An instructive story from the LA Times, with thanks to all who sent this in:
SACRAMENTO “” As Shabbir Ahmed sits in the county jail on immigration charges connected to an FBI terrorism investigation, federal officials are at a loss to explain how a man who publicly demonstrated his rage against the United States and advocated violence against the U.S.-backed regime in Pakistan could slip so easily through the State Department visa system.
In October 2001, after U.S. military aircraft began bombing Al Qaeda bases and Taliban strongholds in Afghanistan, Ahmed “” then a 35-year-old imam of a small mosque in Islamabad “” was one of the main speakers at an anti-U.S. demonstration at a market near the U.S. Embassy in the Pakistani capital.
While demonstrators burned American flags and effigies of President Bush, Pakistan Press International news service reported that the slight, bearded Muslim cleric exhorted the crowd to join a jihad, or holy war, against the United States.
A month later at another rally, the Boston Globe quoted Ahmed as calling for a rebellion against Pakistan’s president, U.S. ally Gen. Pervez Musharraf: “Whoever is against Islam,” said Ahmed, “we will destroy him. If this is rebellion, we are not afraid of rebellion. Blood is going to be spilled in Pakistan.”
These events were widely reported by Pakistani and foreign media. But a short time later, probably in January 2002, Ahmed walked into the consular section of the heavily fortified U.S. Embassy compound, where he was granted an uncontested three-year “religious worker” visa to the United States.
He arrived in San Francisco on Jan. 23, 2002, and immediately assumed a position as imam of a Lodi, Calif., mosque that is the center of religious life for that San Joaquin Valley city’s large Pakistani American immigrant community. Since then he has made at least two trips back to his native Pakistan.
At an immigration hearing June 24 in San Francisco, Ahmed admitted making the anti-American speeches but said he had since completely changed his opinion about the United States, which he said he now loves and respects.
“He now regrets that he made those statements,” said his attorney, Saad Ahmad.
But federal prosecutors, who allege links between Ahmed and Pakistan’s banned Harkat-ul-Moujahedeen political party, are not convinced. They have asked Immigration Judge Anthony Murry to deny bail to Ahmed pending a deportation hearing later this year.
After reading reports about the Islamabad speeches, the leadership of the Lodi mosque where Ahmed worked fired him at a special meeting June 26. “We don’t want that kind of person who has spoken against the United States,” mosque President Mohammed Shoaib told Associated Press.
The man who sponsored Ahmed for the Lodi job “” former Imam Mohammad Adil Khan “” is also jailed without bond on immigration charges, as is Khan’s 22-year-old son, Mohammad Hassan Adil.
All three men came into the country on R-1 or R-2 religious worker visas. R-2 visas are for spouses and children of R-1 visa holders.
How Ahmed’s public pronouncements against the United States went unnoticed remains an unanswered question.