Last week the Muslim Student Association (MSA) of the University of Central Florida invited the Imam Siraj Wahhaj to give an address on campus – funded by UCF’s Student Government Association. It was an invitation that raised no eyebrows: after all, Siraj Wahhaj is one of the most sought-after speakers on the Muslim circuit, and has addressed audiences all over the country. In 1991, he even became the first Muslim to give an invocation to the U.S. Congress. After 9/11, his renown as a moderate Muslim grew when he declared: “I now feel responsible to preach, actually to go on a jihad against extremism.” But with Siraj Wahhaj, as with so many other Muslim leaders in the U.S., things are not always as moderate as they seem.
When Siraj Wahhaj spoke at UCF, he was asked whether he would condemn Hamas and Al-Qaeda. Instead of answering directly, Wahhaj launched into a lengthy complaint against his having been designated a “potential unindicted co-conspirator” in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. With obvious annoyance in his voice, Wahhaj complained that that designation essentially meant nothing; an audience member drew sympathetic laughter when she asserted that it meant that Wahhaj was “innocent.” Wahhaj did not explain to his UCF audience that he earned the designation by sponsoring talks in the early 1990s by the Blind Sheikh, Omar Abdel Rahman, in mosques in New York City and New Jersey; Rahman was later convicted for conspiring to blow up the World Trade Center in 1993.
Apparently no one pressed Wahhaj about whether he condemned the jihad terror groups. Apparently also no one in the UCF audience asked Wahhaj how his view of Islam differed from that of Omar Abdel Rahman; however, if anyone had actually done so, probably Wahhaj would have supplied yet another windy non-answer, generating a great deal of righteous indignation from the Muslims in the crowd but little to nothing in the way of actual information.
Siraj Wahhaj’s contacts with the Blind Sheikh are not the only blots on his reputation as a “moderate.” He has warned that the United States will fall unless it “accepts the Islamic agenda.” He has also asserted that “if only Muslims were clever politically, they could take over the United States and replace its constitutional government with a caliphate.”