In a virtual celebration of International Quds Day held by the Muslim Congress on May 22, Shiite Islamists loyal to Iran's supreme religious leader said that America is controlled by Israel, accused Zionists of creating Islamic terrorist groups in the Middle East, and promised that the Jewish state will be annihilated in 20 years.
Quds Day, or Jerusalem Day, was launched by the late Ayatollah Ruholla Khomeini just after the 1979 Iranian Revolution. It is held annually on the last Friday of Ramadan to express solidarity with Palestinians while pledging to "liberate" the Al Aqsa Mosque from Israel's territorial control.
The hosting Muslim Congress is a Texas-based Shiite group that looks to Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and Iran's ruling clerical establishment as its religious authority. Its members have made virulently anti-American and anti-Semitic statements during past Al Quds Day demonstrations. Observing a 2009 Muslim Congress rally, the Associated Press noted that one speaker "sounded like a spokesman for the Iranian government."
At this year's virtual Quds Day, the participants continued calling for the destruction of Israel. "Jerusalem is waiting for the blood of those who believe in Muhammad, Ali, and Fatimah... " Shiite American cleric Syed Abbas Ayleya said, referring to the pantheon of Shiite holy figures.
According to Ayleya, Khamenei possesses God's mystical knowledge, and the ayatollah believes "there will be no Zionism" and "no Zionist regime after 20 years."
"We are guaranteed that Palestine will definitely be free," Ayleya added.
Ayleya's political activities and calls for "blood" are not limited to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The Shiite cleric has supported terrorist groups that propped up the Syrian regime and massacred innocent civilians in the sectarian Syrian war.
On May 4, 2019, Ayleya led a demonstration in Seattle, Washington, that called on the Pakistani government to release militants belonging to the jihadist Zaynabiyoun Brigade who fought in Syria and were arrested upon returning home to Pakistan.
According to Ayleya, those Pakistanis were arrested merely for defending the Shrine of Sayyida Zaynab , a Shiite mosque near Damascus marked as the final resting place of the granddaughter of Muhammad.
Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corp (IRGC) enlists, trains, and supervises Pakistani nationals fighting for the Zaynabiyoun Brigade in Syria and Iraq. The U.S. Treasury blacklisted the Zaynabiyoun Brigade in January 2019, while the U.S. State Department added IRGC to its Specially Designated Global Terrorist list three months later.
While Ayleya supports Iran-backed militias, another Quds Day speaker echoed Iranian regime talking points. Muslim Congress activist Mona Shahrebani said, "Takfiris [Sunnis who accuse Shiites of being apostates], Al Qaeda, ISIS, and Boko Haram are Zionist puppets," and "the U.S. is a puppet of Saudi Arabia and Israel that fund terrorism." Shahrebani said that Zionism is "the clear enemy that creates terrorist groups."
In the same sense, event moderator Nessrein Abu Shahba claimed that the world's oppressive leaders were getting their directives from Zionist powers.
Zahra Ali, identified as a member of the Washington "al Quds Team," said that Israel was carrying out a "genocide" by "murdering tens of thousands" of Palestinians. She complained that Israel has killed American citizens who were advocating for peace, citing the case of Rachel Corrie, a pro-Palestinian activist who was accidentally killed in 2003 when she deliberately placed herself in the path of an Israeli military bulldozer during an operation to remove enemy safehouses and weapons-smuggling tunnels.
Yet another speaker, Canadian Shiite cleric Salim Yusufali, argued that America's loyalty to Israel is clear. He explained that while the U.S. was financially suffering under the COVID-19 pandemic, the Trump administration was planning to grant Israel $38 billion in military aid. (Broken down over 10 years, the $3.8 billion the U.S. contributes annually to its closest ally in the Middle East is considered a high-yield investment with numerous benefits to American taxpayers.)
Finally, adding to the chorus of extremist voices, a young female speaker identified only as sister Nuzaiba called upon Americans to support the radical Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) campaign, an international movement that seeks the destruction of Israel through economic and diplomatic isolation. Nuzaiba confirmed the boycott movement's destructive objective when she called for "freedom for Palestine from the River to the Sea," an anti-Semitic political slogan which fully rejects any compromise with Israel.
Although the coronavirus forced event organizers to stream this year's Quds Day speeches online, the guest speakers were no less vitriolic than those featured at last year's in-person protest. On May 31, 2019, the Muslim Congress organized a rally that was held in front of the Henry Ford Centennial Library in Dearborn, Michigan, home to the largest Shiite population in the West. At this event, an unidentified speaker declared that terrorist groups such as "Hamas, Hezbollah, IRGC, and anybody else fighting against Israel have a God-given right to resist." He also described Israel as a "cancer" and cited Khamenei's prediction that it "will crumble in less than 25 years."
The Muslim Congress's efforts to radicalize Shiite Americans, promote the destruction of Israel, and support terrorist networks are detrimental to Muslim Americans and hinder their integration into American society. The U.S. is still waging a War on Terror, and those who glamorize terrorist groups and refer to America's enemy as their "beloved leader" represent a fifth column that should be investigated as a foreign agent and a national security threat.
Hesham Shehab is the Chicago Associate at the Counter-Islamist Grid, a project of the Middle East Forum. Anne-Christine Hoff is the Dallas Associate at the Counter-Islamist Grid.