Right-wing media smeared the Islamic Society of Baltimore (ISB) after President Obama announced that it would be the first U.S. mosque he visits in his presidency. Conservative media accused the mosque, one of the largest Muslim centers in the mid-Atlantic region, of having ties to terrorism based on cherry-picked, decades-old connections and former employees.
Obama To Make First Presidential Visit To U.S. Mosque, “One Of The Mid-Atlantic Region's Largest Muslim Centers”
President Obama Will Make His First Presidential Visit To A U.S. Mosque “To Reaffirm The Importance Of Religious Freedom To Our Way Of Life.” The Washington Post reported on January 30 that President Obama will make his first presidential visit to a U.S. mosque, the Islamic Society of Baltimore (ISB) on February 3. The White House stated that his visit is meant “to celebrate the contributions Muslim Americans make to our nation and reaffirm the importance of religious freedom to our way of life.” According to The Post, ISB “is one of the Mid-Atlantic region's largest Muslim centers”:
President Obama will make the first visit during his presidency to a U.S. mosque, the White House announced Saturday, part of the administration's push to promote religious tolerance at a time when rhetoric linking Islam with terrorism is growing.
On Wednesday, the president will visit the Islamic Society of Baltimore, a sprawling community center in the city's western suburbs that serves thousands of people with a place of worship, a housing complex and schools, according to its website. It is one of the Mid-Atlantic region's largest Muslim centers and describes itself as aspiring “to be the anchor of a growing Muslim community with diverse backgrounds, democratically governed, relating to one another with inclusiveness and tolerance, and interacting with neighbors in an Islamic exemplary manner.”
The president is making the visit “to celebrate the contributions Muslim Americans make to our nation and reaffirm the importance of religious freedom to our way of life,” a White House official wrote in an email Saturday. “The President believes that one of our nation's greatest strengths is our rich diversity and the very idea that Americans of different faiths and backgrounds can thrive together - that we're all part of the same American family. As the President has said, Muslim Americans are our friends, and neighbors; our co-workers, and sports heroes - and our men and women in uniform defending our country.” [The Washington Post, 1/30/16]
Right-Wing Media Smear Mosque As “Covert Operation” That “Definitely” Has Terrorist Ties
Fox Host Hypes Claim That ISB May Have “Ties To Terrorism.” On the January 31 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends Sunday, co-host Anna Kooiman asked frequent Fox guest Zuhdi Jasser about the Islamic Society of Baltimore's “ties to terrorism,” and Jasser claimed that the ISB is “like a covert operation” because its website has “no name on it” and “basically has pictures of individuals but no names.” Jasser continued to link the entire mosque to extremism through the cherry-picked selections of two imams, one of whom left ISB in 2003:
ANNA KOOIMAN (CO-HOST): What do you know about this mosque? Ties to terrorism, how?
ZUHDI JASSER: Well, you know, 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. The Islamic Society of Baltimore, first of all if you go to their website it's like a covert operation. There's no name on it. It basically has pictures of individuals but no names. They had an imam, Mohammed Al-Sheikh, who was there from '83 to '89 and then another 10 years, was directly, came out of the Muslim Brotherhood in Sudan. Has had online imam sermons in which he basically excused Palestinian suicide bombing. He then went in to fill in, he was the guy who took over at Dar Al-Hijrah mosque in Northern Virginia after Awlaki left, and I'll remind you Awlaki is the imam that declared war on the United States, radicalized Nidal Hasan and so many other Americans against our country. So this mosque is very concerning, they are very into gender apartheid. The imam Yaseen Shaikh in 2013 has a YouTube sermon from just two years ago calling homosexuals basically psychological deviants, a disorder, and basically espousing a very extreme opinions about homosexuality, which I would think is at divergence from the president's position on that. [Fox News, Fox & Friends Sunday, 1/31/16]
Herman Cain On Fox: Obama “Makes It Seem As If He And His Administration Want To Go Kissy Kissy With The Muslim Brotherhood.” On the January 31 edition of Fox News' Outnumbered, Herman Cain, who was a guest co-host of the show, claimed that ISB “definitely ha[s] terrorist ties,” alleging that Obama's visit to the mosque “makes it seem as if he and his administration want to go kissy kissy with the Muslim Brotherhood.” Cain admitted that his knowledge of the mosque's alleged connections was limited to hearing “Dr. Zuhdi Jasser nail it this morning”:
HERMAN CAIN: Dr. Zuhdi Jasser nailed it this morning. It's the wrong mosque. If you go and look on the website for this particular mosque, he is convinced -- and I believe him because he studies this. He's one of the peaceful --
HARRIS FAULKNER (CO-HOST): He being the president?
CAIN: No, Zuhdi Jasser.
CAIN: Zuhdi Jasser studies this, and he talks a lot about the peaceful Muslims in this country, and I do believe that there are plenty of them. But he said this is the wrong mosque because there are definite ties between this mosque and the Muslim Brotherhood. And that is what upsets him as a Muslim.
FAULKNER: Is that a secret?
CAIN: It's not widely known. I didn't know it until I heard him say it.
FAULKNER: But it's not a secret.
CAIN: It's the wrong mosque. It's the direct tie with the Muslim Brotherhood.
FAULKNER: That has been an ongoing criticism as the president has tried to move forward on all of this.
FAULKNER: The misstep of ties with the Muslim Brotherhood. First of all, do you think that's fair? What's the criticism there?
CAIN: Well, he makes it seem as if he and his administration want to go kissy kissy with the Muslim Brotherhood. That is absolutely wrong. They definitely have terrorist ties. [Fox News, Outnumbered, 1/31/16]
Daily Caller: Mosque Obama Chose For Visit “Has Deep Extremist Ties.” The Daily Caller's Chuck Ross called ISB “a curious choice for Obama's first domestic [mosque] visit” in a January 30 article. Ross highlighted decades-old connections to the Muslim Brotherhood to smear the mosque:
ISB is a curious choice for Obama's first domestic visit.
The mosque is a member of a network of mosques controlled by the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), a Muslim civil rights group named as an unindicted co-conspirator in the 2008 Holy Land Foundation terror case. Several executives with that organization were convicted of sending money to aid the terrorist group Hamas.
An imam who served at ISB for a total of 15 years has also been a leading member of the Muslim Brotherhood network and has worked for an Islamic relief group that was designated as a terrorist organization by the Treasury Department in 2004.
Mohammad Adam el-Sheikh, who served two stints as ISB's imam, from 1983 to 1989 and from 1994 to 2003, was a member of the Muslim Brotherhood in Sudan in the 1970s. He also co-founded the Muslim American Society, a Falls Church, Va.-based group that is controlled by the Muslim Brotherhood. [Daily Caller, 1/30/16]
Breitbart News: “Critics Of Obama's Decision May Question His Choice Of The Islamic Society Of Baltimore.” Breitbart News' Jordan Schachtel raised unfair alarms about Obama's choice to visit ISB based on stale associations with the Muslim Brotherhood and an imam who hasn't worked at the mosque for over a decade:
But critics of Obama's decision may question his choice of the Islamic Society of Baltimore, where Mohamad Adam el-Sheikh, a native of Sudan and former member of the Muslim Brotherhood, led the institution for eighteen years as its Imam.
Before becoming Imam there, el-Sheikh helped found the Muslim American Society, an outfit created by Muslim Brotherhood members.
In 2004, he told the Washington Post, commenting on Palestinian suicide bombers: “If certain Muslims are to be cornered where they cannot defend themselves, except through these kinds of means, and their local religious leaders issued fatwas to permit that, then it becomes acceptable as an exceptional rule, but should not be taken as a principle.” [Breitbart News, 1/30/16]
Washington Times: ISB “Has Historical Ties To Radical Islamic Groups.” Washington Times' Dave Boyer claimed that ISB “has historical ties to radical Islamic groups” based on dubious ties to Hamas and an imam who last worked there in 2003:
The Baltimore mosque that President Obama will visit this week to show support for American Muslims has historical ties to radical Islamic groups.
The Islamic Society of Baltimore had an imam who was a leading figure in the extremist Muslim Brotherhood. The organization also is connected to the Islamic Society of North America, a Muslim civil rights group named as an unindicted co-conspirator in a 2008 criminal prosecution in which several individuals were convicted of funneling money to the terrorist group Hamas.
Some past leaders of the mosque are well known to counterterrorism agencies. Mohammad Adam el-Sheikh, an imam who served at the Baltimore mosque for 15 years, most recently in 2003, was a member of the Muslim Brotherhood in Sudan in the 1970s. He also has worked for an Islamic relief group that the Treasury Department designated as a terrorist organization in 2004. [Washington Times, 1/30/16]