Sometime during the night of February 1, the Sacramento Bee reported, “someone spray painted anti-Muslim graffiti on the walls of the Tarbiya Institute” in nearby Roseville, and “police are investigating the vandalism as a hate crime.” In a statement, the Institute said “we at Tarbiya believe that this incident is a microcosm of a sinister spirit that has been perpetuating our country, and sponsored by people in power. This spirit emboldens some who are full of hate to actually take action.”
The story also noted another recent “hate crime” at the Islamic Center in Davis, where “windowpanes were smashed, bicycle tires were sliced and strips of uncooked bacon were placed on an exterior door handle of the center.” Last December, this mosque received a threatening letter “identical to one sent to numerous mosques around the country.” The note was from a group calling itself Americans for a Better Way, addressed to “the children of Satan,” and referenced Donald Trump by saying “there’s a new sheriff in town,” therefore Muslims’ “day of reckoning has arrived.”
Chief respondent for the incidents was Basim Elkarra executive director of the Sacramento Valley Council on American-Islamic Relations, the local CAIR affiliate. He cited those “targeted by bigotry” and in radio interviews linked both incidents to Donald Trump’s campaign rhetoric. On Elkarra himself the news reports came up short.
In April of 2000, as a member of the Muslim Students Association (MSA) at UC Berkeley, Elkarra moderated an event featuring Hamas operative Mohammad Salah, labeled a terrorist by President Clinton. Elkarra became a member of the California Democratic Party’s executive board and in 2006 Senator Barbara Boxer gave the CAIR boss a certificate of appreciation for his “efforts to protect civil liberties and to build bridges among diverse communities in California.”
Boxer quickly revoked the award, explaining that her California office had not vetted CAIR sufficiently. In 2007 Basim Elkarra refused to condemn Hamas and Hezbollah as terrorist groups. He has also suggested that “Islamophobes” be prosecuted like Holocaust deniers. Elkarra has his defenders but in 2015 he failed to gain a seat on a local school board, his first run for public office. None of this emerged in recent reports, which also failed to provide background on the Tarbiya Institute, site of the alleged “hate crime” on February 1.
The Tarbiya Institute “is an Islamic organization that focuses its efforts on restoring the authentic image of Islam, and the empowerment of the Muslim individual through perpetual personal progress.” It was founded by businessman Sherif Abdul-Azeez and his brother Dr. Mohamed Abdul-Azeez, born in Egypt and for 10 years the leader of the Sacramento Area League of Associated Muslims, which co-hosted events with CAIR. In 2009 the FBI gave its Community Leadership Award to Abdul-Azeez, for “preventing violence, creating understanding,” and “ bringing people together.”
Tarbiya’s director of youth development is Ustadh Kamran Islam, who “spent many years as an Advisor for CAIR’s Muslim Youth Leadership Program (MYLP).” Tarbiya’s director of Islamic and Quranic studies is Ustadh Ayman Mohamed, who memorized the Quran by the age of nine and continued “his studies of the Islamic sciences with prominent Islamic scholars,” none of whom is named. Of all the Tarbiya leaders, Dr.Mohamed Abdul-Azeez boasts the highest profile.
In 2013 he promoted a musical concert at Sacramento’s Crest Theater, an event that “challenges the belief among some orthodox Muslims that music can lead to sinful behavior.” Abdul-Azeez, who earned a degree in political science and history at Ohio State and a master’s from the University of Chicago, sought to expose young people to “beautiful, inspiring music that promotes love of religion and country.” That same year Steve Magagnini of the Sacramento Bee sought out Abdul-Azeez after the Muslim Tsarnaev brothers bombed the Boston Marathon.
Abdul-Azeez said that the eight-year old boy “who died” could have been his son, and had considered attending the event, which he and his wife watched “in tears.” On the other hand, he told the reporter, “ever since this thing went down, I don’t want to have to apologize for any crime that’s been committed. I’m weary of having to deal with this pressure all the time, whenever something stupid happens in the world. I feel similar to a gun owner worried about gun laws all the time because people are shooting people, or a Jew who has to worry about the atrocities being committed in Israel.”
Magagnini asked about the “so-called Muslim identity” of the Chechen suspects.
“The whole thing has a fishy stench to it,” the imam explained. “The story is riddled with inconsistencies.”
Imam Abdul-Aziz has since kept a lower profile and did not publicly respond to the vandalism at the Tarbiya Institute and the Islamic Center in Davis. Police have no suspects and both incidents bear the hallmarks of a hoax, including the convenient assignment of blame to Donald Trump by CAIR boss Basim Elkarra.
As this plays out, meanwhile, Patriots Day is still playing to packed houses in local theatres. Back in 2013 Basim Elkarra went on record that “what happened in Boston and Watertown ” was “not a reflection of ethnic identity, religion, or national affiliation.”