Skip to comments.Under suspicion: Hub mosque leader tied to radical groups
Posted on 10/29/2003 4:13:22 AM PST by ninonitti
Last of two parts.
The leader of the local Islamic organization preparing to build a major new mosque in Boston is allegedly linked to a network of Muslim companies and charitable groups in Virginia suspected by federal investigators of providing material support to Islamic terrorists.
The chairman of the board of trustees of the Islamic Society of Boston, which has city approval to construct a $22 million cultural center and mosque in Roxbury, was also a leader of an Indiana-based Muslim organization known for its anti-Western rhetoric and for providing a platform for radical Islamists, some of whom have been linked to terrorism.
The chairman, Osama M. Kandil, has been a leader of the Islamic Society of Boston for more than a decade. In addition to serving on the group's board of trustees for many years, public records show he has been a trustee of the group's real estate arm since 1993, when it purchased property for its current mosque in Cambridge.
Outside Massachusetts, however, Kandil is identified in a federal government affidavit as a member of what U.S. investigators have dubbed the ``Safa Group,'' a complicated array of individuals and interlocking for-profit and non-profit entities allegedly involved in financing Islamic terrorism.
One Safa Group firm, American Products International Inc., lists Kandil as its registered agent. The company's registered address is the Herndon, Va., home of Safa Group member Jamal Barzinji, which was raided in March 2002 as part of Operation Green Quest, a terrorist financing probe.
A 101-page search warrant affidavit unsealed in federal court in Virginia last week said financial activity by the Safa Group ``evidences a conspiracy. . .to route money through hidden paths to terrorists and to defraud the United States.''
``I believe that Barzinji is not only closely associated with PIJ (Palestinian Islamic Jihad). . . but also with Hamas,'' wrote David Kane, an agent in the Department of Homeland Security's Immigration and Customs Enforcement division.
Palestinian Islamic Jihad has been formally designated as a terrorist organization by the U.S. government since 1995, Kane wrote.
According to Kane's affidavit, Barzinji is an officer of at least 14 Safa Group entities, and his neighbor, M. Yaqub Mirza, is an officer of 29 Safa Group entities. Mirza was also a board member of Ptech, a Quincy-based computer software company raided by federal agents last year as part of Operation Green Quest.
Another link between the Islamic Society of Boston and the Safa Group is Abdurahman Alamoudi, the founder and first president of the local Muslim organization.
Alamoudi was indicted last week for laundering money from the Libyan government and is suspected of funding terrorist groups in the Mideast through Safa Group charities and businesses.
The Herald reported yesterday that in addition to Alamoudi, the Islamic Society of Boston has a longstanding relationship with Dr. Yusuf Abdullah al-Qaradawi, a radical Egyptian cleric whose vocal support of suicide bombings and the terrorist group Hamas prompted the State Department to bar him from entering the U.S. four years ago.
Even though the group's tax filings from 1998 to 2000 list al-Qaradawi as a director, the Islamic Society of Boston said in a written statement Monday that al-Qaradawi ``never played any role in the ISB.''
The group attributed the appearance of the cleric's name on its tax forms to ``an administrative oversight.''
However, the Herald also reported that during a fund-raising event for the planned mosque last November at the Sheraton in Boston, hours after the project's ceremonial groundbreaking, Islamic Society of Boston officials played a videotaped message from al-Qaradawi urging attendees to support the new Islamic cultural center on Malcolm X Boulevard.
The statement released by the Islamic Society of Boston on Monday also said: ``The ISB has a policy of disallowing groups or individuals with extremist views from having any forum for their divisive and destructive rhetoric at the Society's mosque in Cambridge.''
In a telephone interview yesterday, Kandil, speaking from a hotel in Frankfurt, Germany, said he believes the U.S. government mistakenly associated him with the so-called Safa group.
``The only connection I have is I rented a house on Safa Court,'' Kandil said. ``American Products International was a trading company we established and we ran the business from our house. I had nothing to do with the Safa group.''
He said he knew Barzinji and Mirza because they were his landlord and next-door neighbor, respectively. ``I was never part of that group. I was never involved in their activities,'' he said.
Kandil said the new mosque planned for Roxbury is being financed by donors both from the Boston area and the Middle East. He said all donors have been checked to make sure they do not appear on the U.S. Treasury's list of designated terrorists and terrorist organizations.
He said the new mosque and Islamic cultural center will promote ``the moderate, sophisticated view of Islam.''
`Evils of Western civilization'
Meanwhile, public records show that Kandil is also one of nine founding directors of a controversial organization called the Muslim Arab Youth Association.
MAYA established in the 1970's and incorporated in Plainfield, Ind., in 1989, held a series of conferences at which prominent members of the Palestinian organization Hamas and others associated with Islamic terrorism were featured speakers, including al-Qaradawi.
In the 2002 book ``American Jihad,'' author and Islamic terrorism expert Steven Emerson wrote that MAYA conferences ``have regularly attracted a parade of top Islamic militants.''
Emerson also excerpted the preface to MAYA's constitution: ``In the heart of America, in the depths of corruption and ruin and moral deprivation, an elite of Muslim youth is holding fast to the teachings of Allah.''
And according to Emerson, a companion MAYA publication states that ``Western civilization is based upon the separation of religions from life (whereas) Islamic civilization is based upon fundamentals opposed to those of Western civilization'' and warns Muslim women to be ``conscious of the evils of Western civilization.''
Abdullah bin Laden, a nephew of terrorist leader Osama bin Laden, was also a founding director of MAYA. Bin Laden headed the U.S. office of the World Assembly of Muslim Youth, a major Saudi-based charity investigated by the FBI for suspected financing of terrorism. Bin Laden abandoned WAMY's office in Falls Church, Va., soon after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks masterminded by his uncle.
Kandil, a former instructor at Harvard Medical School and the founder and chairman of an Egyptian pharmaceutical company, Biopharm Group, said yesterday he was a member of MAYA and became the group's vice president for several years, beginning in the late 1980s.
Kandil described MAYA as a moderate group. ``MAYA was an organization established by Muslim students who came to the U.S. to study,'' he said. ``Its purpose was to help new students acclimate to life in the United States and to make sure they could perform their Islamic rituals.''
Kandil strongly disagreed with Emerson's description of MAYA as a forum for radical Islam. He said MAYA allowed many different people to speak at its conferences, but also made it clear those speakers did not necessarily reflect the views of the organization.
``Before we make conclusions from a self-proclaimed expert of Islam, we should make decisions on what is and is not true,'' Kandil said. ``The fact that MAYA was never named by the government (as a terrorist organization) is a very strong indication no wrong activities were performed.''
The Islamic Society of Boston backed Kandil in its written statement Monday: ``Dr. Osama Kandil has served on the ISB Board of Trustees for ten years. Dr. Kandil served as Vice President of MAYA, an organization that assisted Muslim families in adjusting to life in the U.S. Dr. Kandil is a well-respected Muslim, and the ISB is confident of his character and integrity.''
Friends at Ptech
In December 2002, Basyouny Nehela, the imam at the Islamic Society of Boston, posted a message on the group's website exhorting Muslims to support Ptech, Inc., a Quincy company raided just weeks earlier by federal agents probing the software firm for suspected ties to terrorism financiers.
In Imam Basyouny's message, he described the actions against Ptech as ``oppression'' and said all members of the Muslim community ``are obligated to stand with the oppressed ones regardless of their religion or origin.''
Imam Basyouny said the people ``running and working'' at Ptech are ``well known within the Muslim Community and respected among this community.''
He also urged Muslims to lobby on behalf of the company: ``We must contact our elected officials to express our concern about this aggression and also to urge them to take a just and expeditious stand in resolving this injustice.''
Imam Basyouny moved from Egypt five years ago to take over as the spiritual leader at the Islamic Society of Boston's mosque on Prospect Street, just outside Central Square. When he arrived to take his new post in America, he did not speak English, sources said.
According to Kandil, most imams in mosques in the U.S. and Canada come from the Middle East because there is a shortage of qualified imams in North America. He said Imam Basyouny was educated at Al-Azhar University in Cairo, the oldest and most prestigious Islamic school in the world.
``He is a very humble, kind person,'' Kandil said. ``He reflects the peaceful, moderate aspects of Islam.''
Ptech remains under investigation by a federal antiterrorism task force for its connection to Saudi businessman Yasin al-Qadi, who the U.S. Treasury Department has identified as a financier of Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda network and other terrorist groups. Both the U.S. and Saudi Arabia have frozen al-Qadi's assets.
Investigators led by the U.S. Customs Service searched Ptech's office in Marina Bay on Dec. 6. after being told al-Qadi may have invested $16 million in the software company.
Federal authorities are concerned about Ptech's ties to al-Qadi because the company has provided software and consulting to 18 federal agencies, including the FBI, U.S. Treasury, Customs Service, Secret Service, Department of Energy, Army, Navy, Air Force, Federal Aviation Administration, and U.S. Postal Service.
Ptech executives, who have not been charged with a crime, have denied any involvement with terrorists and said they are cooperating with the government's investigation.
Federal investigators have said there is evidence al-Qadi, a Ptech investor, and Mirza, a Ptech director, had financial dealings. Mirza, along with Kandil of the Islamic Society of Boston, are both alleged members of the Safa Group, which the government believes has financed Islamic terrorists.
Meanwhile in another Herald story today Boston Mayor Mumbles Menino and Congressman Mike Capuano are standing by their support for this guy and his mosque.
What's sophisticated about supporting terrorism? Dressing the homicide bombers in a store-bought clothes rather than rags? Yeah, that must be it. Terrorist fashion shows coming to a mosque in your neighborhood soon! Special discounts on multi-colored dynamite harnesses. Learn how to 'pop a cap' in one swift movement. Be the envy of your friends. Want to be a 97-pound weakling forever? Of course not. Strap on one of these 65-pound C-4 harnesses and voila! No body will throw ever kick sand in your face again.
Shocking. Who would have thought?