July 20, 2006, - 6:54 am
By Debbie Schlussel
America backs Israel in its fight against Hezbollah.
But in the Detroit area–the heart of Islamic America–it’s a different story. Hezbollah supporters connected to Iran are feted by top federal officials.
Take Imam Mohammed Ali Elahi, head of the shi’ite Islamic House of Wisdom–one of the largest mosques in North America. He was the spiritual leader of Ayatollah Khomeini’s Navy in Iran. Despite that, Elahi–who came here in the 1990s on a visitor visa to speak to a mosque in San Francisco–is now a U.S. citizen. Elahi’s ties to Iran are so strong that his former mosque, the Islamic Center of America, fired him–even though that mosque also backs Hezbollah.
Elahi’s mosque newsletter proudly featured a photo of him meeting in May 2005 with Hezbollah spiritual leader Sheikh Mohammed Fadlallah. Several congregants of Elahi’s mosque have been indicted and convicted of crimes involving money laundering to Hezbollah. One, restaurateur Talal Chahine, was indicted for evading federal income taxes and laundering at least $20 million to Hezbollah. His son, Khalil Chahine, was convicted of murdering Paul Hallis–a Maronite Lebanese Christian who was engaged to his Muslim ex-girlfriend. (Islamic Honor killings do happen in America.) After 9/11, Elahi claimed Israel was behind the attacks, repeating the canard about Jews allegedly not coming to work that day.
Given all this, you’d think Imam Elahi would be an outcast under investigation. Instead, Elahi is a regular columnist for The Detroit News, attacking Jews, Christians, and Israel, and praising Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Detroit News Editorial Page Editor Nolan Finley stands by his decision to run Elahi’s incendiary columns.
Then, there are the feds. In September 2005, U.S. Attorney Stephen Murphy III a/k/a “Abu Porno”–incredibly, also now a Bush nominee for the U.S. Court of Appeals–organized a “Town Hall” meeting at Elahi’s mosque. At his urging, Michigan FBI Chief Daniel Roberts and Immigration and Customs Enforcement Official Brian Moskowitz a/k/a “Abu Moskowitz” shared the stage with him and far-left U.S. Congressman John Conyers.
(Though Elahi is believed to be an agent of the Government of Iran and did not disclose his ties to Hezbollah in his paperwork for U.S. citizenship, which should, therefore, be stripped. Unfortunately, Murphy and Moskowitz are the only ones who can investigate this and initiate such proceedings, and they refuse to do so, preferring to pander to him, instead. Murphy also deliberately allowed Elahi congregant/Hezbollah $20 million man Chahine, as well as the Hammoud family of Hezbollah operatives to flee the country.)
Elahi gave the introductory speech saying, “No-one can say that I am not against terrorism. But what’s going on in the South of Lebanon–that group in the South of Lebanon–is not terrorism. It’s legitimate resistance against terrorism.” Though it was clear that Elahi was praising Hezbollah, the federal officials clapped enthusiastically, and Murphy responded: “We come with . . . humility and respect . . . . It’s a real honor to be here.”
During a question and answer period, they were asked why Hezbollah is on the State Department Terrorism list. The FBI and ICE officials said the decision isn’t up to them and didn’t seem to know why Hezbollah is on the list. U.S. Attorney Murphy laughed and joked about it, saying that he recently had lunch with a good friend who said that Hezbollah is a great group that provides social services for people.
The moderator of the event, Osama Siblani, responded, “That was me. I told you that.” Murphy confirmed, “Yes, I think that was you.” But Siblani–Editor of the Arab American News–was at a meeting held at Dearborn’s “Adonis” restaurant described in June by Kuwaiti newspaper Al-Seyassah as a gathering of Hezbollah’s American representatives and supporters of Christian leader Michel Aoun. Aoun and Hezbollah’s Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah recently signed an alliance pact.
At the Town Hall meeting, a crying woman asked the federal officials why her husband was in jail because of “credit card problems.” She said he was arrested after FBI agents raided her home and found a poster on the wall of “our leader, Hassan Nasrallah.” FBI Assistant Special Agent in Charge William Kowalski ran to her side, gave her his business card and patted her on the back.
The woman, Rania Rahal, and her husband, Nemr Ali Rahal–both Elahi congregants–were later indicted for credit card, bank, and mortgage fraud in a scheme to obtain $500,000. When agents raided their home, they found a video of a 2002 Hezbollah rally attended by Rahal, a video entitled, “A Martyr Speaks About Martyrs,” and a Hezbollah recruitment video, in addition to a photo of Rahal tearing and burning the American flag. In February, Customs agents at the Detroit U.S.-Canada border found “military-quality” explosives on Rahal’s and his sons’ passports. The Rahals have since pled guilty. At Mr. Rahal’s sentencing, instead of being contrite, he apologized for ruining his credit record.
Both Michigan FBI’s Roberts and Michigan ICE’s Moskowitz refused to answer questions on camera about Elahi or his mosque when asked to do so by Christian Broadcast Network’s Erick Stakelbeck. U.S. Attorney Murphy also delivered a friendly address to Hezbollah supporters at the Bint Jebail Cultural Center in Dearborn, last October, saying the group and the U.S. government had issues of common interest and concern. But the club is the site of many Hezbollah rallies. Bint Jebail, from which most club members emanate, is the Hezbollah-controlled town in Southern Lebanon from which Hezbollah frequently shells Northern Israel. Hezbollah leader Nasrallah is a frequent, honored guest and delivers many anti-Israel speeches there.
Then, there is the Knollenberg family–Republican U.S. Congressmen Joe Knollenberg and his son Marty, a candidate for the Michigan House of Representatives. Both Knollenbergs accepted thousands in campaign contributions from the Nijad Fares family. Until recently, Fares’ father, Issam Fares, was the Syrian-installed, Hezbollah-backed Deputy Prime Minister of Lebanon. Why would the Fareses care about the Michigan legislature? Well, they wouldn’t. But Mary Knollenberg’s Congressman father–as a high-ranking member of the House International Relations Committee–introduced successful legislation in 2000 (along with then-U.S. Senator Spencer Abraham), which sent at least $86 million (Knollenberg sought $268 million) in USAID funds to Hezbollah-controlled Southern Lebanon for the ostensible purpose of rebuilding hospitals and infrastructure allegedly “destroyed” by Israel. The money has never been tracked.
Unfortunately, sometimes the adage that “all politics is local” couldn’t be more wrong. In the case of federal officials, sometimes their politics is what’s best for America’s enemies and their supporters over here, who are anything but loyal Americans.
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