The last few days have seen various sources reporting on President Obama’s upcoming visit Wednesday to the Islamic Society of Baltimore (ISB), described as his first visit ever during his presidency to a US mosque. According to a Washington Post report:, the ISB is:
… a sprawling community center in the city’s western suburbs that serves thousands of people with a place of worship, a housing complex and schools, according to its website. It is one of the Mid-Atlantic region’s largest Muslim centers and describes itself as aspiring “to be the anchor of a growing Muslim community with diverse backgrounds, democratically governed, relating to one another with inclusiveness and tolerance, and interacting with neighbors in an Islamic exemplary manner.”
As usual, and as the GMBDW has frequently complained, the mainstream media such as the Post have failed to do even the slightest due diligence in reporting on these matters, leaving the field wide open for less responsible and/or careful sources. One of these sources reported that the ISB is “a member of a network of mosques controlled by the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA).” This report presented no evidence of ISB membership in any ISNA network and the GMBDW failed to find such a connection.
Another source made somewhat of a more credible attempt reporting that Mohamad Adam el-Sheikh, described as “a native of Sudan and former member of the Muslim Brotherhood”, was the ISB Imam for eighteen years though interestingly neglecting to mention that his tenure at the ISB ended in 2003 and that, according to el-Sheikh, lasted for nine years rather than eighteen. This source also reported that el-Sheikh was a founder of the Muslim American Society (MAS), known to be a part of the US Muslim Brotherhood and close to the Egyptian organization (el-Sheikh’s ties to the USMB have long been reported by the GMBDW). Finally, this same source cited a 2004 statement by el-Sheikh which was said to have “condoned” suicide bombings but a closer examination of the statement in question reveals that what el-Sheikh actually said was that “Islamic law does not allow suicide bombings in most instances” but that in dire circumstances and with religious authorization, such actions could be “acceptable as an exceptional rule, but should not be taken as a principle.” Certainly this statement could be seem as a form of justification, but not the blanket support suggested by the report headline.
In any event, the evidence thus far for the ISB being a Muslim Brotherhood mosque boils down to one unreliable report of a connection with ISNA and the ties and statement of an ISB Imam who has not been associated with mosque for thirteen years, not exactly what could be described as an airtight case. However, proper investigative research by the GMBDW reveals more substantial and long standing ties of the Islamic Society of Baltimore to the US Muslim Brotherhood. To begin with, a 2007 archived web page of the Coordinating Council Of Muslim Organizations In Greater Washington, D.C. (CCMODC) lists the ISB as one of its member organizations along with a large number of other organizations, most of which are known to be part of the US Brotherhood including the International Institute of Islamic Thought (IIIT), the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA), the Muslim American Society (MAS), and Dar Al-Hijrah. During that same timeframe, the ISB was a co-sponsor of a forum on the Danish cartoon crisis also sponsored by some of these same organizations.
Perhaps even more damning are the ties of Maqbool Patel, the long-time ISB President who also served in that capacity during the tenure of ISB imam Mohamad Adam el-Sheikh. Patel has been long been an activist with the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA) since at least the time of the organization’s 24th annual convention in 1999. ICNA in turn is a part of the US Muslim Brotherhood and considered to be closely tied to the Jamaat-e-Islami organization of Southeast Asia, itself allied with the Global Muslim Brotherhood. ICNA is particularly close to the Muslim American Society and the two organizations have been holding joint conferences in recent years. As recently as December 2015, Patel was featured as a speaker at the 2015 joint ICNA/MAS convention in Baltimore.
So, and again with proper research, we now have a fuller picture of the Islamic Society of Baltimore, an organization that acted as part of a wider US Muslim Brotherhood coalition and led by its longtime President with deep ties to the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA) and who presided over at least some of the tenure of an imam with his own extensive links to the US Muslim Brotherhood. However, the real question here is whether or not anybody should be surprised that President Obama is visiting such as mosque when surely at least one mosque could be found in the US that is not so close to the Muslim Brotherhood? The GMBDW for one is not surprised given the President’s longstanding willingness to employ individuals in his administration who are close to the Global Muslim Brotherhood. For example:
- In 2008, during Obama’s Presidential campaign, he employed a Muslim campaign advisor who later resigned from the campaign following inquiries from the Wall Street Journal about his ties to the US Muslim Brotherhood that were first reported by the GMBDW.
- In 2009, the GMBDW reported that one of the two Muslim members appointed to the President’s Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships was Dahlia Mogahed, a protege of John Esposito, perhaps the best known academic supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood, and with her own family ties to the Egyptian Brotherhood.
- In 2010, President Obama’s choice for US Envoy to the OIC, Rashad Hussain, was embroiled in controversy after the GMBDW reported both his associations with the US Muslim Brotherhood and remarks that he had made in 2004 about the prosecution of convicted terrorist Sami Al-Arian.
Occam’s Razor, crudely put, suggests that all things being equal the simplest explanation is to be preferred. As evidenced by President Obama’s June 2009 “New Beginning” speech in Cairo, it is clear that he entered office with the desire to “repair” relations with the Islamic world following the events of the Bush Administration. It also seems clear that the Obama administration gives no credence to the notion of a Global Muslim Brotherhood and thus would have no reason to explore further any such ties of their appointees nor assign any adverse significance to them if discovered. Thus, as part of this new beginning, ties to Islamist organizations would seemingly no longer be considered a bar to public office under an Obama administration and, in fact, would likely be considered a positive factor, as in the case of Rashad Hussain who would be charged with managing the US relationship with the countries of the Islamic world. In short, the GMBDW judges that the three Obama appointees were selected, at least in part, precisely because of their ties to the Global Muslim Brotherhood and not in spite of them.
The GMBDW sees no reason to modify this analysis and we suggest that President Obama’s choice of a mosque with links to the Global Muslim Brotherhood are of no more significance to him and his administration than the employment of individuals such as those identified above. More simply put, yes President Obama is going to visit a US Muslim Brotherhood mosque and he either doesn’t know, or if he does know, he simply doesn’t care.