In May 2004, London authorities arrested hook-handed, one-eyed imam Abu Hamza al-Masri. The United States immediately filed charges against al-Masri and asked that Britain expedite him for trial. Among other terrorist acts, the indictment charged al-Masri with attempting to set up a terrorist cell in Oregon. Al-Masri was also linked to terrorists Zacarias Moussaoui, who was involved in the Sept. 11 plot, and Richard Reid (a.k.a. Tariq Raja and Abdul Rahim), the shoebomber. Al-Masri was the imam of the Finsbury Park Mosque in London, where he used his pulpit to recruit terrorists and preach hate.
In September 2002, American law enforcement arrested six members of a larger terrorist cell in Buffalo, New York. All six were young Muslim men, and all six had attended terrorist training in Afghanistan. The leader of the group, Kamal Derwish, had recruited all six arrested members by speaking at his local mosque in Lackawanna. All six men pled guilty to terrorism charges.
Mohammed Atta, one of the Sept. 11 hijackers, used a mosque in Hamburg, Germany to network with potential recruits, including Ramzi Binalshibh, who would act as a coordinator for the attacks. Two of the potential Sept. 11 terrorists, Nawaf al-Hazmi and Khalid al-Mihdhar, hooked up with an imam at Rabat Mosque, Anwar Aulaqi; Aulaqi would later aid al-Hazmi and Mihdhar's replacement, Hani Hanjour, in relocating east as Sept. 11 approached.
Mosques across the globe have provided material aid to terrorist groups ranging from al-Qaeda to Islamic Jihad to Hezbollah to Hamas. Muslim terrorists use mosques as networking sites and often as recruitment centers for future terrorist comrades. There is no doubt that law enforcement should be heavily scrutinizing the membership and administration of mosques. Doing so before Sept. 11 could have prevented that catastrophe, just as scrutiny of a small, seemingly insignificant storefront mosque may have prevented major terrorist attacks in Canada. Muslim terrorists are, above all, religious. They will attend mosques, even if only to pray. Forget racial profiling—monitoring mosques is simple common sense.
Leaders in the Muslim community don't seem to get it. "People are suspicious and there's anger," complains Aly Hindy, imam at the Toronto-based Salaheddin Islamic Center in Scarborough. "We are being targeted not because of what we've done but because of who we are and what we believe in."
No doubt this is true to some extent. But that is the difference between prevention of crime and after-the-fact investigation of crime. For attempts to remain attempts, suspects must be stopped in the inchoate processes leading up to attacks. Prevention is undoubtedly the only option if civilized nations wish to preserve their citizenries from the sadistic barbarism of our enemies. Monitoring mosques is the simplest and most effective way of preventing terrorist attacks. Many imams are trustworthy; many mosques are clean. Nonetheless, law enforcement must pursue a strategy of "trust, but verify." Lives depend on it.
On June 2 and 3, Canadian law enforcement in Toronto arrested 17 Muslim men for planning terrorist attacks on Canadian targets. The leader of the group, Qayyum Abdul Jamal, 43, recruited young Muslim males by speaking at Al-Rahman Islamic Center for Islamic Education, a storefront mosque in Mississauga. Law enforcement officials across the globe are searching for suspects connected to the Toronto 17; American law enforcement has already discovered at least two terrorism suspects who spoke with members of the Canadian terrorist cell.