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AIFD Commentary: The New Mexico Militant Jihadi Training Compound and Child Abuse is the tip of the National Islamist Iceberg

August 9, 2018
By: M. Zuhdi Jasser, President & Founder
American Islamic Forum for Democracy

Make no mistake.

The militant Jihadi training camp and its horrific child abuse discovered in the small, quiet town of Amalia, New Mexico is not an isolated incident but rather is the tip of the proverbial iceberg of Islamist radicalization in America.

It is unconscionable that major media ignore the bigger story here on Imam Siraj Wahhaj, Sr. and his connections to so-called “mainstream” American Islamist organizations.

AIFD has been closely following the recent reporting regarding the five adults arrested for child abuse in New Mexico after they were found with 11 children held captive in third-world conditions. Every day more information is being released about the situation including the fact that this separatist compound was a terrorist training facility for Islamist radicalization that not only abused these children through starvation and torture, but apparently had plans for terror operations that included attacks on American schools by these radicalized children. This entire situation is straight from the ISIS playbook.

According to a number of sources, including the New York Post, five radical Islamists, three of which were female, were arrested including Siraj Wahhaj, 40; Lucas Morton, 40; Jany Leveille, 35; Hujrah Wahhaj, 38; and Subhanah Wahhaj, 35, including 11 children ages 1 to 15 that were found abused in the facility. The ringleader of the operation was Siraj Wahhaj, son of Imam Siraj Wahhaj, Sr. who was accompanied by four of his relatives.

We bring this story to your attention from our perspective as a reformist American Muslim Organization, the American Islamic Forum for Democracy, not only because of the horrific treatment of these children but because of the deeper connections their captors have to the organizations that are thrust upon American Muslims as so-called “mainstream Muslim organizations” in the United States like ISNA, CAIR (Council on American-Islamic Relations), MAS (Muslim American Society), and ICNA (Islamic Circle of North America) to name a few. One of America’s most prominent Imams, Siraj Wahhaj, Sr. is a leading fundraiser, speaker, and Ideological leader among a host of Muslim Brotherhood legacy groups in the United States. Currently, there are no known, direct connections or implications that, Imam Siraj Wahhaj based in Brooklyn, New York, had anything to do with the training camp or the horrific conditions in Amalia, New Mexico, other than that the camp was run by his son. But most importantly here, is that this compound cannot be relegated to the status of “just another whacky cell” in order to continue to protect the reputation of leading American Islamist organizations and their Establishment heads from scrutiny. Honest Americans and Muslims cannot ignore the connection with Imam Wahhaj’s long-standing separationist Islamist ideology and his role in radicalizing Muslims in all of the organizations he has influenced across the country for decades.

Our founder, M. Zuhdi Jasser, had written about Siraj Wahhaj in his 2012 Simon and Schuster book “A Battle for the Soul of Islam“, and on pages 84-87 described his first interaction with America’s largest Muslim organization, the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA)[1]. In those pages, Dr. Jasser detailed an experience he had as a Naval officer on leave while attending ISNA’s annual convention in which Imam Siraj Wahhaj keynoted the opening of the conference. Wahhaj expressed his desire to replace the U.S. Constitution with the Qur’an and proceeded to direct that it is the duty of Muslims to bring the Qur’an and its teachings and legal system to the United States in lieu of its current constitution. He stated: “Can you imagine someone wondering if a document made by humans would be superior to a document made by God,” as he held up the Qur’an which he said should be the Constitution of this country. Dr. Jasser then went to the microphone and publicly voiced his horror with Siraj Wahhaj Sr.’s separationism and the acquiescence of the audience and the leadership of ISNA to his seditious point of view and commentary.

Siraj Wahhaj, Sr. has since remained, and in fact grown to be, a thought leader in position, ideologically, and for fundraising among various American Islamist organizations. Apparently, it has never bothered them that he was also named an unindicted co-conspirator in the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center, as he testified as a character witness for the convicted bomber, the blind Sheikh Omar Abdel-Rahman. Yet, as recently as in the past few months, Siraj Wahhaj, Sr. was openly described at an ISNA meeting proudly by Linda Sarsour, now a leading national advocate for the Women’s March in addition to a host of other Islamist causes, as her mentor she said “favorite person in this room. Imam Siraj Wahhaj who has been a mentor, motivator, and encourager of mine”. Siraj Wahhaj, Sr. has served in various capacities including being on the board of advisers and participating in the speaking circuit of the CAIR, ISNA, ICNA; and MAS to name a few.

It is the responsibility of every media organization and thought leader in America to expose Imam Siraj Wahhaj Sr.’s connection to what’s happening in New Mexico. While he may not have had anything to do directly with the violence or the compound, there should be little doubt that his longtime separationist Islamist ideology proven by concerned Muslims like us at AIFD at every step along the way (yet ignored by most media) very likely played a significant role in the radicalization of his son Siraj Wahhaj Jr.

NOW is the time for Americans to realize that separationist Islamism, like that of the Wahhaj family, is a gateway drug in all of its forms– violent and non-violent— to the radicalization of our youth. It is incumbent upon American media and thought leaders to cover this story and the connection of the abductor(s) and torturer(s) to his father. While Imam Siraj Wahhaj Sr. did voice his desire to have his abducted grandchildren returned safely, earlier this year on Facebook, that does not absolve him of the decades of radicalizing many, as was seen first hand by Dr. Jasser, witnessed in 1995, and that the United States has witnessed repeatedly over and over and over in his positions and ideas about America.
The discovery in New Mexico is just one. How many more camps are actively radicalizing individuals who will carry out terrorist attacks on our soil while we do nothing? Let us rally together to remove the blanket of political correctness that shields these radical leaders who continue to prosper in our denial and use our unprecedented freedoms against us.

1. M. Zuhdi Jasser, A Battle for the Soul of Islam” (Schuster: New York, 2012), 84-87

List of “Most Influential Muslims” Illustrates the Problem – and Presents Opportunities

The 2012 edition of the “500 Most Influential Muslims,” as determined by Jordan’s “Royal  Islamic Strategic Studies Centre” is especially interesting this year: it is dominated by Americans.

Instinctively, one might think that Muslims promoting the ideals of individual liberty, freedom of conscience, and universal human rights might therefore dominate the list. Indeed, having such a significant amount of our own citizens on such a list would be a tremendous opportunity to showcase how the United States allows Muslims to lead in every arena, while embracing a pluralistic interpretation of our faith.

Sadly, it seems that this opportunity has been missed. The United States is represented instead by individuals like Nihad Awad of the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR);  Imam Siraj Wahhaj (vice-president of the Islamic Society of North America [ISNA], former national board member of CAIR, defender of The “Blind Sheikh”, etc); Imam Mohamed Magid (current president of ISNA);  Sheikh Hamza Yusuf (founder of Zaytuna College), etc. These are, to say the least, not the best representatives of Islam in America.

On a broader scale, the picture of those considered the “most influential” Muslims is even more grim. Holding the top spot of most influential Muslim in the world is King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, who, while certainly not admired by the majority of Muslims we know, absolutely heads the global Islamist enterprise with his kingdom’s petro dollars. Others in leading positions on the list include Tayyip Erdogan, the prime minister of increasingly Islamist Turkey; Dr. Mohammed Badie, the “supreme guide” of the Muslim Brotherhood; Ayatollah Khameini, Yusuf Qaradawi, and Muhammad Morsi (the new president of Egypt).

The creators of the list disclose at the start that these are not necessarily individuals they endorse – but that they are individuals they’ve determined to hold the greatest influence worldwide. While we wonder about the likelihood of some people having influence over those not on the list (for example, another American – Sheila Musaji  – makes the cut, but not Fatima Mernissi, legendary and widely loved Moroccan feminist? Further, we know from the Abu Dhabi Gallup Center’s polling that American Muslims simply don’t feel represented by groups like CAIR and ISNA);  we know that regrettably, those Muslims who have the most political and financial influence worldwide are Islamists.  We also must note that the list itself was the brainchild of Prince Gazi bin Muhammad of Jordan; it is produced by a Jordanian think-tank bearing the name “Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Centre”; and Harvard’s John Esposito has served as a chief editor of the publication in the past – and so while its creators claim to be presenting only the objectively influential voices from within the Muslim community, such a claim is dubious at best. In fact, we find it both puzzling and troubling that Omar Sacirbey, whose write-up on the publication appeared in the Washington Post, called this a “respected think-tank.”

Even if the list itself were listing individuals based on reasonable and objective measures of influence, the devil is, as they say, in the details. The only individual listed as influential in Syrian politics is Bashar al-Assad, the mass murderer responsible for the slaughter of roughly 40,000 Syrians, and the torture, mutilation, rape of countless others. The paragraph about Assad is eerily neutral:

“Al-Assad is an Alawite Shi’a and president of the Syrian Arab Republic. Because of its strategic position in the Middle East, Syria is regarded as a major player in any peace agreement in the Middle East. The violent crackdowns on protests in 2011 have lead to what is now a civil war. Claims of atrocities and misinformation abound on both sides.”

Describing “claims of atrocities” in a way that suggests that there is any comparison in scale or scope of violence between the murderous and bloodthirsty regime of “Bashar the Butcher” and the many Syrians who seek to oust him is despicable – and reflects the overall quality and tenor of this report on “Muslim influence.”

We do recognize that the list isn’t entirely problematic. Listed also are individuals like Waris Dirie, a Somali model, author, actress, filmmaker and courageous fighter against female genital mutilation. A survivor of both FGM and forced marriage, Ms Dirie went on to found the Desert Flower Foundation, which works to end FGM with no exceptions for culture or religion. Naser Khader, former member of the Danish parliament, critic of Islamism and defender of free speech also made the list. So did Dr. Hawa Abdi, Somalia’s first female gynecologist and founder of the Dr. Hawa Abdi Foundation, whose work means over 90,000 Somali refugees have a place to live. Her foundation also works on education, agriculture and healthcare issues.

Whether the list is biased toward Islamists or not, it reveals what we at AIFD already know: liberty-minded Muslims have a long road ahead of us if we wish to overtake Islamists when it comes to having more influence than they do in the public sphere. While many of us are well respected in our personal and professional circles, and often have many Muslim friends and colleagues who think the way we do and support us in our work, the fact is that most majority-Muslim organizations (and countries!) are run by theocrats who see pluralism, liberty, and freedom of conscience as threats to be defeated rather than as the life forces of any healthy society.