Notorious Hamas fundraiser Mohammed al-Hanooti is set to appear from July 13 through 15 at Masjid Al-Noor, a mosque near the University of Memphis operated by the Islamic Association of Greater Memphis. It is also the home of the university's Muslim Student Association.
Mohammed al-Hanooti has been identified by federal prosecutors and top counterterrorism officials as a enthusiastic supporter of Hamas — serving as one of its top fundraisers — and also as an active supporter of terrorism and extremist Islamic ideology for several decades. He also holds the rare distinction of not only being named by prosecutors as an unindicted co-conspirator in the Holy Land Foundation trial, the largest terror finance case in American history, but also of being listed as a conspirator in the trial of the "blind sheik" Omar Abdel Rahman for the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and planned follow-up attack on New York City landmarks. FBI agents have also testified that al-Hanooti was a participant in an infamous 1993 meeting in Philadelphia of senior Hamas leaders in the U.S.
Al-Hanooti's terror ties go back to the 1980s, when he served for two years as the first president of the Islamic Association for Palestine, an organization founded by Hamas leader Mousa Abu Marzook. The group was found liable for $156 million in a civil trial brought by a Chicago couple whose son was murdered by Hamas while waiting for a bus in Israel. In the judge's order in that case, he cited "strong evidence that IAP was supporting Hamas, consistent with the FBI's surveillance reports."
Evidence submitted by the government in the Holy Land Foundation trial also implicates al-Hanooti's role in the top leadership of the Muslim Brotherhood and its Palestine Committee, formed specifically to provide support for Hamas. A 1988 list of U.S. Muslim Brotherhood leaders shows al-Hanooti as serving on the group's sharia court. He also appears on a 1993 list of U.S. and international Palestine Committee members. Other documents entered as evidence include a 1991 study on Hamas featuring a forward by al-Hanooti, and a 1995 FBI wiretap transcript of al-Hanooti talking with one of the Holy Land trial defendants about how to raise money for the legal defense of Hamas leader Mousa Abu Marzook, then facing trial in New York.
A November 2001 memorandum on the Holy Land Foundation's financial support for Hamas, prepared by FBI counterterrorism assistant director Dale Watson, details information provided by two separate informants that al-Hanooti "was a big supporter of Hamas" who held fundraisers for the terror group, and that "al-Hanooti collected over six million U.S. dollars for support of Hamas."
As noted in an extensive investigation by the Albany Times Union, during the early 1990s al-Hanooti was the imam of the Islamic Center of Passaic, New Jersey, which members of the 1993 World Trade Center plot attended. One used the mosque's address to rent the truck used in the bombing. Another frequent visitor to al-Hanooti's mosque was the blind sheik, who is currently serving a life sentence for his support and direction to the bombers.
And as the New York Times reported, in August 1999 al-Hanooti appeared as a witness at the trial of al-Qaeda operative Ihab Ali, who refused to testify about his knowledge of the plot to bomb the American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. During al-Hanooti's testimony he backed Ali's silence, telling the court that Islamic law "gives him the right to abstain from giving testimony in case it hurts him or it hurts any other Muslim." Whether it hurt U.S. citizens was apparently not a consideration for al-Hanooti.
Feeling the heat from the blind sheik's terrorism trial, al-Hanooti moved to D.C. in 1995, where he became the imam of the Dar al-Hijrah mosque in Falls Church, Virginia. He found a home there — in a recording made by the Investigative Project on Terrorism of a speech delivered in 1998, he declares that the D.C.-area mosque was the greatest example of "carrying out the Jihad that Allah calls for":
At the moment, Dar al-Hijrah is the greatest example in sacrifice, execution, and in carrying out the Jihad that Allah calls for. Allah will give us the victory over our tyrannical enemies in our country. Allah, the infidel Americans and British are fighting against you. Allah, the curse of the infidel Americans and British are fighting against you. Allah, the curse of Allah will become true on the infidel Jews and on the tyrannical Americans.
Al-Hanooti served as imam at Dar al-Hijrah until 2000, replaced as imam by al-Qaeda cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, spiritual mentor to several of the 9/11 hijackers. The questioning by the FBI of al-Awlaki's role in the 9/11 terror attacks didn't stop al-Hanooti from joining al-Awlaki as the religious leaders of a 2002 Hajj tour organized by a travel agency owned by a top U.S. Hamas supporter. After a brief stint as imam at an Albany, New York, mosque, al-Hanooti today serves as the self-styled "grand mufti," or top religious leader, of the D.C. area.
It is doubtful that any of this readily available information about Mohammed al-Hanooti's long history of fundraising for Hamas and supporting terrorism will be touted by Masjid Al-Noor in preparation for his forthcoming appearance. And no doubt the mosque's Jewish and Christian interfaith partners in Memphis are in the dark about their city's upcoming visitor. Perhaps Hanooti's hosts will find time to take the Hamas fundraiser to Graceland? But what would Elvis have to say about the land of W.C. Handy becoming the land of Hamas?
Patrick Poole is a regular contributor to Pajamas Media, and an anti-terrorism consultant to law enforcement and the military.