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Chicago Tribune: Islamist extremists taking over mosques in American heartland

February 19, 2004

The approved guides don’t advise about the hijacked mosques.
An extensive Chicago Tribune investigation confirms that Islamist extremists
are taking over mosques in the American heartland, driving out normal Muslim
clerics and using the houses of worship to raise money for terrorist causes.

Citing a mosque in Bridgeview, Illinois, the Tribune reports on a local,
Saudi-sponsored sheik’s fundraiser for suspected Palestinian Islamic Jihad leader
Sami Al-Arian, currently in prison awaiting trial on a 50-count federal grand
jury indictment: “the prayer leader’s passionate appeal is a reflection of the
ascendancy of Muslim hard-liners at the mosque, one of the most outspoken and
embattled in the U.S.”

The Bridgeview case is becoming more typical of the hijacking of Islam in
America, according to the Tribune: “The mosque did not become this way without a
struggle. Relying on hundreds of documents and dozens of interviews, the
Tribune has pieced together the details of a bitter fight in Bridgeview that saw
religious fundamentalists prevail over moderates.

“Among the leaders at the Bridgeview mosque are men who have condemned
Western culture, praised Palestinian suicide bombers and encouraged members to view
society in stark terms: Muslims against the world. Federal authorities for
years have investigated some mosque officials for possible links to terrorism
financing, but no criminal charges have been filed.”

Where are the normal Muslims? The Tribune reports, “Moderate Muslims still
pray at the mosque, but some say radicals have created an environment that is
overly political, too rigid in its interpretation of Islam and resistant to open
debate. These members also worry that the Muslim Brotherhood, a controversial
group with a violent past, has an undue influence over the mosque. Despite
these concerns, the critics largely remain silent, fearful of being called
“unIslamic” by mosque leaders.”

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