Erick Stakelbeck

CBN News Terrorism Analyst

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New Book Excerpt: The NY Times' Favorite Imam


Today, I've got another hard-hitting excerpt from my new book, "The Brotherhood: America's Next Great Enemy."

For yesterday's exceprt, featuring my sitdown with the grandson of the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood, click here.

Today's excerpt is from Chapter Four ("Accessory to Al Qaeda") and features my one-on-one interview in Munich with a notorious, wife-beating German imam who The New York Times has nonetheless portrayed as a moderate peacemaker.

Read below--and prepare to be stunned.

“You are the first person I’ve given an interview to in a long time. The media, they tell lies about me.”

Sheikh Abu Adam spoke in an almost mournful tone as he led my cameraman and me down a dimly lit hallway in his Munich flat. His burly bodyguards, both dressed in similar al-Qaeda–like garb, flanked us on either side, as they would throughout the next three hours. Our destination was a small back room of the apartment where a Middle Eastern–style spread of chicken, rice, and pita bread awaited us.

This was Germany but it could have easily passed for Gaza—a fitting atmosphere for the Sheikh, an Egyptian native of Palestinian origin whose real name is Hesham Sheshaa. At the time of our meeting, his three wives and ten of his twelve (some say he has more) children lived with him in the cramped flat. The sound of a baby wailing and small children screaming from the next room cascaded off the walls around us as we sat to eat, but the Sheikh—who bears an uncanny facial resemblance to Osama bin Laden—appeared unfazed. He stroked his long beard and adjusted his Islamic headdress before joining his bodyguards in devouring large helpings of chicken and rice.

“Before we do the interview, we must eat,” he said between chomps. “There is much to discuss.”

It was June 2012 and Germany’s Salafist movement, of which Sheikh Abu Adam is a prominent voice, had increasingly come under the microscope of German intelligence as a major national security threat. Just two weeks before my interview with the Sheikh, one thousand German police fanned out across the country and raided the homes, schools, and mosques of Salafi Muslims suspected of terrorism-related activities.

Salafism is considered the most extreme interpretation of Islam—no small feat—and is the brand of choice for al-Qaeda and other Sunni Muslim terror groups. In dress, speech, and mannerisms, Salafists model themselves after Islam’s prophet Mohammed and his earliest followers in the seventh century Arabian desert (the term salaf means “predecessors”). Long beards, flowing dishdasha robes, and pants worn above the ankle are some of their defining physical characteristics. They strictly adhere to every facet of Islamic sharia law and are openly, often violently, hostile to any society that does not follow suit, including Germany.

The Salafists, close cousins of the notorious Saudi Wahhabis, reject Germany’s secular, democratic constitution and seek to make the Koran the ultimate authority over any manmade laws. If you think this sounds an awful lot like the Muslim Brotherhood, you’re absolutely right. In fact, as recently as 2008, the “About Us” section of the Brotherhood’s official website self-identified the MB as Salafi. Indeed, the two move- ments share the exact same ideology and goals, and the Brotherhood’s roots are indisputably in Salafism. But as we’ll see shortly, there are some distinctions—mostly tactical—that have developed between the Brotherhood and hardcore Salafists like Egypt’s Gamaa Islamiya in the years since the death of their mutual hero Sayyid Qutb in 1966. For instance, the Brother- hood’s gradualist strategy and willingness to engage in electoral politics has been a sore point with Salafists—although that may very well be changing, if the thrust into Egyptian politics by Gamaa Islamiya and other Salafist groups in recent years is any indication.

As for Sheikh Abu Adam’s home base of Germany, security officials there estimate that only about five thousand of the country’s 4.3 million Muslims are Salafists. But these jihadists-in-waiting are Germany’s fastest growing Muslim sect and are known for being verbally and physically confrontational toward non-Muslims.

A Palestinian Salafi imam named Ibrahim Abou Nagie created a firestorm during the first half of 2012 when he and his group Die Wahre Religion (The True Religion) led a drive to place a Koran in every German home. Abou Nagie’s disciples set up stands in major German cities where they handed out thousands of free Korans, with non-Muslims the intended target. The goal, he said, was “to bring Allah’s word to every household” in Germany. Abou Nagie—who for years received welfare benefits from the German government—is just one of many high-profile Salafi preachers to draw law enforcement scrutiny for their role in radicalizing young German Muslims.

Several of these Salafi firebrands are based in and around the Rhine- land cities of Cologne and Bonn in western Germany. I visited both cities and was struck by the number of Salafis I saw walking the streets, including a number of white Muslim converts. The ethnic mix was actually not surprising—there have long been reports of German jihad colonies in Pakistan’s tribal regions, where German expats, including white converts, have devoted their lives to jihad and the al-Qaeda/Taliban cause.

“We can see that a lot of jihadis with Salafist backgrounds are going to Afghanistan and to training camps, to Pakistan into training camps,” German journalist Franz Feyder told me. “And what we can see as well is that a lot of jihadis are passing through the Horn of Africa. And they’re going to fight in Somalia, going to fight in Yemen, going to fight in Kenya.”

Feyder, an expert on Germany’s Salafi scene, summarized German intelligence officials’ view on the matter: “The Salafi movement in Ger- many is creating an environment for violence and radicalization. Not every Salafist is a terrorist, but every terrorist is a Salafist.”

The growing strength and confidence of the movement was on full display in May 2012, when hundreds of Salafists stormed a small anti- Islam rally in Bonn and attacked German police who were on the scene. Twenty-nine officers were injured as a result of the onslaught—including two seriously from knife wounds—and over a hundred Salafists were arrested. A few months later, two Somali-born Salafists were jailed after attempting to bomb Bonn’s central train station. That incident wasn’t Germany’s first brush with Islamic terror, however. Dozens of German citizens have been arrested on terrorism-related charges since 9/11, including the gunman who murdered two U.S. airmen and injured two more in a jihadi attack at Frankfurt Airport in 2011 while yelling, “Allahu Akhbar.” The forerunner to these recent incidents was the infamous Hamburg Cell, consisting of a group of al-Qaeda operatives and sympathizers—including Mohammed Atta and two other 9/11 hijackers—that gathered in Hamburg in the late 1990s.

It is no doubt particularly disheartening for older Germans who suffered through Nazism and communism to see yet another anti-democratic, totalitarian ideology take root on German soil. Even more so because the German government—like virtually all of its counterparts in Western Europe—has exacerbated the problem over several decades with lax immigration laws, suicidal multicultural policies, and draconian political correctness. Simply put, the rise of German Islamism is an over- whelmingly self-inflicted wound. And it will surely come as no surprise to American readers to learn that the staunchly leftist German media has succeeded in branding anyone who voices concern over this troubling trend a “racist,” “Islamophobe,”or worse, a “Nazi.” When I interviewed courageous German anti-jihad activists, their most common complaint was about the bias and hostility of the left-wing German media.

But as Sheikh Abu Adam led us into his personal office in the basement of his apartment building, all was sweetness and light. He politely informed us that his bodyguards would be filming our interview to ensure that the Sheikh wasn’t misquoted in my report. Then our conversation turned to his travels to Pakistan and other jihadi hotspots where he says he preaches against terrorism. He showed us video clips of himself in Pakistan’s tribal regions, supposedly debating Taliban and al-Qaeda types and arguing against violent jihad. The Sheikh says his anti-terrorism work has drawn the ire of other Salafists and earned him death threats (hence the bodyguards).

“I try to convince them to leave jihad, to leave radicalism, to leave bomb attacks,” he told me. “There are more and more radicals every day, also in Europe.”

The Sheikh swears he isn’t one of them. Needless to say, I wasn’t buying it. For starters, all Salafists must support the idea of violent jihad. Remember, these are strict Koranic literalists who take every verse from Islam’s holy book, including the infamous Verse of the Sword, which exhorts Muslims to “Slay the unbelievers wherever [Muslims] find them,” quite literally. That doesn’t mean all Salafists personally engage in violence or jihad. That isn’t the case—although the movement’s venomous anti-Western, sharia-fied ideology and lengthy track record of terrorism could certainly lead you to believe otherwise. It does mean, however, that all true Salafists, being the harshest of fundamentalists, must at least agree in principle with the numerous exhortations to violence against non- believers found throughout the Koran and Sunnah and regard these verses as open-ended and applicable to the modern day. Otherwise they wouldn’t be Salafists.

That’s why it came as no surprise when, during our interview, Sheikh Abu Adam showed me a recent letter he had received from the Bavarian government that identified him as—bingo—a radical Salafist and anti- Semite. I asked the Sheikh why German authorities would say such things about him and the Darul Quran mosque in Munich, where he is lead imam.

“I don’t know!” he answered, seemingly dismayed. “All of my stu- dents, all—I don’t have any exception—they are fighting against terrorism and they are very integrated in the society. All of them are very kind, loving people. They laugh. They communicate with all people.”

A Bavarian television crew found something far less benign when it visited the Darul Quran mosque in 2011. It seems the Sheikh was presid- ing there over sharia courts operating outside of German law. He told the German daily Der Spiegel that he encourages his followers to settle conflicts at the mosque, rather than going to German police, and that his judgments are “fairer than the [German] government’s.” Considering that the average female Darul Quran attendee is clad in an all-encompass-ing niqab garment where only the eyes are visible, one can guess which way his judgments usually go when it comes to, say, marital disputes.

Coincidentally, that same Der Spiegel article described the Sheikh as someone who “teaches a reactionary kind of Islam...doesn’t believe in separating religion from the state, and rejects moderate branches of his religion.” But never fear, slippery Islamists: when right-wing meanies start asking tough questions, the New York Times has your back. The journalistic stalwarts at the NYT, manipulated repeatedly since 9/11 by Islamists great and small, ran a laudatory 2010 profile of the Sheikh titled “Munich Imam Tries to Dull Lure of Radical Islam.”10 As of this writing, the Times has yet to publish a follow-up conceding that it may have been wrong about the Sheikh, even with the sharia court controversy coming to light. To the liberal mind, when a guy like Abu Adam says he is a moderate who opposes violence he must be taken at his word, with no further background checks or research required. Doing anything more would be rank Islamophobia. After all, why would this kindly gentleman doling out chicken and rice to visiting journalists lie?

For a while, the German government also seemed to accept the Times’ narrative of Abu Adam as tenderhearted peace activist. According to the Sheikh, his lectures on non-violence at various venues around Deutschland had the support of German officials, with whom he was apparently in regular contact. But the Sheikh’s activities caught the attention of authorities for a different reason in late 2010, when he was arrested for brutally beating one of his three wives, reportedly breaking her nose and shoulder and inflicting several cuts and bruises. He allegedly yelled misogynistic Koranic verses as he pummeled her and refused to allow German police to enter his apartment. The wife—who was reportedly beaten for telling the Sheikh she wanted to live a more Western lifestyle— ultimately declined to press charges, but not before the Sheikh spent almost three months in jail. He maintains that she acquired her injuries after taking a fall in their apartment. He also has a bridge he’d like to sell you somewhere in Egypt.

As we wrapped up our interview, the Sheikh lamented the fact that German officials had turned against him—or in other words, wised up. Although the unabashed polygamist and his large brood receive generous welfare benefits from the government, he said he was unsure whether he would stay in Germany.

“I’m sacrificing myself and my family and my scholars because of you and then you write that I am radicalized?” he vented. “I’m fighting against the terrorists!”

Interestingly enough, one Islamic supremacist group the Sheikh does truly seem to oppose is the Muslim Brotherhood. At the time of our meeting, he had just returned from Egypt. As he and his bodyguards escorted us to our car, I asked his thoughts on that country’s new Ikhwan overlords.

“The Muslim Brotherhood is not a religious group. They are a political group,” he answered. “They are dangerous.”

Dangerous indeed. But not for the reasons Sheikh Abu Adam had in mind.

Print     Email to a Friend    posted on Wednesday, July 17, 2013 12:29 PM



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