A video circulating around the internet is creating waves, purportedly capturing footage of a "rally organized by anti-Muslim bigots" protesting in a park adjacent to a fundraising event held by an American Muslim charity group.
The rally actually brought together several hundred people from across southern California outside the Yorba Linda Community Center to protest a fundraising event hosted by the Queens, N.Y.-based Islamic Circle of North America Relief USA. According to the OC Register, demonstrators waved U.S. flags and carried signs saying, "God Bless America" and "No Sharia Law."
But as the fundraiser began, a small group of protesters went to demonstrate outside the event and took the protest to a disturbing new level:
Many in the protest crowd said they were concerned about some of ICNA's past associations, including ties to terrorism previously proved by the FBI and reported anti-Semitism. Yehudit Barsky, a noted expert on terrorism, has previously described ICNA as being "composed of members of Jamaat e-Islami, a Pakistani Islamic radical organization similar to the Muslim Brotherhood that helped to establish the Taliban." In 1997, ICNA held a conference at Maulana Shafayet Mohamed's Florida-based fundamentalist madrassa (religious school), which actually served as a recruitment center for Taliban fighters.
"The ICNA's hatred of the Jews is so fierce," notes terrorism analyst Steve Emerson, "that it taunted them with a repetition of what Hitler did to them." In his book American Jihad, Emerson writes: "The ICNA openly supports militant Islamic fundamentalist organizations, praises terror attacks, issues incendiary attacks on western values and policies, and supports the imposition of Sharia [Islamic law]."
In 1991, the Muslim Brotherhood praised ICNA as an ally that could help teach American Muslims "that their work in America is a kind of grand jihad in eliminating and destroying the Western civilization from within and 'sabotaging' its miserable house by their hands... so that... God's religion [Islam] is made victorious over all other religions." (Arabic translation via Discover the Networks)
In addition to concerns about the ICNA organization itself, protesters and speakers voiced concerns over past anti-American statements made by the fundraising event's two keynote speakers: Imam Siraj Wahhaj and Amir Abdel Malik Ali.
Wahhaj -- aka Jeffrey Kearse -- was raised as a Baptist but has admitted his interest in Islam grew following the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. as he searched for a religion with "more militancy." In turn, he became involved with Louis Farrakhan's National of Islam.
In 1992, Wahhaj expressed to an audience of Muslims in New Jersey his desire to see America's constitutional government replaced by an Islamic caliphate. “If we were united and strong,” Wahhaj said, “we'd elect our own emir [leader] and give allegiance to him.... [T]ake my word, if 6-8 million Muslims unite in America, the country will come to us.”
A U.S. attorney named him and 169 others as co-conspirators in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, though he was never charged and has denied involvement. Wahhaj also served as a character witness on behalf of terrorist cleric Sheik Omar Abel-Rahman -- the "Blind Sheikh" -- and three other terrorists convicted in the attack. Today, Wahhaj serves as an imam at a mosque in Brooklyn and as an advisory board member for CAIR.
Ali is a Bay Area Islamic activist and member of the Nation of Islam who frequently speaks at UC Irvine's "Israeli Apartheid Week." Ali in an unapologetic supporter of both Hamas and Hezbollah and has endorsed suicide bombings as legitimate "resistance" tactics. “Palestinian mothers are supporting their children who are suicide bombers, saying, ‘Go honey, go!’ That ain’t suicide; that’s martyrdom," Ali has said.
He is also virulently anti-Semitic and blamed Israel for the terrorists attacks of September 11, 2001. “[T]he Israelis were in control of 9-11,” which “was staged to give an excuse to wage war against Muslims around the world.” According to Ali (and Helen Thomas), Israelis ought to return “to Germany, to Poland, to Russia. The Germans should hook y’all up. You [Israelis] should go back to Germany."
Ali is also part of the Al-Masjid movement which is dedicated to creating an Islamic revolution to impose Islamic law in the United States. “From an Islamic movement we graduate to an Islamic revolution,” he says, “then to an Islamic state. . . . We must implement Islam as a totality [in which] Allah controls every place -- the home, the classroom, the science lab, the halls of Congress.”
According to the OC Register, the protest event "had the atmosphere of a July 4 picnic. Many brought lawn chairs and blankets, sang patriotic songs and tied red, white and blue bandanas on their dogs." But as the ICNA fundraiser began, "a splinter group of about 100 stood about 50 yards from the community center entrance and booed, yelled 'go home' and chanted 'no Sharia law' as attendees entered the building. Among their signs were ones that said 'ICNA supports Hamas and Hezbollah.'"
Also voicing their opposition to ICNA during the afternoon rally were California Republican Congressmen Ed Royce and Gary Miller.
A local councilwoman stood up to speak to the crowd and disturbingly half-joked that her son, a U.S. Marine, would be "willing to help these terrorists to an early meeting in paradise."
"We strongly urge all elected officials in attendance to distance themselves from such an exhibition of hate and bigotry," CAIR announced Thursday. "We further ask residents and elected officials of Yorba Linda, Orange County and other parts of our nation to speak out against such hateful rhetoric and the continued Islamophobia that plagues our nation."
In response, Rep. Royce fired back with a statement:
"What's wrong with the Holocaust survivor we heard speak about not wanting to live under sharia law? I think he had a point when he argued for the lessons of the Enlightenment and his preference for the U.S. Constitution. He knows that bad ideas can have bad consequences.
"We spoke at the park adjacent to the community center. It is regrettable that some protesters at the community center yelled insults at Imam Wahhaj's supporters. Nothing though should deflect from the radicalism of Wahhaj and Malik-Ali.
"As to the Council on American-Islamic Relations, my experience is that it isn't interested in bringing together Americans. If they were, they would be calling attention to Imam Wahhaj and Amir Abdel Malik Ali's radicalism, not advancing their cause."
Syed Wagas, an ICNA spokesman, said all the protesters "should know the facts. We have no links to any overseas organization. We absolutely denounce violence and terrorism."
"This is not about hate. We are not hate mongers,"one of the protesters said, noting that the event had been billed as more of a pro-America rally.
One organizer, Steven Amundson said, "A week and a half ago I would have been happy to have six people show up. It's not right for terrorism to come to Yorba Linda. I always stress the need to be peaceful and positive."
While some protesters' comments were inappropriate -- i.e., the small group who stuck around to yell "Why don't you go beat up your wife?" and "Go have sex with a 9-year-old!" -- CAIR's denunciation of the hundreds of other protesters and elected officials in attendance who voiced legitimate concerns about the questionable organization as "anti-Muslim bigots" seems unfair and only serves to further divide people.