AU's Muslim Chaplain Fadel Soliman, who is also the director of World Assembly of Muslim Youth (WAMY) International, which has published and distributed a handful of anti-Christian, anti-Semitic and anti-Shi'a Muslim books, said he made at least one of the books available to students curious about other religions.
Soliman said he does not teach from these books, as he focuses his teaching on Islam, though he acknowledges using them as a resource, as they are an encyclopedia of religions.
Until a week ago, The Eagle had two of Soliman's books published by WAMY in its possession. Entitled "A Handy Encyclopedia of Religions and Sects," the book was called "a tract of anti-Semitism comparable to the Protocols of the Elders of Zion (an infamous fabrication)" in the 9-11 Commission.
The encyclopedia was written by Dr. Maneh al-Johani, who died in a car crash in 2002, according to a press release from the Muslim Student Association of the United States and Canada Web site. Johani was the secretary-general of WAMY, according to the Web site.
Soliman was asked why a chapter titled "Judaism and its Branches," which is in Arabic, included Freemasonry in a Feb. 28 interview. Soliman acknowledged that he put marks on the first page and subsequent pages, but didn't answer the question. Soliman also challenged The Eagle to get a translator to verify his translation of the first sentence, which turned out to be accurate.
In a phone interview before the page was professionally translated, Soliman said he thought the writing in the book was a good introduction to other religions and that he has used the book as a tool for students in the past and would recommend the book to students interested in other religions.
Inlingua, a translation service with offices in Maryland and Virginia, translated the first two pages of the chapter.
Inlingua translated the first part of the first paragraph as, "The religion ushered in by Moses is pure monotheism. After [King] Solomon, the followers of this religion distorted it, giving rise to Judaism. The acts of the Jews became filled with shameful things and sinful behavior. They became overcome with materialism. They came to view economic hegemony over the world as the only basis for the sovereignty of the Jewish race. They therefore fought with the entire world. They spread moral decay in the world. They supported oppression. They hallowed aggression. They distorted religion."
In a third interview at a rally in support of him, Soliman was shown the inlingua translation of the first page in person and was asked to comment on it. While he said he would have to study the first paragraph more, he asserted that the second paragraph was "scientific." The second paragraph includes the line, "Some [Jews] entered Islam to plot its downfall and to light the fire of discord within it."
The second page of the translation implicates the Lions, Zionism, Freemasons and the International Rotary as complicit in a Jewish conspiracy to "corrupt and tightly control the world."
In response to the full inlingua translation of both pages, Soliman wrote in an e-mail, "I assure you that I do not agree with most of what you sent as translation of selected parts from the Encyclopedia. I was a member of the interact myself, my wife was a member of the Rotaract, my father was a Rotary member till he died and my mother attends regularly the meetings of the Lions. My best friend in school was a Jew."
Soliman said his organization rejects terrorism during an interview in February. According to Soliman, WAMY is the largest Muslim youth charity in the world and has done humanitarian work all over the world, in addition to setting up youth camps in the United States.
The Arab News reported on March 28 that Saudi Arabian Islamic Affairs Minister Saleh Al-Sheikh called on WAMY to promote moderation in Islam and "spread the message of Islam as a religion of peace, tolerance and justice." Sheikh also said the educational curriculum needed to be reviewed so it didn't promote extremism.
WAMY, which is currently under investigation by the Senate Finance Committee for funding terrorism, is "a charitable organization" that "absolutely condemns the evil of terrorism," Soliman said. According to The Washington Post, WAMY and the Muslim World League are defendants in civil lawsuits filed by families of the victims of the Sept. 11 attacks.
Jonathan Levin, a terrorism analyst at the Investigative Project, believes WAMY has another side to its charitable work. The Investigative Project's Web site describes its activities as "investigat[ing] the operations, funding, activities and front groups of Islamic terrorist and extremist groups in the United States and around the world."
Levin said he has studied WAMY for two years, and his take is "It makes sense that WAMY is being investigated because foreign governments have identified their affiliates as being militant."
Ali al-Ahmed, a Saudi Arabian man who is the executive director of the Saudi Institute, said in an interview in March that WAMY is not only anti-Semitic, but also anti-Shi'a and anti-Jesuit.
The Saudi Institute describes itself as a "private, nonprofit, nonpartisan" organization that "inspires and facilitates the development of transparency and civic society in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia."
Ahmed said Soliman's book, as well as other WAMY publications, contains even more offensive tracts. According to Ahmed, some WAMY books also say "Shi'a Muslims are actually Jews, founded by a Yemeni Jew" and "Jesuits recruit widowed women and convince their daughters to sell their bodies to raise money for the Jesuits."
In a follow-up interview in March, The Eagle went to the Saudi Institute and picked up excerpts from an official WAMY publication in Arabic called "al Mustaqbal al Islami" (Islamic Futures). On one page it had a collection of photos of Bush administration leaders, but National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice's photo was blocked out because she is a woman, according to Ahmed. On another page, there was a drawing of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon with a dollar sign tattooed on his arm.
A recent study by Ahmed and Stephen Schwartz of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies includes excerpts from books that are distributed by WAMY. The study, "Saudis Spread Hate Speech in U.S." has an excerpt from a book Deen al-Haqq (The True Religion).
According to the study, the book said, "Judaism and Christianity are deviant religions" and "Befriending the unbelievers, through loving and cooperating with them while knowing that they are unbelievers, makes those who are their friends the same as them."
Ahmed said that he met Soliman in summer 2003 in the Saudi Institute's office and said, "I believe he's a nice guy ... but I think he is doing destructive work."
In an e-mail, Soliman wrote that he met Ahmed and they talked about an anti-Shi'a WAMY book. In his words, "[Ahmed] told me about a controversial book that we have about the Shiaa, I read the book and took a decision at once to ban it, then I sent to WAMY in Saudi Arabia, they read the book and within 10 days they banned it and stopped its circulation all over the world for the exaggerations that it continued."
Soliman wrote that he has Shi'a friends and that he speaks in Shi'a mosques. In an interview in February, he invited The Eagle to attend a Shi'a mosque with him.
Shi'a and Sunni are two of Islam's main branches. While Shi'a Muslims are 10 percent of the Islamic world and are based primarily in Iran and Iraq, Sunni Muslims make up the vast majority of the rest of Muslims in the world. There has been a rivalry between the two branches since the prophet Mohammad's death in the seventh century.
"Reconciling between the Sunis and the Shiaa will not happen within days but needs a lot of steps to be taken from both sides towards reconciliation and overcoming problems that grew over 1,300 years," Soliman wrote.
Ahmed, a Shi'ite, describes WAMY as "an extremist organization, funded and endorsed by the Saudi Arabian government. It is a very hateful, dangerous organization that promotes hate to the nth degree."
Abdelilah Bouasria, a Ph.D. candidate in the School of Public Affairs, agrees to an extent with Ahmed. Bouasria, a native of Rabat, Morocco and a Sufi Muslim says WAMY's beliefs are "very narrow."
In an interview in early April, Bouasria, who is also a member of the Muslim Student Association, said that Soliman's teachings "have the imprint of Wahabbism" and believes that his "his views are dangerous." Wahabbism is the austere interpretation of Islam practiced primarily in Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries in the Persian Gulf region.
However, Bouasria is very quick to point out that Soliman has never distributed any extreme literature or said anything extreme while Bouasria attended services at the Kay Spiritual Life Center. Rather, Bouasria said that as a student from the Middle East, he is able to identify the type of "narrow thinking" that is the hallmark of Wahabbism.
Nonetheless, Bouasria said that he thinks an administration investigation into WAMY and Soliman is unnecessary because, "the Senate, which represents the American people, is already performing the task. Any additional investigation is a waste of money."
Bouasria said while he would prefer to have a different chaplain, he would "like him to go by democratic means [because] I think it is internal to the MSA."
He also believes that "Islam's troubles today come from Wahabbism and binary logic" and that the best way to fight narrow-mindedness in Islam is to "interpret the religious texts with a wide, traditional, tolerant Islamic logic that produced them and the same logic that is shared by traditions such as the Native American tradition, Buddhism, Christian mysticism and Kabbalah (mystical rabbinical teachings)."
Bouasria also denounced the WAMY translation as "very dangerous" and said that it "deals with non-Muslims in derogatory terms" and that the "thinking is typical of Wahabbism."
In response to questions about WAMY and Soliman, Gary Wright, assistant vice president of the Office of Campus Life, said, "my interpretation as an administrator is that we make our judgments based on criteria that we admit students, hire faculty and staff."
Wright also said that the MSA said the Encyclopedia has not been distributed to their knowledge and that "by his actions, [Soliman] has been honorable." He went on to say that the chaplains in the ministry must "sign a form that says they will educate and respect the community" and that "we feel that he has honored the requirements."
"We are saddened by the questions being raised, though we are mindful of them," Wright said. "If something became disruptive to the institution, we have to get involved."
On its Web site, WAMY describes itself as "an international organization serving people in general and Muslims youth in particular through social, cultural, ideological and education programs."
It also said WAMY has 66 branches and over 500 member organizations around the world that "strives to help the youth and general people overcome the hardships of life."
In The Eagle's March 1 issue, Soliman was reported saying, "We are a charitable organization. We have links to charity and that is it."
Eagle Staff Writer Mackenzie Ryan contributed to this report.