Ignores Homegrown Islamic Terror Trial
Mar 7, 2006
Unbeknownst to most Americans, federal prosecutors opened their case
recently in the terrorism trial of a young American who studied under
two Taliban-tied imams in California and whose grandfather was
Pakistan’s minister of religion in the 1980’s.
The trial of Hamid Hayat, 23, is not taking place in the dark of night
nor in a military tribunal from which the media is barred. It is
in an open California courtroom, the very kind that has been overrun
for trials of the likes of Scott Peterson and O.J. Simpson. Yet
in the month of February, the New York Times had exactly one story on
the alleged terror cell in Lodi, California. The Washington Post
had none. And on the cable news channels, the trial has received
Not that the trial suffers from lack of excitement. Hayat
confessed that he had attended terror training in Pakistan, the video
of which jurors saw last week. An FBI informant who had
befriended the defendant—while wearing a wire—testified that Hayat
would offer praise for “martyrs” and the Taliban, while professing
disgust for America.
Adding further intrigue to the case is the high-profile status of the
defendant’s grandfather, Qari Saeed ur Rehman. The former
minister of religion in Pakistan, Rehman is the founder and still the
head of the Jamia Islamia madrassa, an Islamic school believed to be
Hayat’s mosque in Lodi, California was headed by two imams who appear
to have long, deep ties to the Taliban. The two had intended to
establish an Islamic school in Lodi modeled after one they had run in
Pakistan, which counts among its graduates and teachers many
high-ranking members of the Taliban. Both men were deported last
The most tantalizing tidbit, though, is one not yet addressed at the
trial. Hamid Hayat and his father, Umer, were stopped at Dulles
International Airport as they were preparing to fly to Pakistan in
April 2003. Agents discovered that between them, the father, an
ice cream vendor, and son, a farm hand, had $28,093 in cash. (Any
amount in excess of $10,000 must be declared.) Most of the money
was confiscated, though neither was arrested. Yet the mystery
remains: how did two menial laborers stumble into that much cash?
Almost none of these details, however, have made their way into the
national media. Local papers have dutifully covered the terrorism
trial, but major outlets in Washington and New York have mostly ignored
While miniscule coverage could be explained away by the fact that only
Hayat is standing trial for attending terrorism training camps (his
father’s trial on lying about his son’s travels starts this week), the
Sacramento Bee last summer reported that authorities now believe that
seven men from the Lodi mosque also traveled to Pakistan for training.
Such a scenario would not be shocking given what is known about the two
now-deported imams, Mohammad Adil Khan and Shabbir Ahmed, both of whom
were imported from Pakistan. Evidence presented at Ahmed’s
deportation hearings (Adil Khan did not challenge his deportation)
indicated that several high-ranking Taliban members were students and
later teachers at the Karachi-based Jamia Farooqia.
The madrassa also apparently also had a fan in bin Laden himself.
Citing classified documents, the Sacramento Bee reported, “Bin Laden,
in a 1998 news conference, counted the scholars of the Farooqia school
among his supporters.”
Ahmed, for his part, admitted to delivering fiery anti-American sermons
in Pakistan in the wake of 9/11, in which he encouraged his followers
to take up arms against the United States. That November, the
Boston Globe quoted Ahmed calling for armed revolution against
Pakistan’s president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf: “Whoever is against Islam,
we will destroy him. If this is rebellion, we are not afraid of
rebellion. Blood is going to be spilled in Pakistan.”
Just months later, Shabbir Ahmed was granted a visa to come the United
Ahmed was recruited to Lodi by his mentor, Adil Khan, because the
latter wanted to be replaced as imam in order to focus his energies on
building an Islamic school modeled after Jamia Farooqia. He came
disturbingly close to realizing his goal. Before the small town
of 60,000 was rocked by the arrests of the imams and three others last
June, Lodi officials had approved development of the new school.
(The approval has since been rescinded, though technically only because
of zoning concerns.)
At least local media outlets in Northern California are covering the
Hayat trial. Imam Ali al-Timimi was convicted last year of
instructing his followers to wage jihad against the United
States. Nine of his followers have been convicted. All this
happened in Northern Virginia, yet the Washington Post ran just a
handful of stories before al-Timimi’s conviction.
Once the guilty verdict was handed down, though, the Post made it a
prominent story—by editorializing on his behalf, arguing that the life
sentence was “too harsh.” The paper’s reasoning? His
followers didn’t wage successful jihad, thus it wasn’t as serious.
Is this the new media barometer, that terrorism is only worth reporting
if it’s successful?