This Wednesday, Mohamed El Filali, outreach director from the Islamic Center of Passaic County (“ICPC”), is scheduled to speak to the Retirees Plus group at Temple Sholom in Riveredge, New Jersey. His lecture is titled “The Muslim Way of Life”, and as in past lectures, he is expected to teach the Reformed Jewish audience that Islam is a religion of peace.
Who is El Filali? Born in Morocco, he came to the U.S. and married a Jewish woman named Roxanne. She converted to Islam after their marriage, and the couple became devout Muslims. For a while they rented an apartment on the top floor of a house owned by Roxanne’s parents. However, tension arose due to their differing views. Roxanne’s parents believe that Israel has the right to exist and that Palestinians are instigating violence in Israel. But El Filali and his wife disagree. On at least one occasion El Filali’s in-laws ordered the couple to leave their house and return to their apartment. Roxanne complains that her parents “have limits to their acceptance [of Muslims].”
El Filali became active with ICPC and joined its Executive Board. He and his wife began handing out pamphlets on Islam and why U.S. foreign policy is wrong. A few years ago, he was the master of ceremonies at a rally where the keynote speaker led a few hundred Palestinians in a chant: “Sharon and Hitler are the same. The only difference is the name.” Still, he complains about post-9/11 US policies, claiming that they are biased against Muslims. “[T]here is liberty and justice for all, except if you’re Muslim,” he told a CBS reporter.
ICPC is located in New Jersey, which is home to approximately 400,000 Muslims. According to El Filali, Passaic county holds the largest Muslim community in the country, second only to Dearborn, Michigan (which is well known for its constituents of Hezbollah supporters). There is not one Islamic terrorist organization without some kind of ties to northern New Jersey, and indeed several of the 9/11 hijackers spent time in Passaic. After 9/11, FBI agents from the Joint Terrorism Taskforce frequented the streets of Passaic, concerned that more terrorists were lurking in the vicinity.
It did not take them long to find what they were seeking. Mohamed El-Mezaim, co-founder of ICPC, admitted that some of the funds raised by ICPC were being sent to Hamas. Hamas is on the official U.S. government list of terrorist organizations and is responsible for killing hundreds of Israelis. Five members of ICPC’s leadership were additionally directors or executives in the American Muslim Union (“AMU”), which likewise has ties to Hamas. Additionally, the AMU refused to endorse the “Free Muslims March Against Terror” which provided an opportunity for Muslim groups to demonstrate that they did not support terrorism after 9/11.
In 1988, El-Mezain became a founding member and Chairman of the Board of the Holy Land Foundation (“HLF”). HLF is a Muslim “charity” which had its assets frozen pursuant to the Patriot Act because it was funneling money to Hamas. According to the FBI, HLF’s purpose was to subsidize the recruitment of Palestinian suicide bombers in Gaza and the West Bank, and financially reward them by supporting their families after they died. El-Mezain, who was ICPC’s Imam, left in 1999 to become HLF’s Endowment Director. An FBI memo indicates that he personally raised money for Hamas throughout the 1990’s and defended Hamas’ activities.
At one Muslim rally in Southern California in the mid 1990’s, where the keynote speaker urged attendees to “exterminate” and “finish off the Israelis,” El-Mezain requested contributions from the audience. He explained to the crowd that 1.8 million dollars had already been raised for Hamas in 1994 alone, but they needed more.
By the time he was indicted on multiple counts of material support for terrorism in 2004, El-Mezain was no longer the Imam at ICPC. Nevertheless, Mohamed Younes, then-Vice President of ICPC, conveniently disregarded El-Mezain’s support of terrorism, and insisted that the only reason El-Mezain was indicted was because he was Muslim.
After El-Mezain’s departure from ICPC, the Center’s radicalism did not end. In February of 2003, it hosted a lecture by Abdelhaleem Ashqar, despite the fact that he had been identified by the FBI as a prominent Hamas figure. The current Imam, Mohammad Qatanani, gave an anti-Israel sermon to an overcrowded audience at the Center. He argued that Jerusalem is Islam’s third holiest site and bewailed the fact that it is controlled by the Israelis, whom he referred to as “transgressors.”
As recently as this past Saturday, ICPC hosted Dr. Robert Dickson Crane, a resident scholar at the International Institute of Islamic Thought (“IIIT”), who lectured on “Divine Guidance for Justice.” IIIT is an Islamist think tank which was one of the offices raided during the Greenquest raid in 1992 -- the largest counterterrorism raid in the history of the United States. The FBI extricated boxes of documents from the offices and conducted a long investigation. IIIT along with numerous other Muslim “charities” and “non-profit” organizations had interlocking directors and were all funded by the same source – the SAAR Foundation (short for Sulaiman Abdul Aziz Rajihi, the Saudi Sheik who set up the foundation). The SAAR Foundation financed shell organizations which propagated Wahabbi ideology and laundered money to terrorist organizations such as Hamas.
Eventually, Sami Al Arian, a professor at the University of South Florida and founder of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (“PIJ”), pled guilty to providing services to a terrorist organization which received money from IIIT. He now sits in jail. Also serving jail time as a result of the Greenquest raid is Abdurahman Alamoudi, former Executive Assistant to the President of the SAAR foundation, and founder of the American Muslim Council (“AMC”). Alamoudi headed numerous offices at the site of the raid. Based on the FBI’s findings, the Bush Administration froze the assets of many of these organizations for funneling money to terrorist groups.
This year, documents recently declassified by the FBI revealed that the IIIT is involved with the Muslim Brotherhood to subvert the United States from within. The Muslim Brotherhood is one of the largest and most influential Islamist organizations in the world. It is international in scope and seeks to establish a global Islamic nation and reinstate a Caliphate. It promotes ideas of Islamist Supremacy, the merging of mosque and State, the obliteration of national boundaries, and government implemented Sharia (Koranic) law. Indeed, one of its stated goals is to replace the U.S. Constitution with Sharia law. Some of its main tactics are infiltration into the US government and the use of front groups to launder money for its causes. At the same time, it intentionally spreads disinformation about radical Islam.
As outreach director of ICPC, El-Filali wants to combat the negative image of the Muslim community. In a brilliant public relations move, ICPC became involved in feeding the homeless and a variety of other community-oriented activities through a local social service agency. El-Filali reaches out to Jewish audiences and focuses on their “common problems” of education, poverty, and health. In his public speeches, he skirts the topic of Middle East politics.
So what is ICPC at its core? Does it really hold the same values as the Jewish congregations to which it preaches, the values of freedom, equality, tolerance for all and respect for human dignity? While feeding the homeless might attract more moderate Muslims to the organization, it is window dressing for the deeper, more problematic “values” held by ICPC. All El Filali’s feel-good talk about peace and tolerance rings hollow against the backdrop of ICPC’s history of terrorism support, which not only causes death and havoc to Israelis, but is at the root of Palestinian suffering as well. I wonder if Temple Sholom will have a speaker on that topic next.
Deborah Weiss, Esq. is a Senior Fellow at the Center for Security Policy and a contributor to FrontpageMag.com.