The Islamic community has a long history in the great state of Iowa. In fact, it is home to the oldest mosque in the United States, aptly called the Mother Mosque of America. It is here, in Iowa – one of the major cogs in America’s Heartland – that plans are being set forth to construct an Islamic camp/convention center. The catch is that it is to be created on federal land. This, for various reasons, has sent up red flags throughout the area.
Environmental concerns have been a factor. Parking accommodations have been a factor. How many people? Where will they stay? Will it cause traffic? All of these issues have been addressed to one degree or another. But a significant few issues have been sidestepped entirely, covered up in such a manner that would suggest either political correctness or deception was to blame. This is especially significant in light of the fact that there is a terror connection to the proposed new Muslim Center.
Issue number one: The Church-State Problem
In July of 2002, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) won a long fought battle to remove a cross from the Mohave Desert public preserve, as a Federal judge ruled that it was in breach of the “establishment” clause of the Constitution.
Of the case, Peter Eliasberg, an attorney at the ACLU stated, “The federal government should not offer public land – owned collectively by people of every faith and of no faith – as a site for the advertisement and promotion of Jesus Christ, Buddha, Pope John Paul II, or any other particular religious figure. Contrary to what some believe, it is not the role of the federal government to advance Christianity or any other sectarian belief.” He further stated, “The courts have consistently held that a permanent religious fixture on federal land is a violation of the U.S. Constitution.”
While the ACLU feels it necessary to take action against symbols of the Christian faith, it seems they do not attribute the same set of standards to Islam.
The group that wants to use the Iowa site calls itself Muslim Youth Camps of America, Inc. (MYCA). Organizers of MYCA say they purposely chose the name so that it would resemble that of the YMCA, the well-known Christian nationwide health and fitness center. “It is not exclusively for Muslims, just like YMCA is not exclusive to Christians,” states Manzoor Ali, the Chairman of MYCA. But this statement doesn’t exactly jibe with some of the other statements made by the group.
At a hearing for the land proposal, the following statements were made by Mark Chaffee, the Project Director for MYCA:
“I don’t know what you know about the Muslim community, but here in the United States right now it currently is encompassing 48 nationalities. So the camp has to have this immense multi-cultural focus to it and have that sort of an outreach to it. And our outreach and marketing will be heavily towards the Muslim community, because of its underserved nature.”
(Concerning his colleague’s statement about separate plans for boys and girls at the camp:) “The perception of the gender is similar to gender issues in the United States in religion…So it really just depends on which piece of the Islamic community that you are at [sic.] the moment as to that gender.”
Of course, all of these statements come with caveats alluding to the group’s supposedly all-inclusive nature. But then, when one reads the March 2000 edition of the Washington Report, which features a story about MYCA, one may very well get the true nature of the group. It states that Bill Aossey, Representative for MYCA, announced that the camp/convention center “has been purchased and given the name ‘Camp Heritage’ to emphasize the importance for Muslim children of understanding their roots.”
These statements, including the fact that the proposed site will contain of a 36-foot dome-covered prayer tower, has not fazed the ACLU. Concerning the matter, the ICLU, the Iowa branch of the ACLU (who in March of 2000 condemned a proposal by 12 legislators to require posting of the Ten Commandments in the Iowa State Senate chamber) had this to say: “There is no establishment clause violation in government permitting the building of a structure that resembles a mosque or church…we are unaware of any cases involving governmental religious displays based on the theory that certain public architecture is an endorsement of one religion over another…this is not the case in which to try that argument out….”
When the topic of the Constitutionality of this matter was brought up at the land proposal hearing, Manzoor Ali quickly chimed in and changed the subject (“No, no. I think we don’t want to take much of your time.”) Why? What does his group have to hide that he couldn’t discuss this?
Issue number two: MYCA’s Ties to Islamic Extremism
When the question of possible links to terror was raised, Ron Fournier, the spokesman for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineering (the organization that is set to lease the grounds to MYCA for the sum of one dollar), said the following: "we have reviewed the Muslim youth camp, and we’ve found no terrorist ties or associations that would prevent us from continuing with the process.”
Mr. Fournier is very wrong.
The problem centers around Bill Aossey, who was previously mentioned as a MYCA Representative.
Bill is the President of the Midamar Corporation, located in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Midamar is an international distributor of Halal meats, or meats that have been prepared according to Islamic law. On its website, www.midamar.com, it is stated that Midamar is a “Trusted Halal food supplier and sponsor for the annual conferences and conventions hosted by ISNA, CAIR, AMC, ICNA, and MAS, and W.D. Muhammad.” Every one of these organizations have had dealings with Islamic extremist and/or hate groups.
Bill’s name is found on the Board of Directors of the American Muslim Council (AMC), one of the groups he does business with at Midamar. According to Jon Levin, a researcher at the Investigative Project, the “AMC has consistently opposed U.S. counterterrorism efforts, and has defended terrorists.” In October of 2000, the AMC’s longtime Executive Director, Abdurahman Alamoudi, at a rally outside the White House, shouted, “We are all supporters of Hamas...I am also a supporter of Hezbollah.” And in February of 2003, recent AMC Executive Director, Eric Erfan Vickers, was castigated by a United States Congressman for suggesting that the “loss of the Space Shuttle Columbia and its entire crew was an act of divine retribution against Israel.”
Bill Aossey attends the Cedar Rapids Islamic Center. The website for the center contains numerous extremist and hate links, including a link to Al Haramain, the foundation that was one of the “principal players in charity-based financing of al-Qaeda” (December 20, 2002, National Review On-Line).
Bill was a featured speaker at the 2002 and 2003 Iowa Muslim Student Association Annual Conferences. At the 2002 Conference, he gave a speech entitled "Martyrdom in Islam." Martyrdom is considered a code word for suicide bombings. Also speaking at the 2002 Conference was Siraj Wahhaj, an individual that is alleged to have been a co-conspirator of the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center. At the 2003 Conference, Bill was joined by feature speaker Nihad Awad. Awad is the Executive Director of the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) and an ex-member of the Islamic Association for Palestine (IAP), a front group for the terrorist organization Hamas. It has been reported that MYCA plans to rent out its proposed convention center in the off-season. Is it possible that the 2004 Conference will be held there?
Judgement day for the final decision on the camp/conference center is set for Friday, July 11. According to the Daily Iowan, “Authority to approve or reject the camp proposal lies with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers…The decision to build or not to build falls squarely on Col. William Bayles’ shoulders.”
Jalel Aossey, Bill’s son, who is listed on the Iowa Secretary of State Corporate Registry as the Registered Agent for MYCA, says that this would be the first Muslim camp in the United States to lease federal land, and that he envisions the camp as the first in a nationwide network. Will Col. Bayles give in to this vision of federally provided camps with radical connections or will he exercise restraint? I don’t know what his answer will be, but I do know which way I would vote.
Joe Kaufman is the chairman of Citizens Against Hate. You can visit his interactive website at www.joe4rep.com.