I have no idea if Cleveland Imam Fawaz Damra is a changed man or has simply learned to be discreet, but a “youthful indiscretion” has turned up in a very serious federal case:
- A federal indictment handed up Thursday accuses a University of South Florida engineering professor, Sami Amin Al-Arian, and seven other men of helping a group called Palestinian Islamic Jihad launder money and commit murders.
The 50-count indictment refers to a fund-raising speech that Al-Arian made in Cleveland on April 7, 1991. A videotape of the event, later obtained by the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service, showed Damra introducing Al-Arian and encouraging the killing of Jews, whom he referred to as “the sons of monkeys and pigs.”
The INS released the tape a little over a year ago in a deportation case. After it aired on Cleveland television stations in September 2001, Damra apologized to the Jewish community and described his actions as a youthful indiscretion. [Cleveland.com]
I hope that Damra has had a change of heart and sees Jews as his brothers, but forgive a certain amount of skepticism based upon the words of a defender:
- “I’m pretty sure he’s clean. I’m pretty sure he’s done nothing wrong,” said Hani Aziz, a trustee of the Beit Hanina Social Club, which represents hundreds of Palestinians from the West Bank town. “He’s well-liked, and I hope to God he’s not harmed in any way, because he means a lot to the Arab and the Muslim community in Cleveland.”
“Pretty sure” is hardly a ringing endorsement, but much more telling is this from the last paragraph of the Cleveland Plain Dealer article:
- Aziz said Damra’s taped statements, while unfortunate, did not surprise local Palestinians.
“Back then, in 1991, he in a way spoke the truth,” Aziz said. “Israel is an occupier, and the Palestinian land needs to be liberated. As far as most Palestinians are concerned, he didn’t do anything wrong or say anything wrong.”
THIS is the real story here: a spokesman for the Cleveland Palestinian community says – now in 2003 – that when Damra called Jews the “sons of pigs and monkeys” and encouraged their murder he wasn’t saying “anything wrong.” This is appalling and scandalous and should have been the focus of the story, not buried at the bottom.
Yesterday’s report in the PD was even more damning of Damra:
- The 121-page indictment refers to a speech Al-Arian made in Cleveland on April 7, 1991. It says that “Unindicted Co-conspirator One” introduced Al-Arian at the event and solicited money for his group after the speech.
The indictment says the “unindicted co-conspirator” told the audience that Al-Arian’s group was referred to as the Islamic Committee for Palestine “for security reasons.”
….Matthew Epstein, a terrorism analyst with the Investigative Project, a counterterrorism think tank in Washington, said: “It appears that Fawaz Damra is Co-conspirator One’ based on the fact that Co-conspirator One’ says things that exactly match what Damra said on the tape released by the INS, on the same date.”
Yesterday’s indictment was not the first instance the controversial imam has been linked with alleged terrorists. Many of the suspects in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing case attended a mosque he once led in Brooklyn, and Damra has admitted he was questioned by FBI agents who investigated the case.
Controversy over previously disclosed remarks Damra made at the 1991 event with Al-Arian cost him a job teaching about Islam at Lakeland Community College.
So it would appear “co-conspirator one” is right here in Parma, being supported in his hateful worldview by members of the local Islamic Palestinian community. This cannot be left unchallenged.