The former Imam of the Islamic Center of Cleveland, Fawaz Damra, convicted in 2004 for lying to immigration officials about his ties to the terrorist group Palestinian Islamic Jihad, has been replaced.
Damra had famously played up his interfaith credentials, even after evidence surfaced of his participation in fundraising events for the PIJ, and also telling a crowd of Muslim supporters in 1991 that they should aim "a rifle at the first and last enemy of the Islamic nation, and that is the sons of monkeys and pigs, the Jews."
Damra chalked up such sentiments as youthful indiscretions, made before he knew any Jews. The community – and more importantly, a jury – apparently did not buy that explanation, and he was subsequently deported to the West Bank.
Now comes word, according to the Cleveland Plain Dealer, that Damra has been replaced by one Imam Ahmed Alzaree, an Egyptian born cleric who had last been the spiritual leader of a mosque in Nebraska. Alzaree is tasked with healing a community where trust had been torn apart by Damra's lies, obfuscations and viciousness.
Dear brothers and sisters, the talk about the Day of Judgment is long and full of things that will confuse the human mind and put fear in the hearts of the faithful. Every day that comes is much more Worse than the day before it as we get closer to the hour. Among the signs of the approach of Day of Judgment is what the messenger of Allah PBUH said: "The hour of judgment shall not happen until the Muslims fight the Jews. The Muslims shall kill the Jews to the point that the Jew shall hide behind a big rock or a tree and the rock or tree shall call on the Muslim saying: hey, O Muslim there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him, except the Gharqad tree which will not say, for it is the tree of Jews." Agreed upon. This is seemed to be very soon and close now. We ask Allah SWT not to test us so hardly if we live till this horrible moment insha'allah. (emphasis added)
As Blumer stated, such sentiments do not necessarily make Alzaree a terrorist in the sense that Damra had been, and Alzaree even appears to be asking that Allah not visit such a "horrible moment" on the world, although it seems he believes the end-time scenario described in the hadith is a foregone conclusion. If this is the case, it is hardly in the Cleveland mosque's best interest to replace one virulently anti-Semitic jihadist cleric with another. As Blumer asks: "Meet the New Imam, Same as the Old Imam?"