It took 22 years, but Glen Francis, an African-American convert to Islam, was finally convicted of the 1990 murder of Arizona Imam Rashad Khalifa.
Khalifa’s body was found in the kitchen of an East Sixth Street mosque on Jan. 31, 1990. The imam had been stabbed 29 times, beaten and doused with a flammable solvent by a killer who turned on a gas stove’s burners in an apparent attempt to destroy the crime scene.
Attorneys for both sides agreed Khalifa, 54, was likely killed because of his religious teachings. After studying the Quran for years, he found a mathematical code and came to believe two verses were satanic. In his English translation of the Quran, he removed those verses. He also taught that people should follow the word of God and not that of human beings.
“His attacker was filled with anger and he was filled with rage and he was filled with the want and desire to kill,” McGinley said.
McGinley told jurors the evidence showed Francis moved to Tucson under an assumed name with the express desire to kill Khalifa. He rented an apartment, got a job and a driver’s license so he could easily join Khalifa’s congregation and get to know the layout of the mosque and Khalifa’s schedule.
Satanic verses is more than just the title of a Rushdie book, it’s an Islamic theological debate over which verses in the Koran were the product of Satanic suggestion to Mohammed. Khalifa had apparently determined that two other verses in the Koran were also the product of Satanic inspiration and was killed for it.
Khalifa had come to the United States from Egypt, and was a biochemist with a Sufi father. His version of Islam rejected the Hadiths and the Sunnah as fabrications. When he made his announcement about those two satanic verses, he received threats from all over the world.
The most serious of these threats was a Fatwa from the Islamic Legal Council of Saudi Arabia targeting both Salman Rushdie and Rashad Khalifa. Rushdie is still alive, after going underground, Rashad Khalifa chose to believe that he was a messenger of Allah sent to reform Islam, and refused to go underground or even lock his doors at night.
Glen Francis, using the names Benjamin Philips and J.Q. Walls, infiltrated the mosque, carried out the murder and then escaped to Canada which imposed a sizable delay on the case, as Canada is often unwilling to extradite to countries which employ the death penalty. But Glen Francis was finally extradited, tried and convicted, but like all Muslim terrorists, he was only a weapon in the hands of Saudi Arabia, enforcing Islamic blasphemy law in the West.