Dar al-Hijrah

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Dar al-Hijrah is a large American mosque in the Washington, DC suburb of Falls Church, Virginia. The name means "Land of Migration." It was formed in 1983, and opened its formal building in 1991. It is a registered nonprofit organization,[1] and has been affiliated, since establishing its constitution in 1999, with the Muslim American Society (MAS), Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) and North American Islamic Trust (NAIT). [2]

Its Constitution calls for interaction with other faiths and obedience to the law of the land, and participation in the general community. The Muslim American Society, with which Dar al-Hijrah is affiliated, is a U.S. group, founded in 1992, has Muslim Brotherhood members among its founders. [3]

Leadership

After an amendment in 2005, its Board of Directors consists of:

  • The Current President of the Muslim American Society (MAS).
  • The Current MAS DC Area Chapter President.
  • The Executive Director of the MAS National Office.
  • The Current President of the Dar Al-Hijrah Executive Committee
  • Five Regular Members

Its original constitution included, as ex officio members of the board, the current Secretary General of Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), current President of Muslim Arab Youth Association (MAYA), and the current General Manager of North American Islamic Trust (NAIT). These three officers no longer are automatic members.

The current imam is Shaker Eldsayed, who took office in June 2005. Samir Abo-Issa is the Executive Director and Imam Johari Abdulmalik is the Outreach Director. Other leaders include:

  • Faridon Mohtasheme, Operation Manager
  • Nadifa Mohamed, Weekend Schools Principal
  • Mohammed Abdelilah, Social Services Chairman
  • Aurang Zeb, Maintenance Chairman

Positions

The current imam preached in 2005, "The call to reform Islam is an alien call."

Muqtedar Khan, who worshipped there while a graduate student, said Shaker Elsayed is more like a political figure than a religious figure. Dar al-Hijrah is a very Arab-centric mosque, very much centered on Arab politics." Khan said it "Dar al-Hijrah has always been in the hands of the conservatives" since its founding in 1983, but emphasized that is not necessarily the position of the congregation. [4] The Washington Post also reported that the leadership does not necessarily represent the congregation.
But many younger Muslims have shied away from active involvement in the mosque's affairs, viewing its aging leadership as secretive and cliquish and objecting to its strict segregation of men and women. Although about 3,000 people attend Dar's three Friday prayer services -- perhaps the highest attendance for any mosque in the area -- its last internal election attracted only 120 voters.[3]

Outreach director Abdulmalik also disputed the claims of critics that Dar al-Hijrah is a bastion of fundamentalism, or that it promotes Wahhabism; he contrasted the formation of the Dar al-Arqam mosque nearby, which felt Dar al-Hijrah was not militant enough A former lecturer at Dar al-Arqam, Ali al-Timimi, was convicted inducing others to levy war against the United States.[5]

Esam Omeish, a surgeon who has been a board member, president of MAS, and an unsuccessful Democratic candidate for the Virginia House of Delegates, said "The bottom line is that this is a mosque that is in the heart of Washington. Our goal is to make the congregation reflect that reality." He said that they were trying to reduce gender separation, but there was a generation gap in beliefs about the role of women. "We're trying to combine" some activities now done separately, [3] In 2007, Omeish resigned from a state commission on immigrants, to which he had been appointed by Governor Tim Kaine, over videos in which he denounced the 2006 Israeli campaign in Lebanon by the "Israeli war machine" and telling a crowd of Washington-area Muslims: "...you have learned the way, that you have known that the jihad way is the way to liberate your land."[6]

Souheil Ghannouchi, who was president of the Muslim American Society and on the mosque board in 2004, said its goal was
...to make up for years of isolation that put us in vulnerable position: being a largely unknown community and therefore easy target of stereotyping.Our main priority is to . . . develop viable models for American Muslim personality and for Islamic life in America.[3]

In 2001, its imam was Anwar al-Aulaqi, now in Yemen and linked to al-Qaeda. He left after a year. The 9-11 Commission found he knew two of the 9-11 hijackers in California, from which the mosque hired him.

Hamas

Omeish said, in 2004, that the membership consensus was "condemnation of indiscriminate killing of civilians" but there is also "sympathy for the Palestinian cause. . . . It's a core issue in the community."

Also in 2004, a former member of Dar's executive committee, "Abelhaleem Hasan Abdelraziq Ashqar, 46, was indicted with two other men by a Chicago grand jury on racketeering conspiracy charges in connection with alleged efforts to raise money for Hamas beginning in 1988. Michael Mukasey, then a U.S. District Court judge, observed Ashqar had a joint bank account with Mousa Abu Marzook, now deputy head of Hamas' political wing. [7]

"Law enforcement document filed in federal court in Alexandria says Ashqar and two other longtime Dar members -- Mohamad al Hanooti, a former Dar imam, and Ismael Selim Elbarasse, a founding member of the mosque -- attended a 1993 meeting of senior Hamas leaders in Philadelphia. Elbarasse was named as an unindicted co-conspirator in the Chicago case. He and Ashqar served time in jail for refusing to answer questions about Hamas before a grand jury that was probing the group before September 2001. "[3]

References

  1. About Us, Dar al-Hijrah
  2. Constitution, Dar al-Hijrah, 11 March 1999
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 Caryle Murphy (12 September 2004), "Facing New Realities as Islamic Americans", Washington Post
  4. "Activist imam puts politics into sermons", Washington Times, 6 July 2005
  5. Milton Viorst (June 2006), "The Education of Ali Al-Timimi", The Atlantic
  6. IPT Footage Takes Down Omeish, Investigative Project on Terrorism, 27 September 2007
  7. Jerry Markon and Eric Rich (26 August 2004), "Va. Family Defends Video of Bay Bridge: Tape Led to Search, Man's Detention", Washingon Post