Concerned about Saudi Arabian influence on American religious life, a
Washington-based international watchdog group visited 15 American mosques
to check for Saudi-published tracts, magazines and books.
The researchers found the literature in all 15 mosques, including the
Muslim Community Center on the North Side. In all, they documented more
than 200 pieces of literature promoting Wahhabism, a puritanical Muslim
movement that dominates Saudi Arabia, denounces democracy and criticizes
other faiths, including moderate forms of Islam…
But Muslim leaders and scholars in Chicago call the study an amateur and
unfair attack on American Muslims, saying the Saudi texts quoted in the
report do not reflect the prevailing ideology of the American Muslim
community or that of the 35-year-old North Side congregation.
“We don’t receive any books; we don’t receive scholars; we don’t receive
any funding [from Saudi Arabia],” said Mohammed Kaiseruddin, president of
the Muslim Community Center, 4380 N. Elston Ave. “If we received anything,
we’d look at them, we’d review them. If they are contrary to our practice
of promoting harmony between faiths, then we will not use those books.”
He said mosque members have so far been unable to find any of the titles
allegedly discovered at the Chicago center. If they do, they will conduct
their own study of the books and their content before returning them to the
shelves, he said…
Yaser Tabbara, executive director of Chicago’s Council on American-Islamic
Relations, questions the motivation and methodology of the study.
“Are there Muslims who espouse bigoted views? The answer to that question
is ‘yes,’ just like any other minority of any other faith,” said Tabbara.
“What Freedom House is doing is unfortunately smearing all mosques in the
United States and all mosque-goers by extension.”
If the researchers broadened their study, controversial literature would
likely also turn up in other houses of worship, Kaiseruddin suggested.
“We are aware that there are books written with a little inflammatory
language,” he said. “I don’t think books on Islam have a monopoly on those.
There are books on other faiths that use inflammatory language. I don’t
know that they can be classified as promoting hate.
“The only thing we’ve received from Saudi Arabia is a package of dates
during the month of Ramadan,” he added. “We don’t reject that. We
distribute it and we eat them. I don’t know that promotes any hatred among