Islamic religious leaders at a local Texas mosque allege that former leaders stole key files and security camera footage.
According to an announcement posted on December 31, 2019, the current leaders alleged former Shura council members deleted key files and transferred files from security camera footage.
On December 31, 2019, the Islamic Center of Irving (ICI) announced on its website that two members of ICI's outgoing Shura Council had "engaged in mass data deletions, downloading, copying of thousands of documents and emails." The announcement notes that information about lawsuits and audio/video files of Congregants were transferred from ICI's camera and security systems. According to the announcement, the mosque's attempts to have the information returned have gone unanswered. Later the announcement was deleted from the ICI website.
While information regarding the two councils is not available on ICI's website, ICI announced the results of the 2019 election and the current Shura Council on October 22, 2019. The announcement lists Hassan A. Hye as the current ICI president. In another announcement from October 21, 2016, Bayinnah Institute and superstar preacher Nouman Ali Khan presents himself as the former president of the Islamic Center of Irving. This information is corroborated by a photo on ICI's Facebook page of Nouman Ali Khan at a fundraiser in his capacity as ICI President in 2017.
Khan first faced scrutiny in 2017 after screenshots went pubic showing him bribing, threatening and "sexting" with different women online. Khan defended his actions by stating in a Facebook post that he had been divorced for two years and that both his and the women's actions were based on mutual consent.
Muslim American writer and lawyer Rabia Chaudry then reported on Facebook that "multiple people have had Facebook posts removed and a number of people have had their Twitter accounts suspended for criticizing Bayinnah" and also speculated that possibly Khan had threatened to bury them in legal fees.
There have been two criminal incidents that brought media coverage to ICI in the last year. In May 2019, a security guard at ICI, Syed Humzah Hashmi, was arrested for aggravated sexual assault of a child. According to the arrest warrant, the male victim was in third grade and attended the Islamic School of Irving. The alleged assaults allegedly included attempted sodomy and took place at the Islamic Center of Irving from August 2016 through June 2017.
A few months later, the former imam of Islamic Center of Irving, Zia ul-Haq Sheikh. Imam Sheikh was ordered to pay $2.55 million to a woman identified as Jane Doe in the lawsuit alleging sexual exploitation.
The lawsuit states:
"Jane's emotional dependency as a result of being counseled by the defendant from age 13 to age 19 led Jane to be fearful of losing the defendant's support in her life, and therefore created a situation where Jane was unable to refuse the defendant's requests."
Sheikh allegedly requested sexually explicit photos and videos and ultimately intercourse from Doe in exchange for his support. According to the lawsuit, when the woman was nineteen, shortly after Sheikh and Doe had sex at a Motel 6, Sheikh gave Doe a pregnancy test to make sure he wouldn't lose his job and then cut off contact with her.
The lawsuit was filed in July 2018 and was later amended to include an allegation of sexual assault.
Zia Sheikh was for a time a darling of the local news media. In 2015, after former mayor of Irving Beth Van Duyne objected to the opening of an Islamic Tribunal in Irving, of which Sheikh was a member, the Dallas Observer wrote a piece called "Imam Zia Sheikh opens minds to the real Islam." D magazine wrote another glowing piece about the imam called "Anti-Muslim Sentiment in Irving (and the Imam who has to tolerate it)".
ICI's Shura Council, according to an archived page from Islamic Center of Irving's website, as late as February 2012, included a representative for the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA). ISNA was founded as an organization of the U.S. Muslim Brotherhood in the early 1970s. According to Brotherhood archival documents submitted during the Holy Land Foundation Trial, it was named in a May 1991 Muslim Brotherhood document, called "An Explanatory Memorandum on the General Strategic Goal for the Group in North America," as an ally of the Muslim Brotherhood. That document was entered into evidence during the Holy Land Foundation Trial as "Elbarasse Search-3."
The face behind the lawsuits against Sheikh is an unlikely one. Alia Salem is the former head of CAIR DFW as well as the founder and executive director of FACE ("Facing Abuse in Community Environments"). According to their website, that organization is designed to counter abuses of power within leadership in the Islamic community. Before founding FACE, she created a stir when she advised local Muslims not to cooperate with the FBI investigating ISIS.
ICI's current religious leaders seem as eager as the previous council to keep these events out of the public eye. On January 13th, an announcement on the ICI homepage stated that after a meeting on Sunday, January 12, attended by two former ICI presidents, the current ICI Shura Council, members of the ICI Shura Body, and "a group of brothers," the various parties completed the transition from the previous Shura Council and came to an agreement.
Current ICI president Hassan A. Hye asked that members of the masjid "refrain from posting or commenting in public forums" regarding ICI or matters related to it.
Given the legal and ethical cloud hovering over ICI's recent leaders and staff, there's serious questions to be asked about the management of Irving Masjid. The Islamist penchant for covering up scandal is sure to only exacerbate community dissension. Irving Masjid congregants should think seriously about following the maxim that "sunlight is the best disinfectant" and bucking leadership which seeks to silence and protect rather than expose wrongdoing.
Anne-Christine Hoff is the Dallas associate of the Counter Islamist Grid