(This article first appeared in the Boston Jewish Advocate on August 24, 2012)
By Charles Jacobs
Written with Ilya Feokstisov
Back in March, Northeastern University's president, Joseph E. Aoun, was appointed to an academic board that advises the Department of Homeland Security on how American universities can contribute to antiterrorism efforts. Aoun told The Boston Globe: "We need more research and training related to security." Ironically, Aoun's own Northeastern campus may be an appropriate place for him to start.
Perhaps we can help: Americans for Peace and Tolerance (APT) will soon release a 10-minute video documenting Islamic radicalism at Northeastern. Based on several months of research, the video will describe a culture of extremism residing at Northeastern's officially sanctioned and financially supported Muslim student group, the Islamic Society of Northeastern University (ISNU).
The campus group has received thousands of dollars in funding from Boston's Roxbury mega-mosque run by the Muslim American Society (MAS), a group federal authorities describe as an arm of the Muslim Brotherhood. The ISNU is headed by the university's Muslim chaplain, Abdullah Faaruuq, who is closely associated with the Roxbury mosque.
Two Muslim students who attended Northeastern and who had ties to the Roxbury mosque have been charged with terror plots. Two other convicted terrorists from Boston are being actively supported by Faaruuq and Northeastern's Muslim students.
*Rezwan Ferdaus, a 2008 Northeastern University physics grad who frequented the Roxbury mosque, described himself to undercover FBI agents as a fan of Al Qaeda and was arrested in 2011 for a plot to attack the Capitol building and the Pentagon.
*Tarek Mehanna, who was convicted and sent to prison for 17 1/2 years for providing material support to Al Qaeda and conspiring to kill Americans. At the time of his arrest in 2009, the FBI alleged that he and others plotted to attack a mall in North Attleboro in an automatic assault rifle rampage similar to the Mumbai attacks in India. Before his arrest, he would frequently give classes on Islam at Northeastern for ISNU's evening "Deen and Dine" programs.
*Ahmad Abusamra, another Northeastern graduate and son of the Roxbury mosque's former vice president, was indicted together with Mehanna and is now a fugitive in Syria.
*Aafia Siddiqui - an MIT student who prayed at Imam Faaruuq's mosque near the Northeastern campus and became his friend - had been the most wanted woman on FBI's list of Al Qaeda terrorists and was caught with plans for a chemical attack on New York City. She was sentenced in 2010 to 86 years for attempted murder of FBI agents in Afghanistan.
Faaruuq has been publicly campaigning on behalf of Siddiqui and Mehanna. The chaplain praised Siddiqui for trying to shoot FBI agents in Afghanistan, telling worshippers at a mosque in Worcester in 2011: "They say that she took up a machine gun while they held her captive in the other room... What a brave woman she is. What a brave woman she continues to be, and how much her bravery and her faith and her belief, warrant our support at this time."
In 2010, Faaruuq told a group at a mosque in Allston to be brave in supporting Tarek Mehanna and Siddiqui because after the US government is done with them it could come after other area Muslims. Referring to Boston, he read from the Quran: "Rescue us from this town, whose people are our oppressors." For years, the extremist nature of Northeastern's Muslim student organization has been clear for anyone to see. Until 2010, when we first began exposing Faaruuq, the ISNU Web site openly recommended a reading list to Northeastern's Muslim students that included much of the main canon of modern Jihadist ideology. Among the suggested authors was Yusef Qaradawi, the spiritual leader of the Muslim Brotherhood who for years was listed as trustee of the Roxbury mega-mosque and on multiple occasions has called for the murder of Jews and homosexuals. How Northeastern's administration officials ignored the promotion of his views by their Muslim student group is unfathomable.
The same can be said of another recommended author, Sayyid Qutb, whose book "Milestones" calls for Muslims to hate the West and to refuse to accept Western values like the emancipation of women.
In the 1990s, Faaruuq's mosque, which is on Shawmut Avenue near Northeastern, housed CARE International, designated and shut down by the federal government as an Al Qaeda fundraising front in 2002.
Northeastern's radical Muslim leadership joins in the campus's anti-Israel activities. In 2011, the Spiritual Life Center at Northeastern hosted a talk by the virulently anti-Semitic son of Jewish Holocaust survivors, Norman Finkelstein.
In his speech, Finkelstein denied the true number of Jews killed in the Holocaust, accused Jews of being too rich and claimed that Israel is behaving like the Nazis. Sitting in the front row and wearing keffiyahs were some of the center's faculty, including Faaruuq, who joined the others in a standing ovation at the conclusion of Finkelstein's talk.
The Jewish students were appalled that the religious leaders at Northeastern would so enthusiastically support open anti-Semitism. Their complaints about the Spiritual Life Center and the subsequent investigation by Northeastern resulted in organizational changes at the center.
It is the Muslim students of Northeastern, however, who may be the biggest victims of extremists in positions of influence on campus. Faaruuq may well be exerting a strong radical influence on young and impressionable students. Yet, to date, the administration of Northeastern has failed to remove Faaruuq from his position as Muslim chaplain.
In response to emailed concerns raised about Faaruuq in 2011, Madeleine Estabrook, interim vice president for student affairs, wrote: "We are aware of concerns about our Muslim chaplain, Imam Abdullah Faaruuq, based on various Web site accounts. However, our interactions with the Imam have been reasonable and appropriate." We're speechless.
Northeastern University should remove Faaruuq from its Office of Spiritual Life, appoint a truly moderate Muslim chaplain, and fully investigate Islamic extremist activity on its campus.
Charles Jacobs is president and Ilya Feoktistov research director of Americans for Peace and Tolerance.
(This article first appeared in the Boston Jewish Advocate on September 7, 2012)
By Elise Kigner
Northeastern University has informed a controversial religious leader that he would no longer be recognized as the school’s Muslim chaplain.
Abdullah Faaruuq, who is the imam of the Mosque for the Praising of Allah in Roxbury, said he had served as volunteer chaplain at Northeastern for about 15 years.
Northeastern also replaced its Spiritual Life Center with a new Center for Spirituality, Dialogue and Service. The Spiritual Life Center’s director, Shelli Jankowski-Smith, resigned in June after working at the school for eight years, according to the Huntington News, the Northeastern student newspaper. Brandy Purcell, another staff member at the Spiritual Life Center, also has left Northeastern.
Faaruuq’s departure came soon after Charles Jacobs, president of Americans for Peace and Tolerance, wrote in an Aug. 24 column in The Advocate that his group would soon be releasing a short video about Islamic radicalism at the university. The video criticizes Faaruuq for supporting convicted terrorists. Jacobs said the film would soon be available at nuextremism.com.
Among the incidents detailed in the film is a speech by Norman Finkelstein that was hosted by the Spiritual Life Center, according to Jacobs’ column. In his speech, Finkelstein said Israel was behaving like the Nazis and criticized Jews for their wealth. He also questioned the number of Jews killed in the Holocaust, Jacobs wrote.
In an interview, Jacobs said that about six months ago his group, at the request of officials from the Spiritual Life Center, provided a film clip that showed Faaruuq at the event arguing with Jewish students and applauding Finkelstein.
Mike Armini, senior vice president of external affairs at Northeastern, said the changes at the Spiritual Life Center were prompted by the arrival in January of a new vice president of student affairs, Laura Wankel. Around this time, staff began rethinking the center and its annual chaplain appointments, Armini said. He said Faaruuq’s departure was not connected to news of the release of the APT video.
“This reorganization has been taking place for many months, so it’s not related to any outside group,” Armini said.
In an interview Tuesday, Faaruuq said about a week ago he received an email from Robert Jose, associate dean for cultural and residential life, explaining that Northeastern no longer needed his services.
“My email return was, I still remain in the service of G-d, of Muslim students and humanity as a whole,” he said.
As chaplain, Faaruuq said he taught classes on Islam and counseled hundreds of Muslims who came from around the world on issues ranging from wearing a head scarf away from home to fitting in daily prayers with school work.
Faaruuq said he might continue to be involved with the Islamic Society of Northeastern University, a Muslim student group. He said he was in contact with student members who are planning events for the fall.
“I think [for] Northeastern, because of certain circumstances, things are better that I am not there,” he said, declining to elaborate on the circumstances.
The new director of the Center for Spirituality, Dialogue and Service, Alexander Levering Kern, previously served as Protestant chaplain at Brandeis University, and directed its Interfaith Leadership Development Fellows program.
Kern, who is a Quaker, also served as executive director of Cooperative Metropolitan Ministries, an interfaith social justice network. He declined to comment for this story.
In an interview on the Northeastern Web site, he explains that the center will continue to offer space for prayer; will develop relationships with new and returning religious leaders; and offer dialogue programs. He appointed a new Muslim spiritual advisor, Irfan Imalie.
In a statement, Jacobs commended Faaruuq’s dismissal, but said Northeastern President Joseph Aoun should take steps to reduce the further radicalization of Northeastern’s Muslim students, including investigating the funding sources of the Islamic Society of Northeastern University.