Shia Imam in Southern California Restates Belief That Israel ‘Finances, Arms, Trains’ ISIS Terrorists
A prominent Shia Muslim imam in California is sticking defiantly with his allegation that Israel finances and arms ISIS — the Sunni Muslim terrorist group that has carried out genocidal campaigns against religious minorities in Iraq and Syria, among them Christians and Yazidis.
In a June 23 sermon, the founder and director of the Islamic Education Center of Orange County, Dr. Sayed Moustafa al-Qazwini, who has been widely acclaimed for his role in interfaith dialogue in southern California, insisted that Israel was the driving force behind ISIS, after first explaining to his congregation that the terrorist group was “anti-Islamic.”
“Most of you — all of you — know who established ISIS, Al Qaeda and all these terrorist organizations,” al-Qazwini declared. “You know very well. You know who paid for them, who financed them, who helped them, who purchased weapons for them, who even trained them, who protected them. You know that.”
Al-Qazwini continued: “This is not the production of Islam. Islam is not responsible for ISIS. There are certain agencies and governments, they put hand in hand to establish ISIS, to demolish Islam from within. This was the plan.”
The imam went on: “ISIS is the production of the Israeli intelligence. Most of their officers were trained in Israel, including Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi.” Al Baghdadi was the founder of ISIS who is now believed to be in hiding in Syria.
Video of al-Qazwini’s sermon was originally shared among a handful of users on YouTube, before being brought to light by the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI). The conspiracy theory that ISIS is a creation of Israel has become a staple of Iranian propaganda, and was cited as a principle reason for the Tehran’s regime’s decision in July to spend an extra $600 million on its missile development program.
On Tuesday, al-Qazwini doubled down on his allegation against Israel. In a statement released through his Islamic Education Center, al-Qazwini said his comments had been based on information he had received from “government and military sources” during a visit to Iraq in 2014. These officials told him definitively that Israeli intelligence was supporting ISIS, he said.
Al-Qazwini went on to say that his comments should not be been as criticism of “adherents of the Jewish faith.”
“Imam al-Qazwini has a long-standing record of over three decades of promoting genuine interfaith and civic respect and dialogue, especially with his Jewish, Christian, and other friends and neighbors,” the statement said. “He firmly rejects anti-Semitism and all other forms of racial, ethnic and religious discrimination.”
But at least one prominent Jewish leader in California wasn’t convinced.
“First, he exonerates Muslims for the Islamist horrors of Al Qaeda and ISIS,” Rabbi Abraham Cooper — associate dean of the Los Angeles-based Simon Wiesenthal Center — told The Algemeiner on Tuesday. “Then he then uses a canard that it was Israel — the Jewish state — that created and sustains murder and mayhem in Allah’s name. Then, when exposed, and only then, he blames ‘Iraqi intelligence?'”
Asked about al-Qazwini’s role in interfaith dialogue, Cooper responded: “The Jewish community should rely on a guiding principle when invited to interfaith dialogue — we should sit with people who respect who we are. We are overwhelmingly Zionists who support the world’s largest Jewish community: Israel. When the imam says he means no harm to Jews, should we thank him for slandering over 6 million of our Jewish brothers and sisters in Israel?”
An active user of Twitter and Facebook, al-Qazwini often shares pictures of himself alongside influential religious and political leaders, including Evangelical Pastor Rick Warren, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN), the deputy chair of the Democratic National Committee.
Last December, al-Qazwini appeared with local Jewish leaders at a rally against racism and hatred on the steps of City Hall in Los Angeles.