Terror Accusations Shake Brooklyn Mosque
Mar. 08, 2003
NEW YORK (AP) _ Al-Farooq mosque is filled most days with working class people who say they struggle to contribute enough money to keep the paint from peeling and the rest rooms supplied.
But a federal complaint unsealed last week says the storefront mosque in Brooklyn was a lucrative source of funds for al-Qaida, that some of the millions of dollars raised by a Yemeni cleric for the terrorist group was collected at the mosque.
Worshippers said the mosque is a place of reflection and devotion.
``There's nothing going on here except prayer. This is like any other mosque in the world _ we go in and pray, and we go home,'' Yemeni-born worshipper Idris Alward said as he arrived for noontime prayers last week.
Some acknowledged being troubled by the new allegations _ the mosque has had ties to extremists dating back more than a dozen years _ and said they want to learn more. Others insisted any money raised at Al-Farooq goes only to worthy causes.
``The donations at this mosque are for kids with no parents, for people who have nothing,'' said Nassar Hoason, a gas station owner.
The second-floor mosque sits on Atlantic Avenue, a bustling thoroughfare populated by immigrants from around the world, many of them Muslims.
It is a 15-minute walk from the federal courthouse where the complaint was unsealed, revealing allegations that Sheik Mohammed Al Hasan Al-Moayad used the mosque to raise money for Osama bin Laden's terrorist network in 1999.
The Yemeni cleric is being held in Germany, after he allegedly told an FBI informant that he supplied al-Qaida with more than $20 million, recruits and weapons in the years before the Sept. 11 attacks. The U.S. government is seeking to extradite Al-Moayad.
Much of the money came from contributors in the United States, including the Al-Farooq mosque, prosecutors said. The federal complaint uses an alternative spelling for the mosque, Al Farouq.
Prosecutors said Al-Moayad identified at least five people in New York, including Brooklyn business owners, as sources of secret funding. No member of the mosque has been charged.
The mosque has been linked to extremist groups in the past:
_Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman, the blind Egyptian cleric who was the mosque's spiritual leader in the early 1990s, is serving a life prison term for a failed plot to blow up the United Nations and several New York bridges and tunnels.
_Before Rahman's arrival in 1990, the mosque was home to al-Kifah, a global organization that raised money for the militant Islamic mujahedeen fighting Soviet forces in Afghanistan. At the time, the U.S. government backed the mujahedeen.
_The men convicted in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing worshipped at Al-Farooq, as did El-Sayyed Nosair, found guilty in the 1990 killing of Rabbi Meir Kahane, the New York-born Israeli extremist.
The federal claims angered Ghazi Khankan, the New York spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a Washington-based advocacy group.
``This mosque is a center for a hardworking middle-class community. Whoever says they raised millions of dollars is exaggerating and is not credible,'' says Khankan.
``The mosque has problems buying toilet paper, paying its electricity bills _ there is no money,'' said regular worshipper Muna Mandi, a Moroccan native. ``The elevator breaks down just about every week. But I come for the religion.''
Still, the mosque has a reputation as ``host to people who have been extreme,'' said Hussein Ibish, speaking for the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee in Washington. ``It's not unthinkable that somebody might try to use a mosque as a front for illegal activities.''