The Biden Administration has appointed three Muslim leaders with Islamist backgrounds as advisors to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
On September 19, DHS announced the 25 members of its “reinvigorated” Faith-Based Security Advisory Council, which will provide “strategic, timely, specific and actionable advice to the Secretary on diverse homeland security matters.”
One of the objectives of the Council is to build trust between American Muslims and law security officials. However, three appointees have a history of promoting suspicion of law enforcement in the U.S.
The most prominent of the appointees is Imam Mohamed Hagmagid Ali, more commonly known as Imam Mohamed Magid. Magid is the Executive Director of the All Dulles Area Muslim Center (ADAMS) and was the President of Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) from 2010 to 2014.
Magid’s offices at the ADAMS mosque were raided on March 20, 2002 as part of an investigation into the SAAR network, a collection of around 100 nonprofits and corporations accused of a conspiracy to provide material support to Al Qaeda, Hamas, and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Magid was an advisor to one of the Islamist entities—the Sterling Charitable Gift Fund—alongside other Muslim Brotherhood-linked leaders. No arrests were made.
Magid’s previous organization, ISNA, was designated by the Justice Department as an unindicted co-conspirator in the terrorism-financing trial of the Holy Land Foundation in 2007. The Justice Department also listed ISNA as an “entity” of the U.S. Muslim Brotherhood. In 2009, a federal judge upheld the designation because of “ample” evidence linking ISNA to the Hamas-financing network.
Magid fanned the flames during the Holy Land investigation by stating that elements of the U.S. government were acting with “intent on dismantling Muslim organizations and bringing them down.”
Magid spoke at a fundraiser for the rabidly anti-American imam Jabil Abdullah Al-Amin (previously known as H. Rap Brown), who was convicted of murdering a police officer in 2008. Al-Amin is the spiritual leader of a violent extremist group called Ummah that, according to the FBI, is a “nationwide radical fundamentalist Sunni group” whose “primary mission is to establish a separate, sovereign Islamic state within the borders of the United States, governed by Shariah law.”
Magid’s appointment is particularly troubling given his role in hindering discussion of the Islamist political motives of jihadist terrorism while serving on the Obama Administration’s working group dedicated to Countering Violent Extremism program said Kyle Shideler, director of the Center for Security Policy. Under pressure from Magid and others, this group “totally erased any discussion of the Islamist political motives of jihadist terrorism,” he said.
Magid has worked to burnish his reputation as a moderate by embracing a two-state solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict. The efforts have paid off with his recent appointment to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom and his status as Chairman of International Interfaith Peace Corps.
Biden also appointed Salam al-Marayati, co-founder and President of the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) to the advisory panel. In 1999 he called Hezbollah attacks as “legitimate resistance.” Marayati suggested that Israel perpetrated 9/11 to distract attention away from its actions in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
His involvement with MPAC is remarkable because the organization was founded by members of the Muslim Brotherhood and has a history of concerning rhetoric. For example, the organization has claimed that the War on Terror was actually a “war on Islam” perpetuated by a conspiracy of anti-Muslim “special interest groups” working with U.S. government officials to promote “Islamophobic” policies in the aftermath of 9/11.
In 2010, a MPAC policy paper argued that the Muslim Brotherhood’s “peaceful activism” is an asset to the U.S.’s efforts to fight Al-Qaeda. Three years later, it changed its tune, siding with those protesting the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood.
Marayati has also been very critical of American law enforcement agencies charged with apprehending and prosecuting terrorists. In 2003, he accused the FBI of racial profiling after 9/11, declaring, “That’s what they’ve been doing since the attacks, and we don’t know of any case that has resulted in the arrest, indictment or prosecution of a terrorist.”
His rhetoric appears to have softened somewhat in recent years. In correspondence with this author, Marayati said “Neither the Quran nor the Prophet ever stated that we have to form a caliphate, i.e. it’s not a part of the creed nor is it a requirement in Islamic law.” He also recommended a paper by Dr. Wayel Azmeh that argues against the hudud punishments.
The third appointee of concern is Talib M. Shareef, the President of Masjid Muhammad, a mosque belonging to the Warith Deen Mohammed congregation in Washington, D.C.
The mosque’s founder, W. Deen Mohammed, the son of Nation of Islam (NOI) founder Elijah Mohammed, broke off from the original NOI movement and transformed it into a revivalist Sunni Islamic congregation.
As with many W. Deen Mohammed adherents, Shareef continues to sympathize and partner with many radical Nation of Islam leaders. On the occasion of Masjid Mohammed’s 75th anniversary in 2013, Nation of Islam leaders from around the country gathered at the mosque and spoke about the closeness between the two movements.
“You see the love the Minister (Louis Farrakhan) has for the imam (W.D. Mohammed),” said Imam Shareef. “He’s bringing the scholarship of Imam W.D. Mohammed to the Nation of Islam. Things are happening and we have to keep moving. Destiny is a collective destiny.” Shareef appeared in photo ops with several leading NOI figures.
This hasn’t hindered Shareef’s ability to mingle with those in power. His mosque is a frequent stopping point for D.C. politicians seeking to make inroads with Muslim or African American voters. Its 2013 anniversary gala was attended by Muslim congressmen Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) and Andre Carson (D-Ind.), as well as local officials like Mayor Vincent Gray. Additionally, Shareef opened Eid celebrations for President Joe Biden in 2021.
Taken together, the appointments are a demonstration of “how the Biden administration is really just a continuation of the two Obama terms,” said Shideler. “We can expect that these appointments will continue to mean a de-emphasizing of jihadist threats and an over-emphasis on targeting the Biden Administration’s political opponents (such as school board protestors) as their primary counterterrorism focus.”
Ryan Mauro is a national security analyst and contributor to Focus on Western Islamism.