Blogger Reports on Radical Imam Visit, Local Journalist Yawns

Mohammed al-HanootiAs most of the country was getting ready for the long July 4 weekend, Pajamas Media blogger and anti-terrorism consultant Patrick Poole wrote a post entitled "Blue Suede Jihad: Major Hamas Fundraiser in the Land of Elvis."

According to Poole, the Masjid Al-Noor mosque in Memphis posted an event entitled "A Weekend with Mohammed al-Hanooti" for the non-weekend dates of July 13 through 15 on its website. He has a screenshot of the mosque's event page and says that it is genuine, however, local Memphis newspaper The Commercial Appeal's Michael Lollar disputed Poole's findings in an article entitled "Hamas fundraiser not speaking at mosque."

Lollar only addressed the side of the mosque's administrators. According to Poole, Lollar made no attempt to contact him and Lollar's language in the article was dismissive of Poole's post, to the point of making it seem as though independently verifiable facts used by Poole were merely allegations and suppositions.

"Blogger Patrick Poole wrote on the Pajamas Media site (pajamasmedia.com) that Al-Hanooti had raised millions of dollars for Hamas . . ." Lollar wrote, seemingly ignoring the data Poole was able to gather on al-Hanooti, all of it from government documents.

That is just plain lazy reporting. The allegation that someone like al-Hanooti, with his very real ties to Hamas, could be on a fundraising tour of the mid-west for them, is one that ought to be taken seriously. Good reporting would have tried to get to the bottom of the controversy, decent reporting would have at least gotten a hold of Poole, but this was just plain lazy reporting.

While Poole's post left out the chronology of events, al-Hanooti has a very interesting history and a tendancy to appear in legal cases involving terrorism and terrorist financing. A Palestinian born in Haifa, he came to the United States in 1978 and first came to the attention of law enforcement in the early 90's, when he was listed as an unindicted co-conspirator at the trial of the Blind Sheikh, Omar Abdel Rahman. In 1993 the FBI learned from electronic surveillance that al-Hanooti attended a meeting of Hamas supporters and fundraisers in Philadelphia where they pledged to ensure the Oslo Accords failed. An FBI source said that al-Hanooti had raised "over six million US dollars" for Hamas by 1993. Additionally, al-Hanooti was Imam of the Dar al-Hijrah mosque in Virginia from 1995 to 1999 and seems to have played a role in making it fertile ground for its later radical connections, including two of the September 11 hijackers, the Fort Hood shooter and Anwar al-Awlaki.

However, it is important to note that Hamas was not considered a terrorist organization for the purposes of American law until 1995 and there appears to be no evidence he raised money for Hamas since 1993, except for assisting in rasing money to pay for a Hamas leader's legal defense.

None of this excuses the fact that Hamas is a terrorist organization, regardless of weather a government explicitly marks it as such. Al-Hanooti has made radical statements and fundraised for Hamas in the past, though his current opinions are unknown and a repudiation of violence is always something to hope for from anyone.