The Liberty Caucus of the Minnesota Republican Party will hold its annual convention May 12 at the Dar al-Farooq Community Center, part of the notorious Bloomington mosque that has been at the center of controversy for years.
Many Minnesota Republicans are taking to social media to express their dissatisfaction with the decision by Caucus Chairman Zavier Bicott to hold the convention at Dar al-Farooq. At least half a dozen known terrorists have attended the mosque in recent years, including Adnan Farah and his brother, Mohamed Farah, who pleaded guilty in April 2016 to providing material support to the Islamic State, also called ISIS.
Dar al-Farooq’s former imam, Waleed Idris al-Maneesey (also spelled Manisi), preaches Sharia law is superior to man-made law and that Allah sanctions the slaughter of Jews who cause “corruption” on earth, according to a report by IPT News.
The Egyptian-born Maneesey authored a paper for the Assembly of Muslim Jurists of America (AMJA), where he sits on the fatwa committee. Muslims should refrain from participating in non-Islamic courts that do not follow Sharia, he wrote, particularly those in the West guided by “man-made” law.
“The authority to legislate rests with Allah alone,” he wrote.
Maneesey remains tightly connected to Dar al-Farooq and in fact is scheduled to be one of two “honored guest speakers” there on April 23, according to the mosque’s Facebook page.
“This is very likely the most dangerous mosque in the upper Midwest,” said Debra Anderson, who heads the Minnesota chapter of ACT For America, a national organization that opposes the advancement of Sharia at the state and local levels.
But for Bicott, it’s all about spreading his libertarian philosophy to a segment of American society that he admits has not been exposed to the message of individual liberty.
“The Republican Liberty Caucus is the conscience of the Republican Party in Minnesota,” Bicott said. “Individual liberty is what brings us together, the idea that we all want to live free. We need to find ways to grow the party and give courage to Muslim Republicans to stand up in their community and say: ‘I’m a Republican and I believe in individual liberty.‘”
Critics say that’s naïve. Few rank and file members of the mosque will likely even show up for the Liberty Caucus convention and those who do will likely not be voting Republican anytime soon, they say.
Bicott also chairs the GOP’s State Senate District 50, which includes east Bloomington where Dar al-Farooq is located. He said he has visited the mosque five times, strictly on party business, and has developed “a good relationship” with the leaders.
Bicott has never read the Quran or the hadiths, and recently started reading the Bible for the first time. He has no religious leanings whatsoever.
“I’m on Leviticus now and when I’m done with the Bible I plan to read the Quran. I don’t follow any particular faith. It’s not a part of my life,” he said. “But I want to know the stories and be able to relate to people to whom it is important.”
The decision to have Dar al-Farooq host the convention was announced in a press release Monday and by Tuesday morning Bicott said his phone was ringing off the hook with irate Republicans.
He said his decision, fully supported by the Caucus’s board of directors, had nothing to do with the fact that the mosque was bombed last August by two rightwing extremists from Illinois (no injuries were incurred but the mosque was damaged).
“They have an imam and then a community center, they also have a charter school there, and so after talking with them about the zoning and its effect on amenities, we were talking about caucuses in Minnesota, and they were like ‘oh, how come Republicans never come talk to us? Democrats always come talk to us with a smile on their face,’” Bicott said.
Bicott described himself as “very libertarian” in his outlook on life.
“I’m always open to talking to people, and I have to be very aware of the different factions I represent in my district; some are open-minded about different philosophies and so I want to teach the libertarian philosophy to people who maybe haven’t been exposed to it.”
Bicott said mosque leaders told him the congregation is made up of more than just Democrats.
A Pew Research survey in 2017 found 66 percent of Muslim-Americans nationwide prefer the Democrat Party, 20 percent lean independent and only 13 percent prefer the Republican Party. Only 19 percent of U.S. Muslims said they approved of the job President Trump is doing.
According to the Counter Jihad Report, there are more than 90 Muslims running for political office nationwide, almost all of them Democrats.
Bicott said he has not inquired of the Bloomington mosque on what percentage of its members consider themselves Republicans or would even be open to the possibility of becoming Republican, but he believes many are curious about what the party stands for.
He said he does not have any grand expectations for his May 12 outreach. But he says somebody from the GOP needs to break the ice and it might as well be him.
“I just believe, hey, listen to the principles of individual liberty and what liberty has to offer and maybe some will decide to join us,” Bicott said.
“Why let Democrats control that entire process? I want to go and share liberty principles, it can’t just be Democrats who are sharing their message with Muslims. There are a lot of refugees and immigrants drawn to our state. It is an attractive place because of the social services we have in place, so I want to teach them about individual liberty. We may not win them over in the first generation but if you don’t share your message, then we are never going to win. You are going to lose every time because you don’t even give yourself a chance to win.”
Bicott’s resume includes a stint on the human rights commission for the City of Bloomington. He also helped lead the Minnesota campaign for Sen. Rand Paul’s presidential bid.
Asked if he knew of any Muslim-majority nations where the concept of individual liberty was widely respected, he answered honestly.
“No,” he said. “In fact I’ve been getting calls all morning and someone asked me, ‘can you show me one place where it has proved successful to assimilate Muslim immigrants into a democratic society?’ My answer was America. We are the one place.”
“Tell me where, tell me how?” the caller asked.
“Not all Muslim men will shake hands with a women, they’re not allowed to drive, not allowed to vote in some countries. But we are a melting pot,” Bicott told the caller. “This is just a very beginning. How many years have they been in America, how many opportunities have they had to learn about individual liberty? I think it’s better that we go and teach and share with them our vision of liberty, of less government in people’s lives, and in the end at least we can say we tried. They can’t say we never went and tried to share our message of freedom and liberty with them.
“Unless you can share the principles of liberty and constitutional principles, you can’t just assume they are going to go and learn it on their own.”
Still, critics say that by holding a Republican convention at a Sharia-compliant Islamic center, the party is giving legitimacy to a system that is antithetical to the principles found in the Constitution and Bill of Rights.
One of his fiercest critics is Minnesota Republican Robert Carrillo.
Carrillo said he had a 40-minute phone conversation with Bicott Tuesday morning and found him “incredibly naïve.”
“He is so wet behind the ears, such that, even his very own survival skills have been culled,” said Carrillo. “His time served as a member of the human race on this planet is so short, that he actually believes his group’s special embrace of this mosque and their members will win them over into the light of liberty-loving converts.”
But other Minnesotans are not so fast to write off Bicott’s “crazy” idea.
“Initially I thought it was crazy too,” stated Kathy Schaunaman in a Facebook post. “But maybe the best thing would be if there were many Republican Muslims. Perhaps make them more American. Just a thought. This party has been missing the boat for years on bringing in Hispanics. When liberals are totally in charge, kiss every freedom goodbye – that would be the Democratic Party.”
Because of his own lack of religious upbringing, some believe Bicott is the perfect candidate for conversion to Islam.
Bicott says hell will freeze over before that happens.
“Some have told me, ‘oh, they want to convert you to Islam, that’s the only reason they are inviting you in.’ I’m not going to convert to Islam. It will be interesting to see the reception I get. You can’t just live in a bubble. You have to reach out to people.”