Sunday, January 31, 2016
Posted By Chuck Ross On 4:33 PM 01/30/2016
The Baltimore mosque President Obama has chosen as the first U.S.-based mosque to visit during his presidency has deep ties to extremist elements, including to the Muslim Brotherhood.
The White House announced on Saturday that Obama will visit the Islamic Society of Baltimore (ISB) on Wednesday. He has visited several mosques overseas as president but has resisted visiting one in the homeland. The purpose of the trip, according to the White House, is to “celebrate the contributions Muslim Americans make to our nation and reaffirm the importance of religious freedom to our way of life.”
But ISB is a curious choice for Obama’s first domestic visit.
The mosque is a member of a network of mosques controlled by the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), a Muslim civil rights group named as an unindicted co-conspirator in the 2008 Holy Land Foundation terror case. Several executives with that organization were convicted of sending money to aid the terrorist group Hamas. (RELATED: Here’s A Map Of Radical Mosques In The U.S. [Interactive])
An imam who served at ISB for a total of 15 years has also been a leading member of the Muslim Brotherhood network and has worked for an Islamic relief group that was designated as a terrorist organization by the Treasury Department in 2004.
Mohammad Adam el-Sheikh, who served two stints as ISB’s imam, from 1983 to 1989 and from 1994 to 2003, was a member of the Muslim Brotherhood in Sudan in the 1970s. He also co-founded the Muslim American Society, a Falls Church, Va.-based group that is controlled by the Muslim Brotherhood.
While in Baltimore, el-Sheikh served as a regional director for the Islamic American Relief Agency. That group’s parent organization is the Islamic African Relief Agency, which the Treasury Department says provided funds to Osama bin Laden, al-Qaeda, Hamas and other terrorist organizations.
After leaving Baltimore, el-Sheikh served as imam at the infamous Dar al-Hijrah Islamic Center in Falls Church. That mosque has a lengthy roster of known terrorists and terrorist sympathizers. Its imam during much of the 1990s was Mohammed al-Hanooti. He was named an unindicted co-conspirator in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, which killed six people.
Dar al-Hijrah came under the control of Anwar al-Awlaki in 2001. He’s the American al-Qaeda recruiter who was killed in a U.S. drone strike in 2011. Nidal Hasan, the U.S. Army major who killed 13 people at Fort Hood in Nov. 2009, is said to have attended the Virginia mosque when al-Awlaki served there. The pair also reportedly exchanged emails. Two of the 9/11 hijackers also attended Dar al-Hijrah during al-Awlaki’s tenure.
El-Sheikh took over at Dar al-Hijrah in Aug. 2003, a little over a year after al-Awlaki left. While there he defended Palestianian suicide bombings against Israel.
“If certain Muslims are to be cornered where they cannot defend themselves, except through these kinds of means, and their local religious leaders issued fatwas to permit that, then it becomes acceptable as an exceptional rule, but should not be taken as a principle,” he said in 2004, according to a Washington Post article at the time.
As The Post reported Saturday, ISB’s website states that it seeks “to be the anchor of a growing Muslim community with diverse backgrounds, democratically governed, relating to one another with inclusiveness and tolerance, and interacting with neighbors in an Islamic exemplary manner.”
But that desire for tolerance — which President Obama frequently touts as well — does not appear to be a virtue shared by ISB’s resident scholar, Yaseen Shaikh.
A 2013 Youtube video shows Shaikh, who previously served as imam at a mosque in Plano, Tex., speaking out forcefully against homosexuality in Islam.
During an hour long diatribe, Shaikh called homosexuality a psychological disorder that has no place in Islam or society. He also lamented that gay rights groups have “hijacked” political discourse.
“This whole subject of homosexuality in the public sphere…is no longer a religious issue, unfortunately, as much as we want to use the religious card and try to defeat this, now it’s become a politicized issue,” Shaikh says in the video.
“Politicians are highly influenced by people who back them, and we find that these politicians who are calling for gay rights and marriage and supporting gay rights are lobbied and campaigned by gay activists, by gay groups. And they are throwing money at it left and right to gain some acceptance in society, to be considered normal people, to be treated normally.”
Obama is one such politician who has supported gay rights.
“We have to counter the efforts that are taking place elsewhere,” Sheikh says in the video, advising that “if our children are taught that [homosexuality is] okay, we have to teach them it’s not okay.”
Saturday, January 30, 2016
Venezuela's hyperinflation and related problems are breeding social unrest. That, in turn, is driving the political opposition, with a near constitutional majority, to find a way to oust President Maduro.
Venezuela's newly empowered opposition is intensifying efforts to find a legal means to oust President Nicolas Maduro, whose mandate runs until 2019.
The opposition MUD party thrashed Maduro's socialists in December's parliamentary election, winning 112 of the 167 National Assembly seats - giving it a constitutional majority.
That would have left an easy path for the opposition to remove Maduro, including by rewriting the constitution to allow for the president's impeachment.
But Maduro maneuvered to have three of the MUD legislators suspended for possible electoral fraud. The move was backed by Venezuela's Supreme Court, which is packed with loyalists to the late socialist President Hugo Chavez.
Transparency International has dubbed Venezuela's judiciary the world's most corrupt.
Stripped of a straightforward path to removing Maduro, the opposition is searching for other constitutional or legislative means, as the country's economic turmoil continues to deepen.
"Someone said we should let the government finish its term so it can stew in its own juice," the opposition speaker of congress, Henry Ramos Allup said. "That would be irresponsible."
The oil-rich nation has been driven to economic ruin, at least in part by plunging oil prices. However, opponents would argue that 17 years of socialist rule have exacerbated the crisis.
World's worst inflation
Venezuela is suffering shortages of basic foods and medicines, driven by the world's steepest inflation rate - 180 percent by some estimates. Three years of economic contraction have led to long lines for basic necessities nationwide.
Options for the multi-faction opposition include demanding Maduro's resignation, forcing a recall referendum, which is allowed half-way through his term, or reforming the constitution to trigger a new presidential election.
Maduro is not likely to resign, and for now the opposition is short of their constitutional majority. A recall referendum appears to be their best bet, as Maduro will reach the half-way point of his six-year term in April.
"I don't want this to last three more years, going from bad to worse," Ramos said. "If you can treat an illness before it kills you, then you obviously apply the treatment."
But a recall referendum is not without pitfalls, as the Maduro-backed judiciary and electoral institutions could delay the process into 2017, paving the way for his vice president to take over rather than there being a new election if he lost the vote of confidence.
Benigno Alarcon, a political scientist at Andres Bello Catholic University, said the opposition's hand is being forced by growing public anger.
"There have been attempts at looting and protests in various cities," Alarcon said. "That creates a lot of pressure on all those involved, especially on the opposition, which offered a change."
bik/gsw (AFP, Reuters)