From left, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, Hani Hanjour, and Chattanooga shooter Mohammed Abdulazeez.Photo: AP; AP; Getty Images
Property records show the mosque attended by the terrorist who killed US soldiers at a base in Chattanooga, Tenn., is affiliated with the same Islamic group as the mosques patronized by the Boston marathon bombers and the 9/11 hijackers who attacked the Pentagon.
Yet federal investigators have dismissed any possibility that the Tennessee mosque was a source of radicalization or support for the terrorist, Mohammad Youssef Abdulazeez.
The trustee of the Islamic Society of Greater Chattanooga, like the Boston and Virginia mosques attended by other terrorists, is the North American Islamic Trust.
In 2007, the Justice Department designated NAIT as an unindicted co-conspirator in the largest terrorist financing case in America history, US v. Holy Land Land Foundation, which resulted in convictions and imprisonment of several US-based Hamas terrorist leaders. Current NAIT chairman Gaddoor Saidi also appears on the government’s co-conspirator list.
Court records detail money flowing through NAIT financial accounts to Hamas. In the same exhibits from the trial, the Justice Department lists NAIT and Saidi among “members of the US Muslim Brotherhood,” alongside NAIT’s parent the Islamic Society of North America — from which the Islamic Society of Greater Chattanooga derives its name.
While NAIT maintains its innocence, its repeated appeals to the government to expunge its name from the co-conspirators list have failed. A federal judge ruled there is “ample evidence” tying NAIT to Hamas and the Brotherhood.
The Muslim Brotherhood is a worldwide jihadist movement whose credo is “Jihad is our way, and death for the glory of Allah is our greatest ambition.”
The ethnic-Palestinian Abdulazeez expressed similar ambitions in his Internet writings, in which he dreamed of fighting and dying in “jihad for the sake of Allah.”
In 2009, when Islamic Society leaders were raising money from Chattanooga Muslims for construction of their new mosque, they invoked the names of major Muslim Brotherhood figures — including the group’s spiritual leader Yusuf al-Qaradawi, who once issued a fatwa calling on Muslims to kill US soldiers in Iraq.
Qaradawi’s name shows up in a mosque PowerPoint presentation exhorting Muslim faithful to donate “in the cause of Allah.”
Abdulazeez and his family were longtime members of the Islamic Society, which forces women to pray separately from men and wear head coverings.
Contradicting recent claims they had “minimal interactions” with the 24-year-old jihadist, Facebook postings show mosque leaders once held a well-attended graduation celebration for him.
Friends say Abdulazeez regularly prayed at the Islamic Society in the months leading up to his attack on two US military sites.
The current mosque leadership is directly connected to NAIT.
The Islamic Society of Greater Chattanooga grew out of a small mosque founded by NAIT in 1997, the original deed reveals.
“NAIT bought the property in August of 1997 from St. John United Methodist,” said Sheldon Wright, deputy clerk for the Hamilton County, Tenn., register of deeds.
In 2007, the land for the new mosque was purchased by the “Islamic Society of Greater Chattanooga Inc.,” which lists an address for NAIT agent Arif Shafi. Shafi that same year filed the articles of incorporation for the Islamic Society of Greater Chattanooga. The state charter lists Shafi as both the “registered agent” for the mosque and one of its “incorporators.”
Then, in 2013, NAIT sold the old mosque, Masjid Annour, moving it to the new Islamic Society site. Shafi is represented in the transaction as “the authorized agent of the North American Islamic Trust.”
Attempts to reach Shafi for comment were unsuccessful. Other Islamic Society officials have asserted the mosque preaches peace and that they saw no signs that Abdulazeez was involved in “extremism.”
This is a familiar refrain. Americans have heard the same line from leaders of other mosques controlled by NAIT after their members, too, carried out acts of terrorism. Among them:
Islamic Society of Boston, where a dozen terrorists have worshipped, including the marathon bombers Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and Tamerlan Tsarnaev and most recently the ISIS-inspired terrorist who plotted to behead Boston cops.
Islamic Community Center of Phoenix, where worshippers included two ISIS terrorists who attacked a Dallas-area event and planned to shoot up the Super Bowl.
Dar al-Hijrah Islamic Center, where some of the 9/11 hijackers worshipped and got help obtaining IDs and housing, following on the heels of the Fort Hood shooter and several other terrorists who have attended the mosque just outside Washington.
More interested in outreach, authorities overlooked these disturbing patterns.
After 9/11, the Pentagon even invited the Dar al-Hijrah cleric, who ministered to the very hijackers who torpedoed the military headquarters, to an interfaith luncheon. That same cleric, Anwar al-Awlaki, would go on to head al Qaeda’s operations in Yemen before a drone-fired missile finally caught up to him.
Muslim Brotherhood archives uncovered last decade in an FBI raid of a terrorist suspect’s basement in a Washington suburb list NAIT as one of the movement’s key fronts in the US. They also describe its Islamic centers as “bases” from which to train and deploy its “battalions” in jihad.
NAIT holds title to more than 300 mosques and has helped finance more than 500 Islamic centers in America. Imams insist that none of them preach hate. But is it enough for law enforcement to just take their word for it?
We can’t let political correctness spare these mosques due scrutiny.
Paul Sperry, Hoover Institution media fellow, is author of “Infiltration: How Muslim Spies and Subversives Have Penetrated Washington.”