Last month, a Saudi Arabian man named Raed Abdul-Rahman Al-Saif, placed three bags on the Tampa, Florida airport security conveyor belt as he made his way toward his gate to board US Airways flight 1077 to Phoenix, Arizona and Portland, Oregon. He never made it to the gate.
A Transportation Security Administration representative saw something on his screen that made him curious. Upon further investigation, TSA officers found a knife “artfully concealed between the outside fabric and the expandable pull handles of the bag.” This bag, by the way, would have been easily accessed by Al-Saif had he made it on his flight.
It was a butcher knife.
It turns out that he has been living in the U.S. illegally for a while and had been previously arrested on drug-related charges and for driving without a license. He had been a student at the University of Tampa, but was dismissed this past May due to poor academic performance. Word is, though, that he was a much better student back in high school. In fairness, that likely had to do with where he went to school and what he was learning.
Raed Al-Saif is a 2003 graduate of the Islamic Saudi Academy (ISA), the same institution that gave us the likes of Ahmed Omar Abu Ali, who was the school’s valedictorian in 1999. If that name rings a bell, it’s because he’s the guy who was convicted in 2005 on charges that included “providing material resources to Al-Qaeda” and “conspiracy to assassinate President George W. Bush.”
Then there were Mohammed Osam Idris and Mohammed el Yacoubi, both former ISA students, who were denied entrance to Israel in 2001. It turns out that they had written farewell letters before the trip for some kind of “suicide mission in the name of jihad.” And, let’s not forget Mr. Abdall I Al-Shabran, the ISA director who was arrested last year for failing to report child abuse.
Islamic Saudi Academy operates under the direct authority of the Saudi embassy, one of 20 or so such institutions around the world. It is also funded by the Saudi government and uses Saudi government “curriculum, syllabus and materials.”
It is also virtually in my backyard – at least part of it. And they want to grow, that is, if the Fairfax County Government Planning Commission continues down its current path of blind accommodation and politically correct assuagement.
There is another meeting on the subject this Monday, July 13 at the county government center, and it should prove to be interesting. Last March, a handful of concerned citizens tried to speak over the disconcerting protests of about 600 ISA supporters. The few brave souls argued against a “special exemption” to zoning regulations that would allow “for the building of an expansion to the Islamic Saudi Academy in Fairfax.” By the way, the school now operates on property leased directly from the county.
As the pastor of a church in Fairfax County, and having for many of those years managed a private Christian school in the area, I can speak first-hand about how difficult it usually is to navigate the processes of county government here on behalf of a religious institution. But in the case of ISA, there appears to be an almost fawning and subservient approach on the part of many county leaders. Perhaps they are afraid of being politically incorrect. Perhaps they are just afraid.
Most likely, however - they are simply naïve.
Some of those arrayed against ISA are doing so simply out of concerns about traffic and other logistics on a particularly picturesque stretch of Popes Head Road. But most opponents are involved because they see ISA as a training institution for Wahhabism, an ultra-dogmatic and extreme form of Islam. They see ISA as “a hate training academy.” One detractor has said of the school: “We feel that it is in reality a madrassa, a training place for young impressionable Muslim students in some of the most extreme and most fanatical teachings of Islam.”
Of course, one of the great challenges when dealing with issues like this is to think and work through it in the context of religious liberty and tolerance. But what happens when our best intentions to preach freedom and tolerance wind up being used as a cover for something more sinister – even deadly?
The Nazis twisted a cross and developed a quasi-religious cult, but such a group would be hard pressed to lease property directly from any county in America. Hitler and his henchmen, by the way, came to power in Germany by using their constitution, then once in power they shelved it.
The Ku Klux Klan used a fiery cross as its symbol of hate and preached a sordid synthesis of misapplied Christianity and mysticism. But the religious element of it all was clearly a cover story. Are Islamists today using our Bill of Rights as a weapon against us en route toward the goal of a nation governed by Muslims, Islam and Muslim law?
The answer appears to be all too clear – at least for those who are really watching.
Islam may indeed be one of the world’s three great monotheistic religions, but Islamism is better compared to Nazism and the Klan in a religious sense, not to Judaism and Christianity in general. Are there fanatical people who hate in the name of Christianity and Judaism? Probably, but they would be statistically insignificant and considered criminally insane. Not so, when you compare Islam itself and Islamism.
Daniel Pipes is a widely read expert on the threat of radical Islam. He is a director of the Middle East Forum and calculates that, "10 to 15 percent of Muslims worldwide support militant Islam." Let’s do the math: Estimates of the global Muslim population range between 1.3 and 1.6 billion – roughly one in five human beings. This means, if Pipes is right (and it is possible his estimates may be on the conservative side) – that there may be between 130 and 240 million people in the world who, in the name of Islam, hate America. These are the people who had a party on that sad September day seven years ago.
By the way, the total combined population of an earlier axis of evil enemies - Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy and Imperial Japan in September of 1939 - was approximately 194 million. That’s total – as in every man, woman, and child.
How about the statistics right here in the U.S.? Well again, the estimates are all over the place, but it is generally accepted that between three and five million of our neighbors are Muslim. Applying the Pipes formula to here at home, we come up with the potential for anywhere between 300,000 and 1,200,000 people in this country who may be less-than-enamored of the rest of us. Or worse, some may be longing for the day when the fruited plain becomes a Muslim caliphate.
At what point, if ever, will some Americans awaken to the idea that a fair amount of what is passed off as Islam is, in fact, a cloak of unrighteousness – designed to use the guise of “religion” to gain cultural and ultimately political hegemony here?
Sure, not all Muslims are advocates of the kind of hate that would overthrow a government and superimpose Sharia-rule over the rest of us. But the evidence is growing that the number of Islamists in the Islamic fold is significant. And the battles are now being fought with the issues blurred.
What is needed now in America more than ever is an emergent group of leaders who are discerning – people who are wide awake to the threat from within.