Bernardin Center At The Crossroads - "Excessive Placidity" Towards Islam, II


March 10, 2004 - San Francisco, CA - - In the last of this series, we raised serious questions regarding the Catholic Theological Union’s Bernardin Center, questions centering on the Bernardin Center’s interfaith outreach programs to Islam.

We believe that these programs, rather than building bridges to understanding, are granting legitimacy to radical, anti-Christian, anti-American, Salafi Muslim organizations, such as the Bridgeview Mosque Foundation, Al-Quds University and individuals like Oussamma Jamal, Mustafa Abu Sway and Azzam Tamimi.

To quote briefly from the previous article, Interfaith Outreach And “Excessive Placidity" Towards Islam

“Dr. Scott Alexander is the director of the Catholic-Muslim Studies Program at the Bernardin Center, which is part of the Catholic Theological Union. On Feb 9, 2004 the Bernardin Center held one of its "Conversations in Faith" events, this one entitled - "Choosing Peace: Jews, Christians, and Muslims, Preparing Our Children for Life Together."

This program has been underwritten by a grant from the Chicago Community Trust.

The featured speakers at the event were Arne Duncan, CEO of Chicago Public Schools, Elaine Shuster, President and CEO of the Golden Apple Foundation, Chicago, and Oussama Jammal, President of the Mosque Foundation in Bridgeview, IL. The event was moderated by Carol Marin, a columnist for the Chicago Tribune.

The Bridgeview Mosque has a history of terrorist ties going back to the 1990's, and has been under federal watch for many years. The Mosque's spokesman is Rafiq Jaber; he is the head of the Islamic Association in Palestine, the U.S. wing of Hamas.

Some of its members have been arrested on terror related charges.

"In 1993, one Palestinian-American who was a member of the mosque was convicted in Israel of distributing money and weapons to operatives of Hamas, the terrorist Palestinian group. He was given a five-year sentence. - New York Times, September 21, 2001

That Palestinian American is Mohammed Abdul Hamid Khalil Salah, head of the Quranic Literacy Institute.

Jamal's Mosque has also been linked to the following groups.

Islamic Association for Palestine - "The FBI memo said that the Islamic Assn. for Palestine, like Holy Land, had received "large sums of money" from Hamas political leader Mousa Abu Marzook" LA Times Editorial December 6, 2001.

American Middle Eastern League for Palestine - "These facts strongly suggest that the IAP and the American Middle Eastern League for Palestine [a sister group] are part of Hamas' propaganda apparatus." - Statement by the Department of Immigration & Naturalization

Quranic Literacy Institute - See above - Mohammed Abdul Hamid Khalil Salah.

North American Islamic Trust - Owns approximately 25% of US Mosques, is funded by Wahabi/Salafi radical Muslims in Saudi Arabia. Siraj Wahhaj was a character witness for the “Blind Shayk" Omar Abdel Rahman, who was convicted in the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center, Wahhaj was also listed as an unindicted co-conspirator in a 1995 plot to blow up New York landmarks. Wahaj is a former board member of NAIT.

NAIT also owns the Islamic Academy of Florida - "a criminal enterprise" as described in the federal indictment handed down in February against the school's founder - Sami al-Arian and others alleged to be Hamas fundraisers.

American Muslim Society - Named as a Hamas front group in the ongoing federal case, Stanley Boim, et al, v Quranic Literacy Institute & the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development

Holy Land Foundation - Shut down by FBI as known Hamas front group, has received at least $271,000 in Hamas money.

Islamic Society of North America - "the Islamic Society of North America is one of dozens of nonprofit groups whose tax records have been requested by the Senate Finance Committee as part of an investigation of potential terrorist ties." - The Washington Times

Steve Emerson - a pioneer in the field of investigating radical Islamic activity - described a visit to the Mosque in his book American Jihad - ‘...the Imam of the Mosque was Jamal Said...the walls of the vestibule were covered with Hamas could see daggers plunged into Jewish hearts wrapped in the American flag.’"

CTU and the Bernardin Center are aware of the controversy surrounding their interfaith efforts and they are in receipt of the information that we have gathered, along with our demand that the interfaith outreach to Islam be halted pending independent review.

Unfortunately, our efforts to evoke a response from CTU’s Bernardin Center have been unsuccessful, neither calls nor Emails to the Center’s Director, Sheila McLaughlin, have been returned and our last communication with program director Scott Alexander ended with him rudely, and loudly, hanging up on us.

In a courageous Chicago Tribune article - "Hard-liners won battle for Bridgeview mosque" - Noreen S. Ahmed-Ullah, Kim Barker, Laurie Cohen, Stephen Franklin and Sam Roe detailed the forcible takeover of the Bridgeview mosque by Salafi radicals.

Sheik Jamal Said stood before the packed mosque and worked the crowd like an auctioneer...the prayer leader asked for a donation...He asked for $5,000, and three men raised their hands...The crowd declared, "Allahu Akbar" or "God is great." $1,000? More hands. $500? Even more. In less than five minutes, he raised $50,000.

The recipient of the worshipers' generosity was Sami Al-Arian, a Palestinian activist accused by the U.S. government of aiding terrorists. And the prayer leader's passionate appeal is a reflection of the ascendancy of Muslim hard-liners at the mosque, one of the most outspoken and embattled in the U.S.

The mosque did not become this way without a struggle...the Tribune has pieced together the details of a bitter fight in Bridgeview that saw religious fundamentalists prevail over moderates.

The story is a rare look inside the transformation of an American mosque, the role of Middle Eastern money in shaping Islam and the tensions many Muslims feel as they try to create enclaves in the U.S.

It also provides insight into the wave of fundamentalism sweeping many parts of the world, creating divisions between East and West, between Arab governments and militants, and within Islam itself.

Among the leaders at the Bridgeview mosque are men who have condemned Western culture, praised Palestinian suicide bombers and encouraged members to view society in stark terms: Muslims against the world. Federal authorities for years have investigated some mosque officials for possible links to terrorism financing..." - Chicago Tribune February 8, 2004

The Tribune article - of which we were unaware at the time our first installment was published - adds detail to our major points regarding the Bridgeview Mosque, most importantly it provides an in-depth detailed look at the internecine warfare being waged by the extremists - both against American national security interests as well as more moderate Muslims within that place of worship.

It is the Wahabi form of Islam with which Bernardin's programs curry favor. The process serves only to empower the fundamentalists who also use this quasi-official imprimatur to strangle proponents of moderate Islam.

Not content with merely involving Islamists as speakers at the Center's events, we note that Sayyid Sayeed, Secretary General of the Islamic Society of North America [ISNA] actually sits on the Bernardin Center's National Board of Advisors.

ISNA is one of dozens of Muslim organizations whose tax records are being sought by the Senate Finance Committee in a probe of ties to terrorism. Sayeed has also recently spoken at anti-Semite, Louis Farrakhan's, Nation of Islam events.

Terrorism expert Steven Emerson reports that, "In September 2002, a full year after the 9/11 attacks, speakers at ISNA's annual conference still refused to acknowledge Bin Laden's role in the terrorist attacks."

As noted in our previous article, the Bernardin Center is also currently administering a Lilly Foundation funded outreach to Al-Quds University, in Jerusalem.

Alexander has proposed to expand the Catholic-Muslim studies program to include cooperation with the Center for Islamic Research at Al-Quds University in Jerusalem - funded by a $2 million dollar grant from the Lilly foundation. Al-Quds University is an institution known for its Hamas sympathies. Mustafa Abu Sway and Dr. Azzam Tamimi have been involved in the program coordination and have made presentations at program conferences.

Professor Mustafa Abu Sway is a documented Hamas activist . He came to America as a visiting Fulbright Scholar at Florida Atlantic University. He was under investigation by the State Department for his association with Hamas. In May 2004 he left the US to return to his position as head of the Islamic Studies Department at Al Quds University.

Dr. Tamimi is the head of the UK based Institute for Islamic Political Thought.(IIPT) Tamimi is associated with Hamas and the militant Hizb Ut Tahrir group, which calls for the destruction of Western society and the implementation of a world wide Islamic government based on Sharia law."

Consider, for example, an interview given by Tamimi to a leading Spanish newspaper last November. Headline: "I admire the Taliban; they are courageous." Tamimi begins by assuring the interviewer that "everyone" in the Arab world cheered upon seeing the Twin Towers fall. "Excuse me," says the interviewer, "did you understand my question?" Tamimi: "In the Arab and Muslim countries, everyone jumped for joy. That's what you asked me, isn't it?" The interview continues in this vein, to a point where Tamimi accuses the United States propping up all of the dictators in the Arab world. "They must be eliminated if anything is to change." Interviewer: "And how to eliminate them?" Tamimi: "The people of those countries should rebel, fight, sacrifice, spill blood. The French Revolution cost lives. The American revolution cost lives. Liberty is not given, it is taken!" Later, Tamimi gives his solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict: "The Israelis stole our houses, which are today occupied by Jews from Poland, Russia, Ukraine, Morocco, Ethiopia, Brooklyn. They should return to their homes, and give ours back to us!...That's non-negotiable. Therefore I support Hamas." - Martin Kramer - Campus Watch

A very close associate of Tamimi's is another Bernardin Center Board member, Dr. John Esposito.

So I am puzzled. Professor Esposito has an academic partnership with one Azzam Tamimi, a Palestinian residing in London. They have co-edited a book. Tamimi has published another book in a series edited by Esposito (in the preface, Tamimi calls Esposito "my ustadh," my teacher). Tamimi also runs something called the Institute of Islamic Political Thought in London. Esposito sits on its board of advisors—the only American to do so. In short, this seems to be a close liaison. The problem is, Azzam Tamimi is Hamas - Martin Kramer - Campus Watch

It's hard to escape the conclusion that it is the policy of the Bernardin Center to break bread, not only with "edgy" members of fringe groups, but people associated with organizations like Hamas.

In the final analysis, whose interests do the Center's programs serve?

They don't serve Christianity - a declared enemy of radical Islam, and they certainly don't serve the national security interests of the United States, which is now engaged in a war against it.

The program's organizers have exhibited a reckless disregard of caution in the selection of participants placing the outreach effort at odds with the current teachings of the Vatican, which has decried - through mouthpiece publications like La Civilta Cattolica the turning of a deaf ear towards radical Islam because of its history of oppressing both Christians and Jews.

Whom do these programs serve?

Well, that is indeed the $64,000 question - one which those who are involved in and fund these programs must ask themselves.

As presently configured, these programs serve only two groups:

One, the program's directors and coordinators who are feted by well-meaning but uninformed Jewish and Christian groups, who unfortunately take the participants and speaker's good intentions on faith - believing the peace and love mumbo jumbo simply because they are being intentionally shielded from the truth.

Two, the radical Islamists themselves, who lionize those associated with the programs because they provide good press, plausible deniability and grant them unearned standing as moderates.

The longer this ruse continues, the more damage accrues to CTU and the Bernardin Center's reputations. During this troubled time in Church history, does Catholicism really need more controversy, more scandal, more cover-ups?

It is no longer arguable that there is something seriously wrong with the way these programs are structured and run, and we once again demand that Bernardin's interfaith outreach programs to Islam be halted pending a thorough and independent review.

Unless or until this happens, CTU's activities in this area are doing a great disservice to Catholicism.

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