Construction has begun on Pittsburgh's newest mosque, Masjid Anisa. A founder of the mosque constructing the new building has a long history of spouting anti-American vitriol, jihadism, and hostility towards Muslims who stand against Islamist extremism. He has even called on his followers to pray for the destruction of the West.
The replacement for Light of the Age Masjid's current building won't be finished until late 2023, but the mosque's leadership has already invited Mayor Ed Gainey to attend the opening ceremony. A picture on the group's Facebook page shows a member of the mosque meeting with the mayor. The member, Ibrahim Philip Snow, claims the mayor "assured" him that he'd attend the future Grand Opening.
The mosque strikes a neighborly tone in its publicity, telling the media that "our house is an open house" where "everyone is welcome." The tone masks a hostile ideology that is anything but neighborly, however.
The new mosque is being built by a community founded in August 2004 by Sheikh Muhammad Shareef. Shareef is the founder and executive-director of a radical organization called the Sankore Institute of Islamic African Studies International (SIIASI). SIIASSI's public library is based in Light of the Age's current building.
The mosque highlights its connection to Shareef on its Facebook page, which states it was founded by "our Shayhk Abu Alfa Muhammad Shareef bin Fareed and the Late Sultan Al Hajj Abu Bakr (Rahim Allah) as a religious and educational institution for the sole purpose of preserving Islamic scholarship and spiritual practices particularly the teachings of Islam in West Africa."
Shareef openly boasts of avoiding possible prosecution by fleeing the U.S. in 1999 and again in 2005, when he went to China. He now appears to be in Mali. He mocks the FBI's attempts to investigate him and Light of the Age, saying "the FBI telegraphed its punches and exhibited a clear pattern that even a child could foresee what was coming."
The FBI searched the Light of the Age Mosque in 2006. One convicted felon was arrested on outstanding warrants during the raid. In a post that inaccurately reports the raid as having taken place in 2007, Shareef bragged that the FBI apparently didn't find incriminating evidence to indict him and his organization. SIIASI and its allies predictably accused the FBI of persecuting Muslims and African-Americans.
Shareef declared on the SIIASI website that Muslims should ask Allah to cause massive destruction in the West without harming Muslims. He wrote that Muslims must seek "a complete eradication of the infrastructure, intelligence, economies and social structure" and pray to Allah to target specific individuals, corporations, banks, think-tanks and institutions.
Non-Muslims, he said, should be embraced as allies if they join the call on Allah to destroy those "who do not love the honor of Islam."
He often refers to the U.S. as "AmeriKKKa" and condemns patriotic Muslims who oppose the Islamist ideology and calls to jihad. He raged in 2010 against "pacifist 'imams' who deny the obligation of jihad and who have deluded their followers into the fruitless activity of supporting democratic constitutional government."
On the topic of Islamist terrorists, Shareef delves into anti-American conspiracy theories suggesting that ISIS, Al-Qaeda and Boko Haram are "under the employ of the same disbelievers that they denounce." He claimed that "the U.S.'s bombing campaigns against Daesh [ISIS] are a hoax."
SIIASI places particular emphasis on outreach to inmates and what it calls "litigation jihad" to free "political prisoners" like Jamil Al-Amin, previously known as H. Rap Brown, who was convicted of murdering a police officer in 2000. Al-Amin has preached "if America doesn't come around, we're gonna burn it down."
The other co-founder and "faith leader" of the Light of the Age mosque is Imam Hamza Perez. He was educated through SIIASI. He was an Islamic minister for inmates until his security clearance was revoked and was in a rap duo called "M-Team," with the "M" standing for "Mujahideen," a term used for those who engage in violent jihad.
Given the extremist credentials of its founder, it's no surprise that Light of the Age has hosted Imam Zaid Shakir, another Islamist who has called for the establishment of a caliphate to wage jihad against the enemies of Islam.
He has justified attacks on U.S. military personnel, declaring that the U.S. is waging war on Islam. He has described jihadists as freedom fighters and has accused the U.S. government of demonizing Osama Bin Laden and the Taliban."
Shareef claims that those who bring up these facts are part of an anti-Muslim conspiracy, alleging that "the traditional allies of the U.S. government (the far-right extremists, conservatives and Zionists) teamed up in order to create a false narrative."
Back in 2014, he vowed to engage in lawfare, suing those who have written about him including this author and Middle East Forum President Dr. Daniel Pipes for "every dime they own." Bizarrely, he claims that he has succeeded in intimidating Dr. Pipes into "changing his tune," but Pipes had never heard of SIIASI until this statement was recently brought to his attention.
Pittsburgh Mayor Ed Gainey, who hasn't responded to an inquiry about the alleged invitation, should rescind his purported pledge to attend the new mosque's grand opening, if indeed he's truly made one. After all, Shareef has condemned the democratic constitutional government that Gainey is a part of as mayor and called for the destruction of the West. Preachers of hate and sedition don't deserve the positive PR that comes with a mayor's embrace.
Ryan Mauro is a contributor to the Middle East Forum publication Focus on Western Islamism.