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New American Islamic Seminary Trains Scholars in Extremism

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Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah (Photo: JOSEPH EID/AFP/Getty Images)
Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah (Photo: JOSEPH EID/AFP/Getty Images)

This new American Islamic seminary targets young people to turn them into scholars steeped in extremism. Read Clarion’s Intelligence Network’s latest expose about U.S.-based supporters of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Hezbollah and Shiite extremism.

The Al Mahdi Islamic Seminary is a brand-new online Shiite school in the United States with ties to Islamic extremists. Launched in May of 2019, Al Mahdi’s target demographic is American Muslims, who it seeks to turn into “credible” and “pious” scholars.

Its mission isn’t the issue, though. Instead, it is who is helping to fulfill it, like Sheikh Hamza Sodagar, who has openly expressed his support for the Iranian regime and its proxy terror group in Lebanon, Hezbollah.

In Al Mahdi’s launch video posted May 3, 2019, Sodagar said:

“By the will of god and his Wali on earth, the Imam of our time, we will begin the Al Mahdi Islamic Seminary, knowing that we are simply means and we are not the ones who are doing this. It is all the blessings of Allah through the Imam of our time that we are able to put this together. We will start with the online courses, inshallah [Allah willing], which are designed for the serious and intelligent believer who is trying to learn more about their religion.”

He continued, speaking about how finding students and resources for a physical hawza [seminary] will take “more time.”

The overall mission of Al Mahdi Islamic Seminary, states, in part that:

“With the efforts of some of the graduates of the hawza in Qom and Najaf [cities in Iran], the Al Mahdi Islamic Seminary has been established in Houston, Texas, in order to follow in the footsteps of our predecessors and continue working to spread the teachings of The Imam of our time and his forefathers.”

“We pray Allah grants us His blessings in bringing a smile to our Imam’s face by presenting students and scholars from this region to lead the community under the guidance of our Imam without which we would go astray, and this institution could not survive.”

“The immediate goal of this institution is to train American Muslims to become credible pious scholars to help the people realize the truth about Islam; to realize Islam is the only solution for all our problems and the ones who are giving us all these problems are the ones who are giving Islam a bad name in order to prevent people from finding this great solution.”

Examining the first paragraph, we see that Al Mahdi is a possibility because of graduates of the hawza in Qom and Najaf.

Qom is considered the global center for Shiite scholarship. Sodagar himself studied in Qom and constantly espouses extremist views.

His sermons at Al Walayah, a California-based Shiite non-profit that’s been around since 2009 but received very little attention, are evidence of that.

How radical is Al Mahdi Seminary’s scholar?

In a speech from May about supporting Palestine, Sodagar who was born in the U.S. born, called it “unfortunate” when he saw a clip of people walking on images of great ulama (scholars) including, Hassan Nasrallah, the head of Hezbollah:

“There is a wrong notion being spread that these Palestinians are anti-Shia [Shiite], they are anti-ahul bayt [The family of the Prophet Mohammad].

“I even saw a brother, unfortunately on Facebook, he posted this clip showing people having pictures of some our great ulama (scholars), like Al Sistani, like Syed Hassan Nasrallah and others, and these people are walking on those images and chanting slogans against Shi’as.”

He also claims that ISIS was created by the United States, going as far to say that people will see the proof in the years to come. “ISIS was created by the Americans. This is documented. They will release further information about this later in the years to come,” he said.

As he continues to comment on his opinion on Israel, he makes it even clearer that he is on Hezbollah’s side. “Islamic Jihad had drones. They attacked an Israeli, I don’t know if it was a tank. The imagery was not clear. Either way, they dropped bombs from above. They flew drones on them. This is unprecedented. A couple years ago, we saw that the Zionists shot down a Hezbollah drone. And of course, I said at the time, I think Hezbollah wanted them to see that,” he said.

In a June sermon, Sodagar talked about how people not liking pictures of the Islamic Republic of Iran’s founder, Ruhollah Khomeini, on posters, is not a good sign.

“Now they sort of sound like they are proud of the [Islamic] Revolution as well, but you see signs. When someone does not like a picture of Imam Khomeini to be on a poster, that is a sign. That is a sign. That is not a good sign.”

Sodagar studied in Qom for over 17 years, according to the Al Hidayah Retreat, where he is listed as a scholar. And now he will be amplifying his extremist views at a whole new level, seeking to influence American Muslims in supporting the radical agenda of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

 

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Ryan Mauro and Justen Charters

Ryan Mauro is ClarionProject.org's Shillman Fellow, national security analyst and the director of Clarion Intelligence Network. Mauro is also an adjunct professor of counter-terrorism. He is frequently interviewed on top-tier television and radio. Justen Charters is a research analyst with the Clarion Intelligence Network.