At the Minneapolis airport prior to the Thanksgiving holiday on Tuesday, Nov. 21, six imams who had been attending a conference of the North American Imams Federation were handcuffed and removed from U.S. Airways Flight 300 bound for Phoenix. The clerics were escorted off the plane at the request of the pilot after passengers expressed concern about the imams’ actions in the Minneapolis-St. Paul terminal and on the plane.
According to airport spokesman Paul Hogan, the imams gathered in the boarding gate area and were “praying loudly and spouting some kind of anti-U.S. rhetoric regarding the war in Iraq and Saddam Hussein.” Three of the imams had one-way tickets and no checked luggage.
After boarding the plane, the imams sat alone in different sections of the plane, reminiscent of 9-11 hijacker tactics. Once on board, all six men requested seatbelt extensions that they clearly did not need. Upon their removal from the aircraft, the clerics were questioned by police and the FBI, but no charges were filed. When released from custody, the six Muslims denounced the action as discriminatory and called for a thorough investigation of the incident and a U.S. Airways boycott.
Further, in an attempt to publicize the “injustice” of what was probably simply good policing and intelligence practice, an interfaith “pray-in” was scheduled for Monday, Nov. 27 at Reagan International Airport in Washington, D.C. Omar Shahin, the Imam of the Islamic Center of Tucson (ICT) and one of the six clerics removed form the plane, was to be joined by Imam Mahdi Bray, the Executive Director of the Muslim American Society Freedom Foundation. Other participants were to include Rabbi Arthur Waskow of the Shalom Center of Philadelphia; Rev. Graylan Hagler of the United Church of Christ; Hillary Shelton, director of the NAACP, and other interfaith members for a “press statement, public prayer and flight departure” on U.S. Airways.
Yet, as the expected chastisement of over-zealous police and close-minded Americans begins, a more critical examination of those involved in the U.S. Airways incident might provide a different perspective. Indeed, it could lead to an understanding of why the imams and their behavior were a credible cause for alarm. Further, there may be other purposes at work here as well, namely, a campaign to undermine our focus on viable and possibly dangerous groups and populations by dismissing it as nothing more than prejudice, small-mindedness and stereotyping. In this way, our very vigilance as a nation is under attack from a form of “cultural jihad,” that seeks to use our own values against us.
In examining the Nov. 21 incident more closely, we find that among those removed, Shahin, heads a particularly intriguing organization. Founded in 1971, the ICT’s $1.5 million mosque was funded largely by the Saudi government through the North American Islamist Trust, a Saudi-backed Wahhabist group that controls a majority of the most radical mosques in North America.
According to Washington-based terrorist expert Rita Katz, the Islamic Center of Tucson included what was “basically the first cell of Al Qaeda in the United States.” The connections between Al Qaeda and the ICT include Wael Hamza Jalaidan, a former ICT president, believed to be an Al Qaeda founder, and Hani Hanjour, who attended the mosque while a student at the University of Arizona and who later flew American Airlines Flight 77 into the Pentagon on 9/11. Wadih El-Hage, a personal assistant to terrorist leader Osama Bin Laden, was active with the ICT in the late 1980’s where he is alleged to have established an Al Qaeda support network, according to the FBI. In 2001, El Hage was convicted by a federal judge in New York of planning the 1998 bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.
Besides nurturing ICT activists who have gone on to become bone fide terrorists, the Islamic Center of Tucson has played a prominent role in raising money for terrorist front groups. The ICT raised money for the Holy Land Foundation, whose assets were frozen by the U.S. Treasury in 2001 for alleged ties to terrorist groups. Following the treasury action, ICT Imam Omar Shahin continued to defend the organization and its “charitable” intent. Further, Shahin had been a representative of KindHearts, an organization that made contributions to Hamas-related groups and was also shut down by the U.S. government for alleged connections to terrorist causes.
The response to the U.S. Airways incident from the imams and Muslim organizations nationwide was intensely dramatic, reeking of political grandstanding. They denounced the actions taken by the authorities, labeling it an example of pervasive discrimination now faced by Muslims in America. Muslim spokesmen dubbed the response a police action and claimed the imams were singled out for religious and ethnic reasons as part of a pervasive “flying while Muslim” mindset. ICT imam Shahin ignored the loud, anti-U.S. rhetoric expressed by the imams and insisted they were simply praying. He criticized America, saying, “If up to now they don’t know about prayers, this is a real problem.”
Nihad Awad, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) also blamed American attitudes, when he said, “We are concerned that crew members, passengers and security personnel may have succumbed to fear and prejudice based on stereotyping of Muslims and Islam.”
This, from the head of an organization which is a terrorist-supporting front group for Hamas that has raised money for the Holy Land Foundation, which was designated a terrorist organization by both the European Union and the United States before it was shut down.
This level of outrage and outcry from the Muslim community raises serious questions about the U.S. Airways incident itself. Could this have been a staged event to call attention to “unfair” profiling of Muslim passengers?
Surely, Americans are conscious of the fact that not all Muslims are terrorists...but most terrorists are Muslims. The Nov. 21 incident appears to be uniquely crafted to criticize American attitudes and security policies, arising from and created in response to everyday realities.
The six imams who were removed from U.S. Airways Flight 300 just happened to be among those attending a conference for the newly elected first Muslim Congressman in America, Keith (Hakim Mohammed) Ellison of Minnesota. Ellison, who recently spoke at a CAIR fundraiser, has vowed to criminalize Muslim profiling and has demanded to talk with U.S. Airways’ officials. CAIR has called for congressional hearings to investigate incidents of “flying while Muslim” and has worked with incoming Judiciary Chairman John Conyers, D-MI, to draft a resolution that gives Muslims special civil rights protections. Conyers is co-sponsoring the “End Racial Profiling Act” with incoming Speaker Nancy Pelosi. They have vowed to end racial profiling, limit the reach of the Patriot Act and facilitate the immigration process.
“Since September 11th, many Muslim Americans have been subjected to searches at airports and other locations based upon their religion and national origin, without any credible information linking individuals to criminal conduct,” Pelosi has said. “Racial and religious profiling is fundamentally un-American and we must make it illegal.”
Democrats who are demanding changes to legislation that was enacted to protect our country from a repeat of 9/11 must be asked what is illegal about profiling individuals from groups “of interest” in order to protect the public and prevent terrorist attacks. What is “fundamentally un-American” about exercising vigilance with people of the same racial and religious background as the 9/11 hijackers? What could be more protective of the civil rights of Americans than shielding them from those pledged to kill them? Since when are the rights of terrorists more important than the safety and security of the American public?
In the interest of pursuing stated goals to Islamicize America, Muslims feel free to demand special accommodations for their religious beliefs and cultural practices. They enjoy First Amendment protections and freely criticize American society on our university campuses and in mosques and madrassas. They invoke hate speech against opponents and classify them as religious infidels.
Americans, however, are not free to scrutinize Muslims. Those who do are immediately suspect and censured when they question, criticize or monitor Muslim actions, no matter how insidious and suspicious. Muslims in America have conveniently reset the bar of tolerance to be defined as the unquestioned acceptance of Islam, its prophet, and its practices. If we fail to continue to question, scrutinize and speak out, then they will have succeeded in their campaign of cultural jihad and rendered homeland security unable to deal with real jihad.
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