Whirled covers Miftah story; Miftah replies

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At long last, the Tulsa World has printed a story about Jamal Miftah's expulsion from the Islamic Society of Tulsa's (IST) al-Salam mosque. You'll recall that it was an op-ed by Miftah that was published by the Whirled that triggered the situation. The story made local TV in Tulsa and Oklahoma City last Friday and immediately attracted attention around the blogosphere. I wrote about it here on Sunday, and the story was discussed on KFAQ Monday and Tuesday.

So it's curious timing: the Whirled seems to have waited until they had something to report that put IST in a positive light:

Local mosque lifts ban on outspoken member

By BILL SHERMAN World Religion Writer
12/1/2006

The governing board of Tulsa's Al-Salam mosque ruled Wednesday night that a Pakistani native who had been banned from the mosque can return.

Houssam Elsoueissi, president of the operating council at the mosque, said he would announce at Friday's service that Jamal Miftah is free to attend services as long as there is no disturbance, and that no one at the mosque should confront him.

Miftah was banned last week after a confrontation at the mosque over a guest commentary he wrote that appeared Oct. 29 in the Tulsa World.

Let's look at the timeline:

On Friday, November 24, KOTV reporter Omar Villafranca reported on the incident and Miftah's expulsion. Miftah describes how he was confronted and threatened at the mosque and says he had filed a police report about the confrontation.

Miftah says several Muslims told him he is no longer allowed at the mosque. He says leaders told him there is only one way he can come back to worship.

[Miftah:] "There are two members of the community who spoke to them [mosque leaders] and they have said, 'Well, he has to apologize. He has to take his article back, and that is the only way we can let him come back into mosque.'"

Villafranca concluded his story with this:

Now, I did speak with one of the leaders of the mosque and he has a different version of the story. He told me that Miftah was being loud in the prayer hall and that's why he was asked to leave. The leader also told me Miftah can come back to the mosque if he apologizes for being loud in the prayer hall. He also added that the apology does not have to be public. And, Terry, he also says that he does not have to apologize for that column.

(I have been unable to find the story on KOTV's website.)

Tag to the same story on Oklahoma City's KWTV (Here is a direct link to KWTV's Flash video and a backup link to YouTube):

And we spoke with one of the leaders of the mosque, he told us Miftah was being loud in the prayer hall and that is why he was asked to leave. He also said Miftah can come back to the mosque, if he apologizes.

So although Miftah and this unnamed mosque leader differ about why he had been asked to leave and what he has to do to be re-admitted, both agree that he was expelled and that there was a condition placed on his return.

On Wednesday, November 29, this message from Jim Mishler, executive director of Tulsa Metropolitan Ministry, was posted as a comment on an earlier entry. In the message, Mishler reported a conversation with Dr. Sandra Rana, whom Mishler identified as a member of the mosque's governing board. Note how the story has changed, and note how it conflicts with the Whirled's reporting.

She reports the following::
  • First, the blog is incorrect in its most important statements. The mosque did not "expell" the man and he has not been told he can return only following an apology for the article.The Shura has not taken any official position on the article nor on censuring its author. In addition, the Islamic Society of Tulsa has strict rules about and is very careful in who it gives money. Only organizations on the USA approved list are given contributions from IST.
  • Then, about the incident. The man was physically removed from the mosque's prayer center by the Tulsa Police Department after a discussion about the article became an argument which ended with the author cursing, threatening to hit someone and refusing to leave when requested. The building supervisor called the police at that time. A restraining order was filed but was ended after 2-3 days by request of the mosque's leadership. He can attend prayer services at the mosque without restriction as long as he acts in an appropriate manner during prayers.

(I posted a comment responding to this. In short -- Miftah believes that is the reason for his expulsion and the condition for his return, and he did not make any claim about IST's contributions.)

There's also a conflict between what Rana is reported as saying about a restraining order and what mosque council president Elsoueissi is quoted as saying in today's paper:

Elsoueissi said he talked to police about getting a restraining order against Miftah to prevent further incidents at Tulsa the mosque.

Did they get one and drop it, or did they just talk about getting one?

Miftah e-mailed me with this response to the reported comments of Dr. Rana:

As regards Dr. Sandra Rana's response or contradiction, I have to make the following submission: - I believe I have met Dr. Rana a couple of times in meetings of IST. - I feel sorry that Dr. Rana preferred to misrepresent facts or has been misinformed about the events of the night of November 18th, 2006, and made the conclusions without any fact finding. I am also surprised as to why she volunteered to provide clarification on financial matters relating to IST without being asked by Jim Mishler or challenged by me in my article. - She claims that the man was physically removed from mosque prayer center by Tulsa Police Department. It is too shallow a claim to comment on. I would just request you to please contact Tulsa Police Department and find out for yourself the name or names of police officers who escorted me out of the mosque.

- As regards my behaviour at the time of discussion or argument or claim that I was becoming violent, speaks of the truth it self. How can a man with my physique and age can dare to become violent against a group of 10 to 15 Arabs waving the boots at his face. I was rescued out of the mosque by a fellow Pakistani living in Tulsa for the last 40 years. Last but not the least, the incident occured inside the mosque hallway which remains under survellance camera 24/7. You may please request her for video of the incident and judge for yourself what was going on and how I was rescued out of the mosque.

- Also why was the restraining order filed in the first place and then withdrawn by mosque leadership, as per her claim, in 2 to 3 days?

- The fact is that after Isha congregation (the last prayer of the day) on November 20, 2006, two days after the incidence, my article was discussed in depth by mosque administration and the faithful were informed about decision by mosque leadership of banning me from mosque until such time that I agree to apologise in front of Friday's congregation (preferrably on November 24th, 2006). This decission was conveyed to me earlier on Sunday through Khan Muhammad Zareef, which was refused by me. I asked him to convey to mosque leadership that I intended to sue them for threats, intimidation, and expulsion from mosque and if they were courageous enough then they can come and say in front of judge and jury that I was expelled from mosque for being anti-Islamic and if they did that, then I will accept whatever they say including my submission to OBL [Osama Bin Laden].

I can go on and on on the subject, but to what point. You can not win from liars. I again feel sorry for Dr. Rana, she should have done some fact finding before levelling any allegations. I invite her to talk to Mohammad Zareef Khan, she knows the guy very well, and she knows that he never lies and once she ascertains the truth, then I am sure she would owe me and Jim Mishler an apology for misrepresenting the facts.


The IST leaders quoted in the Whirled story said their only disagreement with Miftah's op-ed was with this statement:

Even mosques and Islamic institutions in the U.S. and around the world have become tools in their hands and are used for collecting funds for their criminal acts. Half of the funds collected go into the pockets of their local agents and the rest are sent to these thugs.

Here's the section of the Whirled story reacting to that statement:

"We agree with most of his article, except the one statement that American mosques support terrorists.

"Our mosque does not, and I don't know of any that do," [mosque spokeswoman Sheryl Siddiqui] said.

Tulsan Mujeeb Cheema, executive director of North American Islamic Trust, said Miftah's views on bin Laden were "mainline views among American Muslims."

However, he said, "I was surprised that a person who has been in the U.S. for only three years, and not part of any national Muslim organization, would speak so confidently about Islamic institutions in the U.S."

Who is Mujeeb Cheema? As I outlined in an earlier entry, he is a leader in several prominent national Muslim organizations which are said to be a means of extending the influence and control of the extremist Wahhabi sect of Islam over the Islamic community in the United States. In 2004, Freedom House released a report about the hate-filled Wahhabist literature funded by the Saudi government which has become prevalent in American mosques. (Here is a link to a PDF of the full 95-page report.)

Earlier today, Jamal Miftah copied me on a reply he sent to the Tulsa Whirled in response to the claims made by IST leaders in the story. Here it is in full:

Dear Sir, I am perturbed and disappointed by the comments made in this publication of Tulsa World by Houssam Elsoueissi (Abu Waleed), president of the operating council of IST mosque, and Mr. Mujeeb Cheema, Executive Director of North American Islamic Trust. I will first take Mr. Houssam's comment.

While attempting to appear very generous for having agreed to make the following announcement on Friday services (that is today): "Mr. Jamal Miftah is free to attend services as long as there is no disturbance and that no one at mosque should confront him."

Is it a conditional permission?

From the tone of his language it appears that permission is conditional and that they have no remorse or regrets for the incident.

Is he implying that I was responsible for causing disturbance, if any, in the mosque, while confronted by ordinary Muslims in the mosque?

He is trying to create the impression that I was responsible for causing disturbance. So far as this allegation goes I was only responsible to the extent of writing the article which was published in Tulsa World on October 29, 2006. Any subsequent disturbance or excessive actions were initiated by Mr. Kabbani, Imam (leader) of the mosque, and Mr. Houssam Elsoueissi himself. The accused me of being traitor, anti-Muslim, and threaten me while inciting others to rise against me on the night of November 18, 2006.

I am also surprised why office bearers of IST are so defensive about channeling funds to illegitimate organizations by them. My article does not say anything to that effect by IST mosque in Tulsa, rather it was reference to the mosque in Brooklyn (Al-Farooq Mosque), New York, California, Albany, New York, Bridgeview, Illinois, Allentown, Pennsylvania, and one in Texas, and the result of investigation on the London bombing plot, leading its trails to funneling of earthquake donations collected in Britain to the terrorists involved. I have not yet made any allegation about IST on this count, yet some of their activities that I am aware of and have evidence certainly create doubts about legality of some of their activities.

Now to Mr. Mujeeb Cheema’s following assertion: “I was surprised that a person who has been in US for only three years and not part of any national Muslim Organization would speak so confidently about Islamic Institutions in US”.

Is he implying that for a Muslim, three years is too short a period to form an opinion and then in order for him to be confident, he has to be a member of national Muslim organizations to have knowledge of any illegal activities!

Mr. Cheema, I was not born three years ago. I have been a reader of the Times, Newsweek, and World Economist since 1980. There was, of course, a small break during 2003 and 2004, when I was in the process of settling in US. I am very well informed about what’s going on around the world and in the US, and especially with the internet revolution since 1990’s, events around the world are only a click away. The current state of affairs of the Muslims around the world is a result of the typical psychology of the leaders of so-called Muslim organizations where they are barred from expressing their views, as the leaders of such organizations for the fear of being exposed keep those voices suppressed by accusing them of being un-Islamic or Anti-Islamic when they speak or protest, and that’s what exactly happened during the shameful incident at IST’s mosque in Tulsa.

After going through the current ordeal, I feel and believe that the majority of the office bearers of IST that I have dealt or experienced are unfortunately liars, and I would prefer to boycott them and rather say my prayers on my own instead of saying it after a hypocrite like Mr. Ahmad Kabbani, the Imam of Tulsa mosque.

Thank you very much Mr. Houssam and Mr. Cheema!

I, however, thank Madam Sheryl Siddiqui from the depth of my heart for her honest efforts to diffuse the situation, but her efforts seem to have faded with the comments made by the others. She has also tried to communicate the wrong impression by relating my expulsion from the mosque by suggesting that it was as a result of disturbance. If at all any one was to be expelled from mosque for causing disturbance, then it should have been Mr. Ahmad Kabbani and Mr. Houssam and the group of 10 to 15 Arabs incited by them against me on the night of November 18th, 2006, and in all fairness not me.

More as it develops.

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2 Comments

Mark Sanders said:

Michael – As a fellow Christian, and with great personal respect, I feel compelled to suggest that your efforts on this story are not a productive use of your vast talents. You may be fanning the embers of a story that is potentially destructive of Muslim-Christian relations in Tulsa and beyond.

My gut tells me that despite some initial “smoke”, there really is no “fire” here. This is a classic “he said, she said” situation, where the truth – which we’ll probably never know – lies somewhere in between.

It is completely conceivable to me that Miftah’s OpEd would have caused consternation and heated debate in his mosque FOR REASONS TOTALLY UNRELATED TO HIS CRITICISM OF TERRORISM. For instance, the allegation that American mosques are collecting funds for terrorists and that local Muslim leaders are pocketing half of those contributions is highly inflammatory, and would understandably provoke a confrontation in any mosque in America. Also, I’m sure that Miftah’s assertion that 250,000 deaths in Iraq/Afghanistan during the period of American military action are the responsibility of jihadists would raise an eyebrow even among peace-loving Muslims - who might reasonably suggest that the United States, Saddamist insurgents, and other non-jihadists share responsibility for all that killing.

I also find Miftah’s OpEd a bit mystifying. Do we know why he wrote it? What is his immigration status? Is it conceivable that the OpEd was his naïve attempt to create a positive “paper trail” for purposes of future dealings with INS?

These are all interesting questions; yet, while further “digging” may be satisfying from a journalistic perspective, I’m afraid that continued “stirring of the pot” may serve only to provide fodder to those in the community who may give in to their baser, less charitable, less Christ-like instincts. Witness the recent comment to your entry of November 30: “I . . . would be against any more mosques being built in this city . . . . I used to do alot of work in the neighborhood near that school and mosque. I wonder if the residents are somewhat fearful.” If the controversy can embolden the public expression of attitudes such as this, I’m concerned about what might be expressed – or “planned” - privately if the story is perpetuated.

If someone truly suspects that this is more than an internal mosque dispute over non-terrorism-related subject matter, and that a dangerous “cell” of radical Muslims exists in Tulsa and/or that the Tulsa mosque and its leadership are part of an enterprise channeling funds to terrorists, then by all means they should let the federal authorities know immediately. Nonetheless, I’m sure the Feds know plenty about the NAIT, and I’m confident that if they thought that organization was in any way a terror front, or an enabling organization, its would have been frozen out long before now.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Fooad Muhammad said:

As an American Muslim, born and raised, who has read the actual article that Mr. Jamal Miftah wrote, along with subsequent interviews, it seems that there is extreme ambiguity about why exactly Mr. Jamal Miftah was asked to leave his Islamic center. Mr. Jamal Miftah wrote an entire article denouncing terrorism, which every American Muslim already agrees with, but in the middle of the article Mr. Jamal Miftah accused American mosques of supporting terrorist when he said:
[“Even mosques and Islamic institutions in the U.S. and around the world have become tools in their hands and are used for collecting funds for their criminal acts. Half of the funds collected go into the pockets of their local agents and the rest are sent to these thugs”].
I have personally been to many mosques around the U.S. and I have never seen any American Muslim who supports terrorism either financially or ideologically. Therefore, Mr. Jamal Miftah was most likely excused from his Islamic center because he accused all the Islamic institutions in the U.S. of supporting terrorism (financially), not because he was anti-terrorism.
Lastly Mr. Jamal Miftah has only been in the United States for a relatively short period of time: three years! Who is he to say whether mosques around the U.S. are supporting terrorism or not?
Does Mr. Jamal Miftah even have a legal status in the United States, or is he looking for one!? It is obvious that Mr. Jamal Miftah has twisted a seemingly harmless issue into one that has neither any credibility nor standing into one wherein he is the wronged one for being anti-terrorism. It is apparent that Mr. Jamal Miftah is either looking for a quick way to kiss up to the immigration officials to give him asylum by accusing innocent, hardworking, American citizens of supporting terrorism or looking to get his 15-minutes of fame; only God knows.
Can Mr. Jamal Miftah openly come out and reveal how he came to this country after being “dearest friend [with] Mirza Kohistani”, an Al-Qaeda terrorist? Before he goes around accusing others, can he give us more information about his background? I don’t know what’s behind that baby face!

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on December 1, 2006 10:59 AM.

A note from Jamal Miftah was the previous entry in this blog.

Lark News: "Authenticity is bogus" is the next entry in this blog.

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