Born in 1959 in Amman, Jordan, Omar Ahmad earned a bachelor’s degree in computer engineering from Long Beach State Univerity (LBSU) in 1982, and a master’s degree in that same field from Santa Clara University in 1987. After leaving LBSU, he worked for 13 years with Advanced Micro Devices (AMD), a Silicon Valley semiconductor manufacturer in Sunnyvale, California, and then with two other technology firms in the San Jose area. During his time at AMD, Ahmad became active in a major Sunnyvale mosque, occasionally delivering Friday sermons there. He continues to give a sermon on most Fridays, often as a guest speaker at some of the Bay Area’s 70+ mosques.
Beginning in the early 1990s, Ahmad was a senior executive with the Palestine Committee, which was created by the Muslim Brotherhood to serve as an umbrella organization of U.S.-based Hamas support groups tasked with disseminating propaganda on behalf of the First Palestinian Intifada (1987-93). When Brotherhood leader Mohamed Akram in 1991 put together a diagram of the Palestine Committee’s executive leaders, Ahmad (a.k.a. Omar Yehya) was listed second. Moreover, Ahmad’s California phone number appeared in a Palestine Committee phonebook.
According to the Investigative Project on Terrorism, “Ahmad planned, convened, and moderated an October 1993 meeting of the Palestine Committee in Philadelphia where members discussed ways to ‘derail’ a U.S.-led peace agreement between the Israelis and Palestinians. The group knew that their Hamas support was problematic [from a public-relations standpoint]. They agreed to reference the group as sister ‘Samah’ [Hamas spelled backward] and warned each other that the U.S. had proposed legislation that would designate Hamas as a terror organization.”
Credit-card records show that Haitham Maghawri, a member of the Hamas-funding Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development (HLF), used money from HLF’s corporate account to pay for Ahmad’s round-trip plane ticket from Dallas to Philadelphia. HLF was another major constituent of the Palestine Committee.
According to an FBI action memorandum analyzing wiretaps of the Philadelphia meeting that Ahmad organized:
“The overall goal of the meeting was to develop a strategy to defeat the Israeli/Palestinian peace accord, and to continue and improve their [HAMAS] fund-raising and political activities in the United States … [where] they could raise funds, propagate their political goals, affect public opinion and influence decision-making of the U.S. Government…. In discussing financial matters the participants stated a belief that continuation of the Holy War was inevitable. It was decided that most or almost all of the funds collected in the future should be directed to enhance the Islamic Resistance Movement [HAMAS]…. Holy War efforts should be supported by increasing spending on the injured, the prisoners and their families, and the martyrs and their families.”
Ahmad, for his part, told those who attended the Philadelphia gathering that while they should aim to usurp, for the Palestinians, every square inch of land that comprised the state of Israel at that time, it was vital that they not “say that to the Americans” in any public forum—i.e., they should conceal their true motives.
In June 1994 Ahmad initiated the establishment of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), recruiting Nihad Awad (who had also attended the 1993 Philadelphia meeting) and Rafeeq Jaber as his co-founders.
On July 4, 1998, a little-noticed news report by journalist Lisa Gardiner in the San Ramon Valley Herald quoted Ahmad saying—in a speech titled How Should We, As Muslims, Live in America?—“If you choose to live here [in the U.S.] … you have a responsibility to deliver the message of Islam.” Then, paraphrasing Ahmad, the report stated that CAIR’s co-founder believed that “Islam isn’t in America to be equal to any other faith, but to become dominant,” and that “the Koran … should be the highest authority in America, and Islam the only accepted religion on Earth.”
Eight years later, when Ahmad was drawing scrutiny for his suspected ties to the Holy Land Foundation, the 1998 quotes that had been attributed to him suddenly gained considerable media attention. Ahmad called the quotes a “total fabrication,” but Gardiner affirmed—with what she described as 100% certainty—the veracity of her original account. “She’s lying,” Ahmad retorted. “Absolutely, she’s lying. How could you remember something from so long ago? I don’t even remember her in the audience…. It is not my stance, it is not what I believe in.”
During a youth session at the Islamic Association for Palestine’s third annual convention in Chicago in November 1999, Ahmad delivered a speech praising suicide bombers: “Fighting for freedom, fighting for Islam—that is not suicide. They kill themselves for Islam.”
Ahmad stepped down from his post as chairman of CAIR’s board of directors in May 2005 and was replaced by Parvez Ahmed. Soon thereafter, the organization changed Ahmad’s status on its national website from “chairman” to “chairman emeritus,” a title usually given out of respect for someone who has retired. Ahmad continued, however, to serve actively on the boards of both CAIR National and CAIR California until 2009.
In the Holy Land Foundation trial of 2007—which looked into evidence of HLF’s fundraising on behalf of Hamas—the U.S. government included Ahmad on its list of approximately 300 of HLF’s “unindicted co-conspirators” and “joint venturers.”