Islamic Center of Raleigh (ICR)

Islamic Center of Raleigh (ICR)


* Community center for Muslims
* Focuses on education, social events, religious activities, youth programs, and “social welfare”
* ICR’s Youth Director has a long history of making religiously divisive and anti-American statements.
* One former ICR worshipper was a suspect in the July 2005 London subway bombings.

The North Carolina-based Islamic Center of Raleigh (ICR) is a community center that runs a wide variety of programs and activities for local Muslims. These programs and activities fall broadly under four major categories:

I. Education:

(a) Schools: “There are 3 schools currently serving the community: Al-Iman (full time school, pre-K to 8th grade), Al-Furqan (weekend Sunday school), and Al-Bayan (Qura’nic school) for children and adults. The total number of students attending these schools exceeds 600.”

(b) Adult Education: “Courses in Tajweed, Fiqh, Seerah, and Arabic at different levels are offered. In addition, courses in computers, seminars in taxes, parenting, burial and heath fair are regularly held.”

II. Social/Religious Activities: “The Da’wah Committee organizes the annual Hajj trip…. [There are also] wedding ceremonies and funeral prayers. Other activities include Eid prayers …, Eid picnics, community dinners, Ramadan iftars, the Family Fun Day …, the health fair, and the Qur’an contest.”

III. Youth and Sport Activities: “The annual Youth camp and Youth day attract over 100 and 300 youths respectively. There are several other programs for boys and girls, including the Youth halaqah, the middle and high school activities, the MSA [Muslim Students Association] clubs in several area high schools, the Ramadan iftars and sleepovers, and sports tournaments throughout the year.”

IV. Social Welfare: “IAR’s Social and Welfare Committee collects Zakah/Sadaqah money and distributes it to the needy Muslims locally and worldwide, especially during times of crisis. It offers scholarships to help needy students pay their tuition at Al-Iman School. During economic downturns, it offers assistance and comfort to those who lose their jobs.”

In March 2006, a few days after former University of North Carolina (UNC) student Mohammed Taheri-azar had slammed his SUV into numerous students on the UNC campus — to “punish” the U.S. government and “avenge the deaths of Muslims worldwide” — ICR held an open house aimed at improving Islam’s public image. (Americans at the time were particularly disturbed by the fact that Taheri-azar had explained his actions by writing: “I was aiming to follow in the footsteps of one of my role models, Mohammad Atta, one of the 9/11/01 hijackers, who obtained a doctorate degree.”) In a television interview subsequent to the UNC rampage, ICR spokesman Hani Chohan complained that “[t]here was a lot of negativity around it [Taheri-azar’s attack]…. We wanted to turn that into a positive and create a forum where people could come in and ask questions.” On the same telecast, ICR’s Imam, Mohamed Baianonie, expressed his wish that the message of Islam be portrayed as “the right message, peaceful message for all mankind.”

But ICR’s Youth Director, Hisham Sarsour, communicates a very different message. A former president of the Muslim Students Association (MSA), the Jerusalem-born Sarsour has a long history of making religiously divisive and anti-American statements. As evidenced by a recording made available by the Investigative Project on Terrorism, Sarsour stated at the 7th annual MSA West Conference in January 2005: “The failure in Iraq that we see is good for the world and good for the American people and good for the Muslims.” “From my perspective,” he added, “the death of this government in Iraq is good for Muslim ummah (global family or body of Muslims), is good for the American people, is good for the world.” Moreover, Sarsour argued that American efforts to support freedom in Iraq were “dumb”; he complained that when U.S. intelligence agents surveil or apprehend Muslim terror suspects, “[a] Christian public is very accepting of this”; and he concluded that the persecution of Muslims had become the “new religion of America.”

Sarsour disapproves of referring to Palestinian suicide bombers as “terrorists.” In his calculus, Israeli Jews are the real terrorists. As for America’s al Qaeda enemies in Iraq, Sarsour regards them as brave patriots guilty of nothing more than defending their homeland. “What is a terrorist?” he asks rhetorically. “How can we fight terrorism? If Iraq is defending its own country, its own people, its own being, its own heart, is this a terrorist?”

A notable individual who formerly worshipped at the Islamic Center of Raleigh is Magdy Mahmoud Mustafa el-Nashar, a suspect in the July 2005 London subway bombings. After those bombings, investigators found the chemical explosive triacetone triperoxide in el-Nashar’s Leeds apartment in England. He eventually was arrested in Cairo, but was released in August 2005 for what Egyptian officials called “lack of evidence.”

This profile is adapted from the article “The Islamic Center of Raleigh,” written by Linda Keay and published by on April 14, 2006.

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