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Siraj Wahhaj (born Jeffrey Kearse (Arabic: سراج وهاج‎), March 11, 1950) is an African-American imam of Al-Taqwa mosque in Brooklyn,[1][2] New York and the leader of The Muslim Alliance in North America (MANA).[1] He was also the former vice-president of the Islamic Society of North America.[3]

Siraj Wahhaj
Siraj Wahhaj.png
Jeffrey Kearse

(1950-03-11) March 11, 1950 (age 68)
OccupationIslamic scholar
Spouse(s)Wadiyah Wahhaj


Early lifeEdit

Wahhaj was born as Jeffrey Kearse and raised in Brooklyn. His mother was a nurse and his father a hospital dietitian. He went to church religiously and went on to become a Sunday school teacher as a teenager in a Baptist church.[4]

In 1969 he ended his schooling and joined the Nation of Islam, changing his name to Jeffrey12x.[4] During this time he was vocal in his belief that “white people are devils." He said of this, “I preached it. I taught it.”[5]

When Elijah Muhammed died in 1975, "His teachings began to unravel in my mind", and he became a Sunni Muslim with the encouragement of Muhammad's son Warith Deen Mohammed. Mohammed took over and reorganized the Nation of Islam, urging members to come to orthodox Islam. Kearse then changed his name again to Siraj Wahhaj, which means "bright light" in Arabic. He was chosen to study Islam at the Umm al-Qura university of Mecca for a period of four months in 1978.[5]

Public lifeEdit

Siraj Wahhaj leads the daily prayers and performs the Friday sermon at Masjid at-Taqwa.[6] He also conducts full days of teaching in Islamic studies, Arabic and marital counselling.[6]

Anti-drug movementEdit

In 1988 he led his community in an anti-drug patrol in which they staked out drug houses in Bedford-Stuyvesant in the cold of winter for 40 days and nights, forcing the closure of 15 drug houses. This effort received high praise from the New York City Police Department and the media.[7]

In 1991, he became the first Muslim to offer an invocation (opening prayer) at the United States House of Representatives.[1][3][8]

Personal lifeEdit

In August 2018, Siraj Ibn Wahhaj, Wahhaj's son, was arrested on child abuse charges at his Amalia, New Mexico compound. Taos County prosecutors allege that the younger Wahhaj abducted his now-deceased 3-year-old son to perform ruqya on him, and additionally claim that he trained other children present at the compound to commit school shootings.[9] Wahhaj has publicly distanced himself from his son's actions.[10]

Views on governance and the punishment of certain crimesEdit

Wahhaj has made statements in support of Islamic laws over liberal democracy. He also supports capital punishments such as stoning for adultery and cutting off of hands for thievery. He has said: "Islam is better than democracy. Allah will cause his deen [Islam as a complete way of life], Islam to prevail over every kind of system, and you know what? It will happen."[11]

He has also said: "If Allah says 100 strikes, 100 strikes it is. If Allah says cut off their hand, you cut off their hand. If Allah says stone them to death, through the Prophet Muhammad, then you stone them to death, because it’s the obedience of Allah and his messenger—nothing personal."[when?][12]

1993 World Trade Center bombingEdit

Wahhaj was one of 170 people identified by US Attorney Mary Jo White in 1995 as "unindicted persons who may be alleged as co-conspirators"[13] in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing,[14][15] but was never charged,[15] and denies any involvement with the bombing.[14]

Wahhaj was a defence witness at the trial of the Blind Sheikh, Omar Abdel-Rahman, the former leader of the Egyptian terrorist organization, Gama'a al-Islamiyya.[13]

In November 2009, Wahhaj was one of many Muslim leaders who met with New York mayor Michael Bloomberg at City Hall. Wahhaj said that he hoped all Americans would eventually become Muslim and also referred to the FBI and CIA as the "real terrorists".[14]


  1. ^ a b c Samory Rashid, Black Muslims in the US: History, Politics, and the Struggle of a Community, p 120. ISBN 1137337516
  2. ^ Michael Wolfe, Taking Back Islam: American Muslims Reclaim Their Faith, p 139. ISBN 1579549888
  3. ^ a b "Wahhaj, Siraj". The Muslim 500. The Muslim 500. Retrieved 10 September 2015.
  4. ^ a b Paul M. Barrett (2007-02-16). American Islam. Washington Post. Retrieved on 2009-11-08.
  5. ^ a b Dulong, Jessica,The Imam of Bedford-Stuyvesant, May/June 2005, volume 56, number 3. Retrieved November 15, 2009.
  6. ^ a b Marci Reaven, Steve Zeitlin, Hidden New York: A Guide to Places That Matter, p 312. ISBN 0813541247
  7. ^ "METRO DATELINES; Moslems to Expand Anti-Drug Patrols" The New York Times March 2, 1988
  8. ^ "Siraj Wahhaj". Peace TV. Retrieved 10 September 2015.
  9. ^ Romero, Simon; Feuer, Alan; Kovaleski, Serge (9 August 2018). "On a Ramshackle Compound in New Mexico, a Dead Boy and a Mystery". The New York Times. The New York Times. Retrieved 11 August 2018.
  10. ^ Hauslohner, Abigail (9 August 2018). "Father of N.M. child-abuse suspects speaks out: They 'cut ties' and disappeared". The Washington Post. The Washington Post. Retrieved 11 August 2018.
  11. ^ Barrett, Paul M. (2007). American Islam: The Struggle for the Soul of a Religion. Farrar, Straus and Giroux. p. Page: 115.
  12. ^ Barrett, Paul M. (2007). American Islam: The Struggle for the Soul of a Religion. Farrar, Straus and Giroux. p. Page: 114.
  13. ^ a b "Masjid At-Taqwa :: The Investigative Project on Terrorism". Retrieved 2012-09-18.
  14. ^ a b c Goldenberg, Sally (2009-11-12). "1993 World Trade Center bombing co-conspirator, Siraj Wahhaj, meets with Mayor Bloomberg". Retrieved 2012-09-18.
  15. ^ a b Hawley, Chris (2012-02-18). "NYPD monitored Muslim students all over Northeast". Associated Press. Retrieved 2017-01-13.

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