He called the blind Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman, who is in prison for his role in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, a “respected scholar” and “strong preacher of Islam.” It is not “guilt by association” to bring this up. It raises the question of how his views of Islam and jihad coincide with those of Sheikh Omar.
“Leading Muslim to speak in city,” by Kathryn Marchocki for the New Hampshire Union Leader, with thanks to Chrys:
MANCHESTER — The Islamic Society of Greater Manchester will host a renowned and, to some, controversial American Islamic scholar as keynote speaker at a fundraiser to help finance their continuing efforts to build the first mosque in New Hampshire.
Imam Siraj Wahhaj, the religious leader of Masjid at-Taqwa in Brooklyn, N.Y., and the first Muslim to give the opening prayer before the U.S. House of Representatives in 1991, will be guest speaker at the group’s April 20 dinner at the Radisson Hotel.
As an expert religious witness at the 2001 federal trial of four Muslims convicted of bombing two U.S. embassies in Africa, Wahhaj testified there is nothing in Islam that endorses killing people and was described by the prosecutor as someone whose “jihad is a real struggle to do good” for his efforts to combat drug addiction in Brooklyn’s Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood.
In the same courtroom six years earlier, Wahhaj was a character witness for Sheik Abdel-Rahman, the blind Egyptian cleric convicted in 1995 of conspiring to bomb the World Trade Center in 1993 and other New York-area landmarks. At trial, Wahhaj described Abdel-Rahman, who had visited Wahhaj’s mosque in the early 1990s, as a “respected scholar” and “strong preacher of Islam,” the Wall Street Journal reported in an in-depth article on the imam published in 2003.
Before the landmarks-bombing trial got under way, then-U.S. Attorney for New York Mary Jo White wrote a letter to defense attorneys in the case identifying Wahhaj as among about 170 people as “unindicted persons who may be alleged as co-conspirators,” the Wall Street Journal reported. Wahhaj was never charged; White offered no further comment, the newspaper reported.
“That is kind of a meaningless, but indefensible, slander,” Dartmouth College profession of religion Kevin A. Reinhart said of Wahhaj’s name being included on the list.
“Knowing (Abdel-Rahman) before he is convicted is not a crime. Guilt by association is just an un-American concept,” Reinhart added of Wahhaj’s hosting the visiting cleric at his mosque in the early 1990s.
Sure. But the problem here is that Wahaj didn’t just know Sheikh Omar; he invited him to speak. How much congruence was there between their views?
“I’ve seen no evidence that suggests that (Wahhaj) is either a terrorist or a sympathizer of terrorism. He is, like a lot of Americans, very critical of American policies. But that’s true of evangelical Christians as well as orthodox Muslims,” added Reinhart, who specializes in Islamic studies and currently is teaching a course on “Islam in North America.”
Islamic Society of Greater Manchester members said they hope Wahhaj’s reputation as a leading, respected Islamic scholar and dynamic speaker will make for a successful fundraiser for the mosque they have been striving to build on Karatzas Avenue for several years….
Wahhaj was a former Nation of Islam member whose has emerged as a “significant figure” in Islam following his studies at the University of Saudi Arabia in Mecca, according to Reinhart and trial transcripts.
Wahhaj later returned to Brooklyn, where he established his mosque and “turned it into an attractive religious center and a force for good in the neighborhood,” Reinhart said. But Wahhaj “has been made a controversial figure” by people “who believe he has been too critical of American policies,” he added….
The Wall Street Journal, citing one of Wahhaj’s audiotaped sermons available for purchase online, quoted Wahhaj as saying: “In time, this so-called democracy will crumble, and there will be nothing. And the only thing that will remain will be Islam.”
Wahhaj told the newspaper he regretted “some of his harshest comments about democracy,” saying he hopes “Americans one day will be persuaded — not coerced — to embrace Islamic law.”
Persuaded? Actually, he has said, “If only Muslims were clever politically, they could take over the United States and replace its constitutional government with a caliphate.”