Qasim Rashad, the Amir of the United Muslim Masjid (UMM) in South Philadelphia, confirmed what many observers over the years have suspected: that the mosque's goal was to create and sustain a "Muslim-only" enclave just blocks away from City Hall.
Rashad was the guest speaker on a recent webinar sponsored by the Philadelphia chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR). The event was part of a series "inviting giants of our community" to discuss the city's "rich Muslim history."
Referencing the South Philadelphia neighborhood surrounding UMM, Rashad recalled how "Muslims took these buildings over" and expressed disappointment that part of the neighborhood has gentrified. However, the amir may want to look within his own community for an explanation of rising property values.
Rashad spoke with reverence for the mosque's financial backer, legendary musician Kenny Gamble (a.k.a. Luqman Abdul Haqq), who owns many properties in the neighborhood through his Universal Companies. This includes the building on the corner of 15th and Christian Streets, where UMM has operated since 1994.
Gamble didn't hide his intention when he purchased these properties: "We are not just here for Universal; we are down here for Islam," he said.
Lately, the songwriter's nonprofit has been in embroiled in charges of bribery, and the FBI is looking into Universal Companies' role in charges of corruption against City Councilman Kenyatta Johnson. In this case, Universal staff allegedly paid Johnson's wife to bribe city lawmakers. Their goal was to ensure the passage of legislation that would wildly increase the value of Gamble's property, with one building sold in 2014 for 15 times what it was worth when purchased in 2000.
Yet, Rashad has kept worse company than his entrepreneurial friend. He boasted about his membership in the American Muslim Council in Washington DC, recalling his friendship with its founder, Abdulrahman Alamoudi. Rashad admitted that his friend got "caught up in Homeland Security issues," while failing to disclose the extent of his criminality.
Indeed, Alamoudi was sentenced to 23 years in prison in 2004 for planning to assassinate King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia. He raised money for al-Qaeda and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and he was implicated in a plot to fund Hamas through the Holy Land Foundation charity. In a wiretapped telephone conversation, Alamoudi mistakenly expressed remorse that the 1998 U.S. Embassy bombing in Kenya did not kill any Americans (12 U.S. nationals lost their lives).
According to Rashad, the American Muslim Council was the forerunner to the Muslim Alliance in North America, or MANA. He knew the leader of MANA, Jamil al-Amin – or H. Rap Brown of the Black Panthers – who said "if America don't come around, we're gonna burn it down." Currently, Brown is in prison for murdering a Georgia deputy sheriff.
Rashad expressed pride that MANA's first two meetings were held at UMM. As it happens, Gamble sits on its board along with Siraj Wahhaj, a notorious hate preacher and co-conspirator in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.
Moving on to other subjects, Rashad admitted that gun violence is a problem in Philadelphia, and that many perpetrators and victims are Muslim – even during the holy month of Ramadan, a time for reflection and prayer. But he seemed oblivious to the possibility that UMM may be responsible for fostering gun violence. In an effort to attract youth to UMM, Rashad said he "gives them want they want," and what the youth want is target practice.
UMM also runs the Jawala Scouts camp, where Muslim youth engage in firearms training, practice hand-to-hand combat, and wear paramilitary uniforms. One young man on the webinar attended the Jawala Scouts camp and said he "learned a lot about Islam."
Rashad said that "Muslims are the best among mankind" especially with their commitment to social justice which, he said, is "part of our DNA." By way of example of social justice advocates, the amir pointed to CAIR, Bobby Seale, the Black Panther Party, and the Nation of Islam, though admitted that the latter has a "different perspective on non-violence."
CAIR was founded by members of the terrorist organization Hamas at a meeting that took place in Philadelphia. The civil rights group is an unindicted co-conspirator in a federal case against the Holy Land Foundation, convicted of raising money in the United States for Hamas.
Bobby-Seale was one of the founders of the Black Panthers, a political organization that has a history of violent confrontation with police. The Anti-Defamation League declared the Nation Of Islam a hate group espousing deeply racist, anti-Semitic, and homophobic sentiments.
Finally, Rashad went on to imply that Islam is better than Christianity, because Ramadan lasts for an entire month, while Christmas is only observed for one day. He is also looking into changing the name of "Christian Street" to "Muslim Way."
CAIR's webinar promised to discuss the rich history of African American Muslims in Philadelphia. Instead, Rashad unwittingly provided a crash course on the radicalism within segments of that community. From UMM's involvement in a corrupt and ill-fated attempt to establish a Muslim-only enclave, to the rise of black Islamist organizations and their criminal leaders, the amir's perspective was undoubtedly tainted by his involvement in this extremist underworld.
This article has been edited slightly from the original version published at New English Review, where it appears under the title, "Philadelphia Amir Confirms His Neighborhood Belongs to Muslims Only."
Len Getz is the Philadelphia Associate with the Counter-Islamist Grid, a project of the Middle East Forum.