A major Jewish organization accused several Muslim groups on Monday of using an Islamic summit in Chicago as a platform for extremist and anti-Semitic invective instead of its stated purpose to combat the increasing radicalization of Muslim-American youths.
Based on transcripts or tapes obtained from a Dec. 23-27 convocation of the Muslim American Society (MAS) and the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA) meeting at a Hyatt hotel downtown, the Anti-Defamation League said the gathering “served as a forum for religious scholars and political activists to rail against Jews, call for the eradication of the state of Israel and accuse the United States government as waging a war against Muslims at home and abroad.”
The conference, which was the eighth annual gathering for the two groups, was a “sham,” the ADL said, in terms of its stated intent to combat the increasing involvement of young Muslims in terrorism.
“It is shocking that this conference, identified by some major Muslim-American groups as the venue to start the process of reform at a time of growing attacks and threats by American Muslim extremists, was a sham and nothing more than a cover for the dissemination of hateful anti-American and anti-Israel views and anti-Semitism,” said Abraham H. Foxman, ADL national director.
As advertised on mahdibray.net, the conference added a workshop for disenfranchised Muslim youths to interact with about 20 older Islamic scholars after five young American Muslims were arrested in Pakistan last month for connecting with extremist Islamic groups.
Imam Mahdi Bray, executive director of MAS Freedom, had posted a statement saying that the conference would “focus on positive solutions involving issues of hate, violence and intolerance.”
Mr. Bray agreed that some remarks at the conference — which had 4,000 attendees and 100 speakers — were “over the top” and that he had complained to the chairman of one session. But he said his group denounced any such statements.
“We take any attack on the Jewish community or anti-Semitism as serious,” the imam said. “If there were any speakers who were anti-Semitic, they were totally rejected by us.”
The ADL said the conference provided cover for anti-Semitic rants. It said that Rafiq Jaber, former president of the Islamic Association of Palestine, described Jews to the audience as “the worst kind of people,” who came to Jerusalem “with false pretenses.”
The ADL cited Hamed Ghazali, chairman of the MAS Council of Islamic Schools and professor at the Islamic American University in Michigan, as telling the audience in Arabic that “Allah gave us the Jews” as the primary historical and religious example of those who “take the wrong path.”
Other speakers — specifically Egyptian Sheik Raghib Al Serjani — argued that the eradication of the state of Israel is a religious duty, the ADL said.
Materials sold at the convention, the ADL said, included books and CDs by anti-Semitic sheiks such as Yusuf al-Qaradawi, a leading Muslim Brotherhood leader based in Qatar who is known for terrorist connections.
Another radical cleric whose wares were available at the conference was Anwar al-Awlaki, a U.S.-born Muslim cleric who has encouraged American Muslims to wage jihad against the U.S. He has been tied to Fort Hood shooting suspect Maj. Nidal Hasan and Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the Nigerian accused of trying to blow up a Detroit-bound plane on Christmas Day.
But Mr. Bray said the conference’s program committee disinvited two radical Islamist speakers — one an Egyptian and the other a Palestinian — he called Mr. Foxman’s use of the word “sham” as “totally inaccurate.”
“We brought in 700 youth from across the country to refute the views held by al-Awlaki,” Mr. Bray said. “The ADL didn’t mention our interfaith program either. As for the books and materials, we had a bazaar with 300 vendors. There was no way we could police everything that was published there just as the ADL would not be able to stop groups at one of their conferences from posting Islamophobic materials.”
Nevertheless, he said Monday afternoon, he was drafting a letter to Mr. Foxman inviting him to a face-to-face meeting.
“We hope they will meet,” he said. “We have good relationships with other Jewish organizations.”
Naeem Baig, a spokesman for Jamaica, N.Y.-based ICNA, said he was not at the four-day gathering and could not comment on the speakers, but “our organization condemns all kinds of extremism and fanaticism and all kinds of hate.”