Reverend Deborah Lindsay, Minister of Spiritual Care at First Community Church in Ohio, is a YouTube viral video star because of her call on Christians to avoid anti-Muslim sentiment. Unfortunately, her chief outreach partner is a Muslim Brotherhood-tied mosque named the Noor Islamic Cultural Center.
A video of her sermon, uploaded in September 2010, has been viewed over one million times. Her outreach to Muslims was also the subject of an article in the Columbus Dispatch. In it, she is quoted as comparing jihad to Lent.
“When we think jihad, we think holy war. And that may be what it means to fanatics and terrorists, but what the vast majority of Muslims understand jihad to be is ‘struggling in the way of God…The way of God being goodness, justice, mercy and compassion. It is a personal, spiritual endeavor,” she said.
An example of jihad, she says, would be making friends or being appreciative of what you have.
That type of misunderstanding is promoted by the MyJihad campaign led by a chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a U.S. Muslim Brotherhood entity whose leadership has privately discussed how to use deceptive semantics. The campaign distracts from examination of the Islamist ideology by redefining jihad so vaguely that it becomes a meaningless term.
The audience, especially non-Muslims like Rev. Lindsay, is led to believe that this vague “spiritual” struggle is an alternative interpretation of jihad. Actually, these interpretations are complimentary and are not in competition.
Look at the official ruling of the Reliance of the Traveler, an authoritative book on Sharia endorsed by Al-Azhar University, the highest school of Sunni learning. Section o.9.0 states:
“Jihad means to war against non-Muslims, and is etymologically derived from the word mujahada, signifying warfare to establish the religion. And it is the lesser jihad. As for the greater jihad, it is spiritual warfare against the lower self (nafs), which is why the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said he was returning from jihad.”
The dual nature of jihad is best exemplified by the fact that the MyJihad website hosted a videotaped sermon from Imam Zaid Shakir about jihad and terrorism. Shakir justified Hezbollah’s bombing of the U.S. Marine barracks in Lebanon, saying it did not qualify as an act of terrorism.
Shakir, co-founder and senior faculty member of Zaytuna College, has his own record of extremism and approval of violent jihad. The MyJihad campaign’s own sources acknowledge the two forms of jihad but the campaign only talks about the spiritual form, giving the false impression that a new, replacement interpretation is being offered.
While it is true that most Muslims do not favor waging the subversive and often violent “lesser” jihad, we must be aware of the tricks played by those who do.
In her sermon, Rev. Lindsay praises the Islamic Circle of North America as a moderate organization that is spreading “peace” and “hope” by giving away tens of thousands of the copies of the Koran. She is under the impression that ICNA’s interpretation of jihad is at odds with the subversive one.
Actually, ICNA is named in a 1991 U.S. Muslim Brotherhood memo as one of “our organizations and the organizations of our friends.”
The stated goal of the network ICNA belongs to is to wage a “kind of grand jihad in eliminating and destroying the Western civilization from within and ‘sabotaging’ its miserable house by their hands and the hands of the believers.” The document explicitly states that the network is to “possess a mastery of the art of ‘coalitions’” and use “their hands” (those of the non-Muslim Americans) for its objectives.
ICNA is a derivative of the radical Jamaat-e-Islami group of Pakistan. It is currently pressuring the White House to defend its leaders in Bangladesh from prosecution. A senior ICNA official named Ashrafuzzaman Khan was sentenced to death in absentia for his involvement in horrific war crimes in 1971.
The Clarion Project recently published jaw-dropping excerpts from an ICNA teaching guide for members. It explicitly calls for supporting violent jihad, secret operations, resurrecting the Caliphate and implementing Sharia governance, even in the U.S.
Rev. Lindsay’s main outreach partner is the Noor Islamic Cultural Center, a radical mosque that has her as a guest speaker. If the name sounds familiar, it may be from the case of Rifqa Bary, a teenage girl who converted to Christianity from Islam and ran away from her family. Her father, who she fears may kill her for becoming an apostate, is a member of the mosque.
Noor Islamic Cultural Center founder and chairman, Dr. Hany Saqr, was identified by an Egyptian newspaper as a Muslim Brotherhood operative. A 1992 U.S. Muslim Brotherhood phone book lists him as a member. Saqr was identified as a leader of the East Region for the Brotherhood, a member of its Executive Office and a member of its Board of Directors. The phone records of Hamas leader Mousa Abu Marzouk, then a U.S. Muslim Brotherhood official, show he was in communication with Saqr in 1992.
According to a court filing by Bary’s lawyer, an FBI document identified one of Sarq’s subordinates as “providing $735,000 to Hamas while under Dr. Saqr’s direction.” It also states that Saqr used to be an imam for another mosque and “the largest known Al-Qaeda cell in the U.S. since 9/11 was operating out of the mosque.”
Salah Sultan used to be the Noor Islamic Cultural Center’s scholar in residence and a religious director at a local Islamic elementary school named the Sunrise Academy. Unfortunately for Sultan, counter-terrorism expert Patrick Poole lived only about a mile away and turned Salah into a stunning example of Islamist operations inside the U.S.
When Poole first brought attention to Sultan’s extremism, the Noor Islamic Cultural Center’s media and the Interfaith Association of Central Ohio slandered Poole, with one columnist calling him a “Muslim basher.” The documentation about Sultan was firm then and is overwhelming now.
There are photos of him with Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal and Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh. He is on the board of the International Union of Muslim Scholars, led by the terrorism-linked Sheikh Yousef al-Qaradawi who is the spiritual leader of the Brotherhood and Hamas. In Egypt, Sultan frequently appeared alongside Mohammed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood when he was running for president.
At one Morsi rally, Sultan referenced the Islamic hadith that appears in the Hamas charter that reads, “The time will not come until Muslims will fight the Jews (and kill them); until the Jews hide behind rocks and trees, which will cry: O Muslim! There is a Jew hiding behind me, come on and kill him!”
Sultan has urged the murdering of the Israeli ambassador to Egypt. In one television appearance, he endorsed a Brotherhood fatwa that says “every Zionist who enters Egypt—tourist or not—should be killed.” At one event, he led a crowd in chanting, “To Jerusalem, we are going as martyrs in millions.”
He was scheduled to lead a hajj to Mecca in 2002 with Anwar al-Awlaki, who would soon become a senior Al-Qaeda operative and a Hamas-linked cleric named Imam Muhammad al-Hanooti. When Osama Bin Laden was killed, Sultan praised him because he “had raised the banner of jihad for the sake of Allah and had served a lofty goal” and American “terrorism” is worse than his.
Sultan preaches that 9/11 was a U.S. government conspiracy to oppress Muslims. The attacks on Christians in Egypt are covert “acts of Jews,” according to Sultan, as was the assassination of President Kennedy. He supports democratic participation by Muslims in the U.S., but only in order to move the country towards the standards of Sharia.
The aforementioned court filing also alleges that the Noor Center has extremist speakers like Imam Siraj Wahhaj, Muzammil Siddiqi, Raeed Tayeh, Eric Erfan Vickers, Shaker ElSayed, Wagdi Ghoneim and a preacher linked to efforts by Al-Shabaab, Al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Somalia, to recruit Somali youth. In 2013, two mosque members were indicted for money-laundering.
This mistaken embrace of Islamists is part of a broader issue. Rev. Lindsay’s church is affiliated with the United Church of Christ and the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). Both are members of the Shoulder-to-Shoulder Coalition, an interfaith bloc allied with the Islamic Society of North America, another U.S. Muslim Brotherhood entity. The coalition is deployed by American Islamists when they came under criticism.
The two groups cited by Rev. Lindsay, ICNA and the Noor Islamic Cultural Center, do believe in the non-threatening “greater” spiritual jihad—but that’s not the whole story. They also advocate the “lesser” subversive and violent jihad. They are just intelligent enough to know which one is better to magnify publicly.
Rev. Deborah Lindsay did not respond to my email with information about the Noor Islamic Cultural Center.
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.
The Institute on Religion and Democracy contributed to this article.