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Should the Police Monitor Public Meetings in Mosques? By: Robert Spencer
FrontPageMagazine.com | Tuesday, March 18, 2003

Recently Congressmen John Conyers Jr. (D-MI), Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) and Senator Russell D. Feingold (D-WI) wrote to Attorney General John Ashcroft: “We ask you to immediately terminate the Justice Department’s new policy directing the fifty-six FBI field offices to count the number of mosques and Muslims, as well as other community groups and religious organizations, in their areas.”

They went on to suggest that the policy targets innocent people. “We cannot sanction the targeting of Muslim populations and mosques, or any other community group or institution, to gather intelligence without any suspicion or cause that a specific individual or group of individuals, or a particular mosque or religious organization, is engaging in terrorist activities. We urge you to follow the constitutionally prescribed channels of investigation to ensure that the rights of American citizens are not violated...”

I’m all for following constitutionally prescribed channels of investigation. But it is not clear that counting mosques and Muslims violates the Constitution in any way. What’s more, Nadler has been on the wrong side of anti-terrorism efforts before: he was instrumental in securing a pardon from Bill Clinton for Linda Evans, a Weather Underground terrorist who was arrested in 1985 with 740 pounds of dynamite slated for the Capitol Building, the FBI, and other targets. Conyers, for his part, pushed for a pardon for Leonard Peltier, who was convicted of murdering two FBI agents, execution-style. Peltier’s claims that he did not receive a fair trial have been heard and rejected by the U.S. District Court, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals, and the Supreme Court; even Clinton, who showered pardons like party favors, wouldn’t pardon him.

Are Nadler and Conyers on the wrong side again? Certainly there is mounting evidence that what is going on in all too many mosques is far from benign:

• Evidence recently emerged that a significant source of funding for al-Qaeda came from al-Farooq mosque in Brooklyn.

• The February 20 indictment of University of South Florida professor Sami Al-Arian alleges, according to Islamic terror expert Steve Emerson, that Al-Arian “ran the terror apparatus under the guise of externally operating three seemingly innocent entities: a Muslim academic institute, a Palestinian humanitarian-aid group and an Islamic religious center.” Emphasis added.

• In January of this year, British police raided the Finsbury Park mosque in London, finding weapons and chemical warfare protective gear. This raid was linked to the discovery of the poison ricin in a nearby apartment. This was the mosque of the notorious Abu Hamza Al-Masri, who characterized the motivation of terrorists this way: “We’ve been ordered in the Qur’an to terrorize tyrants, to terrorize even policy makers, to terrorize those who are abusing Earth and abusing the people of Earth. There’s an order in the Quran. Nobody can tell you, ‘Oh, we’re not terrorists.’”

• An American convert to Islam named James Ujaama, has been charged with conspiring to aid al-Qaeda in terrorists acts on American soil. Ujaama’s alleged terrorist activities seem to have been inspired during his tenure as a member of Abu Hamza’s London flock.

• According to American investigators, the Islamic cultural center in Milan, Italy, served as a primary European center of operations for al-Qaeda.

• The Bali bomber, Imam Samudra, and two others who helped plot the attack all attended a Muslim religious school, the Luqmanul Hakiem school. This school, with a mosque on its grounds, has been identified by law enforcement officials as a breeding ground for terrorism in the area.

• Hamas, the Islamic Resistance Movement, which is responsible for numerous suicide bombings and other terrorist attacks in Israel, distributes material in mosques in order to convince skeptical Muslims of the Islamic legitimacy of their actions and to recruit new members.

• Intelligence officials in Argentina have uncovered links between local mosques and the terrorist groups Hezbollah, Gamaa al Islamiya, and Islamic Jihad.

• In 1993, an FBI informer wore a wire into mosques in Jersey City and Brooklyn and captured on tape not only the incendiary exhortations to jihad of the blind Egyptian Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman, but also the talk of conspirators who were planning, in the name of jihad, to blow up the Lincoln Tunnel, the FBI building, and the headquarters of the United Nations. Many of these were the same terrorists who had pulled off the first World Trade Center bombing earlier that year. The Muslims involved included both Arab immigrants and American converts. 

Presumably the Council on American Islamic Relations would have us believe that the people who attend the al-Farooq mosque were shocked to discover that their money was going to Osama bin Laden.

I hope they were. But isn’t that all the more reason to monitor what’s going on in the mosques, so as to ensure that these good folks don’t end up sending money to al-Qaeda unawares again?

When John Muhammad and John Malvo were terrorizing the Washington area with their sniper shootings, police received a tip that a white van was seen leaving one crime scene. Soon officers were stopping and searching white vans all around Washington  until it turned out that the tip was a false one, and that the killers did not in fact have a white van at all.

But what else could the police have done? For awhile it was the only thing they had to go on. If I had been the owner of a white van in the Washington area at that time, I would have resigned myself to the possibility that I might be stopped and searched. But I wouldn’t have minded, not only because I would have been just as anxious as the cops that the sniper be caught and put out of business, but because I wasn’t the sniper: if the police searched me, they would have found nothing.

Now what do law enforcement officials have to go on in their efforts to identify terrorists and put them out of action before they set off a dirty bomb in New York City or take out the White House with another hijacked airplane? Just one thing: the terrorists who struck at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon were all Muslims, as are the terrorists in dozens of terror organizations worldwide that have expressly declared their intention to wage war on the United States. Thus in searching for terrorists, the FBI should look among Muslims. 

This is a simple and in some ways painfully obvious statement. Yet political correctness and fuzzy thinking have made it anything but clear today. Generally someone who advances this idea receives one or more of several common responses:

Not all Muslims are terrorists. This is of course true, but what, ultimately, does it prove? Islam may be just as much of a religion of peace as President Bush insists it is and that would still not change the fact that 100% of the September 11 terrorists are Muslims, and that 100% of those who are currently waging war on the United States are also Muslims. This is the only identifying feature the FBI has to go on.

Not only Muslims commit terrorist acts. Timothy McVeigh, we are told, was a Christian. McVeigh’s actual religious affiliation is disputed, but one thing is certain: there is no worldwide network of McVeigh-inclined Christians who have vowed to bring down our nation. There is, however, such a network of violent-minded Muslims.

This kind of monitoring will result in the jailing or deportation of innocent people. While no system is perfect, particularly when it’s run by fallible human beings, there is no necessary reason why this need be true. Illegal immigrants will be the primary group accidentally discovered and deported, but, sad to say, they are already breaking the laws of the United States.

To single out mosques for scrutiny is discrimination. The cult of victimhood has preached so much nonsense over the last few decades about what constitutes “bigotry” that it’s virtually impossible for Americans to think straight about such questions. But to monitor mosques is not to deprive the Americans in them of due process, freedom of religion, or any of their other rights and privileges as citizens. The safeguards of the Bill of Rights are still in place, and contrary to the hysteria of the Left, they are not jeopardized by new anti-terrorism measures.

Monitoring mosques is also supposed to constitute a double standard. Columnist Myriam Marquez of the Orlando Sentinel puts it this way: “To target all mosques, as the FBI now has undertaken, would not be tolerated by this nation’s Christians. Imagine if the FBI had decided to check out every church after homegrown terrorist Timothy McVeigh, a supposed Christian, blew up the federal building in Oklahoma City.”

OK, I’m imagining, but I don’t think my imagination works the way Marquez would like it to. Her comparison is inexact. If someone in my church committed a terrorist attack, I would welcome any investigation that followed. I would be just as anxious as the FBI to make sure that it wouldn’t happen again, and that there was no ongoing terrorist activity in my church.

But Marquez’s complaint also ignores the fact that the September 11 terrorists’ Muslim identity was not incidental, but central to what they did on that terrible day. They were part of an explicitly Muslim organization  one that justifies its actions with quotations from the Qur’an and references to the traditional Islamic theology of jihad as armed struggle. One of that organization’s names, besides al-Qaeda, is the World Islamic Front for Jihad Against Jews and Crusaders.

Where would the FBI be expected to find a member of the World Islamic Front for Jihad Against Jews and Crusaders if not in a mosque? After all, there is abundant evidence that radical Muslims use mosques to recruit and motivate terrorists, as well as to plan terrorist activities. Recent sermons preached in mosques in our putative friend and ally Saudi Arabia show why American mosques bear careful scrutiny. According to the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), Saudi imams were often (until a recent crackdown by the House of Saud) preaching violent jihad and hatred of the West in the name of Islam.

One Sheikh, Wajdi Hamza Al-Ghazawi, preached this in a Friday sermon in a mosque in the Muslim holy city of Mecca: “The meaning of the term ‘terror’ used by the media . . . is Jihad for the sake of Allah.” Jihad fi sabil Allah, jihad for the sake of Allah, is a precise term of Islamic theology that always refers to armed struggle in the cause of God. “Jihad,” the good Sheikh went on, “is the peak of Islam. Moreover, some of the clerics . . . see it as the sixth pillar of Islam.”

He even went on to specify some hotbeds of terrorism as battlegrounds of jihad, and to make some intriguing observations about the correspondence of terrorism and jihad: “Jihad  whether Jihad of defense of Muslims and of Islamic lands such as in Chechnya, the Philippines, and Afghanistan, or Jihad aimed at spreading the religion  is the pinnacle of terror, as far as the enemies of Allah are concerned. The Mujaheed [warrior of jihad] who goes out to attain a martyr’s death or victory and returns with booty is a terrorist as far as the enemies of Allah are concerned . . . Accordingly, the believer must not use this word . . . Jihad, oh believers, is an integral part of our religion. The word ‘terror’ is used to damage this mighty and blessed foundation . . .”

Another imam, Sheikh Muhammad Saleh Al-Munajjid, concurred: “The Jews are defiled creatures and satanic scum. The Jews are the helpers of Satan. The Jews are the cause of the misery of the human race, together with the infidels and the other polytheists. Satan leads them to Hell and to a miserable fate. The Jews are our enemies and hatred of them is in our hearts. Jihad against them is our worship . . . Muslims must . . educate their children to Jihad. This is the greatest benefit of the situation: educating the children to Jihad and to hatred of the Jews, the Christians, and the infidels; educating the children to Jihad and to revival of the embers of Jihad in their souls. This is what is needed now.”

A few kooks? Maybe. But maybe not. MEMRI has translated and published plenty more sermons like these  so many, in fact, that this kind of talk has a claim to be mainstream in Wahhabi Saudi Arabia. This possibility becomes critically important for the war on terror in view of the fact that a huge number of American mosques receive funding from Saudi Arabia. According to Mary Jacoby and Graham Brink of the St. Petersburg Times, “the main clearinghouse for Wahhabism in the United States is a group not known to be under investigation, the Islamic Society of North America. ISNA is subsidized by the Saudi government. An ISNA subsidiary called the North American Islamic Trust owns about 27 percent of the estimated 1200 mosques in the United States, says a report by the Council on American-Islamic Relations.”

So CAIR itself acknowledges that there are over 300 mosques in the United States funded by Wahhabis, and yet they’re still against looking into what is happening in those mosques? Yet isn’t it reasonable to suspect that the noxious ideas preached in Saudi mosques have followed all this Saudi money to America? And if so, that terrorist acts may follow?

Unless we’re paying attention to what American imams are preaching, we may never know the answer to this question until it’s too late.

Robert Spencer is a scholar of Islamic history, theology, and law and the director of Jihad Watch. He is the author of eight books, eleven monographs, and hundreds of articles about jihad and Islamic terrorism, including the New York Times Bestsellers The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades) and The Truth About Muhammad. His latest book, Stealth Jihad: How Radical Islam is Subverting America without Guns or Bombs, is available now from Regnery Publishing.

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