Radical Islam Takes Root Near Ground Zero
Suddenly this morning, two stories appear in mainstream media about the Islamic Thinkers Society, covered two weeks ago at LGF; the first is in the New York Times, where the headline stresses the group’s claim that they are “non-violent:” Queens Muslim Group Says It Opposes Violence, and America.
The young Muslim men, with beards and bullhorns, work the streets of Jackson Heights on the weekends. They surface at parades and protests around the city, loudly declaring America the enemy and advocating for an Islamic state. Several weeks ago, they publicly tore up an American flag as payback for the reported desecration of the Koran at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. Their own videos of violence against Muslims, one with the title “Muslim Massacres,” have recently appeared on Queens Public Television.
In the annals of New York City’s political outspokenness and fringe-group culture, the Islamic Thinkers Society may seem unremarkable at first glance. But after 9/11, in the city most damaged and unsettled by the terrorist attacks, the emergence of this young, however limited, Muslim-American voice is strikingly bold. In its fliers and on its Web site, the group describes itself as an “intellectual and political nonviolent organization,” but it bears a strong resemblance to Islamist movements in England that try to unite Muslims by inciting anger.
“Wake up and realize that the line has been drawn between the camp of Emaan and the camp of Kufr and there is no middle ground as of right now,” reads a glossy publication by the group that is titled “Islamic Revival.” In Arabic, Emaan can be translated to mean “faith” and Kufr, “disbelief.”
“We are not afraid to speak against the unjust rulers of Muslim world and replace them,” the statement reads. “To the Muslim scholars for dollar$: Speak good or remain silent!”
The group’s spokesman, Ariful Islam, said he was a 21-year-old student at La Guardia Community College who came to Queens from Bangladesh when he was 8. He said the group’s purpose was promoting unity among Muslims and that the F.B.I. had been monitoring it for two years. The F.B.I. would not comment.
“What they’re worried about is, are we recruiting for jihad,” Mr. Islam said. “Through our past couple of years we have never recruited anyone to go to a foreign land. We have always made that clear through our activities. We have always stressed nonviolent means. However, that does not mean that we don’t address American foreign policy, and we strongly disagree with their policies.”
The second piece is in the New York Observer, telling the story of a woman who was denigrated and assaulted by this “non-violent” group of Muslim activists: Local Insurgents: ‘Islamic Thinkers’ Menace Gay NY.
On the evening of July 11, 2004, Kristine Withers walked down 37th Avenue, a main drag in Jackson Heights, Queens, and passed what had become a familiar sight: a group of tables set up on the sidewalk by the Islamic Thinkers Society, a local group of militant Islamists. On the tables, copies of the Koran and books espousing the group’s strict religious beliefs shared space with tracts on Zionism, pamphlets on the dangers of homosexuality, and signs bearing messages like “Your Terrorists Are Our Heroes.”
Ms. Withers, who identifies herself as a lesbian and a political conservative, was offended by the group’s message. The Islamic Thinkers Society had become a regular feature at local gay-pride parades, where they’ve called for the castration and death of gay men, according to several witnesses who spoke to The Observer. But Ms. Withers said it was as much the anti-American messages as the anti-gay ones that riled her up.
“To me, it’s synonymous with the Nazis recruiting on 42nd Street during World War II,” she said of her antagonists.
So, in another installment of the then-yearlong series of hostile exchanges between her and the group, she decided to do something. At one point in the exchange, she told the dozen or so bearded young men who make up the group that the prophet Muhammad was a pedophile. They called her a “Christian bitch,” by her account. Then she knocked over a sign and stepped on it. Two young bearded men, members of the group, pulled the sign out from under her, sending her flying to the ground.
Soon, police arrived and took a statement from Mohamed Bahi, a student at Queens College who told The Observer that he is not a member of the group. Ms. Withers was charged with incitement to riot and four other counts. Queens District Attorney Richard Brown assigned the case to the unit of his office that handles bias crimes, though Ms. Withers argued that the Queens District Attorney was going after the wrong person for bias.
(Hat tip: LGF readers.)