Born in Cairo, Egypt in 1951, Shaker Elsayed is a dual citizen of Egypt and the United States. He earned undergraduate degrees in economics and Islamic studies in his native country, and later did graduate work in educational administration and psychology at the University of Houston.
During his professional career, Elsayed has worked variously as a schoolteacher, a K-12 school principal, Imam of the Islamic Center in Washington DC, a professor of Islamic studies at the American University in DC, director of education at the Islamic Society of North America, and president of the American Egyptian Council. He also wrote his own English translation of the Koran.
From 2000-2005 Elsayed served as secretary-general of the Muslim American Society, an organization with close ties to the Muslim Brotherhood. In Elsayed’s estimation, the ideas of the late Hasan Al-Banna, founder of the Brotherhood, represent “the closest reflection of how Islam should be in this life.”
At a June 5, 2001 press conference/sit-in at the U.S. State Department, Elsayed was asked whether he planned to “condemn the terrorist attacks from Hamas and the suicide bombings” that had recently been directed against Israeli civilians. He replied: “I made a statement that we do support the Palestinian resistance…. The so-called Israeli settlers are not [a] civilian population. They are military reserves, they are armed, trained and dangerous. They invade the Palestinian neighborhoods at night and squander everything. They kill, maim, and destroy homes. If I were there, I would use every power in my hand to defend my family.” “So long as [the Israeli] occupation continues,” Elsayed added, “we say to the Palestinian people, go ahead. Continue your fight against occupation no matter what name they give you, because we give you the name of courageous people who stand for the rights and we’re standing with you.”
At a December 2002 conference sponsored jointly by the Muslim American Society and the Islamic Circle of North America, Elsayed again spoke out in favor of Palestinian suicide bombings as legitimate tactics of resistance against Israeli oppressors: “And about the subject unfairly named suicide bombers, homicide bombers, or murderers, or killers…. To decide that this man is a martyr or not a martyr, it is a pure[ly] religious matter. Nobody who is not Muslim has any right to decide for us … [T]he Jihad is a must [an obligation] on every man, every child and every woman, [to be waged] with every tool that they can get in their hand.”
Elsayed has likened Hamas to Nelson Mandela’s African National Congress, portraying both as organizations that resorted to violence only after having endured decades of injustice. “Everybody jumps on Hamas,” Elsayed once said. “When did Hamas first emerge? 1990 or so? Look at how long Israel has occupied [Palestinian lands]. How long did it take to say enough is enough?”
When federal agents in 2002 raided a series of homes and offices in a wide-ranging terrorism investigation probing the activities of numerous Islamic organizations and operatives in the U.S. (including Palestinian Islamic Jihad leader Sami Al-Arian), Elsayed complained: “This is becoming a war on Muslim institutions.”
Since June 1, 2005, Elsayed has been Imam of the Falls Church, Virginia-based Dar al-Hijrah mosque, which was founded in 1991 by Jamal Barzinji. This jihad-promoting mosque is well known for its numerous close ties to Islamic terrorists and extremists, including members of Hamas and al Qaeda. One notable worshipper at Dar al-Hijrah was Ahmed Omar Abu Ali, an al Qaeda member who was arrested in 2003 for his involvement in a plot to assassinate then-President George W. Bush. In the wake of that arrest, Elsayed emerged as an unofficial spokesman for the defendant and his family. In that context, Elsayed accused the U.S. Justice Department of unfairly targeting Ali and other young Muslims.
In 2011 Elsayed joined Abdul Alim Musa, a fellow Imam from the District of Columbia, in alleging that FBI agents were trying to entrap even innocent Muslims in terrorism probes rather than carefully “investigating to see if [they were actually] engaged … in terrorist activities, in conspiracies, in plotting.”
Elsayed was a guest speaker at an International ANSWER rally in 2011, where he shouted: “There is a simple message for the terrorist state of Israel. You’re born by the sword! You live by the sword! You will die by the sword!… We are all with you [Palestinians] all the way until Palestine is back to 1947 [the year before Israel’s birth]. Forty-seven is the date! Forty-seven is the date! No matter how late!”