks against Muslims are “poisonous.”

Imam Fouad ElBayly, president of the Islamic Center of Johnstown, feared her mere presence would incite violence. He said that in the eyes of the Islamic community, Hirsi Ali’s rejection of her Muslim faith and “all of her lies” warrant a death sentence.

He worried that someone would try to carry it out.

“I’m trying to control my people here. I don’t want people to get hot and cause trouble,” said ElBayly, whose community includes an active core of about 30 families and a number of others who attend occasional services and programs.

“We have no capacity to execute a sentence, but her sentence would be death for turning on her religion to make a profit and for speaking out against it.”

Several days later, the local media followed up again on her appearance at the school — and ElBayly stated plainly that under Islamic law she deserved to be killed:

Imam Fouad ElBayly, president of the Johnstown Islamic Center, was among those who objected to Hirsi Ali’s appearance.

“She has been identified as one who has defamed the faith. If you come into the faith, you must abide by the laws, and when you decide to defame it deliberately, the sentence is death,” said ElBayly, who came to the U.S. from Egypt in 1976 […]

Although ElBayly believes a death sentence is warranted for Hirsi Ali, he stressed that America is not the jurisdiction where such a crime should be punished. Instead, Hirsi Ali should be judged in a Muslim country after being given a trial, he added.

“If it is found that a person is mentally unstable, or a child or disabled, there should be no punishment,” he said. “It’s a very merciful religion if you try to understand it.”

A few weeks later, representatives of the mosque claimed that ElBayly had been removed from his position at the mosque and that they were shocked and rejected his statements:

“The board and members of the Islamic Center of Johnstown were shocked and regret the comments made by Imam ElBayly regarding the visit of author Ms. Ayaan Hirsi Ali. The statements regarding the Islamic Center’s reaction to her visit were incorrect, unfounded and not the views of its members,” Dennis J. Stofko, the center’s attorney, said in a letter to the Tribune-Review.

Stofko indicated that ElBayly’s views “are not shared or tolerated by the Muslims” associated with the Johnstown center.

“The Islamic Center of Johnstown was established to foster religious tolerance, education and the exercise of its religious beliefs,” Stofko wrote, adding that members “strongly believe in exercising religious freedom, which is the right of all citizens. The Islamic Center of Johnstown sincerely respects the rights of individuals to speak their opinions openly and freely without the fear of reprisal.”

And yet despite the widespread claims he had been asked to resign and protests that his views did not represent the mosque or its attendees, ElBayly remains the imam at the Islamic Center of Johnstown today with no apparent break in his employment there.