The arrest this week of five men of Pakistani origins in Lodi, California, on what are likely to be terrorism-related charges (terrorism was initially a formal part of the picture but was then retracted) has prompted extensive media coverage. The coverage has uncovered some mysteries, which I note here in the hopes of finding answers to.
Hamid Hayat, 22, arrested on his return from what he admits was a jihadist camp in Pakistan, is an American citizen born in Stockton, California who attended school (though only up to the sixth grade) in the United States. That being the case, why does the Los Angeles Times write that, “Apparently unable to follow the proceedings in English, Hayat listened with the help of an Urdu translator”? Perhaps it’s because Lodi contains an Urdu-speaking ghetto; an earlier article quotes one Pakistani immigrant, Raja Khan, estimating that around 80 percent of Lodi’s Pakistanis are not fluent speakers of English. (In the absence of the two imams yesterday, the mosque service was held in Urdu.)
June 14, 2005 update: Johnny Griffin III, the lawyer for Hamid’s father, says the Hayats didn’t make some statements attributed to them in the complaint. “For one thing, there was no interpreter present, and Hamid speaks and understands very little English.”
When he was arrested, Hamid Hayat, the junior-high dropout, was packing cherries. His father, Umer, sells ice cream from a truck. But his maternal grandfather, Qari Saeed ur Rehman, founded the Jamia Islamia Madrassa in 1962 (and still runs it), is a leader in the Jamiat Ulema Islam Party, and served as minister of religious affairs in the late 1980s. The family is Pakistani religious royalty — so, what are the father and son doing in California as unskilled laborers?
Hamid Hayat’s attorney, Wazhma Mojaddidi, explaining why his family traveled so often to Pakistan, said that it went “on one occasion to seek medical treatment for the mother.” It traveled to Pakistan for medical reasons? Urdu-speaking doctors are not hard to find in northern California and they dispose of far superior facilities, so what’s up?
On April 19, 2003, on the way to Pakistan, the same day Hamid and Umer Hayat were stopped at Dulles International Airport outside of Washington, D.C. Customs and Border Protection spokeswoman Christiana Halsey revealed that they were found with $28,093 in cash. What is an ice-cream vendor doing with such an amount of money and why is he breaking U.S. customs regulations by taking out so much cash without declaring it?
And, speaking of money and travel, here is something curious about the Farooqia Islamic Center: the 2003 tax return of this apparently Islamist institution (it hosted the likes of Siraj Wahaj and links to the Islamic Society of North America and the Saudi Ministry of Religious Affairs) shows operating expenses of $57,544 in 2003, of which over one third, or $20,625, was spent on travel. Wonder why.