The Dar Al-Hijrah Islamic Center (Arabic: مركز دار الهجرة الاسلامي, English: Land of Migration) is an open mosque in Northern Virginia. It is located in the Seven Corners area of unincorporated Fairfax County, Virginia in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area.
|Dar Al-Hijrah Islamic Center|
Dar Al-Hijrah Islamic Center; 2010
|Ecclesiastical or organizational status||Mosque|
|Leadership||Imam Shaker Elsayed|
|Location||Seven Corners area of unincorporated Fairfax County, Virginia, USA|
|Construction cost||$5 million|
Founded in 1982 by a group of mostly Arab university students who had separated from the Islamic Center of Washington. It is one of the first masjids to be established in Northern Virginia, near Washington, D.C.. It is also one of the area's largest and most influential mosques.
A small group of families, with help of the North American Islamic Trust (NAIT), purchased the mosque's grounds on June 19, 1983. The mosque was first established in a house that is still on the Center's campus, and now serves as a food bank. Approximately 30 congregants would attend the weekly jumu'ah (Friday prayer) during the mosque's early years. The current building, on a 3.4 acre plot, was finished for $5 million in 1991 ($9,385,536 today) with financial help from the Saudi Embassy's Islamic Affairs Department.
In 1993 some area residents attempted to force closure of the mosque, saying it violated Fairfax County zoning ordinances. Worshipers believed the attempt was fueled by anti-Islamic bigotry. However despite the mosque's humble beginnings and early challenges, Dar Al-Hijrah grew to become a powerhouse mosque by 2000, serving the thriving and diverse Muslim community outside Washington D.C.
The mosque sits at the corner of Virginia State Route 7 (Leesburg Pike) and Row Street, near a number of apartment units and single-family homes in which many Muslim families live. Numerous halal restaurants, grocery stores, and other Muslim businesses are also located nearby.
The mosque holds prayers five times daily, and Friday prayer attendance exceeds 3,000 people. In September 2004, about sixty percent of its membership was Arab, with an increasing percentage coming from countries such as Pakistan, Ethiopia, and Bangladesh.
Activities in addition to prayers include lectures, conferences, youth recreation and outdoor activities (such as camping and field trips) through its Youth Center, women's classes, health fairs, and financial assistance. It also operates an Islamic School called the "Washington Islamic Academy in Northern Virginia". In addition, Dar Al-Hijrah co-sponsors an annual civic picnic, along with other Northern Virginia organizations, at which candidates for local office meet Muslim voters. Dar Al-Hijrah is open for group tours.
Dr. Jamal al Barzinji and Samir Salah both were among Dar Al-Hijrah's original founding members. Al Barzinji was listed as Dar Al-Hijrah's original trustee while Salah would later become the mosque's president (as of 2008). Mohammed Ali Al-Hanooti, a Palestinian imam that had previously served at mosques in New Jersey, was Dar Al-Hijrah's imam from 1995-1999. Dar al-Hijrah's previous imams at that point did not speak English and lacked engagement with the youth. With Al-Hanooti's departure, mosque leaders specifically sought out to hire an imam that could attract young people and non-Arabic speakers.
Anwar al-Awlaki was a United States-born Yemeni who had returned back to his birth country to attend college while also working at various mosques as an imam on the side. Despite having no religious qualifications and almost no religious education, his fame as a religious speaker grew with popular audio recordings and speaking invitations across the country. Al-Awlaki left his imam post in San Diego, California to pursue his PhD at George Washington University in Washington D.C. and was soon recruited to be Dar Al-Hijrah's next imam in 2000. One of the mosque's board members who hired Al-Awlaki stated he was convinced that al-Awlaki had no inclinations or activities to do with terrorism. The new imam, who was described as alluring and charming at this time, began to draw young people to Dar Al-Hijrah while connecting with the sophisticated Muslim community of Northern Virginia. Al-Awlaki was considered a moderate during his time at Dar Al-Hijrah, publicly condemned the September 11 attacks and Al-Qaeda, and was even invited to speak at the United States Department of Defense and became the first imam to conduct a prayer service for the Congressional Muslim Staffer Association at the U.S. Capitol.Al-Awlaki appeared on law enforcement's radars when federal investigators discovered two of the alleged 9/11 hijackers had attended the same mosque in San Diego during the same time Al-Awlaki served as imam, as well as Dar Al-Hijrah (along with a third alleged hijacker). Despite the fact that no solid evidence emerged linking Al-Awlaki to the 9/11 plot, FBI agents conducted repeated interviews and placed the imam under surveillance.Al-Awlaki resigned from Dar Al-Hijrah in early 2002 due to post-9/11 media attention that distracted the imam from his duties, according to the mosque's outreach director.
Brooklyn-born convert-to-Islam Imam Johari Abdul-Malik was previously the Director of Outreach for the Dar Al Hijrah Islamic Center in Northern Virginia from June 2002 until June 2017. Speaking on his role at the mosque, he said:
It's important that there's an American at the mosque to speak with media, to defend Islam, who can talk about the rights of Muslims. It would be difficult for us if we had an imam who didn't understand the process here.
During his tenure at Dar Al-Hijrah, Abdul-Malik has commented publicly on Islamic affairs on the criminal cases of several American Muslims. Abdul-Malik spoke up in 2003 in defense of Abdul Rahman al-Amoudi, founder of the American Muslim Council, who was indicted on charges of engaging in illegal financial transactions with Libya. Abdul-Malik accused the government of singling out Ahmed Omar Abu Ali, who worshiped and taught Islamic studies at Dar Al-Hijrah, for which he also was a camp counselor, was charged by U.S. prosecutors with plotting with members of al-Qaeda to assassinate President George W. Bush, in order to stir anti-Muslim sentiment. also stated in February 2005 that, "our whole community is under siege. They don't see this as a case of criminality. They see it as a civil rights case. As a frontal attack on their community."
When in April 2005 Ali al-Timimi of Fairfax, Virginia, an American-born Muslim cleric, was convicted of inciting followers to wage war against the US just days after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, and of recruiting for the Pakistani terrorist organization Lashkar-e-Toiba, and the paintball terrorist cell, Abdul-Malik said: "There is a view many Muslims have when they come to America that you could not be arrested for something you say. But now they have discovered they are not free to speak their minds. And if our opinions are out of vogue in the current climate, we feel we are all at risk." Al-Timimi was sentenced to life imprisonment.
In November 2009, Abdul-Malik responded to al-Awlaki's support of the Fort Hood shooter by saying:
Al-Awlaqi ... supported the crime that Hasan committed and said that the US Muslims who opposed the crime have betrayed the Muslim ummah (the community of Muslims worldwide) and are hypocrites. I answer him by saying that he has thus separated himself from the Muslim community in the United States. The holy Koran teaches us that we as US Muslims should enrich the society we live in with humanitarian services, wisdom, teaching God's beautiful verses about love, mercy, and compassion to all mankind.
Mohammed Adam El-SheikhEdit
Sheikh Mohammed Adam El-Sheikh, formerly a Muslim Brotherhood member in the Sudan, and one of the founders of both the mosque and the Muslim American Society (MAS), was the mosque's imam between August 2003 and May 2005. He left the mosque to become the executive director of the Fiqh Council of North America, an association of Islamic legal scholars.
beheadings are not mentioned in the Koran at all. According to Islamic penal law, killers will be sentenced to death, but the means of execution are not mentioned. ...we don't condone this. They are not following Islam. They are following their own whims.
He said that "suicide bombings are never legitimate in the United States." The Sheikh said he tells his congregation that "Islamic law does not allow suicide bombings in most instances." Speaking of Palestinian suicide bombers he said "if certain Muslims are to be cornered where they cannot defend themselves, except through these kinds of means, and their local religious leaders issued fatwas to permit that, then it becomes acceptable as an exceptional rule, but should not be taken as a principle."
Shaker Elsayed, a Shariah law scholar born in Cairo, Egypt, has been the resident imam at Dar Al-Hijrah since June 1, 2005. From 2000 through 2005 he was the Secretary General of the Muslim American Society. He unequivocally condemns terrorism and states that the mosque actively publicizes that condemnation to the public.
Board of directors and executive committeeEdit
The mosque's nine-member board of directors consists of the secretary general of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), the president of the Muslim Arab Youth Association (MAYA), the general manager of the North American Islamic Trust (NAIT), the president of Muslim American Society (MAS), the president of the Dar Al-Hijrah Executive Committee, and four other members. Directors serve for five-year terms, and new directors are elected by the currently serving directors.
Dar Al-Hijrah has a seven-member executive committee; every two years four committee members are appointed by the mosque's board of directors, while the other three are elected by its membership. Imams Shaker Elsayed and Johari Abdul-Malik serve on the Executive Committee.
The mosque had 250 voting member families as of September 2004.
Dr. Esam Omeish, former president of the MAS, is a member of the board. In 2004 Omeish, at 36 then the youngest member of the mosque's Board, said there is "no question" that the mosque leadership needs to be more open and inclusive of younger people, including women. "The bottom line is that this is a mosque that is in the heart of Washington," he said. "Our goal is to make the congregation reflect that reality." Omeish acknowledged that some mosque members raised acceptable questions about the mosque's constitution, and that proposals under consideration in 2004 included direct elections to the mosque's board of directors, director term limits, and phasing out the board seats that the constitution assigns to officials of certain Muslim organizations.
Dar Al-Hijrah is active in community outreach and service, and promoting mutual understanding in the local area. It participates in community food, back-to-school supply, and clean-up drives, is engaged in interfaith projects, and participates in civil rights work. Its social services department provides food, clothing, and other household items to needy local families of all faiths.
During the Islamic month of Ramadan, Dar Al-Hijrah serves everyone who wants to come eat, whether Muslim or non-Muslim; over 800 free meals every night. Also during Ramadan, it sponsors interfaith and civic iftar dinners with different faith groups to promote mutual understanding. It also distributes tens of thousands of dollars in zakat every Ramadan.
The FBI Director of Counter-Intelligence for the Middle East, Gordon M. Snow, was a frequent, weekly attendee of the services in spring and summer 2001, while also completing his master's degree 3 miles away.
Several sources indicated that Nidal Malik Hasan, the sole suspect in the November 5, 2009 Fort Hood shooting, attended the Dar Al-Hijrah mosque at the same time in 2001 as Nawaf al-Hazmi and Hani Hanjour (two of the September 11 hijackers), who attended the mosque for several weeks during 2001 when Anwar al-Awlaki was imam there; a law enforcement official said that the FBI will probably look into whether Hasan associated with the hijackers. The mosque issued a statement condemning the Fort Hood shootings, and al-Awlaki's praise of them. In addition, the phone number for the mosque was found in the apartment of one a planner of the September 11 attacks, Ramzi bin al-Shibh in Hamburg, northern Germany.Ahmed Omar Abu Ali, who was convicted of providing material support to al Qaeda and conspiracy to assassinate President George W. Bush, worshiped and taught Islamic studies at the mosque around that time, where he was also a camp counselor.
Abelhaleem Hasan Abdelraziq Ashqar, a member of the mosque's executive committee, was convicted in November 2007 of contempt and obstruction of justice for refusal to testify before a grand jury with regard to Hamas, and sentenced to 135 months in prison.
Jeffrey Goldberg, in his 2008 book Prisoners: A Story of Friendship and Terror, characterizes Dar Al-Hijrah as an openly political mosque that has conducted militant Friday sermons, especially prior to the September 11 attacks. The Washington Post reported that its leaders have strongly criticized U.S. law enforcement actions against Muslims and U.S. policies in the Middle East. The Washington Post also reported that the mosque is closely affiliated with the Muslim American Society, which has been linked to the Muslim Brotherhood.
In May 2017, Shaker Elsayed, the head imam of the Center, said in a video that he recommended removing a young girl's labia and clitoris, also known as female circumcision or female genital mutilation (FGM):
This is something that a Muslim gynecologist can tell you if you need to or not… There used to be a lady who used to do this for women, or, I mean, young girls. She is expected to cut only the tip of the sexual sensitive part in the girl, so that she is not hypersexually active. This is the purpose... you see in societies where circumcision of girls is completely prohibited, hypersexuality takes over the entire society, and a woman is not satisfied with one person, or two, or three. This, God forbid, is now happening even in Muslim societies where they prohibit circumcision. They use a mistake in practice to prohibit the tradition, and they end up causing a lot of damage on the extreme side of the sexual life of the woman.
The comments were brought to light by a tweet by the Middle East Media Research Institute in June, which links to the video, originally posted on the mosque's YouTube channel. The mosque issued a statement condemning Shaker Elsayed's remarks and stating that FGM is "prohibited in Islam as well as the laws of the land." 
Anwar al-Awlaki was Imam at the mosque between January 2001 and April 2002.
He has been accused since of being a senior al-Qaeda recruiter and motivator linked to various terrorists, including three 9/11 hijackers, the accused Fort Hood shooter, and the accused Christmas Day 2009 bomber. Supporters of the mosque say that al-Awlaki publicly condemned the 9/11 attacks, and was not known to give radical speeches at the time. But writing on the IslamOnline.net website six days after the 9/11 attacks, he suggested that Israeli intelligence agents might have been responsible for the attacks, and that the FBI "went into the roster of the airplanes and whoever has a Muslim or Arab name became the hijacker by default."
Khalid al-Mihdhar and Nawaf Al-Hazmi set up their base of operations in San Diego upon their arrival in the US with the assistance of a number of people who were later investigated by the FBI and press. They established a close relationship with Awlaki, who had been imam of the Masjid Ar-Ribat al-Islami mosque since 1996. After leaving San Diego and Arizona in 2001 and moving to Falls Church, Virginia, Hani Hanjour specified the Virginia mosque in Falls Church as his forwarding mailing address. He and Al-Hazmi attended Awlaki's sermons at the Virginia mosque. The 9/11 Commission Report, prepared after the attacks had taken place, concluded the men's appearances at Al-Alwaki's mosque "may not have been coincidental". The Fort Hood shooter Nidal Malik Hasan attended the mosque for the funeral of his mother in May 2001, likely arranged by his brother who lived in Virginia. For ten years, Hasan regularly attended a mosque in Silver Spring, Maryland, closer to where he lived and worked. "In my view, he is more than a coincidental figure," said House Intelligence Committee member Representative Anna Eshoo (D-CA) in 2003.
The mosque board member Esam Omeish was reported by the Washington Post as having been one of the mosque officials who hired al-Awlaki (Paul Sperry says he "personally" hired him). Omeish said in 2004 that he was convinced that al-Awlaki: "has no inclination or active involvement in any events or circumstances that have to do with terrorism."
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