Last February I discussed an exceptional story by Amanda Garrett in the Cleveland Plain Dealer in which ties between Cleveland-area imam Fawaz Damra and Islamic terrorist organizations were revealed:
- It would appear that Damra did not have a change of heart after his hateful speech of 1991; it would appear that he, AT MINIMUM, still sympathized with the murder of Israeli civilians, and possibly contributed financial support for The Movement and Hamas, as recently as 2001. This is not going away, cannot be explained away, and this poison sits at this very moment at the center of the Cleveland Islamic community.
….President Bush was right – not simplistic, not paranoid – when he said you are either with us or against us in the War on Terror, which includes Palestinian terrorist’s ongoing campaign against Israeli civilians. Cleveland’s, and America’s, Islams must decide where they stand in the war – no more coy riding the fence – and declare their position unambiguously. This supporter of terror, of murder, Damra, is a disgrace – his insidious influence must end.
Almost a year later, Damra has been arrested on federal charges, as relayed in another fine story by Garrett, along with John Caniglia:
- Imam Fawaz Damra helped lay the groundwork for an organization that ultimately merged into al-Qaida in the late 1980s.
He was an unindicted co-conspirator of the terrorists who bombed the World Trade Center in 1993. And he passionately raised money for the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, which killed dozens of Jews in Israel during the 1990s.
Yet Damra, spiritual leader to thousands of Muslims in Northeast Ohio, seemed to fly comfortably beneath the radar of U.S. terror investigators – until Tuesday.
FBI agents swooped in on the Palestinian cleric at his Strongsville home, arresting him on a relatively minor – and rare – charge for lying on his immigration forms a decade ago to conceal his ties to terror groups.
….In the mid-1980s, he co- founded the Alkifah Refugee Center in Brooklyn, N.Y., part of a network that recruited and trained Muslims to fight against the Soviets in Afghanistan, a venture that dovetailed with U.S. government efforts in the region.
When the Soviets withdrew, however, there was an international fight over what to do with the leftover money and power.
Like many Alkifah centers around the world, the Brooklyn chapter was drawn into the al-Qaida network created by Osama bin Laden. The mosque itself fell under the sway of Omar Abdul Rahman, known as the “blind sheik,” who was later blamed for the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center.
….The 1991 video shows Damra at a Muslim gathering in Cleveland, disparaging Jews in Arabic as “pigs and monkeys” and raising money for the killing of Jews by the Palestinian Islamic Jihad.
….In 2003, more questions surfaced when former University of South Florida Professor Sami Al- Arian was charged with racketeering, accused of heading the American branch of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad.
A 121-page federal indictment claimed that money for deadly bombings in Israel might have come, in part, from a secret fund established in Cleveland.
Damra is not named in the indictment, but terror experts say that Damra is unindicted co-conspirator No. 1. That co-conspirator offered to hold a fund-raiser for Al-Arian’s group as recently as 2001.
….Federal investigators have shut down the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development in Texas, saying it was funneling money to the Palestinian terror group Hamas. According to the FBI, Cleveland Muslims hosted at least two fund-raisers for the charity in 2001. The director of Holy Land has said Damra has helped with fund raising.
Federal investigators are also probing more than 100 Virginia charities and businesses collectively known as the Safa group. Court records show that Safa gave money to both Holy Land Foundation and Sami Al-Arian.
It appears some members of the Cleveland Islamic community have finally come to their senses regarding Damra:
- as federal authorities describe him as a peer of Palestinian extremists, Damra’s support is fading in the larger Muslim community.
Arab-American and Muslim civic leaders who previously rose to his defense stood mute or soft-spoken Tuesday when Damra was charged with violating federal immigration law by concealing ties to terrorist groups.
….Some community leaders privately said they hope Damra steps down. Mosque leaders asked for time.
“I really have to meet with leaders and discuss this,” said mosque President Ali Halabi, a Brecksville doctor. He conceded the news is devastating to the Islamic Center of Cleveland.
….The indictment that led to Tuesday’s arrest formally charges Damra only with lying on his application for citizenship. But the lie, according to the indictment, stems from failing to disclose his ties to terrorist groups that target Jews.
“This is sort of like how they got Al Capone; they caught him on a detail,” said John Hexter, executive director of the local chapter of the American Jewish Committee.
Hexter said it is time for the Muslim community to produce a moderate representative other groups can work with. [Cleveland Plain Dealer]
And not call Jews pigs and monkeys, and urge for them to be shot, you mean?
While some Cleveland Muslims are waking up and smelling the cat food, others are not:
- Haider Alawan, a member of the mosque’s council of elders, claims Damra is being framed by “Zionists” for supporting a Palestinian homeland and perhaps inadvertently supporting groups wrongly labeled terrorist.
“Hey, I support the Hezbollah. I love them,” Alawan said, referring to the Lebanon-based militant group that the U.S. government considers terrorist. “We know it’s a harassment against him. For what? For his support of the Palestinians. And it’s brought by the Zionists in America.”
Alawan said he does not know who the Zionists are or where they are.
So right here in Cleveland, USA, we have THE spiritual leader of the local Muslim community calling Jews animals and advocating their murder, and raising money for terrorist organizations stretching from al Qaeda to Hamas, and we have a member of his mosque’s council of elders openly stating his love for Hezbollah and blaming this whole damn mix-up on a conspiracy of Zionists.
If you are an American of whatever religion, nationality, or set of predispositions and this doesn’t shock and chill you, you have lost the ability to be shocked and chilled. That terror-supporting conspirators operate with near impunity at the very core of the American Islamic community calls directly into question whether that core might not be rotten.