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Protecting the Community by Stopping the Was-Was

By Imam Talib Abdur Rashid


As-Salaamu 'Alaikum wa Rahmatullahi wa Barakaatuhu.

Recently I received an e-mail circulated by our brother in Islam, and the editor of New Trend Magazine, Brother Kaukab Siddiqi, which contained an accusation by another brother named Nabeel, against Imam Siraj Wahhaj, the Amir of MANA. The accusations were specifically related to an assertion of the brother Nabeel regarding Imam Siraj's "ego". The other even more serious one was the recycled charge that the testimony of Imam Siraj as a witness for the defense in the trial of Shaykh Omar Abdur-Rahman , helped put the Shaykh away for life in prison.

Truthfully, I was a bit surprised to hear this last false statement still circulating after all of this time. But upon reflection I realized that brother Kaukab, apparently not having received a clear response to his past public broadcasting of concern on the matter, or at least one that he was willing to accept, was thus raising the issue again. In fact, it was he who sent me the e-mail I mentioned.

When I first heard the accusations against Imam Siraj years ago , I did what Muslims are supposed to do. I went TO Imam Siraj and spoke WITH him in order to ascertain the truth. He spoke forthrightly to me about it. I gave him naseehaa on the matter ("defend yourself"), investigated it further, and that was sufficient for me on it.

However in light of the current atmosphere in America with regards to the openly declared War Against Terrorism, and the openly undeclared War Against Islam and Muslims, I have decided to speak out on this matter, in order to warn the Muslims against the on-going tactics of the Shayteen to divide us, assassinate the character of our leaders, and de-stabilize the Ummah, and its struggle for liberation, self-determination, and justice.

I have written this for two reasons:
(1) In obedience to Allah and His Messenger, who have commanded:

Verily the believers are brothers. So set matters right (i.e. through peace and reconciliation) between your brothers and fear Allah, in order that you may receive Mercy". (Q 49:10), and

"Allah's Messenger (pbuh) asked 'Shall I inform you of something more excellent in degree than fasting, charity, and salaat?' On receiving the reply 'Certainly', he stated, 'It is putting things right between people, for to incite people to dispute is like a razor. And I don't mean that it shaves off hair, but that it shears the Deen'. " (authenticated by Imam At-Tirmidhi and others), and

(2) Because of my own sense of responsibility to our Islamic cause, to Imam Siraj (whom I love for the sake of Allah, and have known for about 27 years now), to brother Kaukab (who, after all, does have a "people's" right as a Muslim brother to inquire as to the truth about matters involving leaders), and to the Muslims themselves (my brothers and sisters).

In saying what follows, I stand upon my own reputation, for those who know and accept it, as someone active in the struggle for the liberation of oppressed peoples in America generally, and African Americans in particular, since the late 60s, and specifically as one clearly in that struggle as a Muslim since 1971, as a member of the Mosque of Islamic Brotherhood; whose founding members stood in the ranks of the Muslim Mosque Inc. with El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz (May Allah give him the promised reward of all martyrs).

Further, I speak as one who is a member of a jamaat (The MIB) that survived direct attacks, covert and overt, by COINTELPRO, including the bombing of our then mosque, and various attempts to set us up, and foment division between us and other Muslims, that we know about. Allah protected us, Sub-haanalaahi wa bihamdihi!

Many well meaning people in the Ummah who are immigrants, have read ABOUT the original COINTELPRO (Covert Intelligence Program of the U.S. government). Few if any actually EXPERIENCED it, much less speak authoritatively about it. Relatively few amongst the indigenous Muslim leadership have survived thus far to talk about COINTELPRO from experience, and not just from books. Those who did survive by the Grace of Allah must teach and warn, as the 21st Century version of this program is now in operation , functioning under the guise of Homeland Security and the War Against Terror, using some of the same tactics from the 60s & 70s. Teaching and warning is what I am endeavoring to do here:

Dear brother Kaukab:

As-Salaamu 'Alaikum wa Rahmatullah

I will respond to this, which has gone on far too long, and I pray that you will publish my response as well:

1- Regarding the statement of The brother in question (Shaykh Nabeel Al-Masri ), "NO ONE CAN TAKE AWAY FROM BR. SIRAJ what he did in his early days as Imam of Masjid Altaqwa and in Brooklyn NY.....his record speaks for itself.....BUT later on, actually since his OPENING of the Congress Session where he recited Alfatiha...That was the turning point in his Attitude....EGO became his problem....and it is getting bigger by the day...he is on the BOARD of so many organizations...regardless of his qualifications...his name put him on the top 5-personalities in the States.....I have NO [problem with that but his EGO is what I have a problem with....You cannot get close to him for security reasons, he became like ALL the Rulers in the Muslim world....he is being ISOLATED."

My Response: Rather than back-biting Imam Siraj, brother Nabeel should speak TO him instead of ABOUT him, and share his observations regarding the Imam's ego.Muslims must know and adhere to the daleel from Allah's deen on back-biting and slander . To make such back-biting statements, or to promote them, is Islamically reprehensible. Will we effect unity in the Ummah, or reconciliation between brothers, by violating the adab of Islam as stated clearly by Allah in Suratul-Hujaraat? We will not!

Allah Ta'Ala states:
"Avoid suspicion as much (as possible), for suspicion in some cases is a sin, and spy not on each other, nor speak ill of each other behind their backs. Would any of you like to eat the flest of his dead brother? Nay, you would abhor it". (Q 49:12)

The Prophet (pbuh) said:
"Opinion is the falsest kind of speech", and

" ...It is evil anough for a Muslim to scorn his brother.", and

"When I ascended through the heavens, I passed by some people holding copper nails with which they were gouging their faces and chests. I said, ' Who are these Jibril (as)?' He said, ' Those are the people who consumed people's flesh (by back-biting and tale-bearing) and attacked their honor'."

Further, Allah Ta'Ala has warned us against the whisper of Satan (Q 114:4), and commanded us to refer matters to the leadership of the Muslims ('Ulul-Amr) for investigation, and to ascertain the character of those bringing news".

"When there comes to them some matter touching (public) safety or fear, they divulge it. If only they had referred it to the Messenger or to those charged with authority among them, the proper investigators would have tested it from them (direct). Were it not for the Grace and Mercy of Allah unto you, all but a few would have followed Shaitan." (Q 4:83). I received a direct e-mail from Brother Kaukab on this affair, and so I am addressing it. I have already investigated it.

Allah Ta'Ala also says, "O you who believe! If a faasiq comes to you with any news, ascertain the truth. lest ye harm people unwittingly. And afterwards become full of repentance for whast you have done". (Q 49:6)

Now, I'm not calling ANYONE a faasiq who had raised the issue over the years. But I am pointing to the principle, here, which is beautifully articulated in the (revised) Yusuf Ali translation of the Qur'an, commentary, "All tattle-tale or reports -especially if emanating from persons you don't know - are to be tested, and the truth ascertained. If they were believed and passed on, much harm may be done, of which you may have cause afterwards to repent heartedly. Scandal or slander of all kinds is here condemned..." (commentary 4924)

In fact, considering that one of the definitions in Al-Islam of a faasiq , is one who carries tales and rumors, and thus causes division between believers, we should all be ever vigilant for the appearance of those in our midst, who fit this description.

For lack of this type of guidance, many sincere people in the struggle of the 60s and early 70s in America lost their lives,or were incarcerated (some still in prison now after 30 and 40 years), as demons in human form initiated whisper campaigns, fanned the flames of dissension between those in the struggle (Muslim and non-Muslim) and sometimes succeeded in igniting violence between them (e.g. the NOI around El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz, the Black Panther Party and the US organization - resulting in the death of Bunchy Carter, and many other examples).

Muslims in this day and time must follow the guidance of the Qur'an and Sunna, and avoid the sin of back-biting and slander, and exercise RUMOR CONTROL IN THE UMMAH. Vain talk creates an atmosphere that can be exploited by Shaitaan AND the Shayteen, to cause bloodshed between brothers and sisters, or at least the assassination not of the lives, but rather the character and reputation of our leaders, all of which de-stabilize The Struggle.

As for the notion of Imam Siraj being inaccessible to folk, that is just plain ridiculous! Anyone who watches him at conferences,often unable to enter or leave a hall without being stopped several times by people wishing to speak with him, knows that brother Nabeel's depiction of him is inaccurate. Perhaps he (Nabeel) tried to speak with the Imam once and was unable to do so. Allahu Aalim.

2- Regarding Brother Kaukab's Statements on Imam Siraj and Shaikh Omar: The most recent of which are "Remember that the blind Shaikh, Islamic leader of millions, Hafize Qur'an, scholar par excellence, Ph.D from Al-Azhar, is in prison for life owing to this vilification by the likes of Siraj Wahhaj", and also (in another e-mail) Brother Kaukab refers to Imam Siraj's "dastardly role in the conviction and life imprisonment of Shaikh Omar 'Abdel Rahman".

My Response re: The incident with the statement of Shaikh Omar and his statement at Masjid At-Taqwa:

"O You Believe! Fear Allah and be with those who are true (in word and deed) ( Q 9:119)
"Not a word does he utter but there is sentinel near him (ready to note it)" ( Q 50:18)

We are Muslims, and Muslims must speak the truth even if it is against themselves. It is my understanding based upon direct conversation with Imam Siraj, whom I have found to be a consistently truthful person over the decades of our association, that Shaikh Omar Abdel-Rahman (may Allah preserve him in the belly of the beast) did it fact years ago, during a halaqa when he was visiting Masjid At-Taqwa, declared it permissible for brothers to rob the banks of the kuffaar here in America.

Upon making his statement, the Shaikh was immediately, openly, clearly and respectfully dissuaded from making such statements, BY IMAM SIRAJ HIMSELF! Imam Siraj personally told me about it afterwards.Further, this happened in more than one masjid in NYC, in the presence of more than one imam. We're just referencing here what happened at Masjid Taqwa, but in at least one other instance elsewhere, it was another indigenous Muslim imam who spoke up against such statements, while others sat mesmerized.

3- After the trial and the much discussed testimony, and the then published accusatory statements against the Imam (i.e. that he helped put the Shaikh away), I went to Imam Siraj and personally spoke with him about what had happened, in order to ascertain the truth of the matter.

My recollection of this long ago conversation with the Imam, is that the defense lawyer for the Shaikh knew BEFORE-HAND (i.e. before Imam Siraj took the stand) about the Shaikh's statements. If he didn't, he should have. BTW,for the sake of our brother Nabeel , who challenged anyone to prove that the Shaikh 'SERIOUSLY" encouraged anyone to rob banks - putting the question of the validity of the Shaikh's statement aside for a moment - know that even if the Shaikh was jesting, and not "seriously" stating what he did, one just doesn't joke about that type of thing in that type of setting, in America.

If the esteemed scholar had known about the instances of this having already occured in America during the days of various radical and revolutionary groups, and the resulting destruction of those groups, and the incarceration of many good Muslims as the result of such actions (bombings, bank robberies, etc.), and the reality of COINTELPRO, he would have known that such pronouncements are no joking matter here, for us. He should have been briefed by those who took him around, as to what to say and not say. Obviously, he was not.

America, oh America
Land of the Free
Home of the brave
Executioner of the Indian
Master of the Slave
This message of thee
Sweet land of liberty
- Yusuf N. Kly

In the pre-Sept. 11th world (and even now) , MANY "foreign" visiting brothers or sisters, believing the American hype of its "free speech" (relatively true perhaps, compared to their own countries of origin), and knowing NOTHING about the African American struggle for liberation, or COINTELPRO, took (and take) for granted the lessons that those of us who are indigenous to this land , have learned the hard way and know well. These lessons have not largely been conveyed to our immigrant brethren through briefing, because of the dis-connect, even now, between our peoples. Immigrant Shuyukh often come here to teach and preach on the conditions in America, rather than to listen and learn. It is a sad truth that applies here.

The recent discussion as to whether or not Imam Siraj said what he said is misleading and irrelevant. What he said is a matter of public record. The real question is how did that line of questioning come about in the first place?

Undoubtedly that day in court, Imam Siraj was caught off-guard, even shocked, when he was questioned under oath by the defense lawyer of Shaikh Omar (May Allah preserve him), about the Shaikh's comments at Masjid At-Taqwa. Not knowing whether or not the prosecution was also aware of what took place that day (e.g. was Emad Salem the informant and agent provocateur there at that moment at Taqwa, with the tape running?), Imam Siraj chose to be truthful rather than perjure himself (which is not to say that he would do so anyway), or to give a more vague answer (as someone else might have done under similar circumstances). In fact, Imam Siraj told me that the lawyer said to him beforehand, "be truthful". He was. So what's the beef?

I say as a leader, that he shouldn't have been asked that question in the first place, if the defense didn't want him to be truthful. Competent lawyers don't ask questions that they don't know the answer to, or are otherwise fairly sure of. Even if the defense lawyer didn't know the answer to the question before hand, he should have. Whether he did or didn't, he should not have asked the question!!!

In fact, since the brother Nabeel knows the lawyer, perhaps he should ask him why he even posed that question to someone (Imam Siraj) whom he (the defense) asked to testify on behalf of his client!

4- Imam Siraj's personality is that he doesn't like to go conflictually tit-for-tat with Muslim brothers, especially in the public square. Objective analysis reveals that making a public accusation against a person without first investigating the matter thoroughly (which includes speaking directly to the person about whom there is a question) , then asking him to defend himself publicly, doesn't exactly make for good communication , trust, or receptivity to dialogue between brothers. Because of Imam Siraj's avoidance of tit-for-tat conflicts, he hasn't defended himself all of these years against the accusations against him.He relies upon Allah.

I believe it is an error (that is, not speaking in his own defense , not the part about relying upon Allah) and I told him so. Unanswered questions leave the Muslim community open for manipulation. Imam Siraj has always believed that people who know the truth would or should speak up on his behalf. Well, I know the truth here, and I am speaking up. For to not do so not only creates the problem cited above, but it casts a pale on those of us who stand with Imam Siraj in leadership. As the Deputy Amir of MANA, and an Executive Member of the Majlis Ash-Shura of NY, I personally won't allow this to happen any more without addressing it.

5- Anyone who thinks that one statement by Imam Siraj, or one error by a defense lawyer, was all that it took to put Shaikh Omar away, doesn't understand the Shayteen and their machinations very well. Further, you are underestimating the enemies of Allah and His Messenger (pbuh); the forces of repression here and abroad. As with most political cases, the die was cast against the Shaykh (and also against Imam Jamil, btw) before the trial even began.The U.S. government determined to make an example out of not only the Shaikh, but also his lawyer (Lynne Stewart, who will be sentenced this month).

What rendered the Shaikh vulnerable to being put him away, was:

(1) His unguarded speech ,monitored and taped intimately and covertly by a U.S.A. bought and paid for Egyptian undercover informant and agent provocateur , EMAD SALEM.

Agent provocateurs were a common tool used in defusing and derailing the revolutionary struggle of the 60s and 70s.According to Karl Evanzz, author of THE JUDAS FACTOR: THE PLOT TO KILL MALCOLM X (pg. 314), there were 7,000 undercover FBI informants and agent provocateurs in the African American community by 1972, in what was called "The Ghetto Informants Program". Now I ask, how many do you think are in the Muslim community in America, right now? The particular error made by Shaikh Omar (i.e. unguarded speech in expressing his controversial and questionable opinions) , was committed decades before him by Black revolutionaries and others here in America, many of whom are in prison right now. Further, they have been in prison since before several of the Muslim/Arab revolutionary groups of this day in Egypt and elsewhere , even came into being. It was the Shaikh's statements, within the context of all the other stuff related to the WTC bombing, and the alleged planned follow-up bombings, that did him in. This was what both the Egyptian and U.S. governments wanted. They helped set it up, exploited the weaknesses of the Muslims, and got what they wanted. Their informant and agent provocateur (Salem) audio and video taped the Shaikh and others for hours, covertly. This is well-known, or at least should be, by the general public.

(2) That which is not well-known to the general public, but is known to those of us who are authentic activist leaders, and which I will now state publicly as the Ummah should know this. Namely, that one of the other culpable parties in the Shaikh's INNER CIRCLE, his former translator and bodyguard SIDDIG IBRAHIM SIDDIG ALI of the Sudan, turned STATE'S EVIDENCE against the Shaikh and the entire group of defendants, and made an extensive confessional statement in federal court . In Siddig's sworn testimony, he directly implicated Shaikh Omar as having declared bombings of American civilian targets as Islamically permissable ( a view consistent with the alleged bank-robbing fatwa) , hinted that the Shaikh was consulted and knew about the 1993 bombing of the WTC, and other things (see United States of America Vs. Siddig Ibrahim Siddig Ali, 2/6/1995) .

Now whether that is true or not, Siddig Ali swore to it in court as part of a PLEA-BARGAIN,and is now doing "life" in prison (allegedly, wa Allahu aalim) ! He declared that his actions and those of his fellows were not consistent with Al-Islam, and that he sought Allah's forgiveness for his actions.

Thus, What cemented the conviction of the Shaikh was the statements of Muslim "snitches", informants, and agent provocateurs within the Shaikh's own inner circle, not a single, true, open in court statement made by Imam Siraj Wahhaj. Wa-laahi, this is the truth and it must now be recognized by all, or else we will fail to see the ongoing possibility for infiltration within the Muslim ranks!!!

In a recent e-mail, brother Kaukab inquired as to how a copy of a taped khutba given by brother Warith Deem Umar at Masjid At-Taqwa "got out" and into the hands of the police or government. When one understands the reality of COINTELPRO 21st CENTURY,the answer to such a question becomes obvious.

6- Again contrary to what brother Nabeel has stated, It is not absolutely or completely true that those of us in the African American community didn't object to the presence on the Reno list, of the names of immigrant brothers. To the extent that it is true, it was (and is) because of the then (and now) large dis-connect between the two segments of the Ummah here in America (indigenous and immigrant Muslims). Those whose names were familar to us (like our brother Mohammed T. Mehdi, may Allah forgive his sins and reward him) had a hue and cry raised on their behalf .Some names couldn't be vouced for because of the lack of familiarity with them by indigenous Muslims , and vice-versa I'm sure. BTW, Osama bin Laden's name is on the list as well, much less prominently than Imam Siraj's. Yet the only name that is still mentioned today, oft-repeated as having been on that list of "possible un-indicted co-conspirators", is that of Imam Siraj.

7- For the sake of Allah, I respect brother Kaukab for whatever good he stands for, and has done. For the sake of Allah, I love and respect Imam Siraj for the same.He has chosen, as has brother Salaakhan (whom I also love and respect for the sake of Allah), to not respond to these matters in this inter-net medium. I have chosen to write this letter without attacking those in the Ummah who have. I assume their sincerity even as I disagree with their method.

In light of the above, I now ask ANY sincere brothers who have harbored negative beliefs about Imam Siraj in this particular matter, to STAND DOWN, and cease and desist your accusations and recriminations against our brother. In the name of Allah, and in anticipation of the Day of Judgement, I ask you to reconcile your differences with him for the sake of your own souls, and our Muslim people and struggle in America and abroad, and to henceforth not engage in nor promote discourse , that would make it easier for Shaytaan and the Shayteen to implement Firaunic divide and conquer strategies against us all, in the Ummah.

Muslims need to STOP talking ABOUT each other, and instead talk TO and WITH each other. If Brother Kaukab and anyone else had given Imam Siraj the brotherly benefit of that type of treatment, this entire ugly mess might have been avoided.

Oh yes, here's another false accusation - that Imam Siraj gets a percentage, or has consistently gotten a percentage of the vast monies he has raised over the years for Islamic causes. Again, this can only be thought by someone who doesn't really know the Imam. He has been so self-less in this regard that he has been criticized by some of his peers for not looking out for himself. All have come to see his self-lessness as his own unique contribution of personal gifts and talent, to the work we commonly hold dear.

I personally hope and pray that this letter will be received in the spirit that it is presented. Those who know me know that I don't even like going into some of this stuff publicly. But because of the widely broadcast nature of the allegations against Imam Siraj from this source (i.e. the inter-net),I felt I was left with no choice. I have written this e-mail calling for both truth and reconciliation, as this is what Allah tells us to do as an obligation.

Unity is fard. Respect for the sanctity of the Muslims is part of the Deen. Human devils want us and our way of life dead - all of us.Let us conduct ourselves in such a manner, that Allah will use us to defeat the evil schemes of the Shayteen. As Muslims we have a lot of enemies. Imam Siraj Wahhaj is not one of them, and anyone who would suggest that he is, is himself suspect to those of us of proven commitment to the Islamic Cause.

"The believers, male and female, are protectors of one another" (Q 9:72)

From the Front Lines of Our Struggle,
Yours in Islam,
Imam Al-Hajj Talib 'Abdur-Rashid
The Mosque of Islamic Brotherhood Inc.
Harlem, NY

Invite (all) to the Way of thy Lord with wisdom and beautiful preaching; and argue with them in ways that are best and most gracious: for thy Lord knoweth best, who have strayed from His Path, and who receive guidance.

Quran: 16:125
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