While it is all well and good to encourage the commonalities that unite Americans of all faiths, it is equally important to inquire into the bona fides of organizations that only claim to promote tolerance. Philadelphia presents a sorry but enlightening example of how groups whose agendas directly challenge American values get a free pass from the interfaith establishment due largely to the firmly held belief that "diverse" (and disquieting) viewpoints must be respected — as long as they are Muslim.
A prime example of this is the Mayor's Office of Faith Based Initiatives (MOFI), "the primary liaison between the Office of the Mayor and Philadelphia's diverse communities of faith and their leaders." Despite being provided with evidence of the U.S. government's case against one of its partners, the terror-linked Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the office's interim director, Reverend Malcolm Byrd, declared: "We will engage with CAIR. … We don't have to endorse you to work with you." After reviewing the evidence, MOFI decided to maintain the relationship.
According to this twisted logic, MOFI ought to welcome the KKK, a group which misappropriates Christian symbols and beliefs, or local supporters of the Westboro Baptist Church, with their strident attacks on homosexuals and Jews. It does not, but it does welcome the Nation of Islam, whose leader Louis Farrakhan unabashedly declares Jews to be part of "the Synagogue of Satan."
A similar approach is exhibited by the Interfaith Center of Greater Philadelphia (ICGP), "dedicated to interreligious dialogue, education, and community building." It seemed reasonable to assume that the organization would want to vet its members to some degree, to be sure they truly embrace tolerance and respect for diversity. The ICGP's executive director, Abby Stamelman Hocky, soon disabused us of that notion.
While teens that take part in an ICGP initiative called Walking the Walk are encouraged to ask "the tough questions," Hocky was disinclined to take seriously information collected from the websites of three of the Muslim groups participating in it. If we really knew the leaders of these groups, we were told, we would be convinced they were, in truth, moderates; repeated requests to facilitate meetings with these leaders were ignored.
By ignoring the ideologies held by Muslim groups, the ICGP and others afford cover for those whose beliefs would otherwise be abhorrent to them, like the Villanova-based Foundation for Islamic Education (FIE). FIE has described itself as a satellite campus of Al-Azhar University of Cairo, while its leaders and faculty have sanctioned suicide attacks against Israeli civilians, defended the execution of Muslims who convert out of their faith, and threatened Copts for questioning the Qur'an.
FIE used to hold summer "jihad camp" gatherings at its campus before 9/11 where one invited speaker justified suicide bombings. FIE has also hosted a radical cleric, banned from entering Canada, who has stated that "[moderate] Muslims … are those who … openly advocate lesbianism, those who are publicly declared homosexuals."
Another Walk congregation is the Quba Institute (QI), a.k.a. the "International Muslim Brotherhood, Inc." (IMB). A precise connection between QI/IMB and the global Muslim Brotherhood, parent organization of Hamas and al-Qaeda, is not completely clear: The Muslim Brotherhood was established by Hasan al-Banna in Egypt in the 1930s, around the same time that Muhammad Ezaldeen, an African-American convert to Islam, studied there. Ezaldeen later returned to the U.S. and founded an organization out of which the Philadelphia-based IMB grew.
According to QI's old website (quoted here), the IMB "forged partnerships with the Muslim Student Associations [MSA] of local Universities" in the late 1960s, an organization identified by federal investigators as subscribing to the goal of teaching Muslims "that their work in America is a kind of grand Jihad in eliminating and destroying the Western civilization from within and 'sabotaging' its miserable house by their hands."
This interfaith partner has hosted major Brotherhood ideologues like Abdul-Hamid Abu Sulaiman and Hassan Turabi. The former was a founding member of the Brotherhood's intellectual beachhead in the U.S., the International Institute of Islamic Thought (IIIT), and served (1973 to 1979) as secretary general of the World Assembly of Muslim Youth (WAMY), which publishes pro-armed jihad, anti-Semitic, anti-Christian, and anti-Shi'ah literature. Turabi is the spiritual leader of Sudan's National Islamic Front (NIF), which imposed Shari'a on Muslim and non-Muslim alike, and was involved in mass enslavements and outright massacres of its own population. Turabi also hosted Osama bin Laden during his stay in Sudan; according to Oliver Revell, the FBI's former top counterterrorism official, "anybody who brings in Hassan Turabi is supporting terrorists."
An older version of the mosque's website referenced the congregation's core principles, including a commitment to U.S. law and rejection of terrorism as a "method for forwarding any … Muslim cause" with one important caveat: armed jihad is permitted "in the context of self-defense or guarding the sacred, holy lands of Islam." This is the same rationale used by Hamas to target Israel since it considers the entire state's territory to be sacred to Islam. Bin Laden similarly justified his attacks against the U.S., viewing any American presence in Islamic lands as a form of infidel "occupation."
This does not mean that QI/IMB is accused of plotting terrorist acts (though at least one congregant has been). It does mean that interfaith organizations ought to, at the very least, probe the statements and associations of their constituent members or facilitate others' attempts to do so.
The same admonition should be heeded by the Religious Leaders Council of Greater Philadelphia (RLCGP), another interfaith group which includes important Christian and non-Christian clergy, such as the archbishop of Philadelphia, the head of the Southeastern PA Lutheran Synod, the bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania, and others.
Thus the RLCGP welcomes into its fellowship Asim Abdur (var. Abdul) Rashid, leader of the Majlis Ash-Shura of Philadelphia and the Delaware Valley. Abdur Rashid led a February 2006 demonstration demanding an apology for the Philadelphia Inquirer's publishing of the infamous Muhammad cartoons, while voicing a paranoid conspiracy theory that the EU was behind the pictures. In 2010, Abdur Rashid helped sponsor a New York rally supporting "Lady al-Qaeda" a.k.a. Aafia Siddiqui (sentenced to 86 years in prison for trying to kill Americans in Afghanistan). Others championed at the rally included the Fort Dix Five (convicted in 2008 of planning to attack a U.S. Army base in New Jersey) and the Newburgh Four (convicted in 2010 of attempting to bomb two New York synagogues).
Perhaps more troubling than Abdur Rashid is the Majlis Ash-Shura's secretary, Imam Isa Abdulmateen (var. Abdul-Mateen). Members of the RLCGP were presented with some of Abdulmateen's published comments, including the following, yet chose to ignore them:
Today, Arabs, Pakistanis… and other immigrants use the Qur'an [and] they tell us "Islam means peace" because they are afraid to upset the status quo, so we abandon jihad. … Our great leaders have become tame after 911. What happened to our bold Imams that sold us their tapes and CDs and brought [us] to our feet with their rousing lectures?
When Black men think of homos we think of weak, effeminate, flaming fags who disgust our sensibilities but are relatively harmless to all except themselves. Wrong! Homosexuality for whites is their heritage. … For Blacks, homosexuality is crippling. … A Black homosexual will never support revolution against the capitalist, racist republic because the capitalist, racist republic protects his homosexual lifestyle.
Abdulmateen holds American values and its leaders in contempt. Discoursing at length about the upcoming elections, Abdulmateen warned:
Stop! … If you are a Muslim, listen! … If you are a Muslim then you know that all man made political systems are "taghoot" (false gods …) Allah says that Muslims have been ordered to shun Taghoot. … Voting means you do not have the courage or fortitude or endurance to implement the Qur'an.
By welcoming Abdulmateen and his ilk, the Religious Leaders Council essentially endorses those whose words and actions belie its goals of "offering a moral and spiritual voice in the region." Failing to conduct due diligence before welcoming such vileness into its fellowship is bad enough. What is particularly maddening is that key players in these interfaith groups were presented with this information and the best they could muster was a vague assurance that they would look into it.
The moral bankruptcy at the heart of such feel-good organizations is clearly on display. Like their fellow travelers in government and the mainstream media who ignore all available evidence, the collegial world of interfaith do-gooders burnishes the credentials of bad actors, in an increasingly one-sided sense of tolerance, embracing the very haters they would otherwise oppose.
Hillel Zaremba is associate director of Islamist Watch, a project of the Middle East Forum.