A family friend of Ahmad Khan Rahami, the alleged perpetrator of the bombings in N.Y. and N.J., says Rahami attended the Muslim Community of New Jersey mosque and was there two weeks ago, but his overall attendance was “inconsistent.” The imam of the mosque is an official with an Islamist group named the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA).
Hirani is also an official with ICNA, serving as the program manager for its proselytizing campaign known as “WhyIslam” and an instructor for a branch of ICNA known as the Islamic Learning Foundation.
ICNA was derived from a Southeast Asian Islamist party called Jamaat-e-Islami. You can read our more comprehensive profile of ICNA here.
There is no indication that ICNA or Hirani support or approve of ISIS and Rahami’s bombings, but a 300-page teaching guide made by ICNA tells ICNA supporters that it is based on the work of some of the pioneers of the Islamist extremist movements, including Hamas financier Yousef Al-Qaradawi.
The Clarion Project wrote about the teaching guide in 2014. It is full of disturbing quotes about jihad, defeating the West, “reinstating the Caliphate system,” establishing theocratic sharia law, deception, infiltrating the political system and following an incremental strategy of gradualism towards these ends.
ICNA’s 2010 member’s handbook similarly outlines a five-tiered strategy towards achieving a “united Islamic state, governed by an elected khalifah (caliph) in accordance with the laws of Sharia (Islamic law).” The five tiers are individual, family, society, state and global, the last of which entails establishing alliances “towards the establishment of the Khilafah [caliphate].”
If you teach Muslims that Allah requires you to strive towards building an Islamic State, it is not surprising that they would want to join the Islamic State. If you tell Muslims that it is obligatory to resurrect the caliphate, with violent jihad as a permissible option, won’t they be enthralled by an organization that appears to achieve that?
ICNA does condemn ISIS but even its declaration against ISIS endorses its basic concepts, which is why the declaration’s signatories include theocratic jihadists. It isn’t a truly peaceful and democratic declaration like the one published by the Muslim Reform Movement.
As for Hirani himself, he does preach against Islamic extremism, using that exact terminology. In one sermon, he laments talking to a youth who asked his parents about whether ISIS is following the Quran and his father only said not to talk about the world’s most famous terrorist group.
Hirani urged a more proactive approach, saying:
“Usually when I see speakers speaking about these topics, whether they are religious people or secular people, Muslim or non-Muslim, they will exaggerate. They will exaggerate Islamic extremism and they will forget the Islamophobia or they will say the other side of the picture. Some people will mention Islamophobia-Islamophobia, but they will not condemn what’s going on in the name of Islam, [unintelligible], Islamic extremism.”
Of course statements like these are welcome—but ICNA’s affiliation with the Rahami’s mosque through Imam Hirani remains just as relevant. The threat isn’t limited to ISIS (a specific group) or suicide bombings (a particular tactic) but the broader Islamist ideology.
If we want to learn where Rahami got his seditious Islamist ideology, a good place to start is his mosque that is linked to a seditious Islamist group.
Ryan Mauro is ClarionProject.org’s national security analyst, a fellow with Clarion Project and an adjunct professor of homeland security. Mauro is frequently interviewed on top-tier television and radio. Read more, contact or arrange a speaking engagement.