One of the most influential Shi’a religious leaders in the United States, Sayid Hassan Qazwini serves as Imam of the Dearborn, Michigan-based Islamic Center of America (ICOA), the largest mosque in North America. He is also a board member of the American Muslim Council.
Qazwini was born in Karbala, Iraq in 1964. His father was a leading Islamic scholar and activist. The Qazwini family was forced to relocate to Kuwait when Iraqi President Saddam Hussein perceived the father to be an ideological threat to the regime.
In 1980 Sayid Hassan Qazwini enrolled in an Islamic Seminary in Qum, Iran. He completed his studies twelve year later, at which time he relocated (with his family) to the United States. He spent some time as Director of the Azzahra Islamic Center, which was founded by his father, in Los Angeles.
In 1997 Qazwini was hired by ICOA. The following year, he established the Young Muslim Association, whose professed mission is to create an environment in which Muslim American youth can actively promote Islam.
Over the years, Qazwini has spoken at more than 100 churches, colleges, and universities -- consistently assuring his listeners that the authentic teachings of Islam in no way condone terrorism or violence against infidels. In addition, he has urged U.S. political leaders to be sensitive to the needs and concerns of Muslim Americans, and to speak out publicly against non-Muslims who portray Islam or the Prophet Mohammad in a negative light.
Qazwini has been embraced by three American presidents -- Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama -- as a voice of reason and moderation in the Muslim community. Each of those individuals has met with Qazwini to discuss Muslim affairs. At the opening session of the 108th Congress, Qazwini was given the high honor of offering a prayer.
On November 15, 1998, Qazwini’s ICOA sponsored an event -- attended by more than 1,000 primarily Arab Muslim-Americans -- where the featured speaker was Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan. Qazwini and his fellow organizers introduced Farrakhan as “our dear brother,” “a freedom fighter,” and “a man of courage and sacrifice.”
According to political journalist Debbie Schlussel, Qazwini professes to oppose al Qaeda but nonetheless: (a) maintains a close affiliation with the Iranian government of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad; (b) is friendly with Hezbollah spiritual leader Sheikh Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah, who issued the 1983 fatwa that resulted in the bombing of the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut which killed 241 American servicemen; and (c) openly supports both Hamas and Hezbollah.