In his first official visit to a US mosque on Wednesday, President Barack Obama is set to appear at an institution whose leaders have a record of support for radical Islamic causes, reports The Investigative Project on Terrorism. The Islamic Society of Baltimore (ISB), Obama’s mosque of choice, has a history of imams and scholars who have endorsed jihad, suicide bombings, and terror financing.
Among the causes which past leaders have championed publically are the Chechen jihad and Palestinian terror attacks, including suicide bombings. ISB’s former imam was active in a charity which was later revealed to be involved in financing terror organizations such as Hamas, the Taliban, and Osama bin Laden’s radical Islamic network.
The Obama administration’s selection of ISB as the site of the president’s visit despite its radical ties should come as a surprise to few. Obama has been notoriously sympathetic to Muslim and Islamic causes, courting Muslim Brotherhood officials in Egypt during 2012’s Arab Spring while ignoring secular democracy advocacy groups. Indeed, many Coptic Christians and secular activists viewed Obama’s role as helping the Muslim Brotherhood ascend to power.
The brief tenure of openly pro-Hamas Mohammed Morsi as Egyptian president was endorsed by the Obama administration. Morsi has publically called for jihad against Israel, and the chairman of his political party called Egypt “a strategic treasury for our brothers in Palestine” against the “Zionist enemy.”
Obama’s administration praised Morsi’s rise to power, calling him a peacemaker even as widespread protests against Morsi led to riots and Morsi passed laws ensuring himself the unchecked power to run the country without a constitution.
More recently, Obama invited representatives of Islamic groups to the White House in December in order to discuss religious discrimination in a move that was criticized even within the Muslim community. Attendees at the gathering were associated with organizations, including the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), which has spoken out against counter-terror investigations and even run workshops advising potential terrorists on how to avoid FBI “entrapment.”
ISB officials have worked closely with CAIR in the past, joining together to criticize 2014’s Operation Protective Edge in Gaza. ISB and CAIR condemned Israeli military actions while neglecting to mention the fact that Hamas militants in Gaza purposely fired from areas densely populated with civilians in order to draw retaliatory Israeli fire which would kill non-combatants.
Abid Husain, ISB’s general secretary, accused Israel of “indiscriminate assault” and “unrestrained aerial bombardments of civilian populations” during the operation.
The moderate Muslim community in America has condemned Obama’s choice of mosque. In a Monday appearance on Fox News, American-Islamic Forum for Democracy president Dr. Zuhdi Jasser said, “As an American Muslim I’m just insulted. It’s disgraceful that this is one of the mosques – or the mosque – that he’s picked to be the first visit.”
Jasser described the actions of Muhammed al-Sheikh, a past ISB imam, who he said came “directly” from the Muslim Brotherhood in Sudan and has held online sermons excusing Palestinian suicide bombers.
“This is just a political stunt,” Jasser added. “He’s using our Muslim community as a backdrop, partisan politics, to basically check the box that he’s with the Muslim community” against anti-Muslim bigotry. However, Jasser points out, “The countries that he cozies up to – be it Iran or Saudia Arabia – mosques in America that are in bed with Iran and Saudi Arabia . . . are actually against diversity in our faith, so he insults our community by cozying up to radicals who have extreme views incompatible with America.”