Michigan Gubernatorial Candidate’s Worrisome Friends

Abdul El-Sayed (Photo: Tamekia Ashford / Detroit Health Department / Wiki Commons)
Abdul El-Sayed (Photo: Tamekia Ashford / Detroit Health Department / Wiki Commons)

Michigan gubernatorial candidate Abdul El-Sayed has been embracing a pro-Iran mosque to build support for his campaign for the Democratic Party nomination, a bid that is gaining steam with an endorsement from Democratic Socialist star Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

Photos posted online show Abdul-Sayed repeatedly met with Mohammad Ali Elahi, the radical imam of the Islamic House of Wisdom mosque in Dearborn Heights. It is one of three Iran-linked mosques in Michigan to which Clarion Project recently brought attention.

The pictures appear to show the mosque was even being used for a campaign event.

Imam Elahi posted photos of El-Sayed and the event on his Facebook page on July 3. The candidate is seen speaking to an audience with he and his team offering campaign material to attendees.

The interaction seems to be part of a relationship, as photos uploaded on June 27 and June 10 show El-Sayed with the mosque’s radical imam on two additional occasions.

Links to the Iranian Regime & Hezbollah

The Islamic House of Wisdom and its imam, Mohammad Ali Elahi, have a long history of supporting the Iranian theocracy and its terrorist proxy, Hezbollah.

According to his bio, Imam Elahi began studying at an Islamic seminary in Iran at age 12. He was arrested by the Shah of Iran’s security services in 1978.

After Ayatollah Khomeini’s Islamic Revolution brought the current theocratic regime to power, it appointed Elahi as “an Islamic ethics teacher at the Iranian Naval Academy, a position he held for five years.”

In 1988, Elahi founded the Cultural Research Center in Iran, “which focused on the Iranian sacrificial motivation to defend Iran” during the Iran-Iraq War.

That’s a nicer way of saying that he helped indoctrinate and radicalize the population, including child soldiers, so they are willing to die in violent jihad for the regime. A former CIA case officer described this culture as a “fraternity of death” where “many of these folks lived to die.”

Elahi moved to Dearborn in 1992, leading the Islamic Center of America, another mosque that has been supportive of Hezbollah figures.

He then established the Islamic House of Wisdom in 1995.

The mosque’s website teaches about jihad by referencing Ayatollah Khomeini, the founder of the theocratic regime, giving him the respected title of “imam.”

Elahi appears on Iranian state-controlled propaganda TV to parrot the Supreme Leader’s lines, such as claiming that Iran is being falsely accused of seeking nuclear weapons.

Last year, the mosque held a memorial service for Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, following his death.  Rafsanjani was a former president of Iran and a founder of the Islamic Republic. Additionally, Elahi posted personal pictures of himself with Rafsanjani on his Facebook page.

In 2010, the mosque held commemorations and prayer services for Hezbollah spiritual guide Ayatollah Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah. Fadlallah was a spiritual guide to Hezbollah at its inception in 1982 and was placed on a ‘black list of terrorists’ by the United States.

Elahi, speaking on Fadlallah’s legacy said, “he was a great scholar with more than one hundred books and thousands of lectures, papers, presentations and conferences, and a man of great wisdom, knowledge, leadership, and spirituality.”

In 2013, Clarion Project documented that the mosque has received money from the Alavi Foundation, The New York-based foundation serves as a propaganda front for the Iranian regime and was used to finance its nuclear program and promote its radical ideology.

He equates Israel and ISIS and instigates terrorism against Israel with inflammatory condemnations and accusations that any trusting listener would interpret as warranting jihad. His statements do not condemn Hamas and its terrorism but instead paint the group essentially as freedom-fighters with a legitimate jihad.

Elahi’s preaching sides with the Syrian regime and its Iranian, Hezbollah and Russian backers, as seen in his outrage over the killing of the Russian ambassador in Turkey. His statement accused Assad’s opponents of being “puppet terrorists” of Israel and Saudi Arabia.

In 2014, Detroit Free Press reporter Niraj Warikoo noted that while speaking in front of Dearborn City Hall, Elahi accused the U.S. of supporting ISIS in Syria.

Despite all of this publicly-accessible information, Elahi has been able to position himself as a ‘moderate’ worthy of upholding by taking part in numerous interfaith events and appearing in the media.

Other Radical Supporters & Ties

This isn’t the first time that Abdul El-Sayed has appreciated the support of Islamists with known extremist views.

Linda Sarsour

Late last year, his campaign featured Linda Sarsour, an inflammatory activist who said at a prominent Islamist conference in July 2017:

“When I think about building power, I think about brothers like Abdul Sayed, who is in this room today, who is running to become the first Muslim governor of the state of Michigan.”

 Her ties to radical individuals and organizations, including her husband’s support for terrorists, was exposed in 2016.

Sarsour’s family has documented ties to Islamist radicals including the Hamas terrorist group. Last year, she posed for a photo with a convicted Hamas operative who currently serves on the board of a U.S.-based group linked to Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood.

The organization she used to lead in New York was under investigation by the NYPD and was linked to a terror-tied foundation in Qatar. She identified a very radical imam in New York, Siraj Wahhaj, as her “mentor” last year.

Financial Supporters

The Islamist Money in Politics initiative found that El-Sayed has earned the support of Islamist donors connected to various groups identified by the U.S. government as Muslim Brotherhood entities.

The list includes donors affiliated with the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), North American Islamic Trust (NAIT), Muslim American Society (MAS), Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA) and Esam Omeish, whose support for radical groups has made him known internationally.

What is the Reason?

Abdul-Sayed’s relationship with the Islamic House of Wisdom’s radical imam, Mohammad Ali Elahi, is deserving of scrutiny. Elahi’s extremism is apparent and appeals to him and Abdul-Sayed’s appeal to him and his audience is a worrisome sign.

There are three possibilities as to why Abdul El-Sayed is engaging the Iran-linked mosque and imam.

The most concerning possibility is that he knows of the extremism and is unbothered by it.

Second is that he is aware of it but is overlooking it for political reasons.

The third possibility is that he is ignorant of it because he and his campaign are uninterested in doing any kind of vetting.

Any one of these three possible reasons is a cause for significant concern. The residents of Michigan deserve an explanation from Abdul-Sayed for this engagement. They also deserve to know whether he will continue the engagement and whether he will reject such Islamist extremists in the future.

 

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RM
Ryan Mauro
Ryan Mauro is the director of the Clarion Intelligence Network and Shillman Fellow for Clarion Project. Alex VanNess is a research analyst for the Clarion Intelligence Network.

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