US media is reporting on another controversy centered on the proposed construction of a mosque, this time in a rural community in Southern California. According to a Fox News report:
Muslims throughout Temecula and Murrieta have saved up for years to build a mosque to replace the plain white industrial building, tucked between a pipeline company and packaging warehouse, where they now gather to pray. But as the Islamic Center of Temecula Valley moves ahead with plans to build on a four-acre plot of vacant land near Temecula’s gentle hills and invading housing developments, plans for the new mosque have stirred hostility in this mostly conservative community in southwest Riverside County. Along with increased traffic and noise, opponents fear the mosque would clash with Temecula’s rural atmosphere and, they say, possibly turn the community of 105,000 into a haven for Islamic extremists…..Leaders of the Islamic center were surprised by the level of criticism, especially from a few religious groups, saying their current makeshift mosque and Islamic community center have been in town for more than a decade and members always have felt welcome. “Our children go to the same schools their children go to. We shop at the same stores where they shop,” said Mahmoud Harmoush, the imam of the Islamic center and an instructor at Cal State San Bernardino’s World Languages and Literatures Department. “All of a sudden our neighbors wake up and they’re opposed to us building the Islamic center there, the mosque. I hope it’s a small group,” he said…The land for the proposed mosque lies west of the Temecula wine country in a pocket of the city that’s become a mish-mash of ranch homes with large grassy spreads and clusters of encroaching red-tile roofs. Along with Calvary Baptist, the mosque will be a short walk from Grace Presbyterian Church. The design of the 24,943-square-foot mosque and center reflect a Mediterranean design seen in many Temecula neighborhoods, though the building will have traditional domes topped with crescent moons. The facility will be built in two stages, with the first limited to a 4,100-square-foot mosque to serve about 150 Muslim families living in Temecula, Murrieta and surrounding communities, Harmoush said. The Islamic center has owned the land since 2000, but the small Muslim community has needed time to raise enough money to build. Harmoush said it could be years before the entire mosque and community center are completed. The proposal is expected to go before the Temecula Planning Commission in August, and city officials are reviewing the expected effect of the mosque on neighborhood traffic and noise levels and any other environmental concerns.
One of the churches opposing the mosque has cited both the size of the project, concerns about Islam itself, and anti-Israeli rallies. sponsored by the Islamic Center of Temecula Valley (ICTV) as reasons for its opposition to the project. In one of those rallies held in January 2009, the ICTV partnered with the Al-Awda – The Palestine Right to Return Coalition, an organization opposed to Israel’s right to exist and which supports resistance against Israel “by any means necessary.”
As has been the case with other mosques planned for rural communities, the mosque sponsor appears to have ties to the US and Global Muslim Brotherhood. A faculty bio describes ICTV imam Harmoush as follows:
Mahmoud Harmoush joined the World Languages and Literatures (WLL) Department in the Winter of 2007 to teach Arabic Language and Islamic Culture. He was born and raised in Syria and completed his college education in the USA. He earned a B.S. in Economics from the California State Polytechnic University in Pomona and a Master’s of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies and Second Language Acquisition from Mountain State University in West Virginia. Mr. Harmoush holds many educational and leadership positions at several institutions in Southern California. He currently leads the community in Temecula / Murrieta where he also teaches Arabic Language and Islamic Studies and organizes community events. Mr. Harmoush has traveled and conducted business in several parts of the world. He is highly informed on the Middle East and the Global affairs.
A Gulf newspaper reports that Mr. Harmoush emigrated from Syria in the mid-1980s and according to their website, he is a member of the leadership council of the Syrian American Congress which is headed by Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) leader Louay Safi and also includes ISNA President Safa Zarzour. As documented by a Hudson Institute report, ISNA is an important part of the USMB.
Other possible ties to the Global Muslim Brotherhood include:
- Mr. Harmoush may have also had a leadership role in important Islamic student organizations tied to the Global Muslim Brotherhood. For example, a report on Muslims in the Caribbean identifies a Mahmoud Harmoush as the 1993 Caribbean representative for the International Federation of Islamic Student Organizations (IIFSO), an organization in which many leaders in the Global Muslim Brotherhood belong at one time including Ahmed Totonji of International Institute of Islamic Thought (IIIT) who played a prominent role in the Carribbean branch of IIFSO at one time.
- A 2001 list of speakers (see note below) for the Muslim Student Association (MSA) identifies a Br. Mahmood Harmoush as a former MSA President. The Hudson report also identifies MSA as important part of the US Muslim Brotherhood.
- As late as June 2008, the website of the Muslim World League (MWL) Canada listed a Mahmoud Harmoush living in LA as one of its approved speakers. The MWL is a Saudi religious organization strongly tied to the Global Muslim Brotherhood.
(Note: List of Names of Speakers on the MSA Speakers List http://www.msa-natl.org/resources/speakers.pdf Last Updated: Sat Sep 1 04:13:11 2001 (no longer available)