Harrisburg, Pa. is a small, northeastern city, but as the capital of the sixth most populous state in the Union it is an important one. National attention focused on it recently after the U.S. government arrested a man on charges that he was supporting the Islamic Caliphate. This is another demonstration that the threat of Islamic terrorism reaches every part of the United States.
Furthermore, the arrest provides an opportunity to examine Harrisburg more closely. And that examination reveals that Islam likely is growing in influence in the city and surrounding region. But even more importantly, the examination reveals that the city is mired in misery and decay, and that it is ruled by a radical, Bill Ayers-supporting mayor who will not improve the city.
The Department of Justice announced in December of 2015 that the U.S. government had arrested Jalil Ibn Ameer Aziz and charged him with “conspiring and attempting to provide material support to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).”
The official press release on the arrest from the DOJ is interesting for several reasons. In addition to alleging that Aziz provided propaganda for the Islamic Caliphate, encouraged others to engage in terrorism against U.S. troops and others, and that he aided “individuals in their pursuit of traveling overseas to join the designated foreign terrorist organization,” it also reveals that the government devoted significant time and resources to investigating him.
“A prior physical search of Aziz’s residence also revealed a tactical-style backpack in his closet, which contained high-capacity weapons magazines, ammunition, a knife and other survival items. . . .”
That sentence reveals that the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force (and other federal, state, and local governments) had been surveilling Aziz for a long time, and had even gone into his and his parents’ residence prior to the arrest without any of them knowing about it.
Other interesting bits of information are in the press release as well about what Aziz was allegedly doing and what the government did to build its case against him. But perhaps the most interesting part of the press release comes at the end in the form of the Statement that U.S. Attorney Peter Smith makes. Here is a portion of it.
The announcement of the charges in this case, as well as in any other terrorism case, must not cause us to give in to fear or unreasonable anger.
Every day, thousands of law-abiding Muslims in Central Pennsylvania work, raise families, attend school, shop, travel and associate with their neighbors and communities peacefully, while at the same time observing their own religious beliefs and ethnic heritage.
The acts and doctrines of violent and delusional terrorists must not become an excuse for hasty or emotional acts of hostility, bigotry or violence in our own society. Such actions only serve the interests of the terrorists and violent extremists – they are part of what they want to achieve.
Violations of civil rights, hate crimes, and threats against individuals, Muslim communities or any other ethnic group, will be investigated and prosecuted by federal authorities just as are acts of terrorism or aiding it.
That statement, defending Islam and issuing a veiled threat to non-Muslim Americans, is telling because it reveals just how far President Obama has gone in inserting people into every major office of the United States who strictly adhere to his ideology.
And the federal government wasn’t alone in acting this way. Harrisburg Mayor Eric Papenfuse issued his own statement in defense of Islam.
Harrisburg Mayor Eric Papenfuse defended Islam following the arrest of Aziz. The Patriot-News (PennLive.com is the online home of the Patriot-News) posted a Dec. 17, 2015 piece covering some of his remarks.
Papenfuse spoke publicly about the arrest at a previously scheduled Community Dinner and Dialogue Thursday night hosted at the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community Hadee Mosque to improve understanding about the Muslim religion. The mosque hosts all sorts of peace-promoting events throughout the year, Papenfuse said, as well as an annual blood drive on the anniversary of the September 11 attacks.
The mayor said the allegations against the terror suspect in Harrisburg represent extremist radicalism.
“That could happen in any religion,” he said. “It can’t be tolerated. I wanted to help spread the message we had tonight, which is we really cannot let the actions of deranged individual tarnish an entire faith community.”
Papenfuse’s comments about “peace-promoting events” are rather ironic considering his background. But before looking at his background, it’s worth noting that his previously scheduled appearance at the Hadee Mosque was not an anomaly.
The official Facebook page of the City of Harrisburg shows that Papenfuse participated in “an interfaith commemoration of the tragedy of Sep. 11, 2001” at a Harrisburg church on Sep. 10, 2015. That interfaith commemoration included Qasim Rashid, “an attorney and national spokesman for Ahmadiyya Muslim Community USA.” The Facebook announcement provided additional information on Rashid and the event.
Rashid also is an attorney and national spokesperson for Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, USA. His latest book is “#TalkToMe: Changing the Narrative on Race, Religion, & Education,” a non-fiction memoir from inspiring thought leaders on how the power of dialogue can overcome racism, xenophobia, intolerance, and violence.
Papenfuse apparently made a good impression with members of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, not only because he was invited to the Hadee Mosque in December before the federal government arrested Aziz, but because the official Twitter accounts of the Hadee Mosque (the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community of Central Pennsylvania) and Ahmadiyya Muslim Youth Association of Harrisburg praised him for his December remarks.
— Ahmadiyya Muslim Community of Central Pennsylvania (@HadeeMosque) December 18, 2015
— MKA Harrisburg (@MKA_Harrisburg) December 18, 2015
The Hadee Mosque is a noteworthy mosque because of where it is located in Harrisburg.
Hadee Mosque was established in October 2010. Previously it was a Church by the name of Lakeside Lutheran.
It is an ancient and still common practice for Muslims to build mosques on the ruins of other house of worships, or to convert other houses of worship into mosques. The Islamic Caliphate does this. But everyday Muslims do this regularly throughout the world as well, including in California, New York, Kentucky and other places in the U.S. This is sometimes done as a way to symbolize the conquest of other faiths.
This does not mean that the leaders of the Hadee Mosque purchased and converted the former Lakeside Lutheran for symbolic reasons. In fact, the former Lutheran churchgoers essentially gave the mosque and its attendees their blessing at the time of the sale based on multiple news reports (the below video captures two separate television news reports).
Regardless of why the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community of Central Pennsylvania chose the former Lakeside Lutheran, the converting of a former church into a mosque is not insignificant.
In 2012, the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community also purchased a former synagogue in Harrisburg.
Neither the DOJ nor Papenfuse’s comments in defense of Islam are surprising. In addition to their common political ideology, their remarks come as Islam is becoming more prominent in Harrisburg and other parts of south-central Pennsylvania, just as it is becoming more prominent across rest of U.S.
Furthermore, south-central Pennsylvania media have been regularly providing favorable press for Islam during the past few years.
The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Barb Wire.