One of the most acclaimed documentaries about Muslims in a post-9/11 America is New Muslim Cool, a 2009 film about a Puerto Rican-American named Hamza Perez that is part of an Islamic hip-hop duo named “Mujahideen Team.” The film focuses on an FBI raid on his mosque and his dismissal as an Islamic teacher at a jail, using them as examples of the discrimination Muslims now face. But is the FBI really prejudiced against Muslims or acting to protect Americans against threats by radical Muslims?
Perez, the hero of the film, was part of a group who moved to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to “create a Muslim community.” He’s made extremist statements in the past, including one directed towards the U.S. government in 2003 that he attributes to immaturity. He’s held up as a moderate eager for interfaith dialogue who believes that jihad is a struggle against sin, not the waging of war. His past remarks resulted in the revoking of his security clearance, temporarily barring him from teaching at the jail.
The raid by armed FBI agents on the Light of the Age mosque that Perez goes to was lasted for over four hours on June 30, 2006. It came one hour after Larry M. Williams was arrested outside the mosque, which he had attended for three years. Williams, a convicted felon, was caught in Utah days earlier with “plastic bags containing parts of a pistol and two magazines for it, plus ammunition and a magazine for an assault rifle.” The weapons were confiscated but he mistakenly wasn’t arrested, so a warrant was issued. The film makes the raid seem like a reckless and offensive overreaction. The mosque’s leader condemned the raid as a destructive attack on African-Americans and Muslims.
The Light of the Age mosque is the same location as an organization called the Sankore Institute of Islamic-African Studies International. The organization is part of a movement to create separatist Islamist enclaves in the U.S.
Joe Kaufman of Americans Against Hate is responsible for exposing SIIASI. It was founded in December 1986 in Sudan, a country designated as a State Sponsor of Terrorism by the U.S. government. Kaufman describes it as an “anti-Western preservation society for rare African Muslim manuscripts.” It is led by Muhammad Shareef, who refers to the U.S. as “Amerikkka” and preaches against “pacifist ‘imams’ who deny the obligation to jihad and who have deluded their followers into fruitless activity of supporting democratic constitutional government.”
SIIASI consists mostly of ex-convicts and its website shows members with swords and guns, Kaufman reports. Some of Perez’s lyrics seem to be influenced by SIIASI’s preaching that the U.S. is a racist country. In one of his songs, “Welcome Home,” his rap duo states:
“Coming home out of the jails, out of the prisons, out of the slave plantations man/Welcome home, all my soldiers that were locked/Welcome home, free from the prison blocks.”
It gets worse. SIIASI launched a program called Jawala Scouts for boys as young as seven years old. The photos from their events show them learning combat techniques and survival skills—all while wearing military attire (while playing paintball).
The FBI doesn’t look for excuses to carry out four-hour raids with armed agents on mosques. The agency had this information and more. It is very possible that a frightening disclosure from Williams after he was arrested one hour earlier prompted the quick and aggressive reaction.
This is not a raid for which the FBI should be shamed.
Ryan Mauro is ClarionProject.org's National Security Analyst and a fellow with the Clarion Fund. He is the founder of WorldThreats.com and is frequently interviewed on Fox News.