See also: Islamic Society of North America
Born in northern Sudan in 1965, Mohamed Magid studied Islam under African Sunni scholars, one of whom was his own father, the Grand Mufti of Sudan. In 1987 Magid immigrated to the United States, where he took college courses in psychology and family counseling, and he taught classes on the Koran at Howard University in Washington, DC. In 1997 Magid became imam of the All Dulles Area Muslim Society (ADAMS), a mosque located in Sterling, Virginia. Soon thereafter, he became affiliated with the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), first as its East Zone representative, then as vice president, and finally as president (a post to which he was elected in September 2010). He continues to head both ISNA and ADAMS to this day.
Ten days after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Magid, angered by what he perceived to be a growing anti-Muslim sentiment among the American people, belligerently told journalists: "We cannot be apologetic about being Muslims in this country ... We have a right to be Muslim."
In March 2002, federal agents raided the offices of many northern-Virginia-based Muslim organizations, including ADAMS, on suspicion that they were providing material support to terrorists. This initiative, known as "Operation Green Quest," was the largest investigation of terror-financing ever conducted anywhere in the world. Soon after the raids had been completed, Magid held a public meeting in the town of Sterling, where he encouraged "community building" among the groups that were being investigated. To this meeting, he invited such notables as Kit Gage of the National Coalition to Protect Political Freedom; Mahdi Bray, political advisor for the Muslim Public Affairs Council; and Nihad Awad, the pro-Hamas executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. Awad told the outraged crowd: "This is a war against Islam and Muslims. Our administration [i.e., the Bush administration] has the burden of proving otherwise."
Notwithstanding his combative track record, Magid has cultivated, in media and political circles, an image as a moderate Muslim. The Huffington Post, for one, has dubbed him “America’s Imam.” In 2005 Time magazine published a lengthy profile of Magid, likewise depicting him as a voice of moderation who "work[s] closely with the FBI," "regularly opens doors for [FBI] agents trying to cultivate contacts in his Muslim community," and "alerts the bureau when suspicious persons approach his congregation." The Time report, however, angered many of Magid's Muslim constituents who viewed the FBI as their enemy. Consequently, Magid felt compelled to issue a "clarifying statement" explaining that his meetings with FBI personnel were intended mainly to "convey ... that our Muslim community needs to be treated as partners, not as suspects," and to "work with law enforcement to preserve our civil liberties and civil rights." Further, Magid emphasized that he and his fellow Muslim leaders did "not use these monthly meetings to report upon the activities of our community members."
Also in 2005, the ADAMS website displayed a list of speakers who had recently appeared at the mosque. Among these individuals were ADAMS chairmam Ahmed Tontonji, who was indicted in Operation Green Quest and was named as a defendant in a $1 trillion lawsuit filed by more than 600 surviving relatives of victims who had died in the 9/11 attacks, and Johari Abdul Malik, an Imam who had defended numerous Islamic radical and terrorist figures.
In 2011 President Barack Obama appointed Magid to serve on the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Countering Violent Extremism Working Group. In this position, Magid was authorized to train and advise personnel affiliated with the FBI and other federal agencies. He soon became a regular visitor to the White House, and merged as perhaps the most influential and sought-after Muslim authority in the United States.
In his new DHS role, Magid, claiming that media references to jihad as “holy war” constituted a “misuse” of the term, asked Assistant Attorney General Thomas Perez to: arrange for Magid to meet regularly with top Justice Department officials; allow Magid to reeducate FBI agents vis a vis Islam and its practitioners; and carefully avoid criticism of Islam, which Magid characterized as “religious bigotry and hate.” Magid and other Muslim lobbyists also persuaded government officials to ban the practice, at airports, of conducting the extra security checks on passengers traveling from a number of Islamic countries -- checks that had been instituted after a Nigerian Muslim tried to blow up a passenger plane on Christmas Day 2009.
In response to pressure from Magid and his fellow lobbyists, DHS carefully erased from its "Countering Violent Extremism" curriculum any suggestion that Muslim terrorism drew its inspiration from the laws and doctrines of Islam. In 2012, the FBI purged some 700 documents and 300 presentations from its training materials and lesson plans.
On March 8, 2013, Magid and ten religious leaders met with President Obama for a 90-minute conversation about immigration reform. Also present at the meeting was senior White House adviser Valerie Jarrett. Three days later, Magid took part in a meeting with Obama where the President listened to “recommendations” designed to help him prepare for his upcoming diplomacy trip to the Middle East.
In addition to his DHS work, Magid has also served with the National Security Council and has been a member of the FBI's Muslim, Sikh, and Arab Advisory Board.
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