These kinds of stories — he is a sweet, gentle guy, he would never have anything to do with terrorism — would be far more convincing if they weren’t issued every time a Muslim is arrested on terror-related charges in America. From AP, with thanks to Teri, who points out the curious statement at the end of the story: “‘I tell you something about our society: Whoever promotes violence, we don’t invite him,’ said Khalid Lamada, who runs the society’s outreach programs. ‘We deal with the community at large, so we can’t afford that.'” We can’t afford that? Hardly a ringing condemnation of violence.
NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. — To federal authorities, Mazen Mokhtar is a technologically savvy Internet whiz who operated a Web site soliciting funds and recruiting fighters for the Taliban and other Muslim warrior groups.
They searched his North Brunswick home, hauling away several bags of items, but have not charged him with a crime.
Mokhtar is listed in Internet directories as the registrant and administrative and technical contact for the Web site www.minna.com, which authorities said is an exact duplicate of one run by Babar Ahmad, who was arrested last week in London and charged with aiding terrorists.
But Mokhtar’s friends and acquaintances paint a far different picture of a devout, peaceful Muslim who taught classes on Islam and sometimes led Friday prayer services.
Isn’t it possible that he, like so many jihadists around the world, could have been devout and not peaceful? Every day we see statements from jihadists praising Allah for murder and mayhem. But this doesn’t seem to occur to the AP writer.
“It doesn’t seem like he was involved with anything like that,” said Asim Uzmani, a board member of the New Brunswick Islamic Center, where Mokhtar volunteered to lead prayers at the small storefront mosque about twice a month.
Uzmani said he spoke to Mokhtar a few days ago.
“He said he used to run a hosting service four or five years ago that used to resell Web hosting services to people. He said he didn’t know those guys (mentioned in court papers) and he is not involved in anything like that.”…
The affidavit said Ahmad operated a Web site, www.azzam.com, through a Connecticut-based Internet service provider, OLM. Neither Web site could be accessed Tuesday without a password.
The document claims Ahmad ran a group of fund-raising and recruitment Web sites under the name Azzam Publications. Regarding the operator of the www.minna.com site, the affidavit stated, “a search of this person’s residence in New Jersey resulted in contact numbers for Azzam Publications in hardcopy and electronic form.”
“Therefore,” the affidavit continued, “it is evident that Ahmad worked in concert with this individual to maintain the continued operation of the Azzam sites, through the use of mirror sites, when the administrators of Azzam sites shut the Azzam.com site down after 9/11.”
The affidavit said the Azzam sites published, among other information, Osama Bin Laden’s “Declaration of War Against the Americans Occupying the Land of the Two Holy Places,” calling for the violent ouster of U.S. military forces from the Middle East. The sites also provided instructions on raising and delivering money to the Taliban, including advice to use hawala system of transferring money without records.
Those who know Mokhtar said the allegations don’t fit.
Abdul Basit, a prayer leader at the New Brunswick Islamic Center, said Mokhtar “is well-regarded.”
“He never spoke anything bad in front of us,” Basit said. “In the community, he is a good person. We never heard anything bad” from him or about him, Basit added.
Sharif Muhammad, a custodian at the center, has known Mokhtar for three years, and called his sermons moderate and peaceful.
“I never witnessed any radical or irrational behavior from him,” Muhammad said. “I can honestly say I’ve never heard anything radical come from his lips involving terrorism – never.”
Mokhtar also spoke occasionally at conferences hosted by the New York chapter of the Muslim American Society in Brooklyn.
“I tell you something about our society: Whoever promotes violence, we don’t invite him,” said Khalid Lamada, who runs the society’s outreach programs. “We deal with the community at large, so we can’t afford that.”