by Jordan Cope
With media and government attention firmly focused on the far-Left and far-Right at present, it is prudent to remember that Islamist networks still present a grave threat. Just last year, FBI Director Christopher Wray declared: “I think the greatest terrorist threat to the homeland is the homegrown violent extremist... which is jihadist-inspired violence.”
You do not have to look far to find such threats. On July 3rd, in one of the most prominent mosques in one of America’s largest cities, prayer leader Tariq Mahmoud openly declared his dream of violent jihad, using rhetoric that has long plagued Boston's “oldest continually operating” mosque: the Mosque for the Praising of Allah.
In his khutbah, Mahmoud explores the role of jihad in the modern day. Treading lightly at first, he distinguishes the two types of jihad – the “struggle” expected of every Muslim. One jihad is the struggle with the self to avoid sacrilegious temptations and behaviors; the other jihad is the more familiar, violent form: “jihad with the weapons, jihad against other people… as well.”
Initially, this rhetoric could be a sign of moderation. However, Mahmoud quickly exposes his underlying ideals. According to Mahmoud, as the caliphate, a precondition for violent jihad, exists no more, there can be no “jihad for us here in America. There is no physical jihad… we have many steps to go before that is ever established again.”
Rather than celebrating jihad’s status as a personal struggle and advocating a nonviolent interpretation of Islam, he instead expresses regret that the violent form of jihad is not currently an option. While Mahmoud advocates for jihad of the self, he does so hoping that it will eventually enable the Muslim World to revive violent jihad as an option. Pay careful attention to Mahmoud’s language:
“The jihad of yourself comes by means of truth, and we have to start here, and I’m not negating… I already started the khutbah by telling you about the jihad with the weapons. You’re never gonna get there, and we’ll never get there, and there’ll never be that again, unless we change what is in ourselves, unless you control yourself” [27:50].
He continues to affirm his desire for a supranational theocracy, or caliphate, ranting against the current world order dominated by countries and their “borders,” an inherent impediment to the caliphate’s prospects of revival. Hence, Mahmoud slams the nation-state, instead urging reunification throughout the Muslim world, a quality necessary for a caliphate. He observes, “Every Muslim now has been infected with the disease of the West, of nationalism. Everyone’s happy with their borders, happy with their flag…Everyone’s separated when we’re meant to be one” [29:10].
The mosque has a long history of ties to extremism and controversy. Its imam, Abdullah Faaruuq, has praised terrorists and encouraged violence. He previously championed Al-Qaeda operative Aafia Siddiqui—who plotted a chemical attack on New York City and sought to murder FBI agents in Afghanistan—as a “brave woman” and even solicited donations on her behalf. Faaruuq also defended Al Qaeda supporter Tarek Mehanna as he was “awaiting trial on terrorism charges.” And following their arrests, he encouraged violence, urging Muslims to “grab onto the gun and the sword.” Both Siddiqui and Mehanna are now serving 86-year and seventeen-and-a-half year prison sentences respectively.
In 2017, Faaruuq bashed America as the “land of the coward and the home of the slave,” declaring Islam as “America’s future,” while also demanding, “Submit to the will of God or this country will fail.”
Faaruuq and Mahmoud’s remarks are not the mosque’s only ties to such rhetoric. Last year, it hosted a fundraiser with Siraj Wahhaj, a “sharia-supremacist imam” who has referred to America as a “garbage can.” Federal prosecutors once listed Wahhaj as a potential co-conspirator “in a terrorism plot that included the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.”
With its preachers endorsing violent jihad, terrorists, and anti-Americanism, it might come as a surprise that one of the mosque’s past fundraisers was titled, “A Better America.” Seven years after an Islamist attack in Boston that killed three and injured 264, what sort of America do they want for us? More importantly, if we continue to neglect the long-proven, serious threat of Islamist extremism, what sort of America will we get?
Jordan Cope is a writer for Islamist Watch, a project of the Middle East Forum