The Blog

A Mosque Grows in Boston

. . . but not without multiple lawsuits. The strange story of the Islamic Society of Boston's new mosque.

11:00 PM, Dec 13, 2005 • By DEAN BARNETT
Widget tooltip
Single Page Print Larger Text Smaller Text Alerts

While Alamoudi had not played an active role in the ISB for several years, the ISB has had more recent (and repeated) contact with other unpleasant characters. Take Yusuf Abdullah al-Qaradawi, a prominent Islamic cleric whom Islam scholar John Esposito of Georgetown has praised as a proponent of a "reformist interpretation of Islam."

He is not, however, as reformist as some might hope. In 1995, al-Qaradawi gave an address at the Muslim Arab Youth Association's convention in Toledo, Ohio where he vowed that Islam would "conquer Europe" and "conquer America." Earlier this past year, Al-Qaradawi declared that women should never lead men in prayers, calling the idea "heresy."

This was a step backward from al-Qaradawi's previously progressive attitude towards women: In 2003, he became the first prominent cleric to unequivocally support the concept of female suicide bombers. Al-Qaradawi declared that "women's participation in the martyrdom operations . . . is one of the most praised acts of worship." He went so far as to say a woman could participate in such an operation without her husband's consent and even, if necessary, travel without male chaperones and without wearing a veil. At the time, a spasm of female suicide bombers emerged. It is a trend which continues today.

Al-Qaradawi may or may not have served as a member of the Board of Trustees for the ISB. His name has appeared on relevant IRS forms as one of the Society's seven trustees. But the ISB insists that he was listed because of a clerical oversight; they maintain that IRS documents notwithstanding, he was not actually a trustee.

The ISB does not dispute the fact that they have repeatedly used al-Qaradawi as a tool to raise funds for the Boston mosque, printing a brochure that highlighted al-Qaradawi's enthusiastic support of the mosque and playing a videotaped message of support from him at a 2002 gathering. Today the ISB's website has a page devoted to defending al-Qaradawi and their relationship with him.

THEN THERE IS WALID FITAIHI, who, all parties agree, is in fact a member of the ISB's Board of Trustees. Fitaihi was one of the co-signers of the land conveyance between the ISB and the Boston Redevelopment Authority.

Fitaihi is also the author of an article in an Arabic language newspaper that labeled Jews "murderers of prophets" and claimed that Jews "would be punished for their oppression, murder and rape of the worshippers of Allah." Fitaihi also exhibited scorn for the "Zionist lobby in America . . . which has recruited many of the influential media."

Fitaihi's writings came to the public's attention in October of 2003 in the Boston Herald and prompted a letter from the local chapter of the Anti-Defamation League requesting that the ISB take action against Fitaihi.

The ISB initially responded that it was "shocked" by the nature of Fitaihi's writings. Ultimately, however, it supported Fitaihi, claiming that "the articles were intended to condemn particular individuals whom he believes were working to destroy one of Islam's holiest sites, killing innocent children, and thereby blocking the possibility of peace in the Middle East; the articles were not meant to incite hatred of an entire faith or people." The ISB did not explain how the "Zionist lobby in America" had any role in the ills on which Fitaihi's writings focused.

THE LAWSUITS

THE DEVELOPMENT of the ISB's mega-mosque and the surrounding controversy have, so far, generated two lawsuits. The first suit began as an action the ISB initiated against the media outlets who reported on the ties between the ISB and al-Qaradawi, Alamoudi, and Fitaihi and raised doubts about other ISB board members.

What separated this action from similar suits--such as the Holy Land Foundation's suit against Dallas Morning News reporter Steve McGonigle (a case that was dismissed within days of the government shutting down the Holy Land Foundation for terrorist ties)--was that the ISB later extended the suit to over a dozen private citizens who had spoken to the media about the ISB. The lynchpin of the ISB's case is that the private citizens and the media outlets named as defendants had relied on information from a man who, in the words of the ISB's complaint, "is known . . . to be a widely discredited and self professed 'expert' on radical Islam and Islamic terrorism."

The "discredited" and "self-professed" expert (who is also one of the defendants) is Steve Emerson--a semi-permanent resident of cable and network news shows, the head of the Investigative Project, and the author of 2002's best-seller American Jihad.