Maintaining Moderation or Recruiting Radicals?

Politico recently ran an article titled, “America Is Running Out of Muslim Clerics. That’s Dangerous.” It claims that there is a shortage of imams (Muslim prayer leaders) in the United States. As a result many mosques are having trouble finding clergy to lead prayers and provide religious guidance.

Abu Marwan, the president of a San Diego mosque believes “that’s a bad thing.” He’s very concerned that young people without a “good imam” can “end up somewhere very bad.” The very bad place being a mosque run by a radical jihadist.

To remedy the imam shortage, American mosques would typically recruit abroad. But, according to Politico, President Trump’s immigration policies are scaring off qualified imams. However, this contention isn’t supported by any objective evidence.

Instead readers are given nebulous references to “… stories of foreign imams who managed to get visas, but never made it out of the U.S. airport in which they landed. No sooner did they step foot on American soil than they were sent back home by federal authorities citing unspecified ‘security reasons.’”  Notice that “security reasons” is set off in scare quotes – as if there are no genuine security concerns associated with immigration, just veiled excuses for xenophobia.

The implication is that most Americans are “Islamophobic” and we have elected a bigot as our president.  Nevertheless, Politico seems to have argued itself in a circle: If there is a risk that an imam shortage will drive Muslims to radical congregations, then there is also a risk that extremist imams could exploit our immigration system in order to access moderate congregations and attempt to radicalize some of their members. And those security reasons that Politico sneers at may be all to real:

  • Omar Abdel-Rahman (aka: “The Blind Sheikh) was an Egyptian cleric who made his way into the United States by claiming political asylum on the basis of religious persecution. He later obtained a religious worker green card – and masterminded the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center.
  • The Holy Land Foundation (HLF) was the largest Muslim charity in the United States, until its leaders were indicted for providing financial support to the Palestinian terror group Hamas. HLF is suspected of having filed more than 200 bogus religious worker visa applications for jihadists associated with the Muslim Brotherhood.
  • Muhammad Khalil ran a mosque out of the basement of a Brooklyn greeting card store. He told federal agents he had sworn allegiance to Osama bin Laden. He also filed hundreds of fake religious worker visas for individuals with questionable backgrounds.

Those are just three examples of why the Government Accountability Office estimated that 30-33 percent of religious worker petitions, of all faiths, are fraudulent.

If Politico were really worried about U.S. Muslims being led astray by radical clerics, it certainly wouldn’t be recommending that American mosques start recruiting abroad. It seems pretty obvious that average American Muslims have a lot more to fear from the likes of the Blind Sheikh and Muhammad Khalil, than they do from President Trump.

About Author


Matthew J. O’Brien joined the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) in 2016. Matt is responsible for managing FAIR’s research activities. He also writes content for FAIR’s website and publications. Over the past twenty years he has held a wide variety of positions focusing on immigration issues, both in government and in the private sector. Immediately prior to joining FAIR Matt served as the Chief of the National Security Division (NSD) within the Fraud Detection and National Security Directorate (FDNS) at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), where he was responsible for formulating and implementing procedures to protect the legal immigration system from terrorists, foreign intelligence operatives, and other national security threats. He has also held positions as the Chief of the FDNS Policy and Program Development Unit, as the Chief of the FDNS EB-5 Division, as Assistant Chief Counsel with U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement, as a Senior Advisor to the Citizenship and Immigration Services Ombudsman, and as a District Adjudications Officer with the legacy Immigration & Naturalization Service. In addition, Matt has extensive experience as a private bar attorney. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in French from the Johns Hopkins University and a Juris Doctor from the University of Maine School of Law.

1 Comment

  1. avatar

    Another question seems to be why cannot Muslims in this country produce an adequate supply of imams among their own religion. And why is it always the duty of western countries to prevent Muslims in western countries from being “radicalized”? These people have the entire world to move to, including dozens of Muslim countries, and yet the minute they get here or Europe they are playing the victim card.

    A very large percentage receive government assistance and hate us in spite of our help. The two Boston bombers were on welfare. And when their friends discovered they were involved, they hid evidence from the authorities, for which 3 of them were convicted. It’s not just the radicals who commit violent acts, it’s the support network that remains silent about it.