Skip to comments.Calls for `oceans of blood' came during Kansas Muslim convention
Posted on 02/03/2002 1:19:26 PM PST by xvb
Calls for `oceans of blood' came during Kansas Muslim convention
BY RICK MONTGOMERY
Knight Ridder Newspapers KANSAS CITY, Mo. - KRT NEWSFEATURES
(KRT) - Although few in town noticed, a dozen years ago Islamic extremists from around the globe flocked to Kansas City's Bartle Hall to bond in prayer, song and dance, and ominous appeals for bloodshed. They came by the hundreds to promote jihad, or holy struggle, at two conventions during a pivotal time for radical Islam - December 1989 and again the next winter.
At the first meeting a masked terrorist from the Palestinian group Hamas spoke in Arabic for an hour. He pledged "oceans of blood" would oust Israelis from his homeland. The second conference stirred the passions of a Kansas State University student named Nasser Hidmi, according to Israeli court records.
Hidmi would soon use a password to enter a room of 28 recruits at a local hotel, where he allegedly learned about hand grenades. He then returned home to Jerusalem with plans to help kill Jews. Clips of the Kansas City conventions appeared in a PBS documentary, "Jihad in America," in 1994. The documentary raked in journalism prizes, but many critics still accuse the filmmaker of exaggerating mundane meetings. After Sept. 11 the documentary was re-released to video stores, fanning the flames of an information war between Arab and Israeli organizations in the United States.
Showing 1,000 Muslims kneeling beneath Bartle's steel rafters, the video warns of fundamentalists recruiting, training and raising funds "in your back yard" for a holy war that would ultimately target Americans. "This gathering did not take place in the Middle East," intones documentarian Steven Emerson. "It happened in the heartland of America - Kansas City, Missouri."
Emerson says the city was among many unlikely places to which Islamic radicals traveled in the late 1980s and early `90s, sowing the seeds of terrorism. "The Kansas City conferences," he recently told The Kansas City Star, "were quite seminal in the development of Hamas and other militant Islamic organizations."
For years, however, Arab-Americans and some media organizations have attacked Emerson's reports of ties between terrorists worldwide and Muslim groups in the United States. "Muslim-basher," the Council of American-Islamic Relations tags him.
He wrongly speculated in 1995 that Islamic militants bombed the federal building in Oklahoma City. Eyes rolled again when Emerson said the 1993 truck-bombing at the World Trade Center foretold many more plots against America. "Get ready for 20 World Trade Center bombings," he warned five years ago.
With the airliner strikes on New York and Washington, Emerson's stature rose among some observers to that of an unblinking expert, government consultant and network analyst. In November, copies of "Jihad in America" were distributed to all 535 members of Congress. He "played a real role" in formulating anti-terrorism measures last fall, Rep. Chris Smith, a New Jersey Republican, told The Washington Post.
The documentary has been retitled "Terrorists Among Us: Jihad in America." Kansas Citians who watch it will be left wondering just what happened under their noses more than a decade ago. ---
In 1989, CIA-backed Muslim troops, led by Osama bin Laden, were celebrating victory over the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. In the Mideast, Hamas had taken up stones and homemade bombs against Israel. And Kansas City needed convention business. Especially in December.
The Islamic Association for Palestine struck a bargain with the city to lease space in Bartle for what Arabic-language ads in 1989 billed as "The Second Convention." The Texas-based association had convened in Chicago a year earlier. It remains a mystery exactly what drew the group to Kansas City, besides possibly its central location and the sticker price: four days and more than 6,000 square feet at Bartle for less than $10,000.
Pegged to draw up to 1,200 Muslims, the convention's economic effect on the city was calculated at $866,490. "I wasn't that in-tune to the political issues," said Phyllis Ray, who then coordinated minority events for the Convention and Visitors Bureau. "If they had a hidden agenda, maybe we were so naive we didn't see it. We were just interested in bringing visitors to Kansas City."
These visitors included:
_Hamas leader Muhammad Siyyam, who declared at the conference that "the Islamic solution is the only solution." (The State Department put Hamas on its list of illegal terrorist groups in 1996.)
_Yousef Al-Qaradhawi, a theologian who told the crowd that "our hour of judgment will not come until you fight the Jews (and) kill them. Muslims, wherever they are, should actively participate in the battle!"
_The mystery terrorist, whose keynote speech recounted the deaths of 16 Israelis when a comrade sabotaged their bus. The audience responded, "Allahu Akbar!" (God is great).
A veil hid his face. Careful to leave no fingerprints, he cupped his hands beneath the long sleeves of a black shirt. The convention provided its own security, Ray said. Hotels later complained to the city about the shoddy condition in which some visitors left the rooms.
The Islamic Association for Palestine probably had every right to lease convention space, said University of South Carolina professor Peter Sederberg, a terrorism scholar. "There can be a vague line between expressing your political views and instigating violence," he said. "For decades, ethnic groups sympathetic to certain causes have come to America to proselytize and raise funds."
The 1989 event drew support from the Muslim Arab Youth Association and from the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development - a tax-exempt group that purports to channel humanitarian funds to Palestine. The coalition returned to Kansas City in December 1990 for another conference, as U.S. military forces were preparing to battle Saddam Hussein's Iraq.
Leaders of the militant Muslim Brotherhood attended. The "Jihad in America" video shows one telling the audience: "Open the borders of Jordan to Muslim youth so they may confront the Jews and the Americans at once." None of that rhetoric applies to the recent terrorist attacks, said Arab American Institute President James Zogby.
"Not one of 19 hijackers who committed evil on America came here to join these organizations," he said. "They were instructed to stay hidden. "I don't agree with Hamas or any of those groups. I find their general view disturbing," and most American Muslims would agree, said Zogby.
The Muslim Arab Youth Association and the Islamic Association for Palestine still operate. Both groups have condemned the Sept. 11 attacks. Last month, however, federal agents raided four branch offices of the Holy Land Foundation, and President Bush froze the group's assets. The youth association did not return phone calls from the Kansas City Star. The Islamic Association for Palestine referred questions to Ibrahim Hooper of the Council for American-Islamic Relations.
Arguing that Emerson had a financial motive to reissue the documentary now, Hooper said: "I'm not motivated to rehash this old, old stuff and give it any credibility whatsoever." Local Muslims who attended some of the Bartle Hall sessions said they could not recall any recruiting or calls for violence.
"It wouldn't even enter my mind that it was that kind of gathering," said Rita Shukair, who has long been active in Palestinian humanitarian causes. Shukair helped distribute educational materials about the Middle East during part of the conference. Something darker, however, may have stirred behind closed doors.
Nasser Hidmi at the time was enrolled at K-State on a student visa, a fact confirmed by university officials. Israeli authorities, who arrested him three years later for assisting Hamas, said he attended the convention. According to an Israeli military tribunal: "In December 1990 the accused participated in (a meeting) in Kansas City, where secret rules were observed.
"Participants in the conference were ordered to carry out operations in support of the intifadah," or uprising, against Israel. According to the court records, Hidmi and other young men used a password to enter meetings at a Kansas City hotel. Hidmi then went to a Chicago firearms training camp at the invitation of a Chicago car dealer named Mohammed Salah, who later was imprisoned in Israel for supplying weapons in a terrorist attack.
Hidmi met again with Salah in March 1991 at a Ramada Inn in Kansas City, where operatives talked about "different types of hand grenades, explosive materials and other sorts of sabotage," according to the Israeli documents provided to the Kansas City Star by Investigative Project, which is run by Emerson. After confessing, Hidmi was sentenced to five years behind bars. It was not the first time Muslim leaders had recruited or raised money in the heartland.
In 1988, Tamim Al-Adnani, an aide to a Muslim recruiter in the Afghan fight against the Soviets, spoke to student groups in Columbia, according to Emerson's video. The tape then shows Al-Adnani in Lawrence seated with about a dozen young men: "The only politics we have to understand is pop-pop-pop. "This is the best policy, shooting," he said, raising his wrists as if firing a rifle. "Even after the liberation of Afghanistan, the leaders have agreed in front of me to continue jihad. Jihad will not stop."
Much of the footage in "Jihad in America" was lifted from promotional videos produced by the very groups that had met. Two hours of raw footage from one of the Kansas City conventions - taped by the Islamic Association for Palestine - included song, poetry, prayer and theatrical skits.
Ahmed el-Sherif, founder of the American-Muslim Council of the Midwest, reviewed parts of the promotional tape for this report. He said the event appeared to relate almost entirely to the Israel-Palestine conflict, not to violence against the West. But he acknowledged being shocked by the image of the masked terrorist at the lectern. El-Sherif, a moderate Muslim, is working with area civic and religious leaders to strengthen cultural awareness.
"Kansas City allowed this?" he exclaimed.
The speakers' cries for jihad are unmistakable. The context often is unclear, however. In Lawrence, was Al-Adnani's "pop-pop-pop" a salute to Afghani freedom fighters? Were conventioneers in Kansas City mostly interested in territorial rights in the Holy Land? Or were they laying the groundwork for a religious war on Christians and Jews everywhere?
"It's all smoke and mirrors and shadows," said Chip Berlet of the Massachusetts-based Political Research Associates, which studies hate groups. "With this terrorism stuff it's very difficult to separate fact from fiction.
"My personal opinion is that Steven Emerson's claim to fame has come by surfacing information that is being surfaced for political purposes by the intelligence community" to demonize Muslims. Emerson is known to lash out at those who assail his motives. He sued a Florida newspaper columnist for a scathing report headlined: "Why is a journalist (Emerson) pushing questionable stories from behind the scenes?" The column cited an Associated Press reporter, who had worked with Emerson in 1997, wondering whether he had faked some documents.
Emerson denies such claims. He is now a paid analyst for NBC.
Before Sept. 11, some media outlets avoided him. Money for his Investigative Project has come from, among others, Richard Mellon Scaife - the right-wing publisher who funded much negative reporting of scandals involving Bill Clinton. Amid protests, "Jihad in America" in 1995 won a top broadcasting award from the Investigative Reporters and Editors. It also snared a George Polk Award for investigative journalism.
Detractors "can say what they want," Emerson said in a telephone interview. He said, laughing: "Oh, yeah, that meeting in Kansas City - it was a California retreat, a love fest! When they talk about killing how could I possibly misconstrue?"
Tim Daniel, Missouri's homeland security adviser, said future mass meetings of Muslims spouting militancy will not be so free-wheeling. "Kansas City probably offered the best convention deal - I don't think it's any more complex than that," Daniel said. "It was no different than General Electric holding a convention. Nobody was sensitive to it."
From here on, however, "I think `monitoring' is the operative term," he said. "It's safe to say they'd be looked at now."
--- © 2002, The Kansas City Star.
I wonder if there is a videotape record of these events?
It would be educational specially to those not convinced that Islam is the enemy, not just a few misguided nuts.
I am really curious if those who defend freedom of speech without reservation would argue that the freedom must extend to those who demonstrably act on the hate speech they spout.
It would be an interesting debate.
I wonder if the occupants declined to use toilet paper like the current terrorist detainees in Cuba.
I believe this is in the video, "Jihad in America", referenced here.
Oceans of beer are better.
Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.