Several Islamist institutions in Maryland, including the overseas arm of the Turkish regime's religious directorate, are to receive hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars, as part of the Department of Homeland Security's $2 billion dollar Nonprofit Security Grant Program.
On August 4, a delegation of Democrat Party Senators and Congressmen, led by Senator Chris Van Hollen, announced the provision of over $15 million of "preparedness grants to strengthen security at houses of worship in Maryland," and provided a full list of the recipients and awarded amounts.
While most of the grants will benefit ordinary mosques, churches and other religious organizations, some of the money is benefiting institutions accused of radical ties. Most notably, the funding includes two grants to Maryland's Turkish American Community Center, totaling almost $300,000.
The Turkish American Community Center is better known as the Diyanet, an enormous Islamic center comprising a mosque, school and other facilities, built just a few miles outside of Washington D.C.
The Diyanet in Maryland is an office of the Diyanet in Türkiye, which is the regime's Directorate of Religious Affairs.
Built with Turkish government monies, the center in Maryland was opened by Erdoğan himself in 2016, and has since served as an important staging ground for domestic Islamist influence operations in the nation's capital.
Georgetown academic Ahmet Yayla concludes that, around the world, Diyanet religious sermons serve to advance Turkish foreign policy and Turkish Islamism, with Diyanet officials declaring Turkish military actions "as the highest level of jihad."
The regime uses the Diyanet to bend American Islam to its will. Following the purported coup attempt in 2016, Turkish government officials visited the Diyanet in Maryland to "brief [American] Muslim leaders" on the regime's questionable narrative about the coup. These "Muslim leaders," who seemingly attended without question, were all top officials of prominent American Islamist organizations.
The Diyanet regularly runs events with extremist preachers. One such speaker is Mufti Hussein Kamani, invited to address the institution in February 2021.
Kamani, an imam from the hardline Deobandi sect, is among the most extreme preachers in the United States. In a talk hosted elsewhere, titled "Sex, Masturbation and Islam," Kamani explained that Muslim men may fulfill any sexual desires "with a female slave that belongs to him."
Those who commit adultery or have sex outside of marriage, Kamani has declared, must be "stoned to death." And when Muslim husbands are learning to "train their wives," beating them, Kamani concedes, should only be a "last measure."
FWI has contacted Senator Van Hollen's office, to ask if legislators were aware of the Diyanet's extremist activities, and if official outposts of unfriendly foreign governments should be provided with taxpayers' money. Any response will be appended to this coverage.
The selection of some other recipients for federal funding is also sparking concern. The Islamic Society of Baltimore, for instance, will receive $150,000, despite its well-documented extremist past.
The mosque's former imam, Mohammad Adam el-Sheikh, served as an official of a designated Al-Qaeda funding charity. As uncovered by the Investigative Project on Terrorism, former webpages for the mosque openly praised the "jihad" in Chechnya, and promoted Salafi-jihadist figures such as Abdullah Azzam.
In recent years, the Islamic Society of Baltimore has continued to promote extremist speakers, even inviting hardline clerics, such as Mufti Hussein Kamani, to address students at its full-time school.
Sam Westrop is director of Islamist Watch, a project of the Middle East Forum.