Rod Dreher

Today’s NYT features a story about Staten Island residents who are hot about a plan to turn an abandoned convent there into a mosque. You may remember that I oppose plans to build a grand new mosque near Ground Zero, because I find it wildly inappropriate in that geographical and historical context. But on first read, I favor the mosque in Staten Island. How can one object to a Muslim place of worship there?
But here’s the fine print:

But organizations like the Muslim American Society, a Washington-based nonprofit group that helps plant new mosques in communities throughout the country, have adopted a strategy of engagement that they say they hope will eventually build mutual understanding.
“We are newcomers, and newcomers in America have always had to prove their loyalty,” said Mahdi Bray, the society’s executive director. “It’s an old story. You have to have thick skin.”
That admonition was tested on Wednesday, as irate residents took turns at the microphone, demanding answers from the three Muslim men who had accepted the get-acquainted invitation of the civic association.
“I was on the phone this morning with the F.B.I., and all I want to know from you is why MAS is on the terrorist watch list,” said Joan Moriello, using the acronym for the Muslim American Society. Her question produced a loud, angry noise from the audience.
Mr. Hammous, a physical therapist who lives on Staten Island, exchanged a puzzled look with two other Muslim men who had joined him on the podium, both officers of the society’s Brooklyn branch, which operates a mosque in Bensonhurst and faces opposition to opening another in Sheepshead Bay.
“Your information is incorrect, madam,” he replied. “We are not on any watch list.” The other men, Mohamed Sadeia and Abdel Hafid Djamil, shook their heads in agreement.
The State Department maintains a terrorist watch list for foreign organizations, and the Justice Department has identified domestic groups it considers unindicted co-conspirators in various terror-related prosecutions. The American Muslim Society is on neither of those lists.

It’s true, the “American Muslim Society” is not on a list of unindicted co-conspirators. Nor is the Muslim American Society. But that is a distinction without much of a difference. MAS is an American expression of the Muslim Brotherhood, the large international Islamist organization (whose Palestinian expression is, yes, Hamas). MAS was named an unindicted co-conspirator in the Holy Land Foundation terror funding trial because of its Muslim Brotherhood backing. One of the exhibits in the HLF trial — one whose authenticity was not denied by the defense — was a memo outlining the Brotherhood’s plans to use front groups to embed themselves in US civil society, with the long term goal of jihad. An excerpt from that document:

The process of settlement [of Islam in the United States] is a “Civilization-Jihadist” process with all the word means. The Ikhwan must understand that all their work in America is a kind of grand Jihad in eliminating and destroying the Western civilization from within and “sabotaging” their miserable house by their hands and the hands of the believers so that it is eliminated and God’s religion is made victorious over all religions. Without this level of understanding, we are not up to this challenge and have not prepared ourselves for Jihad yet. It is a Muslim’s destiny to perform Jihad and work wherever he is and wherever he lands until the final hour comes, and there is no escape from that destiny except for those who choose to slack.

See the text of that memo and others from the trial here. Read more about the Muslim Brotherhood-MAS connection, and why it matters, here. Read the work of anti-Islamist Muslim Zuhdi Jasser to learn more. And please read the results of Daveed Gartenstein-Ross’s investigation into MAS Muslim Brotherhood connections.
I don’t see that the people of Staten Island have legitimate grounds to object to a mosque among them. Muslims have a right to worship freely. But I think they absolutely have grounds to be concerned that this mosque, if it’s established with backing and guidance from MAS, which is a proponent of politicized, radicalized Islam. We have to be capable of making these distinctions, and seeing through diplomatic weasel words designed to prevent people from doing exactly that.
Yes to a mosque — but no to a MAS mosque.

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