Leader of new U.S. Muslim party once jailed by Chris Christie
vows to be ‘game-changing force’ in 2016 elections
One of the leaders of a new Islamic political party promising to be a “game-changing force” in the 2016 elections was arrested and jailed by former U.S. Attorney Chris Christie, who happens to be a GOP frontrunner in the 2016 race for the White House.
Mazen M. Mokhtar is a founding member of the U.S. Council of Muslim Organizations, or USCMO, recently created to marshal together Islamic groups and throw their weight behind U.S. elections while grooming Muslim candidates for office.
Wearing a business suit and eyeglasses, the mild-mannered Mokhtar didn’t look or act like a dangerous man when he appeared with other Muslim leaders to launch the USCMO at a Washington press conference earlier this year.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie
However, a search of federal court records reveals he is the same person who in 2007 was handcuffed and shackled at his ankles by FBI agents investigating him for ties to an al-Qaida terrorist in Britain who was convicted of plotting to blow up U.S. landmarks and warships.
According to a federal affidavit, the Egyptian-born Mokhtar operated a website identified by the FBI and Homeland Security as soliciting funds for the Taliban and al-Qaida terrorists and recruiting Muslims to kill U.S. troops in Afghanistan. It’s an exact replica of websites operated by Babar Ahmad, a British computer engineer who was arrested in England then extradited to New York and sentenced earlier this year to more than 12 years in prison.
Federal prosecutors say Ahmad is the godfather of Internet jihad. He is also the cousin of Muhammad Naeem Noor Khan, an al-Qaida suspect from Pakistan whose computers contained detailed surveillance of five financial buildings in New York City; Newark, New Jersey; and Washington, D.C.
The affidavit says copies of Ahmad’s Azzam Publications sites were found on the hard drives and files of computers seized from the New Jersey home of USCMO’s Mokhtar, who federal investigators say “worked in concert” with Ahmad. Azzam Publications and its corresponding websites were named after al-Qaida founder Abdullah Azzam.
The mirror sites operated by Mokhtar – minna.com and qoqaz.net – published Osama bin Laden’s “Declaration of War Against the Americans Occupying the Land of the Two Holy Places” and encouraged Muslims to martyr themselves in terrorist attacks against America, according to the affidavit.
“The name ‘suicide operations’ used by some is inaccurate, and in fact this name was chosen by the Jews to discourage people from such endeavors,” according to the al-Qaida websites run by Mokhtar. “How great is the difference between one who commits suicide – because of his unhappiness, lack of patience and weakness or absence of iman (faith) and has been threatened with Hell-Fire – and between the self-sacrificer who embarks on the operation out of strength of faith and conviction, and to bring victory to Islam, by sacrificing his life for the upliftment of Allah’s word!”
Mokhtar’s mirror sites also described violent jihad as a requirement for Muslims, and advised them to seek “military training” and obtain weapons.
“If you live in (the U.S.),” it advised, “obtain an assault rifle legally, preferably AK-47 or variations, learn how to use it properly and go and practice in the areas allowed for such training.”
Support for Hamas
On an Internet forum, moreover, Mokhtar spoke openly about his support for Hamas, as well as suicide bombings.
“[T]he operations of HAMAS are heroic,” he asserted.
“In any action of mass self-defense, there is the possibility that some innocent people will die,” he added. “I have enough trust in Hamas to feel that no one is killed before being identified as a collaborator.”
Suicide bombings, Mokhtar wrote, are “an effective method of attacking the enemy and continuing jihad. … These are not people committing suicide because they are fed up with life; these are people who are sacrificing their lives for Allah.”
In April 2007, Mokhtar was arrested by FBI agents at his New Jersey home and charged with filing false tax returns. Christie, now New Jersey’s governor, was the U.S. attorney who signed the indictment.
Though on their face the charges involved tax fraud, counter-terrorism agents used them to leverage the jailed Mokhtar for leads in their terrorism investigation of the broader international conspiracy involving Ahmad and other al-Qaida terrorists.
In September 2008, Christie dismissed the tax fraud charges, explaining “further prosecution is not in the interests of the United States at this time.”
In the meantime, federal agents built a criminal case against terrorist mastermind Ahmad leading to his extradition and conviction.
In 2013, just months after federal authorities extradited to the U.S. his alleged co-conspirator Ahmad, Mokhtar was named national executive director of the Muslim American Society, or MAS, which the federal government says is a key U.S. front group for the radical Egypt-based Muslim Brotherhood.
Authorities accuse MAS of running jihad camps for Muslim youth. As head of the group’s New Jersey office, Mokhtar helped run its youth division, the Young Muslim. Young Muslim activities include Jihad and Afterlife camps.
Though an outspoken supporter of Hamas, Mokhtar has denied knowingly providing assistance to any terrorist group. Attempts to reach the senior USCMO official for comment about his checkered past were unsuccessful.
Speaking at USCMO’s March news conference at the National Press Club, Mokhtar said he was helping launch the umbrella Islamist political organization with the Council on American-Islamic Relations, CAIR, and other groups to have “a deep and lasting impact on society” and to “give Muslims a greater voice” in Washington. He also said the group seeks “to empower Muslims.”
The FBI says CAIR is a Hamas front group, and the bureau refuses to do outreach with it or its leaders.