CAIR Picks Hamas-Linked Official to Lead NJ Chapter

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The New Jersey chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) has a new Executive Director: Mohamed El-Filali. His previous position was as the Executive Director of a large Hamas-linked mosque where he worked since 2004.

El-Filali is from the Islamic Center of Passaic County, whose imam is being targeted by the Department of Homeland Security for deportation. El-Filali was also listed as an official of the American Muslim Union in 2002. He has been quoted  as comparing the Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to Adolf Hitler. He has also refused to condemn suicide bombings, saying, “I am not in their shoes. My house has not been destroyed; my brother has not been shot dead.”

El-Filali’s mosque was founded by Hamas operative Mohammad El-Mezain, who was convicted in 2008 for financing the terrorist group. El-Mezain was a leader of the mosque until 1999.

In 1990, a Muslim Brotherhood operative named Muhammad al-Hanooti became the mosque’s imam. He led the Islamic Association for Palestine, a known Brotherhood/Hamas front. A 2001 FBI document reported that al-Hanooti was suspected of fundraising for Hamas. He left the Islamic Center of Passaic County in 1995 to lead Dar al-Hijrah Islamic Center, another mosque with strong Brotherhood/Hamas links.

The current imam, Mohammed Qatanani, was given a position at the mosque by El-Mezain in 1994 after Qatanani was convicted in Israel for his links to Hamas and the Jordanian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood. The Department of Homeland Security noticed that he did not disclose his conviction on his green card application and seeks his deportation.

“It is certainly suspicious when a person who has been convicted of being a member of, and providing services, to Hamas, who has personal ties to a Hamas militant leader, and a Hamas fundraiser also sends undisclosed cash to the West Bank,” reads a 2008 court filing by the Department of Homeland Security.

El-Filali began working at the Islamic Center of Passaic County in 2004 as its outreach director. It is not known when he began attending the mosque and became acquainted with its Islamist leadership.

The Investigative Project on Terrorism has released translations of parts of Qatanani’s sermons at the mosque from 2007 to 2010, between three and six years after El-Filali became a senior mosque official. This includes a prayer for the defeat of “occupation and oppression” in Iraq, Palestine and Chechnya. The “occupiers” and “oppressors” in these cases are the U.S., Israel and Russia, respectively.

In September 2012, Qatanani said the U.S. government needs to put limits on free speech to bash “holy issues” because it causes “hatred or war among people.” He was arguing that the U.S. should enforce the sharia ban on “blasphemy” of Islam.

It is predictable that CAIR-NJ would pick a leader from a Hamas/Brotherhood-linked mosque because CAIR has similar links of its own.

The federal government labeled CAIR as an entity of the U.S. Muslim Brotherhood’s Palestine Committee, a secret body set up to support Hamas. The organization was designated as an unindicted co-conspirator in the largest terrorism-financing trial in U.S. history. In that trial, members of the Holy Land Foundation were convicted of providing material support to Hamas. In 2009, a federal judge upheld the designation because of “ample” evidence linking CAIR to Hamas.

Federal prosecutors said in a 2007 court filing:

“From its founding by Muslim Brotherhood leaders, CAIR conspired with other affiliates of the Muslim Brotherhood to support terrorists … the conspirators agreed to use deception to conceal from the American public their connections to terrorists.”

El-Filali and CAIR-NJ will continue to offer themselves as the voice of the Muslim community in the state and as the “moderate” leadership we need to cater to. The media and public officials need to be mindful of their Islamist ideology. 


Ryan Mauro is the ClarionProject.org’s National Security Analyst, a fellow with the Clarion Project and is frequently interviewed on top-tier TV stations as an expert on counterterrorism and Islamic extremism.

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Meira Svirsky

Meira Svirsky is the editor of ClarionProject.org