New York City Mayor Eric Adams, alongside NYPD Commissioner Edward A. Caban, announced at a press conference on August 29th that mosques in the city are now free to broadcast an amplified adhan, the Islamic call to prayer, at prescribed times on Friday and during Ramadan.
While the call to prayer is a longstanding tradition within normative Islam all across the globe, in the West, the electronic amplification of the adhan has more typically been the focus of Islamist activists. Indeed, in the case of the city of New York, this recent policy change appears to reflect the considerable influence wielded by Islamists over the city's decision-makers.
Speaking before an energetic crowd, Mayor Adams spoke warmly of his recent trip to Israel, citing its religious "intersectionality," before announcing the new rules and describing the adhan as key to his pledge "that New Yorkers' rights to worship are protected, and that includes our mosques."
Adams was introduced by Mohammed Bahi, the "Senior Liaison" at NYC government's "Community Affairs Unit." Adams credited Bahi with organizing the event, and for convincing him of the need for this policy change.
Bahi, however, is also the founder of Muslims Giving Back, a radical organization with terror ties, and which operates out of the Muslim Community Center in Brooklyn, which Bahi also established.
In 2019, Benjamin Baird reported that Muslims Giving Back (MGB) was "infiltrated in 2012 by undercover NYPD informants in a multi-year terrorism probe." NYPD documents, Baird adds, alleged that one of Bahi's fellow co-founders, Asad Dandia, "sympathized with Al Qaeda, spoke highly of the late Al Qaeda commander Anwar al-Awlaki, and promoted violence against Shiite Muslims."
In September, Bahi published photos of his meetings with Dandia at New York City government offices.
Through Bahi, the Adams administration has become closely intertwined with New York Islamist networks. At the press conference, Bahi introduced "Abdullah Salem, Imam of the Muslim Community Center of Brooklyn." The public official neglected to mention that he was also Salem's boss at the mosque they both run.
The MCC has an interesting history. It is the home of the Muslim Community Patrol, a neighborhood watch group established and run by antisemitic Islamist vigilantes. The mosque's unpleasantness is even publicly advertised: a sign on the MCC's front door, for instance, indicates women are not allowed to use the front entrance.
Meanwhile, Bahi has praised denunciations of imams opposed to the Muslim Brotherhood. And he has led religious trips to mosques across the Middle East through an Islamist travel agency, Dar El Salam World Travel.
He led the excursion alongside extremist imams such as Mohammad Elshinawy, whom New York city officials previously accused of supporting jihad. Elshinawy preaches that women who do not cover themselves properly are condemned to hellfire, and are likely to get breast cancer.
Under Bahi's influence, the Adams administration has embraced the very organizations and radical activists that New York police once regarded as threats to public safety because of their hardline Islamist rhetoric.
Mayor Adams has welcomed this influence, and has even volunteered at Muslims Giving Back events.
Other Islamists at the mayor's press conference included Talib Abdur-Rashid, an imam at the Islamic Leadership Council of New York. The Council has also long served as an unyieldingly extreme institution. Its officials have openly voiced praise for designated terrorist organizations. Imam Abdur-Rashid himself has defended the Iranian regime's call for Israel's destruction.
Taher Abdelhadi, from the Muslim American Society's New York branch, also spoke at the press conference. In 2008, federal prosecutors named the Muslim American Society (MAS) as the "overt arm of the Muslim Brotherhood in the United States." In 2019, the Philadelphia branch of MAS was roundly condemned in mainstream media after it organized an event featuring songs about torturing and beheading Jews.
Progressivist alliances with Islamists, however, lead to internal divisions. In 2021, the Islamic Leadership Council of New York withdrew its endorsement of Eric Adams because the then-mayoral candidate purportedly "failed to take a principled stance" against Israel's "violence against Palestinians."
Such anger places Islamists such as Bahi in a difficult position. Recently, his interfaith work generated a small $600 donation from a Jewish organization, which led to angry accusations from New York Muslims that he is "taking money from Zionists" – "may Allah destroy them."
Meanwhile, Mayor Adams' latest trip to Israel led prominent Islamist activist Nerdeen Kiswani to tell Bahi that Adams "did not deserve to be welcomed by Muslims with open arms" after "meeting with Zionist leaders." Adams, Kiswani continued, is "scum and should be treated as such."
To re-unite New York's Islamists, and recover lost legitimacy, figures such as Bahi seem impelled to implement Islamization-minded policies at City Hall, such as the amplified adhan, while also affording Muslim organizations access to the highest levels of New York City government.
Among Muslim circles, to offset the dissent in Islamist circles over some of the progressivist politics of the Mayor, Bahi has also sought to emphasize his own non-progressive credentials, attacking Muslim "non-binary" activists as "un-Islamic" while also warning about "toxic femininity."
Mayor Adams has a long history of embracing the wrong partners. As a police officer, he worked a little too closely with the Nation of Islam, a black supremacist movement. Such mistakes are even more dangerous today, now that he is the elected head of the world's richest city.
And yet, with this latest policy change, Mayor Eric Adams has once again chosen the wrong partners. Eventually, the tensions already encountered by Bahi will become unmanageable, Islamist agendas and progressivist ideas will clash, and such alliances will collapse, as the media is beginning to notice.
But until that happens, in amplifying the adhan, Mayor Adams is also amplifying the influence and legitimacy of New York City's Islamists, all to the detriment of ordinary New York Muslims.
Sam Westrop is director of the Middle East Forum's Islamist Watch project.