In 2011, popular Imam Sirhaj Wahhaj offered Muslims a recommendation: Don’t talk about Sharia Law because “we are not there yet.” He didn’t argue for an interpretation of Sharia that is permanently compatible with the West. Instead, he advised that Muslims be quiet for now, in accordance with the Muslim Brotherhood’s doctrine of "gradualism."
The most unsettling thing about Wahhaj’s sermons is that he’s extremely influential. He isn’t on the fringe. These quotes are known, but major Muslim-American organizations still put him on stage as a voice of wisdom.
“The trap we fall into is having a premature discussion about Sharia when we are not there yet,” Wahhaj said at the 2011 annual Islamic Circle of North America-Muslim American Society convention.
Wahhaj’s past, less-restrained preaching about Sharia law replacing the U.S. Constitution proves that he isn’t talking about Sharia as a personal code of conduct, like praying five times a day and abstaining from alcohol. He is talking about a political system. Consider what he has said when he wasn’t under the microscope as much:
“Islam is better than democracy. Allah will cause his deen [Islam as a complete way of life], Islam to prevail over every kind of system, and you know what? It will happen.”
“If only Muslims were clever politically, they could take over the United States and replace its constitutional government with a caliphate. If we were united and strong, we’d elect our own emir and give allegiance to him. Take my word, if eight million Muslims unite in America, the country will come to us,” he said in 1992.
“You don’t get involved in politics because it’s the American thing to do. You get involved in politics because politics are a weapon to use in the cause of Islam,” he said in 1991.
Wahhhaj made the remark about “a premature discussion about Sharia” at the annual joint conference of the Islamic Circle of North America and the Muslim American Society. He frequently speaks at fundraisers for the Council on American-Islamic Relations and he has served on its national board.
His mosque’s website says he’s been a Vice President of the Islamic Society of North America since 1997 and was on the board of advisors for the North American Islamic Trust from 1989 to 1993, a group that holds the deeds to one-fourth of the mosques in America. He is also the “Amir” of the Muslim Alliance in North America.
Yet those that bring up the quotes of Wahhaj and his allies are blasted as anti-Muslim bigots. From the beginning, Wahhaj has whipped up fears about “Islamophobia” by preaching that the U.S. government is persecuting innocent Muslims at home and abroad.
In a sermon shortly after the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, he told the audience that the U.S. government is dispatching undercover agents to mosques in America and around the world to frame Muslims. He suggested that the U.S. government and possibly Israel were behind the bombing. Wahhaj was listed as an “unindicted person who may be alleged as co-conspirators” in the attack.
The “real terrorists,” Wahhaj said, are three entities: The U.S. government, big business and the media.
“America is one of the greatest terrorist nations on this earth but you know, they hide it with magic. They pretend to be so nice,” he said.
Wahhaj was preaching the same message after 9/11 eight years later, but he presented it as something new. He said, “What began as a legitimate fight against terrorism, and every Muslim would join in that fight against terrorism … has now become an attack on Islam.”
On February 25, 2011, Wahhaj was recorded speaking at a Muslim Students Association event at the University of Central Florida. He said, “What is the punishment according to the Koran for those who commit fornication? What’s the punishment? Lashes, 100 lashes. Not stoning.”
In an earlier sermon, he said, “If Allah says 100 strikes, 100 strikes it is. If Allah says cut off their hand, you cut off their hand. If Allah says stone them to death, through the Prophet Muhammad, then you stone them to death, because it’s the obedience of Allah and his messenger—nothing personal.”
Again, this is proof that Wahhaj’s message hasn’t changed; only how it’s presented has been changed.
And that’s why four more quotes, taken from a tape of a 1992 sermon in Brooklyn remain as relevant now as they were then:
“We don’t need to arm the people with 9mms and Uzis. You need to arm them with righteousness first. And once you arm them with righteousness first, then you can arm them.”
“I will never tell people, ‘Don’t be violent.’ That’s not the Islamic way.”
“If we go to war, brothers and sisters—and one day we will, believe me—that’s why you’re commanded [to fight in] jihad.”
“Some Muslims have lost the desire to fight…Muslims have become soft. And they love the soft life. And they hate death. And that is why all over the world Muslims are getting their butts kicked—except those Muslims who fight back like in Afghanistan.”
Temporary restraint is often mistaken for genuine moderation. As Wahhaj said in 2011 regarding talking about Sharia Law, “we are not there yet.”
Ryan Mauro is the ClarionProject.org’s National Security Analyst, a fellow with the Clarion Project and is frequently interviewed on Fox News.