Responsibility for the attack?
Sayfullo Saipov, the 29-year-old Uzbekistan-born ISIS operative who killed eight people after driving a truck down a crowded bicycle path in New York City, worshipped at a mosque around the corner from his and his family’s Paterson, New Jersey residence, Masjid Omar bin al-Khattab. The mosque has been associated with a website that advocates committing violence against others. Because of this fact, the mosque itself should be considered a party to Saipov’s horrific crime.
On October 31st, Halloween, Sayfullo Habibullaevic Saipov, an Uber driver with known residences in Tampa, Florida and Paterson, New Jersey, drove a pickup truck he had recently rented to New York City’s Riverfront, on the West Side of Manhattan, and proceeded to plow into pedestrians and bicyclists along a stretch of one mile, before being shot and apprehended by police. Saipov had with him knives and a stun gun as additional weapons. A note found near the truck contained a claim that the act was done in the name of ISIS.
In court, the following night, Saipov was charged with one count of material support to a terrorist organization and one count of violence and destruction of a motor vehicle.
According to the federal complaint against him, Saipov told investigators he had become radicalized by watching ISIS videos on his phone and was inspired by ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s call for revenge on the United States. He said he had been planning the attack for the past year and that he chose the occasion of Halloween because he thought the streets would be more crowded then. He said he had considered placing ISIS flags on the truck but thought it would draw too much attention.
According to law enforcement, Saipov’s name may have come up, during previous investigations into other known terrorists or persons of interest, as an acquaintance of those being investigated. Question: Was Saipov self-radicalized and acting on his own or did he have help?
Saipov and his family attended Paterson’s Masjid Omar bin al-Khattab, aka Omar Mosque. In 2006, the NYPD ordered surveillance on the mosque, and according to a 2006 NYPD document, the mosque was “believed to have been the subject of federal investigations.” The surveillance program, which included a number of New York Metro Area mosques, was conducted in order to identify “budding terrorist conspiracies.”
The Omar Mosque was founded in 1994. Its corporation starting date is listed as July 1994.
The group’s website domain, omarmasjidnj.org, was purchased in July 2010. The first and what appears to be the only version of the website was uploaded in November 2010.
During its entire existence, before it was removed (The site is no longer up), the website’s top navigation bar contained a button, titled ‘ASK THE IMAM’ and linked to a mirror site of the controversial website Islam Q&A, giving off the impression that Islam Q&A was a function of the mosque. In fact, the mirror address itself was an actual page off the mosque website (masjidomarnj.org:80/Ask_the_Imam.html).
Islam Q&A or Islam Question & Answer (islamqa.info) is run by Islamic scholar Muhammad Saalih al-Munajjid. The site is said to be the most popular Salafist (ultra-fundamentalist Islamic) website in the Arab speaking world. Al-Munajjid created the site to answer people’s questions from an Islamic viewpoint. Many of the answers provided by the site are unspeakably bigoted and violent in nature.
Regarding jihad or holy war, Islam Q&A states the following: “There is no doubt that it is prescribed to engage in jihad against the enemies of Allaah, Jews and others, with our lives and our wealth… The Muslims in general should… help the Muslims in all places in ways that will lead them to prevail and strengthen them and enable them to… practice the teachings of Islam and to implement the rulings of sharee’ah and carry out hudood punishments [amputation of hands for theft, stoning for illicit sex, death for apostasy, lashes for drinking alcohol, etc.], and whatever will lead to their victory over the kuffaar, Jews, Christians and others. They should strive their hardest in jihad against the enemies of Allaah with all the means at their disposal.”
While Islam Q&A publicly regards both Jews and Christians as “enemies of Islam,” al-Munajjid and his site save their greatest ire solely for Jews. The site openly states that Jews need to be destroyed, declaring, “We ask Allaah to… curse and destroy the Jews and their helpers, and to send punishment upon them…”
Al-Munajjid further states on his site, “[T]he Jews are people of treachery and betrayal; it is not possible to trust them at all… As the Muslims and Jews are enemies residing in opposing religious and doctrinal camps, it is not possible for them to be brought together unless one is made to submit to the other by force. [T]he Prophet… said: ‘The Hour [the Day of Judgement] will not begin until the Muslims fight the Jews and kill them.’”
Concerning homosexuals, Islam Q&A is 100% clear, they are to be put to death. The only question the site poses is: By what method? The site states, “The Sahaabah were unanimously agreed on the execution of homosexuals, but they differed as to how they were to be executed. Some of them were of the view that they should be burned with fire… And some of them thought that they should be thrown down from a high place then have stones thrown at them. Because the evil consequences of homosexuality are among the worst of evil consequences, so its punishment is one of the most severe of punishments in this world and in the Hereafter.”
Islam Q&A sees women as little more than the property of men and sanctions domestic violence against them. The site states, “Wives in general have to understand that obedience to their husbands is an Islamic duty that is required of them… The husband has to look for the causes of his wife’s willful defiance… If the cause has to do with her… then he should remind her of Allaah and play a role in strengthening her faith and teaching her what she does not know about the rights that her husband has over her. If that does not work, then he may hit her in a way that is not severe and that does not cause injury…”
Islam Q&A says that women should not leave their homes, declaring, “[I]t is better for women to stay at home… Women should not go out unless it is necessary, and when it is necessary for a woman to go out, it should be with her husband’s permission. She should be careful to avoid that which Allaah has forbidden, and she should wear full hijaab, covering her face, etc.” According to al-Munajjid, “[I]f the woman’s niqaab or burqa’ does not show anything but the eyes, and the opening is only as big as the left eye… then that is permissible, otherwise she should wear something which covers her face entirely.”
Saipov’s wife and fellow Uzbek, Nozima Odilova, whom Saipov married in Ohio in April 2013, resembles the Muslim woman discussed in Islam Q&A. Hilmi Hammad, a local knife supplier who lived across the street from Saipov’s home, said he “would often see Saipov come out with his wife, in full burqa - just the slits for eyes…” As well, Mirrakhmat Muminov, an acquaintance of Saipov from Ohio, told CNN that he had never met Saipov’s wife, due to what CNN referred to as “gender-separation customs."
Investigators working on the NY truck terror attack are exploring whether anyone else had any knowledge of or aided in the plot. The FBI sought and found a second individual in relation to the attack, Uzbek national Mukhammadzoir Kadirov, labeling him a ‘person of interest.’ The FBI should, as well, label Masjid Omar bin al-Khattab a ‘mosque of interest.’
In April 2014, the NYPD’s mosque surveillance program, known as the Demographics Unit, was shut down following complaints and legal challenges from left wing civil liberties groups and radical elements within the Muslim community. New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio vocally supported the program’s termination.
Law enforcement was keeping tabs on Saipov’s mosque, because of its embrace and propagation of the toxic ideology associated with ISIS, which inspired Saipov to carry out his attack. ISIS certainly claims to adhere to the same brand of Salafism as the Omar Mosque pushes. It can be argued that, had the program not been terminated, authorities may have uncovered Saipov’s plot and prevented it.
Saipov came to America via a ‘diversity visa.’ His victims were also diverse: five Argentinians, two Americans and one Belgian. His mission was ended after he crashed his truck into a school bus and was shot by an NYPD officer. If given the chance, he would have killed more innocents. It is a travesty that a mosque like Masjid Omar is being allowed to operate on American soil unchecked, after rightly being identified by authorities as a hub for extremist activity.
Sayfullo Saipov may be the first individual to commit an ISIS-style vehicular rampage in America, but if the police and FBI are forced to continue to operate under the constraints of political correctness instead of using proactive profiling, he may very well not be the last.
Beila Rabinowitz, Director of Militant Islam Monitor, contributed to this report.