The Worcester Telegram reports on the apparent sudden departure of Imam Muhammad Hamid earlier this week. According to the paper, Hamid is not expected to return. This blog entry also looks at Hamid's relative in Massachusetts and in Pakistan. First, the scoop according to WT reporter Bronislaus Bush:
"WORCESTER— Hamid Mahmood, the spiritual leader of the region’s Muslim community, has stepped down as imam of the Worcester Islamic Center and returned to his homeland of Pakistan."
"Tahir Ali, a spokesman for the center, said Imam Mahmood, who had been at the center since 1999, had been talking about returning home for several months and apparently decided not to seek an extension on his expiring visa. "
“ 'I know there was a problem with the visa and he decided not to do anything about it because he wanted to go home anyway,' Mr. Ali said."
"The imam and his wife and five children left Sunday."
Well, almost but not quite. A few details got left out there. Hamid, et al attempted to leave on Sunday from Logan Airport, but the initial attempt to fly to Pakistan through London wasn't allowed because Hamid didn't have a valid U.S. visa. So Hamid's good friends hustled and quickly transported the entire family from Logan to New York, where they arranged a flight to Pakistan, which left Tuesday morning. It's always nice to have friends in high places who can come through in difficult times. It's not easy to make international travel arrangements on short notice. Who were the movers and shakers in this episode? Were they connected to the International Islamic Front? Hamid was reportedly questioned by authorities upon arriving in Pakistan.
That's a rare photo of Imam Hamid, by the way (Paul Capteyn, WT&G), he doesn't believe in being photographed. Hamid is known by several names, including Muhammed Hamid, Hafiz Hamid ("hafiz" refers to someone who has memorized the Koran), Hamid Mehmud, Hamid Mahmud and Hamid Mehmood. His wife, who wears a black "shuttlecock" burqa, is named Mrs. Asna (not Mrs. Hamid). It's not clear that Mrs. Asna was on the same place as Hamid. Their daughters are Muneza, Fatima and Zirwa, the sons are named Omer and Ali.
The Worcester Telegram notes that Hamid and his family weren't deported, as was initially reported in the Daily Times earlier in the week (that paper actually called it a "voluntary deportation"). Reporter Bush writes that local Muslims were asking questions about this news:
"Some area Muslims expressed concerns this week after the Web edition of the Daily Times, a newspaper based in Lajore, Pakistan, reported that the imam and his family were deported by federal immigration authorities because of 'immigration regulation infringements.' ”
"The report, they said, appeared credible because of the legal difficulties facing Hafiz Muhammed Masood (shown above), the imam at the Islamic Center of New England in Sharon. According to Mr. Ali and others, Imam Masood is the brother of Imam Mahmood. Imam Masood was arrested by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents in late 2006 on visa fraud charges."
The Boston branch of the Muslim American Society (MAS) has been a vocal and financial supporter of Masood. Masood's deportation hearing is scheduled for October 2007.
Not reported in the Worcester Telegram is that Muslim parents have also expressed concern about what Imam Hamid was teaching their children in school, as he is also the brother of a major Pakistani terorrist, Hafiz Saeed (pictured left), who founded the banned terrorist groups Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) and Jamat Dawah. Read more about Hafiz Saeed here and LeT here. The Daily Times also reported that Imam Hamid reportedly ran an LeT safe house in Moon Chowk, Lahore, Pakistan, before coming to the U.S.
Imam Hamid was an instructor at the Al Huda Academy in Worcester, MA, (listed as Imam Hamid Mahmud). Some Muslim parents are concerned that Hamid could have been indoctrinating their children.
But wait, just like those famous Ginzu knives, there's more!
There's another relative of Hafiz Saeed who came to the U.S. and became an imam. Abdul Hannan is Saeed's brother-in-law (he's married to Masood's sister), and Hannan was imam at the Islamic Society of Greater Lowell (ISGL). He was arrested last November 2006 for religious visa fraud, at the same time as brother-in-law Masood.
Hannan came to the U.S. through Muhammad Khalil, who is now serving time in prison for visa fraud. Khalil operated a mosque in the basement of a Brooklyn store, and he fraudulently sponsored some 200 people (including Hannan), charging them thousands of dollars to come to the U.S. Mum's the word on Imam Hannan, there's been nothing in the papers. The MAS did support Imam Hannan in the past, although not nearly to the extent they support Masood. At that December 2006 MAS fundraiser held at thte ISGL, Hannan said of the prison employees (he was jailed for a few days after being picked up in November 2006), they "don't know who they are dealing with." Was he referring to his infamous brother-in-law, by any chance? After innitially supporting Hannan, the MAS hasn't said anything about Hannan or attempted to raise funds for him.
That's quite a family that ended up here in Massachusetts! Tomorrow, I'll pull together a timeline on who came to the U.S. when, as well as look at some other connections.