Young Muslims (YM) was established in the early 1990s in the New York/New Jersey metropolitan area as a subsidiary of the Islamic Circle of North America. Striving to “build a solid understanding of the principles of Islam” among Muslims aged 14 to 25, YM seeks to provide Muslim youth with “an Islamic atmosphere” wherein they can “form bonds of brotherhood with their peers” and gain an understanding of their “individual and collective obligations as Muslims.”
Founded on the guiding principle that the “Qur’an and Sunnah shall be the primary source of guidance” for all, YM expanded rapidly during its first decade. By January 2008 the organization had seven chapters (or “neighbornets”) in New York State, four in New Jersey, three in Illinois, three in California, and one in Pennsylvania. YM also maintains a presence in Canada.
Over the years, YM has held a number of events featuring some of the most radical guest speakers in the Muslim community. Among these events are youth camps which, prior to the 9/11 attacks, were sometimes referred to as “jihad camps.”
In August 2004, controversy visited one particular jihad camp that was held on the 23-acre property of the Foundation for Islamic Education in Villanova, Pennsylvania. Shortly before the camp was scheduled to begin, FBI officials raided the house of guest speaker Mazen Mokhtar and seized his computers. Soon thereafter it was revealed that prior to 9/11, Mokhtar (who had since become youth director of the Muslim American Society‘s New Jersey chapter) had created a website to solicit funds for the Taliban and Chechen mujahedeen; his site was also used as a portal to the official website of Hamas, a group that Mokhtar described as “heroic.” Eventually (in April 2007) Mokhtar was arrested for tax fraud.
Other noteworthy guest speakers to appear at various YM “jihad camps” include: Shamsi Ali (a deputy Imam who moderated a February 2006 demonstration against the infamous Danish cartoons that lampooned the Prophet Muhammad); Iman Badawi, who helped coordinate the March 1997 Muslim Students Association East Zone Conference which featured a speech by Ali Al-Tamimi, an individual who would later receive a life sentence in prison for urging his followers, after 9/11, to join the Taliban and attack American troops; former Rutgers University Muslim Students Association president Obeydullah Choudry, who maintains that jihad “may [justifiably] be offensive, with Muslims taking the lead in averting the enemy’s conspiracies and impending plots”; Faisal Hamouda, (a leading volunteer for Islamic Relief, a Hamas front); Nouman Ali Khan (a former representative of the Muslim Students Association); Amin Abdul Latif (a supporter of Algeria’s Islamic Salvation Front, the organization responsible for the creation of the Armed Islamic Group); Abdul Malik (a Muslim chaplain with ties to CAIR-New York); Sheik Riyadh ul-Haq, a United Kingdom-based Imam who, just two months after an April 2006 speaking engagement for YM, was banned from entering Canada “because his views could incite terror and hatred”; and Siraj Wahhaj (a potential co-conspirator to the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center).
In July 2007, YM held a conference in the same Hartford, Connecticut convention center where the Islamic Circle of North America and the Muslim American Society were jointly holding their own national conventions.
Much of the is profile is adapted from the article “Young Muslims’ Secret Camp,” by Joe Kaufman (August 1, 2006). Another key source is “Miss Martyr Camp at the Y,” by Joe Kaufman (August 18, 2006).