Jordanian native Omar Shahin came to the United States in 1995 and became a U.S. citizen in 2003. He holds degrees in Islamic Studies from Islamic University in Medina (Saudi Arabia) and Sudan; a Master of Theology degree and a Doctor of Laws degree from the Graduate Theological Foundation (GTF) in Oklahoma City; and a High Diploma from Jordan University. He is licensed to practice law as an Islamic Attorney in the courts of Amman, Jordan.
In the 1980s, Shahin was an imam at the Islamic Center of Tucson (ICT), which the Arizona Republic identified as “a hub for adherents to the radical Wahhabi school of Islam, some of whom later became important aides to Osama bin Laden in the al-Qaeda terrorist group.” But Shahin defended his mosque’s ties to terrorism, saying: “Osama bin Laden was made in America. Our [U.S.] government was sponsoring and supporting him. We are following our government.” During Shahin’s tenure at ICT, the Center hosted a number of conferences for the Islamic Association for Palestine (IAP), a pro-Hamas offshoot of the U.S. Muslim Brotherhood. Another noteworthy figure at ICT was Wael Hamza Julaidan, a former colleague of both Osama bin Laden and Abdullah Azzam.
While employed as ICT’s leading Imam during 2000-03, Shahin served as: a fundraiser for the Global Relief Foundation (an al-Qaeda front group); the Arizona coordinator for the Holy Land Foundation (a Hamas front); and a representative of KindHearts, a Hamas-affiliated pseudo-charity.
In the aftermath of al-Qaeda’s September 11, 2001 attacks against the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, Shahin said: “I think the [9/11] investigation is not headed in the right direction. They are focusing on the Arabs, the Muslims. And all the evidence shows that the Muslims are not involved in this terrorist act.” He suggested, rather, that the FBI and CIA had staged the attacks.
During a sermon he delivered at ICT on October 4, 2002, Shahin stated: “Prophet Mohammed, peace be upon him, said: ‘You will keep on fighting with the Jews until the fight reaches the east of [the] Jordan River, then the stones and trees will say: Oh Muslim, oh [servants] of Allah, there is a Jew behind me; come and kill him.’”
In May 2005, Shahin became director of the Islamic Studies program at GRF, a post he continues to hold.
By 2006, Shahin was president of the North American Imams Federation (NAIF). On November 21 of that year, he and five fellow NAIF imams — having just attended a NAIF conference in Minneapolis — sparked public panic at Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport. While the imams were preparing to board a U.S. Airways plane bound for Phoenix, a number of fellow passengers heard them making anti-American comments (regarding the Iraq War) and praying loudly — with repeated chants of “Allah, Allah, Allah” — in the airport terminal. The imams then sat in separate sections of the plane and asked for seat-belt extensions, even though they were not particularly large men. When some passengers expressed alarm regarding the imams’ general behavior — and voiced concern that the seat-belt extensions could perhaps be used as weapons — airport authorities required the imams to deboard the plane prior to takeoff. The clerics were subsequently interrogated and then released with no charges.
Soon after the U.S. Airways incident, Shahin complained to the media: “They took us off the plane [and] humiliated us in a very disrespectful way.” Moreover, he and his colleagues promptly contacted the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) and lamented that they had been victims of “Islamophobia.” Shahin, for his part, told CAIR representatives: “Security at the airport isn’t our problem; it’s their problem.” Calling for Muslims and non-Muslims alike to stage a boycott of U.S. Airways, Shahin and his five colleagues proceeded to sue the airline, the airport police, and an FBI agent for allegedly having discriminated against them due to their religion. CAIR underwrote the cost of the imams’ litigation. As Shahin explained: “Since minute one of this incident, I contacted [CAIR communications director] Ibrahim Hooper and [CAIR executive director] Brother Nihad Awad, and we arranged everything … Everything’s being coordinated with CAIR.”
In April 2007 Shahin became vice president of United Muslim Relief, a position he still holds.
In 2008 Shahin said: “A Muslim must try his best to abide by the rulings of Sharia [Islamic law] whenever possible as much as he can. He should not allow himself to be liable to those Western laws that contradict the clear-cut Islamic rulings.”
Shahin has been secretary general of NAIF since February 2013.
Further Reading: “Omar Shahin” (Graduate Theological Foundation, LinkedIn.com); “Phoenix Imam Tells Muslims To Disregard U.S. Laws” (Human Events, 11-19-2008); “Islamic Center of Tucson” (Clarion Project, 4-3-2013); “Fifth Column Imam Flyers” (by Joe Kaufman and Gary Gross, 4-20-2007); “Ejected Imam Linked to Hamas, Bin Laden” (World Net Daily, 11-21-2006); “Imams Pulled off Plane Linked to Bin Laden” (Militant Islam Monitor, 11-22-2006); “Exposing the ‘Flying Imams’” (by M. Zuhdi Jasser, Middle East Quarterly, Winter 2008).