FBI informant describes 4 years of dangerous undercover work in Florida Taliban case

PLANTATION, Fla. — Standing on a Pakistani mountainside with a suspected Taliban fighter, FBI undercover informant David Mahmood Siddiqui remembers thinking, he could have been sent hurtling off a cliff to his death with just a nudge. In such dangerous situations, Siddiqui said he always tried to hold a Quran tightly in his hands.

“As long as you have a Quran in your hands,” he told The Associated Press in an interview Friday, “they (the Taliban) will not harm you.”

Siddiqui, a 58-year-old Pakistani-American who became a U.S. citizen in 1977, spent four years helping the FBI build its case against Hafiz Muhammad Sher Ali Khan, who was convicted Monday of terrorism support and conspiracy charges. Evidence during his two-month trial showed that Khan, the 77-year-old imam at a Miami mosque, funneled about $50,000 to the Pakistani Taliban, listed as a foreign terrorist organization by the U.S.

Siddiqui wore an FBI wire to record thousands of conversations with Khan. Prosecutors made heavy use of the evidence Siddiqui gathered, playing dozens of those recordings in court.

Wearing the wire to surreptitiously record talks with Khan was dangerous enough. But in September 2010, the FBI sent Siddiqui to Pakistan’s Swat Valley to meet up with some of people who were getting Khan’s money. With Khan’s grandson Alam Zeb as his driver — Zeb is a suspected Taliban fighter also indicted by the U.S. in the Khan case — Siddiqui spent three weeks gathering intelligence.

 

South Florida Imam Found Guilty of Supporting Pakistani Taliban

MIAMI — The imam of a small mosque in a working-class neighborhood here was found guilty in federal court on Monday of providing thousands of dollars of support to the Pakistani Taliban.

Capping a two-month trial, the imam, Hafiz Khan, 77, an American citizen who came to the United States in 1994, was found guilty by a jury of two counts of conspiracy and two counts of providing material support to terrorists. Each count faces a maximum 15-year prison sentence.

Over the course of four days, the frail cleric delivered long speeches to the jury in Pashto, his native language, coming to his own defense. Mr. Khan said that he was “totally against” the Taliban and that he had sent the money to Pakistan to provide for his family and the Muslim school he had founded in the Swat Valley in Pakistan.

But federal prosecutors said Mr. Khan and, to a lesser extent, other relatives, not only embraced the Taliban’s mission but also helped finance it. Mr. Khan, they said, sent an estimated $50,000 to the Pakistani Taliban, which is allied with Al Qaeda and is responsible for attacks against the Pakistani police and military targets.

Since the 2001 terrorist attacks, it has become increasingly common for prosecutors to charge people with supporting the Pakistani Taliban even if they did not carry out operations themselves. Of the 50 top terrorism cases since Sept. 11, about 70 percent have involved financing or other support to terrorist groups, according to the Center on Law and Security at the New York University School of Law.

Witness testifies from Pakistan that Florida imam’s money was not for Taliban terrorists

MIAMI — Testifying via video from Pakistan, a man accused by the U.S. of conspiring with an elderly Miami-based Muslim cleric to funnel thousands of dollars to Taliban terrorists insisted Monday the money was for innocent purposes, including a potato chip factory run by the cleric’s son-in-law.

Ali Rehman was the first of as many as 11 witnesses expected to testify from an Islamabad hotel in defense of 77-year-old Hafiz Khan, who faces four terrorism support and conspiracy counts. Rehman is named in the same indictment and refused to come to the U.S. Other witnesses were unable to get U.S. visas in time.

He spoke in Pashto that was translated into English for the 12-person jury watching him on flat-screen televisions.

Rehman kept a three-page ledger detailing most of the transactions, which jurors were shown. “I was just the middle man to give the money to him.”

Rehman said he and Khan disagreed with the Taliban’s tactics of using violence and force to impose their version of Muslim law. Rehman said he was personally threatened by Taliban fighters who ordered him to remove products containing women’s pictures from a cosmetics store he owns.

If convicted, Khan faces up to 15 years in prison on each of four charges. Two of Khan’s sons were originally accused as well, but prosecutors dropped the charges against one and U.S. District Judge Robert Scola dismissed the case against the other for lack of evidence.

Hispanic immigrants increasingly finding home is Islam

A growing community of Hispanic American immigrants, as well as Hispanics in their home country, are choosing to convert from their predominantly Christian religions to Islam. It’s especially common for women.

Tucked away in a quiet rural neighborhood in Somerset, N.J., is an old brownstone that houses the New Jersey Chapter of the Islamic Center of North America’s WhyIslam Project.

Within its confines, in a second floor office decorated with rose-colored walls, sits the administrative assistant and only female employee of the department, Nahela Morales.

In a long black garment and gray headscarf, Morales sits in front of a computer entering notes and taking phone calls from the program’s hotline, 1-877-WhyIslam, a resource for individuals hoping to learn more about the religion. A Mexican immigrant and recent convert, Morales is the national Spanish-language outreach coordinator for the program, part of ICNA’s mission to disseminate information about Islam nationwide.

But Morales’ efforts go beyond U.S. borders: the 37-year-old recently led a trip to bring Islamic literature, food and clothing to her native Mexico.

Morales, who was born in Mexico City but later moved to California and then New York, is part of a growing population of immigrant Muslim converts from Latin America, many of them women, now helping to bring the religion back to their home countries.

According to WhyIslam’s 2012 annual report, 19 percent of the some 3,000 converts it assisted in 2011 were Latinos, and more than half of those (55 percent) were women. The 2011 U.S. Mosque Survey, which interviewed leaders at 524 mosques across the country, found the number of new female converts had increased 8 percent since 2000, and that Latinos accounted for 12 percent of all new converts in the United States in 2011.

Experts attribute the phenomenon to recent migration trends.

Wilfredo Ruiz, a native of Puerto Rico who converted to Islam in 2003, is an attorney and political analyst specializing in the Islamic world. In addition to working with various non-profit organizations, including the American Muslim Association of North America (AMANA), he also serves as the imam at his local mosque in South Florida.

“More women than men convert, both in AMANA offices and in the mosques in Southern Florida,” Ruiz said.

Leadership in Tallahassee must stand against in-toleration

Over the past two legislative sessions, the Florida House and Senate wasted precious taxpayer dollars hearing harmful and unnecessary anti-Sharia legislation. Indeed, it came perilously close to passage in 2012 — passing the House and ultimately dying awaiting a final vote in the Senate.So no Floridian should be surprised that an anti-Sharia bill was once again filed for the 2013 session.

The real uncertainty is whether Tallahassee leadership will finally stand up to this intolerance, or again give into it and, in the process, waste valuable taxpayer dollars.The neutrally titled and worded “Application of Foreign Law” bill, which applies to family law provisions, is nothing more than camouflaged bigotry.

It is based on model language drafted by a controversial attorney, David Yerushalmi, who has a record of espousing anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant and racist views.This legislation is a classic example of the proverbial “solution in search of a problem.” Its supposed purpose is to counter the infiltration of our judicial and legal system by Sharia (Islamic) law.

But for the past two legislative sessions, proponents have failed to cite even one Florida court decision, or any other court decision, demonstrating an actual need for this legislation.  They can’t provide any examples because — as pointed out by a recent American Bar Association resolution and report opposing anti-Sharia measures — state and federal laws already prohibit courts from applying religious or foreign law in any way that would be against public policy, or constitute government advancement of or entanglement with religion.

This reckless legislation, however, imprudently goes far beyond these proven limitations.  This legislation is applicable to all religious law. So, for instance, the observant Jewish community regularly uses religious tribunals (Bet Dins) to resolve all kinds of disputes, including divorce settlements, which often are the basis for civil court divorce decrees and orders.

But this legislation would prevent a Jewish couple in Florida from voluntarily using a Bet Din to resolve their divorce settlement, and also would invalidate an out-of state divorce based on a Bet Din arbitration.  It also could negatively impact the use of Christian religious tribunals or certain applications of Canon law.

The leadership in Tallahassee needs to send a clear message that Florida values its diversity and welcomes persons of all backgrounds. They can do that by blocking this offensive bill, and unifying Floridians through legislation that finds common ground to move the state forward.

Allen West’s One-Word Letter To American-Islamic Advocacy Group Being Auctioned Off On Ebay For $1,000

Former House Representative Allen West (R-FL) hasn’t always had the easiest relationship with the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), but now, things seem to be heating up even more. Last year, CAIR sent West a letter requesting that he cut ties with anti-Islamic extremists and the congressman graced them with this one word response: “NUTS!” The Florida chapter of the advocacy group is now auctioning the letter off on eBay, hoping to make some money from West’s terse communication.

CAIR-FL describes the piece as “possibly [the] shortest letter from Congress in US History,” and the starting bid is $1,000. The group says the proceeds will be used to “defend the civil rights of all Floridians.”

West may have had a strained relationship with Muslims during his tenure — he once told a CAIR questioner not to “blow sunshine up my butt” — but seeing as how the group is now selling the letter, it appears that they’re not opposed to making some money off of having been one of the congressman’s favorite targets.

Shari’ah Law as National Security Threat?

Cyra Akila Choudhury


Florida International University College of Law

September 18, 2012

Akron Law Review, Vol. 46, 2012
Florida International University Legal Studies Research Paper; No. 12-19

Abstract:
In 2011, several states passed anti-shari’ah laws arguing that they were necessary to protect the United States’ from the infiltration of Islamic law. According to supporters, these new law protect us from “shari’ah creep,” which has allegedly already influenced several recent civil cases, particularly in family law, that had an Islamic dimension or involved Muslims. Supporters further argue that any reference to Islamic law in our civil courts presages an unacceptable shift towards the formal establishment of a parallel or alternative legal code to our laws. Such accommodation, in their view, threatens to augment or replace our secular system with religious extremism. Finally, proponents of these new model laws argue that they reflect vital national security measures because terrorists follow shari’ah law and seek to install it in the United States. As such, the laws are critical to our ongoing war against Islamist terror.

This Article examines the recently proposed anti-shari’ah laws of Tennessee, Oklahoma and Arizona. It begins by examining the laws and their justifications and analyzes the 10th Circuit decision in Awad v. Ziriax upholding the injunction against Oklahoma’s Save Our State amendment. It then carefully analyzes the cases that have been cited as examples of shari’ah-creep and reveals that they are actually routine examples of comity and conflicts of law rules applied properly by a properly functioning judiciary. If these laws are not national security measures, what is their true purpose? The Article posits that the new laws are the latest in an ongoing legal and social resignification of Islam and Muslims in an effort to maintain a visible and “alien” threat. It argues that even if they are ineffective as national security laws and even if they are struck down as unconstitutional, anti-shari’ah laws have social effects on Muslims, marginalizing them from the mainstream and singling them out for differential treatment. The Article then analyzes the anti-shari’ah laws as part of a broad spectrum of social and legal methods used in the post 9/11 War on Terror that have the overall effect of “casting out” Muslims from the protection of both civil and human rights law. As such, the anti-shari’ah laws which form a part of this edifice of exclusion must be taken seriously. The Article concludes with the suggestion that states should refuse to participate in the Manichean construction of the Muslim enemy in a global War on Terror, and that we should recognize that our security depends, not on the ongoing exclusion of Muslims, but on their participation and cooperation.

Competency exam, hearing set for Florida imam in Pakistani Taliban terror financing case

MIAMI — A mental competency examination has been ordered in the case of a Muslim imam in South Florida accused of raising money for the Pakistani Taliban terror group.

 

A federal judge ordered a psychiatric evaluation of 77-year-old Hafiz Khan to take place by Aug. 31. The judge wants to decide if Khan is able to understand his legal proceedings and if he can assist in his own defense.

 

Khan and one of his sons are charged with providing material support to terrorists by allegedly funneling about $50,000 to the Pakistani Taliban. They have pleaded not guilty. Charges were dropped against another of Khan’s sons.

 

The case could be delayed indefinitely if the elder Khan is ruled incompetent to stand trial.

Terry Jones, Quran-Burning Pastor, Sues Dearborn, Mich. For Violating His Right To Free Speech

Terry Jones, the Florida pastor who has publicly condemned Islam, filed a lawsuit Tuesday against Dearborn, Mich., claiming the city is violating his constitutional right to free speech.

Jones gained notoriety for his anti-Islam platform when he burned a Quran last year at his church in Gainesville, Fla., inciting protests and deadly riots in Afghanistan orn’s Islamic Center of America, the country’s largest mosque.

According to the /Detroit Free Press/, the Thomas More Law Center of Ann Arbor and Jones sued Dearborn in advance of the event. The suit alleges Dearborn is asking Jones to sign a legal document  that would require him to “forfeit all legal rights from anything that might happen at the rally.”

Why Islamophobia Must Fail – The Case of Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz

Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz is the latest victim of an intricate web of half-truths and outright lies woven for political profit and as part of a broad, well funded, Islamophobia network. The Congresswoman was slated to be the keynote speaker at an April 21 event for the group EMERGE USA , but backed off after a scathing blog post by Joe Kaufman , who happens to be running for a Congressional seat for Florida’s District 20.

EMERGE USA is a non-profit committed to empowering minorities through increased civic engagement and education about the political process. The organization has strong roots in the community and has been publicly supported by one of Florida’s senior statesmen, former Governor and U.S. Senator Bob Graham, an expert on terrorism and intelligence. However, the fact that EMERGE USA was founded and is run by Muslims seems to be the proverbial bee in Kaufman’s bonnet. Ultimately, Kaufman’s Glen Beck-esque acrobatics in trying to link EMERGE USA board members and staff to “questionable” organizations and associations can be easily dismissed because of factual errors and deliberate obfuscation.

While the influence of the Islamophobia network on right-wing politicians is more visible, the pressure it exerts on progressives is more troubling. Left-leaning politicians are also vulnerable to manipulation, as can be seen in Rep. Wasserman Schultz’s case. The Congresswoman is not the first Democrat to distance herself from a Muslim organization after being attacked by Islamophobes. To American Muslims who are mostly progressive in their politics, abandonment by Democratic politicians feels like betrayal.