First there were six Islamic Society of Boston (ISB) trustees... Jamal Hafiz resigned and then there were five. Mohammad Attawia was removed, and then there were four. Walid Fitaihi resigned, and then there were only three trustees. It's the Incredible Shrinking Board of Trustees! What gives?
Walid Fitaihi, who jetted into town last Friday from Saudi Arabia to make an private apology to a small group of Jewish leaders resigned this week as a trustee of the ISB. His resignation is dated March 7, 2007, and it was filed with the Suffolk County Registry of Deeds on April 10, 2007 (Book 49262, page 175). Hmmm, did the ISB or MAS mention this to their private audience last Friday, as covered in The Jewish Advocate?
"In a closed meeting, about 25 religious and lay leaders from the Boston area gathered at the Workmen’s Circle/Arbeter Ring building in Brookline to listen and respond to comments by Dr. Walid Ahmad Fitaihi. .... Fitaihi, who serves on ISB’s board of trustees and was a onetime director of outreach for the religious society, caused an uproar when statements he made in a series of articles from the second Palestinian Intifada were translated from Arabic newspapers and re-printed in the Boston Herald in March 2004. Fitaihi wrote, according to the Herald’s translation, that Jews in Israel 'have perpetrated the worst of evils and they have brought the worst corruption to earth.' "
Well, that was then and this is now. Fitaihi is no longer a trustee. Does the timing of his resignation change anyone's opinion about the apology? When Walid Fitaihi's anti-Semitic writings became known, the Boston Globe published an editorial in October 2004 calling on the ISB to distance itself from Fitaihi:
"The new board of directors sent an important message by removing treasurer Walid Fitaihi, an endocrinologist now living outside the United States whose anti-Semitic writings had brought the mosque to the breaking point with area Jewish groups. In a letter this week to Mayor Menino, the group stressed that their former treasurer's writings do not reflect the views of the society. But Fitaihi's continued status as a trustee for life still casts a cloud. The relationship should be ended."
Except that Fitaihi wasn't really removed as treasurer, as Chairman of the Board of Directors Abou-Allaban admitted "with a chuckle," in a Boston Phoenix article later in that month. At the same time, the group Citizens for Peace and Tolerance also called for the ISB to "condemn Fitaihi anti-Semitic writings and dismiss him from the ISB board." It took two and a half years for the ISB to remove Fitaihi as a trustee.
Why does this matter? First, some background on the ISB lawsuit. In May 2005, trustee Osama Kandil filed a lawsuit against the Boston Herald and WFXT-TV (and specific reporters) "alleging that their news reports ...destroyed his reputation." In November 2005, the ISB added a number of defendants, including Anna Kolodner of the David Project, author and lecturer Steven Emerson of the Investigative Project, Steven Cohen and Dennis Hale of the group Citizens for Peace and Tolerance, and William Sapers. This expanded lawsuit was brought by the ISB, the Trustees of the ISB Trust, Osama Kandil and Yousef Abou-Allaban. Additional charges were added to the defamation lawsuit, claiming that the defendants conspired against the Boston Muslim community to prohibit free expression of religion.
The ISB Trustees, not the Board of Directors, are really the party in control. The Trustees own the land holdings in Boston and Cambridge, they provide and control the finances, they control the ISB and can even abolish it, if they wish. In October 2005, the defendants asked the ISB to name the trustees, which the ISB was reluctant to do. Adding the Trustees as plaintiffs left them open to being deposed and providing sworn testimony on any topics relevant to the case, including financing questions. In March 2006, the ISB amended its lawsuit to add Ahmed Mansour as a defendant. At the same time, they tried to remove the Trustees as plaintiffs. The judge however ruled that the existing trustees had to be brought in as parties. Any amendment to change the Trustees needed to be filed by Wednesday, April 11, 2007. And so it was; on Tuesday, April 10, Fitaihi resigned.
Why did the ISB and the Trustees let Walid Fitaihi resign now as Trustee? Was the ISB fearful of subjecting Dr. Fitaihi to the discovery process? There are controversies over the extent of funding coming from Saudi Arabia. Given that Dr. Fitaihi resides in KSA, and that he's successfully financed the construction of a medical center there, one could speculate that Fitaihi was heavily involved in financing the ISB mosque construction. Which is what a Trustee is supposed to do, after all. Does he have something to hide? Why the resignation now?
P.S. Some day, some day soon I hope, it will become unthinkable for any American Islamic organization to use financing from anybody in Saudi Arabia to build a mosque here. The KSA does not allow people to bring a cross or a Bible into their country, never mind build a church. Until the KSA allows full religious freedom within its borders, it should be unacceptable and shameful to accept Saudi Wahabi money here.