A little birdie tells me that Sheihk Basyouny M. Nehela, imam of the Islamic Society of Boston (ISB), is seeking American citizenship. There's a hearing on Monday, May 19th, which the Sheikh is reportedly trying to move from immigration court to citizenship court. I have to admit I'm not keen on granting American citizenship to this man. There's something not quite right about Mr. Nehela (on the left below). He's a mystery man. In his ten years here, he's assumed a controlling position in virtually every Islamic organization in the greater Boston area. Yet there's very little information available about his background. Why is his background such a big secret? Who brought Nehela here back in 1996? Nehela has been associated with Ikwhan, the Muslim Brotherhood, as I describe below. Are there other affiliations we should be concerned about? Is the judge who decides whether Nehela can stay here and become an American citizen going to thoroughly scrutinize this man? It would be a wise thing to do. American citizenship is too precious to give to someone whose allegiance might be to an outside power, not to our country, our government and our way of life. American citizenship requires taking an oath to uphold the U.S. constitution. Can Nehela do that? If he does, is he telling the truth?
Former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld was mocked for making the following statements, even though it's a good approach to any problematic situation:
"There are known knowns. These are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things that we know we don't know. But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we don't know we don't know."
And these "unknown unknowns" are the things that can really bite us in the butt. We're unprepared for them, we don't see them coming.
With Sheikh Nehela, the "known knowns" are what Nehela is doing in the Boston area now, where he has many roles as imam, teacher, director and advisor, as I've discussed here and here in earlier posts. His roles are:
- imam of the ISB,
- on the board of directors of the Muslim American Society (MAS),
- heads the Tarbiya program at MAS,
- director and teacher at the Islamic Academy of New England (IANE) in Sharon (There's much rancor about the "take-over" at the Islamic Center of New England (ICNE), and a threatened lawsuit at the ICNE. Nehela reportedly brought a check for $100,000.00 on September 17, 2002 from the Islamic Society of Boston to the school, and essentially took it over. Lots of $$$ went back and forth between the ISB and the ICNE.)
- Nehela hired Muhammed Masood as a teacher at the IANE, Masood went on to become imam at the ICNE Sharon, after Imam Talal Eid was forced out (great anger about that too). Masood recently pleaded guilty to five criminal charges and is awaiting a deportation hearing in April 2009.
- trustee and teacher of the Al Noor Academy in Quincy and in Mansfield,
- teacher and lecturer for area colleges including MIT, Harvard and Wellesley (student are taken to ISB mosque for lecture programs),
- spiritual advisor/mentor to Nancy Khalil (Wellesley Muslim student advisor), known for pushing hijab on Wellesley students and reportedly rewarding favored students with cash donations from the MAS,
- leads Hajj trips, bringing along favored (recruited?) students and subsidizing their trips,
- teacher at the Boston branch of the Islamic University of America (IAU), where he teaches Arabic and "Koranic science," (The IAU was founded in Ohio by Salah Soltan, who was recently denied American citizenship and who openly works for the Muslim Brotherhood on Egypt), and
- active with the Al Huda organization in Revere, MA, which is heavily supported by the MAS.
Busy guy! When does he have time to sleep and spend time with his family? There are three other possible "known knowns" that were reported to me. I have been unable to independently confirm these claims, but I put them out, hoping that someone else can either confirm or refute them:
- The imam of the ISB used to introduce Hafiz Saeed's brother Muhammed Masood as a Jihadi fighter who used to fight in Kashmir before he (Masood) came to the U.S.
- The imam reportedly used to lead a prayer in Arabic at the Prospect Street mosque calling for the death of Jews and Christians, from 2001 until 2005 (didn't anyone complain?!).
- The ISB mosque in Cambridge used to be known as the Ikwhn mosque. According to a reader, "Until 2001, any one walking to Prospect Street mosque would say that I am going to the Ikhwan Mosque."
The "known unknowns" are what Nehela did in Egypt before he came here. There's no information published anywhere about his background except for his education at Al-Azhar University in Egypt, the oldest and most prestigious Islamic university in the world. The basic program of studies was, and still is, Islamic law, theology, and the Arabic language. Nehela's degree is in da'wah, or bringing people to Islam. But we don't know if Nehela ever worked as an imam anywhere else before coming to Boston. (One wonders what he put on his visa when he first came here to do Traweeh during Ramadan....don't you have to be an imam before you can work here as an imam?) There's no resume available on Nehela, which is unusual. Another "known unknown" is who Nehela's spiritual adviser was back in Egypt or is now (possibly Yusuf Qaradawi?). We don't know what denomination of Islam he is, which is usually one of the first things a Muslim will tell you about himself. Is Sheikh Nehela a Sunni or Shia, Salafi, Wahabi, Sufi, Akhwan, Deobandi, Ismaili or Ahmedi? Something else altogether? Why is that kept secret?
The last category is the "unknown unknowns," which are, of course, hard to anticipate. But I do wonder how it is Nehela came here in the first place, what was the connection, who was responsible? And how did Nehela escape unscathed by the ISB lawsuit saga? Several ISB officers and trustees were deposed and provided sworn statements. Nehela was subpoenaed, but he objected to the subpoenas long enough to avoid being questioned. The lawsuit was withdrawn just before he was finally going to be deposed. Was that a factor in the withdrawal of the lawsuit, what Nehela knows? Are there unseen hands back in Saudi Arabia or Egypt that are directing things at the ISB in Massachusetts? Who are those folks?
I'd recommend that any judge making a determination of whether Nehela can stay here and become a citizen think about Nehela's links to questionable people and a questionable ideology (Ikwhan). Maybe the judge can think about whether having Nehela and the ISB (with their Arabic culture) monopolize all the area Islamic organizations is a good thing. And I hope the judge considers the "unknown unknowns" about Mr. Nehela, before they bite us in the butt.
More questions were posed for Sheikh Nehela at this blog about a year ago. We never did hear back on any of those questions.