Just three miles from the site of the World Trade Center, the government of Saudi Arabia is distributing hate materials expounding an extremist Wahhabi ideology, according to a new report by the Center for Religious Freedom.
The Washington-based center is part of Freedom House, America's oldest human-rights organization. While the group typically monitors the state of religious freedom under oppressive regimes abroad, the center has just concluded a year-long study of 200 documents that it said were collected in more than a dozen mosques across America, bear the seal of the Saudi government, and spread hateful indoctrination. The group called the propaganda a violation of Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
According to a press release and to the center's director, Nina Shea, the 89-page report, which was issued Friday, finds that the materials incite violence, inform Muslims that it is their religious duty to hate Jews and Christians, and even give specific instructions on how properly to express that hatred to one's infidel neighbors.
The Saudi-produced and -distributed materials denounce democracy - and democratic America - as un-Islamic. Ms. Shea said the materials are directed toward recent immigrants. According to the report, Muslim newcomers are told that, while in America, they should think of themselves as operating behind enemy lines and should use their time in America either to acquire information and resources for jihad or to convert the infidels to Islam.
The literature also promotes Wahhabism, the version of Islam officially embraced by the Saudi kingdom and adhered to by several of the September 11 hijackers, as the only true Islam, and it denounces more moderate Muslims who advocate tolerance as apostates. In Saudi Arabia, Ms. Shea said, apostasy is a capital crime. "If you're a Muslim and you become an infidel," she said, "you're put to death."
According to the report, one of the strongest denunciations of so-called apostasy was issued in Brooklyn's Al-Farooq mosque, on Atlantic Avenue.
"In a book published by the Saudi Ministry of Islamic Affairs, and collected from the Al-Farouq Mosque in Brooklyn, New York, Saudi Arabia's official religious leader, the late Bin Baz, authorizes Muslims to kill converts to Islam who violate sexual mores on adultery and homosexuality," the report said.
According to the report's translation, Al-Farooq worshipers are told: "If a person said: I believe in Allah alone and confirm the truth of everything from Muhammed, except in his forbidding fornication, he becomes a disbeliever. For that, it would be lawful for Muslims to spill his blood and to take his money."
This is not the first time Al-Farooq has been cited in conjunction with terrorism and terrorist ideology. Friday marked the beginning of the trial in Brooklyn federal court of a Yemeni sheik, Mohammed Ali Hasan al-Moayad, who stands accused of conspiring to raise millions of dollars for Hamas and Al Qaeda. Some of the fund-raising activity was allegedly undertaken at the Al-Farooq Mosque.
A senior fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, Andrew McCarthy, who led the prosecution of the ringleader of the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center, Omar Abdel Rahman, spoke yesterday of Al-Farooq's other alleged connections to terrorism.
The mosque, Mr. McCarthy said, was a regular stop for the blind sheik on his fund-raising tours in the late 1980s, and in 1989, the former prosecutor said, several conspirators in the Landmark Bomb Plot - which aimed to blow up the United Nations and New York City's tunnels - met at Al-Farooq before heading out to Long Island to conduct jihadist training activities.
This latest revelation about Al-Farooq, Mr. McCarthy said, was "just another drop in the barrel."
"What the Saudis do is very disturbing," Mr. McCarthy said.
"We turn a blind eye to the really bad things the Saudis do ... to not appear as if we're being, God forbid, judgmental about Wahhabism and Saudi proselytizing of a particular brand of Islam that is very alarming to most people," he added.
Mr. McCarthy said the purported Saudi propaganda was further evidence that conducting a war on terrorism is "a bad idea" when America is really engaged in "a war against militant Islam."
Saudi representatives in America, however, have denied spreading hateful materials to mosques, Ms. Shea said.
She said a spokesman for the Saudi Embassy, Adel al-Jubeir, says the Saudis "don't approve of hate ideology in any way." She continued, "But he's lying, they do promote this."
Several of the documents obtained by the center read, "Greetings from the Cultural Attache of the Saudi Embassy in Washington," Ms. Shea said.
Yesterday, an official of the embassy, Abdulmohsen Alyas, declined to comment about the report and told The New York Sun that Mr. al-Jubeir was out of the country and not available for comment.
Also out of the country and unavailable for comment was Hesham E. Sherif, Al-Farooq's imam, according to worshipers and an attendant at the mosque yesterday. Mr. Sherif, they said, was in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, for the hajj - the annual religious pilgrimage to that holy city.
One regular worshiper at the mosque, Nagi Ali, 77, said he had not seen any Saudi-distributed materials at the mosque. Nor had another man who prays regularly at the mosque, Ali Hauter, 53, who added, "We have nothing - not even Saudi Arabians coming to pray here."
The pamphlets and flyers displayed in the mosque's entryway yesterday, in Arabic, English, or a mixture of the two, appeared to belong to small local businesses and travel groups, and none bore any kind of government seal. The collections in the mosque library were various translations and explanations of the Koran, Mr. Hauter said. Worshipers at Al-Farooq, he said, "respect Jews and Christians."
While saying the Saudis may be "lying low," Ms. Shea emphasized that the report's focus was not on the activity of the mosques cited, but on what she said was an attempt by the Saudi government, over a period of decades, to create "a fifth column within the American Muslim community."
"It's political propaganda as much as it is religious," Ms. Shea explained. "We have to confront it in our bilateral relations with Saudi Arabia - at the highest levels of government, we have to tell the Saudis, 'No more.'"