Within weeks of September 11, 2001, an Egyptian sheik serving as Al-Azhar University's representative in America and an imam at the Islamic Cultural Center and Mosque of New York City, Muhammad al-Gamei'a, was interviewed at an unofficial Al-Azhar University Web site, www.lailatalqadr.com. Sheik al-Gamei'a returned to Egypt shortly after his interview was translated. Many of his friends in the interfaith community were shocked at what this "moderate" said.
In the interview, he claimed the Jews were behind the September 11 attacks and offered the following as evidence: "four thousand Jews did not come to work at the World Trade Center," and "Jews control decision-making in the airports and in the ... White House and the Pentagon." Another outrageous statement: "Muslims do not feel safe even going to the hospitals, because some Jewish doctors in one of the hospitals poisoned sick Muslim children, who then died." Sheik al-Gamei'a also predicted the collapse of America.
Almost four years after Sheik al-Gamei'a made headlines, another influential Egyptian-born New York imam gave a series of interviews to the press in his homeland. He also did not expect his words would be translated by MEMRI.
An imam at the Islamic Society of Mid-Manhattan and a lecturer on Islamic studies at Manhattanville College, Ahmad Dewidar, was recently called "the face of the next generation of Muslims in America." He has met with President Bush, Mayor Giuliani, Governor Pataki and U.N. Secretary-General Annan.
Recently, Dr. Dewidar attended the annual Conference of the Supreme Council of Islamic Affairs in Egypt, where he gave a series of interviews. In one that aired on MBC TV on June 9, he discussed the spread of Islam in America. He referred to sermons he had heard in 1995 that stated, "We are going to the White House so that Islam will be victorious, Allah willing, and the White House will become Muslim House." To view the broadcast, visit www.memritv.org.
On June 15, Dr. Dewidar was interviewed by the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood's Web site, www.ikhwanonline.com. When asked about how the attacks of September 11, 2001, impacted the spread of Islam in America, he said that he witnessed hundreds of Americans converting to Islam. Hinting at an American government conspiracy related to the attacks, he said, "Whether or not these events were planned, or pinned on the Muslims, or something else - [it] provided an opportunity for [the American government] to legislate dubious laws that restrict the growth and presence of Islam in the U.S."
Regarding American skepticism toward Islam following September 11, 2001, he said, "The media - most of which is under Zionist control - has helped to spread this perception." Later in the interview he said that "the Jews" control the press. When asked, "What is the extent of the Muslim community's influence on American society?" He answered, "The Zionist community numbers only 3 million, but they control the government, the politics, the economy, and the media in the U.S."
Also while speaking to the Web site of the Muslim Brotherhood, he denounced President Bush's policy in the Middle East, claiming it was dictated by Natan Sharansky: "This Jew has despicable goals, and we see their effects today in America's actions in the region, imposing its opinion and its outlook on democracy, education, and political involvement on our countries."
Dr. Dewidar and Sheik al-Gamei'a's interviews shared some themes, such as blaming Islam's poor image in America on a Zionist-controlled press. They also both said the Zionists control political decision-making and economic institutions. Both were extremely positive on the future of Islam in America and discussed a trend of Americans converting to Islam following September 11, 2001.
While the New York press has yet to pay this story adequate attention, it is being discussed by blogs such as Little Green Footballs. Others, such as Solomonia.com/blog, wrote about Dr. Dewidar's statements: "Before MEMRI - people could give these kinds of interviews abroad and no one would ever be the wiser. While still not broadcast widely, at least now, there's a chance of people wising up." On June 30, EconoPundit wrote: "MEMRI.org's most important contribution has been to make it harder for Middle East leaders to say one thing to their English-speaking audience while saying opposite and often contradictory things to their non-English-speaking constituents and allies. It now seems MEMRI's mandate has extended itself to U.S. Islamic leaders as well."
Mr. Stalinsky is executive director of the Middle East Media Research Institute.