A Chicago-area Imam with a reputation for anti-Semitism and endorsing conspiracy theories took to YouTube to blame Israel and the Egyptian government for the death of former Egyptian President Muhammad Morsi.
Sheikh Omar Baloch is Resident Scholar of the Bolingbrook, Illinois-based Al-Furqaan Foundation, a group which performs "Dawah," or proselytizing, by distributing Qurans across the United States.
Commenting on the death of Morsi, the Muslim Brotherhood leader ousted from the Egyptian presidency and imprisoned following military-backed popular protests in 2013, Baloch said that Morsi "has been killed by the Egyptian government, and he wins, because he is a martyr," adding that Israel will wreak havoc in the region in order to expand into Greater Israel.
Morsi reportedly suffered a heart attack while appearing in Egyptian court to answer charges he'd illegally shared state secrets with foreign nations while in office.
In his most recent YouTube video titled "MORSI WINS, SISI LOSES THE FUTURE OF EGYPT – MUHAMMAD MORSI IS SHAHEED [martyr]," Baloch preached that Muslims should be ready to die in order to impose Sharia law.
The Chicago-area imam went on to claim that Morsi's downfall was orchestrated by the liberals and the military, neither of which wanted to see Islam in power. Baloch said that while the liberals rejected Sharia law, the military ousted the Brotherhood-led government on behalf of foreign powers.
Baloch praised the Muslim Brotherhood for its efforts to impose Islamic law in Egypt through establishing social organizations and engaging in the political process, but warned that ultimately such efforts would not enable them to face the military.
Baloch warned that Islam cannot come to power through the electoral process. "This process is damaged and flawed, and it is used to run a system, not change it. We know what happened in Algeria with the voting process..."
He added: "We have to change the people. This is a middle way... the middle way begins with changing the grassroots; the people. Those people should be willing to die... it should not be liberals and Muslims, but a critical mass that accepts Islam like the companions of the Prophet Muhammad, Peace Be Upon Him. Those are the people of the Quran who live in the shade of the Quran... a critical mass of intellectuals and common people who are willing to die. The system is not built to withhold passive resistance in that way, and civil disobedience, in that way."
Baloch emphasized Morsi's status as a martyr, and said that his "murder" was the first step in an Israeli plot.
The imam said: "Tomorrow Israel will oust the military and the liberals who ousted Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood. When Israel starts expanding their Greater Israel, Israel will be making problems for the countries that surround her... soon there will be wars, and internal crises will be happening. Why? All that will be done to every neighbor of Israel... and Israel will start creating problems for Egypt... the military do not have the solution. The only solution for all Muslims in the world is to let Islam be established and let the sincere Muslims deal with the situation... your liberal schools do not have the solution. The only solution for the whole world is Islam."
Baloch is just one in a series of American Islamists using the death of Morsi to promote conspiracy theories and rally and radicalize supporters.
Clerics who promote an ideology of martyrdom like Baloch aren't just harmless kooks. Just last Thursday, two Chicago-area men were found guilty of supporting the Islamic State in a federal case in which one of them was accused of saying that he hoped to see the jihadist group's flag over the White House.
American Muslim communities should start a candid conversation and do a lot of hard work in order to isolate and discredit such Islamist demagogues who preach martyrdom, encourage conspiracy theories and violence. Instead moderate leaders must help their co-religionists to assimilate in the American community. Only then can we help build a healthy American Islamic community free of Islamist demagoguery and antisemitism.
Hesham Shehab is the Illinois Associate of the Counter-Islamist Grid (CIG)