Shaker Elsayed, the lead imam of Dar al-Hijrah Islamic Center in Falls Church, Va., one of the nation’s largest and oft-embattled mosques, drew a wave of condemnation from young Muslim activists after he he appeared to endorse a certain form of female genital mutilation as sometimes necessary to prevent “hypersexuality.”
In response, Johari Abdul-Malik, a fellow imam and the public face of Dar al-Hijrah Islamic Center resigned after he said the mosque’s board failed to adequately address a brewing controversy over the banned practice of female genital mutilation.
Elsayed said last month during a videotaped lecture that limited “circumcision” of girls is sometimes necessary to curb women’s sex drive, advising congregants to consult with a Muslim gynecologist before proceeding.
FGM is a common practice among some Muslim and Christian populations in parts of Africa and Asia. Experts say it has no health benefits and can lead to infections, hemorrhaging, childbirth complications and death. Communities that engage in the practice do so for a variety of reasons, including societal pressure and myths that it serves health or religious purposes.
Abdul-Malik was hired 15 years ago, after the mosque came under intense scrutiny for being the onetime house of worship for two of the 9/11 hijackers. Later, the mosque’s former imam, Anwar al-Aulaqi, invited further investigation of the mosque after he began espousing terrorist ideology from a hideout in Yemen. Nidal Hassan, the Fort Hood shooter, had also visited the mosque at some point in the years prior to his rampage.
At the Northern Virginia mosque where Anwar al-Aulaqi once preached, the news of his killing ripped open a wound that congregants wish would heal.
For a decade, Dar al-Hijrah has been haunted by its association with Aulaqi, who was the imam at the Falls Church mosque on Sept. 11, 2001, but had yet to publicly embrace the anti-American extremism that would make him a target of U.S. drones.
Imam Shaker Elsayed acknowledged Aulaqi’s death at a crowded Friday afternoon prayer service. “May Allah give him mercy,” the imam told dozens of worshipers, noting that “when anyone leaves this life . . . their judgment is reserved by Allah.”
Those who killed Aulaqi, Elsayed added, “need to equally prepare for that moment” when they also will be judged by Allah.
They stressed that when Aulaqi preached at Dar al-Hijrah 10 years ago, he “was known for his interfaith outreach, civic engagement and tolerance in the Northern Virginia community.” It wasn’t until he left the United States and was allegedly tortured by Yemeni authorities, the statement said, that he began preaching violence and encouraging “impressionable American Muslims to attack their own country. With his death, Al-Awlaki will no longer be able to spread his hate speech over the internet to our youth.”
One day after al-Qaeda leader Anwar al-Awlaki was killed by a U.S. drone strike in Yemen, Northern Virginia Muslims he once worshiped alongside gathered for an event that was both a community gathering and an effort to portray a version of Islam much different from the one he espoused.
The timing of Saturday’s annual Civic Picnic of the All Dulles Muslim Society (ADAMS) in Sterling, which attracted about 200 people, was purely coincidental. But in recent years, it has become an important component of the community’s outreach efforts.
The terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, taught many American Muslims that they needed to become more engaged with their communities, said Wasim Entabi of Alexandria.
As Awlaki, once an imam at Falls Church’s Dar al-Hijrah mosque, rose to prominence in al-Qaeda, the picnic — which started in 2000 — became a kind of showcase for moderate, mainstream Islam in the Washington area. It attracts hundreds of Muslims, politicians and people of other faiths each year.
The society presented a $10,000 donation, raised by its members, for the Virginia Disaster Relief Fund to a representative of Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R) on Saturday. The money was intended for Virginians whose homes were damaged in this year’s flooding.
Several groups are planning to protest outside a fundraiser for a mosque. The protesters argue that the Falls Church mosque, the Dar al-Hijrah Islamic Center, in Northern Virginia is linked to violence. Democratic Committee Chairman and former Virginia Governor Tim Kaine and US Representatives Jim Moran and Gerry Connolly (D-VA) are invited to attend the fund-raising but Kaine and Moran will not attend. Two of 9/11 hijackers briefly worshiped at the mosque and one of its previous Imams was denounced by the mosque due to alleged links to the terrorists. Members of the Virginia Anti-Shariah Task Force, Act for America and the Center for Security Policy are planning to protest outside the fund-raising event.