Two observant Muslims, Fatmata Mansaray and Hajah Bah, described an embarrassing level of scrutiny, when their hijabs drew sharp questions from administrators of Freedom High School of Northern Virginia.
School officials threatened them with discipline, the students said, demanding that they remove the scarves and pressing them to get permission slips from their parents to prove they were Muslim.
Mansaray said an assistant principal threatened to write her up for being disrespectful when she explained they were wearing hijab for a religious observance.
In MINNEAPOLIS — Two days after he became a U.S. citizen, Abdiwali Warsame embraced the First Amendment by creating a raucous Web site about his native Somalia. Packed with news and controversial opinions, it rapidly became a magnet for Somalis dispersed around the world, including tens of thousands in Minnesota.
The popularity of the site, Somalimidnimo.com, or United Somalia, also attracted the attention of the Defense Department. A military contractor, working for U.S. Special Operations forces to “counter nefarious influences” in Africa, began monitoring the Web site and compiled a confidential research dossier about its founder and its content.
In a May 2012 report, the contractor, the Northern Virginia-based Navanti Group, branded the Web site “extremist” and asserted that its “chief goal is to disseminate propaganda supportive” of al-Shabab, an Islamist militia in Somalia that the U.S. government considers a terrorist group. The contractor then delivered a copy of its dossier — including Warsame’s Minnesota home address and phone number — to the FBI. A few days later, federal agents knocked on the webmaster’s door.
Although he did not know it, Warsame had been caught up in a shadowy Defense Department counterpropaganda operation, according to public records and interviews.
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.
Officials from the Islamic Society of North America, the American Muslim Armed Forces and Veterans Affairs Council and Imam Mohamed Magid of the large Northern Virginia mosque ADAMS (All Dulles Area Muslim Society) among others held a news conference Friday, urging Americans to view the Fort Hood shooter as a criminal individual, not a representative of Islam.
“As with Timothy McVeigh, the sniper, we focused on the person, not their religion. You wouldn’t take a Christian or a Jewish soldier who did something like this and look at other Christians and Jews and say, ‘Can we trust them?’ ” said Qaseem Uqdah, a Marine and executive director of the Muslim veterans council. “It’s ludicrous.”
Muslim organizations have received hate mail regarding the incident.