ith the Islamic connection virtually undeniable in the Asan Akbar grenade case, the question inevitably arises: Where is the Saudi money?
Akbar is the black Muslim Army sergeant who, after killing two and wounding 14 of his fellow soldiers when he hurled a grenade into a tent in Kuwait, ranted, "You guys are coming into our countries and you're going to rape our women and kill our children." So, what about the Saudi money? It's not so much a case of paranoia, as it is a realization that Saudi money has an eerie habit of popping up around Islamic extremism the world over. And in the case of Akbar, the answer is: everywhere.
Akbar grew up attending a Saudi-funded mosque in South Central Los Angeles, and later moved to a mosque dominated by a Saudi-created and -funded organization. In the military, his Muslim chaplain at Fort Campbell was trained and certified by Saudi-funded organizations set up by a Muslim activist with deep Saudi ties. It's possible that all this Saudi money produced no Islamic extremism at any of these points in Akbar's life but empirical evidence suggests that that's unlikely.
Attending the mosque across the street from his home, the young Akbar spent a lot of time during his formative years at the Bilal Islamic Center, according to the center's imam, Abdul Karim Hasan. Hasan, in a phone interview with NRO, recalls a "reserved" and "studious" boy. But when asked about any possible Saudi connection to his mosque, Hasan perhaps understandably defensive, in the current anti-Saudi climate is quick to say that he does not take money from the "Saudi government," though he conceded that he receives funds from Saudi "individuals." That's not entirely true, however.
According to the website of the Islamic Development Bank a multibillion-dollar investment outfit run by many Arab governments, but based in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia Bilal Islamic Center recently received a $295,000 grant from ISD to build a new school. Considering the stated purpose of ISD to advance Muslim communities in accordance with sharia (Islamic law) one wonders what the center's new school will be teaching. But it's not just the money that raises questions. Bilal Islamic Center "works closely" with the King Fahd Mosque in Culver City (roughly 45 minutes from South Central LA), according to a source at the Culver City mosque which is not just named after King Fahd, but is also funded by him. And based on the annual statement released by the House of Saud on its efforts to spread Islam throughout the world, Bilal Islamic Center is also funded by the kingdom (under the name "Bilal Mosque of Los Angeles"), although the exact amount is not specified.
When Akbar left for college in 1989, he did not leave the Saudi-funded experience behind. At the University of California at Davis, Akbar was seen by friends as a devout Muslim, and multiple reports state that he spent large amounts of time at the nearby Islamic Center of Davis. That center, as it happens, is home to the UC-Davis chapter of the Muslim Students Association, a Saudi-created and -funded national organization with branches on campuses across the country. It is also the past, and possibly the present, home to someone with surprisingly similar anti-American sentiments.
In a puff piece in December 2000 on the Muslim students of the Islamic Center of Davis, then third-year law student Masood Khan spouted vitriolic contempt for America, which in many ways mirrors what Akbar said while cowering in the bunker after his killing spree. "There have been over one million innocent Iraqis killed by the United States," Khan said. "It's a war crime." Not a far cry from the equally obscene comment from Akbar that "you guys" are going to "rape our women and kill our children."
While stationed at Fort Campbell in Kentucky, Akbar was one of roughly 20 soldiers who attended weekly services and his Muslim chaplain there was trained and certified by institutions with significant Saudi funding. Capt. Mohammed Khan, who is overseas with the 101st Airborne Division, became the Army's second Muslim chaplain in 1997 (there are now seven). According to a military source, Capt. Khan trained at the Graduate School of Islamic Social Sciences (GSISS), which has a history of Saudi funding and was one of 24 Muslim organizations raided last year as part of Operation Greenquest, the multi-agency investigation of terrorist funding launched by the Treasury department. Khan was certified by the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), which was not raided but is affiliated with the SAAR network (named for its wealthy Saudi benefactor Suleiman Abdel Aziz al-Raghi).
To be fair, at the time he received his training and certification, those institutions were the only option available to him. But he does have some Wahhabist ties. At an interfaith memorial service marking the anniversary of the murder of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, Capt. Khan read a statement from the imam at King Fahd Mosque the same one that enjoys a close relationship with the Bilal Islamic Center.
The Muslim chaplain program that Khan completed was created over a decade ago with the help of Ihsan Bagby, a man who himself has plenty of Saudi ties. In a phone interview with NRO, Bagby, an African-American convert to Islam, said that he sees nothing wrong or sinister with money coming from Saudi Arabia. Before he started at his current position at the University of Kentucky, Bagby was a professor at Shaw University, a black Baptist school in North Carolina that has received substantial Saudi cash. The on-campus mosque at Shaw was built with a $1 million grant in 1983 from the Saudi king. In 1989, Prince Abdulla Al-Faisal Al Saud of Saudi Arabia gave the school, in exchange for an honorary doctorate, a bowl made of lapis stone and encrusted with diamonds and pearls, estimated at $500,000.
While Bagby seemed perfectly reasonable in several phone conversations, back in the late '80s, he made a rather extreme statement about the role of Muslims in American society: "Ultimately we can never be full citizens of this country, because there is no way we can be fully committed to the institutions and ideologies of this country."
Bagby believes that the tidal wave of Saudi cash washing up on our shores could potentially be problematic, but that it's not, because it has minimal impact. "[Saudi funding] would be sinister if they were trying to ram down people's throats Wahhabism, but that's simply not true." But countless reports from around the world indicate that the Saudis do in fact "ram" Wahhabism "down people's throats." Even an imam based at the Bilal Islamic Center has indicated as much. In a 1999 interview with the Los Angeles Times, Imam Deen Mohammed praised King Fahd for his financial support of Islam, though he acknowledged that when Saudis give money, the unspoken rule is that "'we want you to . . . prefer our [Wahhabi] school of thought.' That's in there whether they say it or not."
The web of Saudi money covering almost every stage of Akbar's Islamic development does not necessarily mean that the Saudi cash fostered extremism at either Islamic center Akbar attended or the chaplain-training provided to Capt. Khan but the confluence of Saudi money must at least be scrutinized. The memories of Capt. Christopher Scott Seifert and Maj. Gregory Stone the soldiers killed by Akbar demand no less.
Joel Mowbray is an NRO contributor and a Townhall.com columnist.