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Saudi Influence in California

Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (Photo: FAYEZ NURELDINE/AFP/Getty Images)
Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (Photo: FAYEZ NURELDINE/AFP/Getty Images)

Below, Clarion Project profiles Islamic centers in California with documented Saudi influence:

 

Masjid Bilal Islamic Center

Masjid Bilal is a mosque located in south Los Angeles.  Masjid Bilal was initially a Nation of Islam (NOI) mosque, known as Muhammad’s Temple of Islam #27. In 1975, the mosque transitioned from NOI to mainstream Sunni Islam,[1] but its imam still participates in NOI events.

The mosque built a new facility in 2007. It was able to complete the project in part through the assistant of grants from the Islamic Development Bank of Saudi Arabia.[2]  This bank has been directly involved in paying the families of Palestinian suicide bombers.[3]

Masjid Bilal’s resident imam is Abdul Karim Hasan, who has been the leader there since 1971.  While Hasan is no longer a member of NOI, he still associates with NOI and its leader Louis Farrakhan.[4] In 2010, Hasan participated as the keynote speaker at NOI’s annual Saviors Day commemoration.[5]

Masjid Bilal is a board member of the Muslim American Homeland Security Congress (MAHSC), alongside multiple Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated organizations.[6]

 

King Fahad Mosque

The King Fahd Mosque is a large, Saudi-funded mosque located in Culver City, California, just outside of Los Angeles.  The mosque was a gift to the Muslim community of Southern California from Saudi Arabia’s Prince Abdulaziz Bin Fahad Bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud, minister of state and cabinet.[7]

It is owned and operated by the Islamic Foundation of Shaikh Ibn Taymiyyah, which supervised the project of the King Fahd mosque since its commencement and is still responsible for its management and future activities.[8]

Honoring Ibn Taymiyyah by naming an Islamic foundation after him is a clear indication of extremism. Ibn Taymiyyah is an Islamic scholar who died in 1328 and was instrumental in promoting the faith as a violent, theocratic and expansionist doctrine. Ibn Taymiyyah is regularly cited by Sunni Islamist extremists today.

Steven Simon of the Brookings Institute credits Taymiyya with responsibility for the “elevation of jihad—not the spiritual struggle that many modern Muslims take it to be, but physical combat against unbelievers—to the rank of the canonical five pillars of Islam.”[9]

In 2016, the House Intelligence Committee unveiled the findings from 28 pages of declassified intelligence documents analyzed by the 9/11 Commission.  The documents show that hijackers Khalid al-Mihdhar and Nawaf al-Hazmi might have been aided in Los Angeles by then-Saudi consular official Shaykh al-Thumairy, who also served as an imam at the King Fahad Mosque. According to the documents, the mosque was identified by the FBI as a site of “extremist-related activity both before and after September 11.”[10]

In March of 2003, during Operation Iraqi Freedom, Sgt. Hasan Akbar killed two of his fellow soldiers while on duty in Kuwait. It was later revealed that Akbar attended the King Fahad Mosque.[11]

In 2017, Mahomed Akbar Khan was asked to leave his job as director of outreach at the King Fahad Mosque, apparently due to his “outrageous behavior” of hosting of interfaith events that included Jewish leaders.[12]

 

Masjid Omar Ibn Al-Khattab

Masjid Omar ibn al-Khattab opened in 1994 and is situated adjacent to the campus of the University of Southern California (USC) in Los Angeles.  A sizable amount of funding for the mosque’s construction came from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.[13]

The mosque is a part of the Omar Ibn Al Khattab Foundation.[14]  The foundation has also sponsored and hosted Muslim–Jewish dialogues and is represented on the Los Angeles Unified School District’s Human Relations Council and the Advisory Board of Days of Dialogue.[15]

The Omar Ibn Al-Khattab Foundation is a board member of The Muslim American Homeland Security Congress (MAHSC), alongside multiple Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated organizations.[16]

 

[1] Masjid Bilal Islamic Center Website, “About Masjid Bilal Islamic Center,” Accessed November 5, 2018, http://www.masjidbilalonline.com/about-masjid-bilal-islamic-center.html

[2] Ibid.

[3] EyeontheUN, “Terror Bank Gets Observer Status at U.N.,” The Hill, April 4, 2007, https://thehill.com/blogs/congress-blog/politics/28643-terror-bank-gets-observer-status-at-un

[4] Don Terry, “Farrakhan: Fiery Separatist in a Sober Suit,” New York Times, March 3, 1994, https://www.nytimes.com/1994/03/03/us/farrakhan-fiery-separatist-in-a-sober-suit.html

[5] Imam W. Deen Mohammed Youtube Channel, “Saviors Day 2010 – Imam Abdul Karim Hasan – Part 1,” Published: February 28, 2010, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x2CjsT1QfSw [Accessed: November 6, 2018]

[6] Muslim American Homeland Secruity Congress Facebook Page, “About,” Accessed: November 6, 2018, https://www.facebook.com/pg/MuslimAmericanHSC/about/?ref=page_internal

[7] King Fahad Mosque Website, “About Us!” Accessed November 7, 2018, https://kingfahadmosque.org/contacts/about-us/

[8] Ibid.

[9] Simon, Steven. “The New Terrorism: Securing the Nation Against a Messianic Foe.” Brookings Institute. January 3, 2003. https://www.brookings.edu/articles/the-new-terrorism-securing-the-nation-against-a-messianic-foe/

[10] CBS Los Angeles, “Possible Link Between Hijackers, Culver City Mosque Questioned In Newly Released 28 Pages From 9/11 Report,” July 15, 2016, https://losangeles.cbslocal.com/2016/07/15/possible-link-between-hijackers-culver-city-mosque-questioned-in-newly-released-pages-from-911-report/

[11] Joel Mowbray, “The House that Raised Akbar (An army sergeant’s ties to Saudi Arabia),” Free Republic, April 3, 2003, http://freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/884449/posts

[12] Debra Nussbaum Cohen, “U.S. Muslims Increasingly Harassed for Working With Jewish Groups, Activists Say,” Haaretz, August 31, 2018, https://www.haaretz.com/us-news/.premium-u-s-muslims-increasingly-harassed-for-working-with-jewish-groups-1.6433201

[13]Testimony: Stephen Schwartz, ” Terrorism: Growing Wahhabi Influence in the United States,” U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Terrorism, Technology and Homeland Security, June 26, 2003, https://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/CHRG-108shrg91326/pdf/CHRG-108shrg91326.pdf

[14] Omar Ibn Al-Khattab Foundation Website, “The Masjid,” Accessed: November 6, 2018, http://omarfoundation.com/

[15] Center for Muslim-Jewish Engagement, “About the Partnership,” University of Southern California, Accessed : November 6, 2018, http://cmje.usc.edu/about/partners/

[16] Muslim American Homeland Security Congress Facebook Page, “About,” Accessed: November 6, 2018, https://www.facebook.com/pg/MuslimAmericanHSC/about/?ref=page_internal

 

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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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