Bill Aossey Jr. was born (in September 1941) and raised in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. His maternal grandfather came to Iowa in 1888 as the first documented Muslim settler in that state. In 1934 his (Bill Aossey Jr.’s) Syrian-born father helped found that city’s “Mother Mosque,” the oldest standing Muslim house of worship in the United States. In 1962 the father also helped create the Islamic Center of Cedar Rapids (ICCR), a mosque whose establishment was aided by financial and material contributions from such sources as King Faisal of Saudi Arabia, Khalil al-Rauef (a close friend of the Saudi Royal Family), and the governments of Kuwait and Libya. Today ICCR asserts that Muslims in America understandably perceive “that the nation as a whole is prejudiced against them.”
Bill Aossey Jr. has attended ICCR for many years and served a stint on its board of trustees. In November 2011, national security analyst Ryan Mauro reported that the ICCR website: (a) described Jamaat-e-Islami of Pakistan, the Muslim Brotherhood of Sudan, and a Muslim Brotherhood affiliate (Islah) in Kuwait as “moderate groups”; (b) praised “radical groups banned in many Muslim countries”—like Hezbollah, Takfir al-Hijra (an al Qaeda affiliate), and “Jihad” (presumably the Egyptian Islamic Jihad)—for having successfully established a presence in the United States; and (c) had previously linked to the website of Al-Haramain, a Saudi charity that raised funds for al Qaeda.
After graduating in 1961 from Cornell College (Iowa), where he majored in sociology and English, Aossey became the first Muslim American to join the Peace Corps, spending two years in Senegal. He later took some graduate courses at the University of Iowa, but his studies there were cut short when he chose to participate in a technical teaching program in Saudi Arabia from 1967-70.
In 1972, Aossey established the Iowa-based Midamar Corporation to export American agricultural and manufactured goods. In 1974 Midamar became a pioneer in the use of modern agriculture and technology to develop and distribute halal food products—i.e., foods that have been prepared according to methods prescribed by Islamic law—for “countries and regions in need.” On numerous occasions, Midamar has sponsored and provided food for the annual conferences and conventions of groups like the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA), the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), and the Muslim American Society (MAS)—all of which are Muslim Brotherhood fronts.
In 1975 Aossey was instrumental in creating the Islamic Services of America, a halal certifying body on whose board he continues to serve.
In 2002 and 2003, Aossey was a featured speaker at Muslim Students Association conferences held in Iowa. At the 2002 event, where Siraj Wahhaj also addressed those in attendance, Aossey delivered a speech titled “Martyrdom in Islam.” The following year, one of Aossey’s fellow guest speakers was Nihad Awad, executive director of CAIR and an ex-member of the Islamic Association for Palestine.
Aossey’s politics are highly compatible with those of Barack Obama. In 2009, Midamar was given a loan guarantee of $1.75 million as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act—a.k.a. the “stimulus bill”—which Obama signed into law that February. On August 13, 2010, Aossey sat at President Obama’s table for an Iftar meal in the White House.
In December 2011, Ryan Mauro challenged Aossey via email to “unequivocally repudiate Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood, and all attempts to establish an ‘Islamic world order’ as the Islamic Center of Cedar Rapids website states [i.e., advocates].” On January 31, 2012, Aossey responded evasively: “Just as neither you nor I have any official recognition or support to either of these two groups, there is no reason for either one of us to repudiate or give NON-recognition. It is irrelevant of [sic] what we do or think about these groups, as neither of us have absolutely any bearing on their policies or practices. I am sure you have heard of the old adage, ‘when are you going to stop beating your wife?’ How do you answer this when you never beat your wife? So since neither of us have any affiliation to Hamas or Muslim Brotherhood, non-recognition or repudiation is irrelevant.”
Moreover, Aossey contends that Americans should “not fear” what he characterizes as the false notion of an organized movement aiming to create “an Islamic world order.” Such a threat to the West, he says, is “non-existent.”
In the spring of 2012, U.S. government agents from the IRS and the Department of Agriculture raided Midamar’s offices, at least partially on suspicion that the company was falsely labeling and selling products as halal. The search warrants in that case authorized the seizure of Midamar’s books, records, and computer files, as well as up to $1.7 million from its main bank account.
In October 2014, Aossey was indicted by a grand jury on 19 counts of conspiracy, wire fraud, and false statements related to misbranding halal meat. In May 2015, his reputation was further damaged when firearms bound for Lebanon were found in a container shipped from Midamar. Aossey, however, blamed is problems on prejudice against Muslims: “We’ve been in this country for 100-some years, but after 9/11, there was all this phobia about Islam. What is happening on this case is a lineage.”
In February 2016, U.S. District Chief Judge Linda Reade sentenced Aossey to two years in prison and a $60,000 fine for his crimes, noting that she was “extremely disappointed in Mr. Aossey’s conduct before the jury and the court” when he perjured himself. “I’m unable to overlook the aggravating factors … your lack of respect for the law and your false testimony,” said Reade.
Over the years, Aossey has served on the trustee boards of Cornell College, the American Red Cross, the Greater Cedar Rapids Community Foundation, and the African American Historical Museum and Cultural Center of Iowa. In addition, he has been a board of directors member with the American Muslim Council, Muslim Youth Camps of America, and the East-West University in Chicago.
Further Reading: “Bill Aossey Jr.” (Midamar.com); “Islamic Center of Cedar Rapids Promotes Global Islamic State” (Ryan Mauro, 11-30-2011); “History [of the Midamar Corporation & Bill Aossey]” (Midamar.com); “About Midamar” (Midamar.com); “U.S. Halal Company Raided, Founder Has Islamist Ties” (The Clarion Project, 12-1-2012); “Criminal Convictions Cloud Aossey Legacy” (Cedar Rapids Gazette, 11-8-2015); “Midamar Founder Aossey Sentenced to Two Years in Prison, $60,000 Fine” (Cedar Rapids Gazette, 2-25-2016).