When it comes to leading prayers on Capitol Hill, the Congressional Muslim Staffers Association doesn't seem to discriminate. Published reports and the group's own leaders indicate they have allowed at least three Muslim clerics with radical or terrorist ties to lead prayers for up to 100 staffers.
Prayer leaders have included Anwar al-Awlaki, the U.S. citizen who is now preaching violence against America from his hideout in Yemen; Anwar Hajjaj, a leader of the Taibah International Aid Association, a charity shut down by the Treasury Department for supporting al-Qaida; Esam Omeish, a former head of the Muslim American Society who preached "the jihad way."
Also appearing at some of these prayer sessions were Nihad Awad, leader of the Council of American-Islamic Relations, which was named as unindicted coconspirator in a Hamas-funding case; and Ahmed Bedier, the past director of the CAIR chapter in Tampa. Prosecutors say CAIR was "a participant in an ongoing and ultimately unlawful conspiracy to support a designated terrorist organization, a conspiracy from which CAIR never withdrew."
The New York Post reported last month that Rep. Gregory Meeks, D-N.Y., supported Hajjaj when he complained about scrutiny of his activities by the Department of Homeland Security. That story mentioned Hajjaj's preaching on the Hill. The Investigative Project on Terrorism supplied information to the Post for that story and also has video from Awlaki's 2002 session before CMSA.
Patrick Poole reported Thursday that Hajjaj led prayers on Capitol Hill as recently as April.
In April, the newspaper Roll Call reported that Omeish had led prayer services at the Capitol. In 2007, Omeish was forced to resign from a Virginia immigration panel after IPT video surfaced which showed Omeish, a leader of the Dal al-Hijrah Mosque in Fairfax, Va., praising Palestinians for choosing "the jihad way" to liberation in a 2000 speech.