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Hometown Jihad: The School Gym that Terror Built By: Patrick Poole
FrontPageMagazine.com | Monday, June 18, 2007

Siraj Wahhaj, a Brooklyn, NY imam, says that he isn’t convinced Osama bin Laden was behind 9/11. He was named by US Attorney Mary Jo White as an unindicted co-conspirator in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. He served as a defense character witness for blind hate sheikh Omar Abdel-Rahman in the trial for that act of terrorism that anticipated the horror of 9/11. He says that Muslims should appoint their own emir (leader) and take over America and install the Islamic caliphate. And he serves on the advisory board for the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) and the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), both of which were just named by federal prosecutors as an unindicted co-conspirators in a current HAMAS terrorism financing trial in Texas (see my article, “CAIR Fingered by Feds”).

And when Sunrise Academy (the only full-time Islamic school in Central Ohio), located in my hometown of Hilliard, Ohio, needed to raise money in March 2006 to build a sports complex for their school, they turned to Wahhaj for help. His financial appeal was so successful they invited him back in February of this year for yet another school fundraiser.

Regular FrontPage readers might remember Sunrise Academy as the operational hub for Muslim Brotherhood political analyst, international HAMAS promoter, notorious anti-Jewish ideologue, 9/11 conspiracy theorist, and protégé of “Theologian of TerrorYoussef al-Qaradawi, my Hilliard neighbor Dr. Salah Sultan, who has been the subject of five previous articles in my “Hometown Jihad” series here at FrontPage:


Hometown Jihad (April 3, 2006)


Hometown Jihad: Blowback (May 24, 2006)


Hometown Jihad: Our Newest Citizen? (September 8, 2006)


Hometown Jihad: The Return of Salah Sultan (March 29, 2007)


Hometown Jihad: The HAMAS Connection (May 11, 2007)


When my first article appeared noting former Sunrise Academy religious advisor Salah Sultan’s connections to “Specially Designated Global Terrorists”, such as Qaradawi, Sunrise staff and their friends at CAIR-OH lashed back by publicly circulating an email (which was later forwarded to FrontPage editors) from a Sunrise teacher, Norma Tarazi, saying that my initial “Hometown Jihad” article made her “saddened, furious, and terrified”. She also warned, “I hope that no one gets incited by Poole to attack our school or our children. His article is hate speech from my perspective.” I would invite readers to revisit that article to attempt to locate the “hate speech” that Tarazi identifies.


But there were no such dire warnings by Mrs. Tarazi and her Sunrise Academy associates just a few weeks before that article appeared when the school hosted Siraj Wahhaj, again an unindicted co-conspirator in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, as their keynote speaker at their March 10, 2006 fundraising dinner held at the Makoy Center in downtown Hilliard, (promoted on a now-removed, but Google-cached, posting on the website of the Islamic Society for Greater Columbus, Sunrise Academy’s sponsor). The proceeds of the Sunrise Academy’s fundraiser were dedicated to the school’s sports complex (presumably along with Wahhaj’s handsome honorarium).


Sunrise Academy parents and supporters paid $25 each to hear Wahhaj spew his hatred of non-Muslims, recite his bizarre 9/11 conspiracy theories, and share warm personal stories of his good friend and convicted terror leader Abdel-Rahman, who used to worship and preach at Wahhaj’s At-Taqwa Mosque in Brooklyn.


Paul Barrett, an editor for Business Week and author of the recent book, American Islam: Struggle for the Soul of Religion, has spent considerable time with Wahhaj and made him one of the primary subjects in his book (read the introduction to Barrett’s book at the Washington Post). Barrett has previously described the transformation of America into an Islamic state that Wahhaj would like to see:


He has told his followers that a society governed by strict Islamic law, in which adulterers would be stoned to death and thieves would have their hands cut off, would be superior to American democracy. Speaking of unnamed forces in the U.S. government and media, he has preached, "These people want the destruction of Islam." (“One Imam Traces the Path of Islam in Black America”, Wall Street Journal [October 24, 2003])


Barrett also describes how Wahhaj brushes off evidence of Osama bin Laden’s involvement in 9/11, including dismissing bin Laden’s own video pronouncements claiming responsibility for the terror attacks, preferring to remain “neutral” on the subject:


He says the al-Qaeda leader’s videotaped boasting about the attacks may have been a media ruse: “I’m just not so sure I want to be one of the ones who say, ‘Yeah, he did it. He’s a horrible man.’” (Ibid.)


Elsewhere Wahhaj has offered a grotesque convergence of bin Laden’s calls for the revival of the Islamic caliphate with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s, “I Have a Dream” speech, envisioning an Islamic supremacist society:


"I have a vision in America, Muslims owning property all over, Muslim businesses, factories, halal meat, supermarkets, all these buildings owned by Muslims. Can you see the vision, can you see the Newark International Airport and a John Kennedy Airport and La Guardia having Muslim fleets of planes, Muslim pilots. Can you see our trucks rolling down the highways, Muslim names. Can you imagine walking down the streets of Teaneck, [New Jersey]: three Muslim high schools, five Muslim junior-high schools, fifteen public schools. Can you see the vision, can you see young women walking down the street of Newark, New Jersey, with long flowing hijab and long dresses. Can you see the vision of an area ... controlled by the Muslims?" (quoted in Daniel Pipes, “The Danger Within: Militant Islam in America”, Commentary [Nov. 2001])


How is this Islamic supremacist society governed by an Islamic caliph supposed to come about? Wahhaj is not shy about laying out his plan for violent revolutionary action by Muslims:


"[I]f only Muslims were clever politically, they could take over the United States and replace its constitutional government with a caliphate. If we were united and strong, we would elect our own emir and give allegiance to him. Take my word if eight million Muslims unite in America, the country will come to us." (quoted in Jagan Kaul, “Kashmir: Kashmiri Pundit View-point,” Kashmir Telegraph [May 2002])


And what message does Sunrise Academy send to its non-Muslim neighbors by hosting Siraj Wahhaj? In an audiotape message Wahhaj speaks of his love for the kuffar (infidel):


"…And he [Allah] declared ‘Whoever is at war with my friends, I declare war on them.' Who is a friend of Allah? [He chants a passage in Arabic] Allah. Your true friend is Allah, the messenger, and those who believe. Americans and Canadians. Hear it well. Hear what I'm telling you well. The Americans are not your friends, hear what I'm telling you, hear it well. The Canadians are not your friends, hear what I'm telling you, hear it well. The Europeans are not your friends. Your friend is Allah, the Messenger and those who believe. These people will never be satisfied with you until you follow their religion. They will never be satisfied with you…" (audiotape, "The Afghanistan Jihad" [September 28, 1991]; quoted in “UCLA Sponsors of Terrorism”, FrontPage Magazine [April 4, 2003])


Wahhaj founded his organization, Muslim Alliance for North America, to help bring about his extremist vision for America, and he has enlisted some of the most prominent and equally radical Islamic organizations in North America, including CAIR, the Islamic Society of North America, the Muslim American Society, and the Muslim Student Association, to help achieve his dream of an Islamic caliphate governing America.


As I have noted earlier in an earlier article here at FrontPage (“CAIR’s Blood Money”), Wahhaj’s fundraising prowess in Central Ohio has been impressive. Last summer when CAIR-OH brought Wahhaj in as keynote speaker at their annual banquet held in Dublin, Ohio (immediately due north of Hilliard), CAIR-OH raised a whopping $100,000, a fact touted in a press release published on CAIR’s own website.


This success by CAIR-OH, along with Sunrise Academy’s previous fundraiser for their sports complex, is probably what prompted the leadership of the school to bring Wahhaj back for yet another fundraising dinner on February 16, 2007, sponsored by a local Columbus mosque, Masjid Abubakar Al Siddique, and held at the school.


The leadership of Sunrise Academy might have reason to believe that it is insulated from criticism of its promotion of extremism. Immediately following my original “Hometown Jihad” article, noting Salah Sultan’s continued operations out of Sunrise Academy despite his direct connections to terrorist supporters and organizations, the school enlisted the help of the Interfaith Association of Central Ohio (IACO) and the local print media to help coordinate retaliatory responses against myself and FrontPage Magazine. IACO’s President Les Stansbury responded immediately by circulating the aforementioned email by Sunrise Academy middle school science teacher Norma Tarazi, which accused me of endangering the school’s children and characterizing my article as “hate speech”, to various media outlets.


I noted in a follow-up article, “Hometown Jihad: Blowback”, that Columbus Dispatch religion reporter Felix Hoover also rallied to Sunrise’s cause, responding to IACO and Tarazi’s email plea by publishing an extensive whitewash of Sunrise Academy and Salah Sultan, “Muslim Milestone”, that likened FrontPage as a neo-Nazi white power front advocating for the reestablishment of an “overwhelmingly Christian and overwhelmingly white heritage”. Hoover’s article also served as a plug for Sunrise’s open house, a hastily organized event which the school admitted was in response to my initial FrontPage “Hometown Jihad” article.


The Columbus Dispatch’s lengthy 1,340-word defense of the school, which went out of its way to describe Salah Sultan as a terror-condemning, moderate Muslim, was published just days before Sultan was recorded by MEMRI giving an interview to the Saudi Al-Risala TV, where he claimed that 9/11 was planned by the US government to launch a war on Islam and he praised the Yemeni al-Qaeda cleric Al-Zindani. Al-Zindani is also listed along with Sultan’s mentor, Youssef Al-Qaradawi, as a “Specially Designated Global Terrorist” by the US government and prohibited from entering the country. MEMRI provides a complete transcript and video of Sultan’s Al-Risala interview.


The Columbus Dispatch piece was quickly followed-up with a glowing article by Khalila Perrin in the local Hilliard Northwest News, “Islamic school celebrates 10 years of growth”, which also plugged the Sunrise Academy open house, but made no mention of the school’s Salah Sultan controversy. To date, not a single critical word of Sunrise Academy has been issued by the Columbus-area print or TV media establishment.


Sunrise Academy might also be emboldened by the international attention that the school has received for figuring prominently in Columbus Mayor Michael Coleman’s “The Columbus Way” community outreach. Coleman’s program and Sunrise Academy were featured in two BBC radio broadcasts, “US Muslims hurt by backlash” and “US Muslims Find a Voice”, by BBC correspondent Barnie Choudhury on the one-year anniversary of 9/11.


The school is also protected by other powerful political patrons. Sunrise Parent-Teacher Association president Nadia Rasul sits on the Hilliard Parks and Recreation Commission, which sold Sunrise its current facility, a former Columbus Public library sitting in a prime location, at a significantly reduced rate.


Another longtime Sunrise Academy board member, Abukar Arman, who sits on a number of local, county and state commissions and advisory boards and associates with many Columbus-area political power brokers, published a heated editorial, “The Trilogy that Muffles the Moderate Muslims”, in defense of his friend Salah Sultan and attacking yours truly in response to my original “Hometown Jihad” article last year. Arman wrote:


Only a few days ago, one such moderate Muslim, Dr. Salah Soltan, a renown scholar and a member of the North America and the European Fiqh Council, and Sunrise Academy, a Kindergarten to Seventh Grade Islamic school which this author has been sitting on its board for the past six years, were implicated with those all too familiar innuendoes as terror-promoting individual and institution. The accusatory article was written by a gentleman who claims being a “policy researcher”….and boasts to have only spent 3 hours to arrive at that conclusion.

In post 9/11 political atmosphere, unfortunately, 3 hours are more than one needs in order to destroy reputations of Muslim individuals and reputation and endanger the lives of Muslim children, especially the girls who have to walk to bus stops wearing their hijabs.


Arman’s claim about my article relying only on “3 hours” of Internet research is pure fiction, of course; in fact, I spent literally dozens of hours pouring through reams of information prior to publishing anything on Salah Sultan. But once again, Sunrise Academy’s defenders did not hesitate to accuse me of “endanger(ing) the lives of Muslim children” by merely telling the truth about the organization’s extremist agenda and connections to terrorism.


Non-Muslims in Hilliard, Ohio may not respond positively to the nonchalant, dismissive attitude by the staff and supporters of Sunrise Academy about the school’s embrace of some of the most well-known Islamic radicals in America, such as Siraj Wahhaj and Salah Sultan. Few, if any, are probably aware of Wahhaj’s role in raising the funds for the school’s massive sports complex. Many Hilliard property taxpayers might also be shocked to learn that close to $100,000 of local tax money goes to Sunrise Academy annually, monies funneled through the Hilliard City School District. The local media establishment, however, has taken great lengths to ensure that our community has remained in blissful ignorance about what goes on behind the six-foot high fence that surrounds the Sunrise Academy compound.


But as I will be revealing in forthcoming articles in the very near future here at FrontPage, Sunrise Academy is just one link in an extensive network of Islamic radicalism that has flourished in the Columbus area in recent years, with ties that extend into the uppermost corridors of power in Ohio’s capital city. This network of radicalism is just one reason why counterterrorism officials now consider Central Ohio as one of the top five “hottest” areas for Islamic terrorist activity in the US, as the arrest in April of Christopher Paul, who was charged for being part of an active al-Qaeda cell in the area, directly testifies.


When I wrote the following conclusion to “Hometown Jihad” last year – the first article I had published here at FrontPage – I could have never imagined how prescient these words were:


This makes me concerned that next terrorist attack on American soil won’t be in Chicago or Los Angeles, but could very well be a bombing at Otie’s Tavern on Main Street, a sarin attack at Tuttle Crossing Mall, or shootings at my alma mater, Hilliard Davidson High School. Any of those scenarios is not far-fetched. Will Cemetery Road be the scene of hundreds of burned-out cars reminiscent of the uprisings in Paris just a few months ago?


It is thoughts such as these that give rise to my fears that the eyes of the world will look in shock and horror to my hometown of Hilliard, Ohio, or one of the tens of thousands of cities like it across the country, as jihad strikes into the deepest heart of Middle America. When that day of terror comes, it should be one that we should expect. I remember that my neighbor Salah Sultan and scores of his jihad-preaching associates throughout the American heartland are not just teaching Arabic. The seeds they’re sowing will inevitably bear fruit in a hometown jihad somewhere.


Stay tuned to FrontPage Magazine for more on the story of Islamic radicalism in Central Ohio that the media establishment refuses to tell.


Patrick Poole is a regular contributor to Frontpagemag.com and an anti-terrorism consultant to law enforcement and the military.

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