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Jewish center to host imam who defended al-Qaeda medic and justified call for Israel’s destruction

Jewish center to host imam who defended al-Qaeda medic and justified call for Israel’s destruction
A prominent Jewish cultural center in New York is taking the unusual step of hosting an imam who once justified calls for Israel’s destruction and defended an al-Qaeda medic.

The 92Y cultural center has invited Imam Al-Hajj Talib Abdur-Rashid, of New York’s Mosque of Islamic Brotherhood, to a virtual conference where he will discuss how society can move past the shared hardships of “recent events” with Rabbi Peter Rubinstein of New York’s Central Synagogue. 

The event’s description does not detail which “recent events” it was referring to, though Abdur-Rashid has been critical of Muslims cooperating with the US government and law enforcement, in particular the NYPD, and New York has been a flashpoint for violence in the wake of George Floyd’s death in the custody of Minneapolis police.  

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In 2006, Abdur-Rashid reportedly defended former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s call for Israel’s destruction, claiming it was a “sentiment born of the legitimate anger, frustration and bitterness that is felt in many parts of the Muslim world.”

However, the imam did previously refer to the Holocaust as “one of the great tragedies of humanity, along with slavery, Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Bosnia and Rwanda.” 

Among the Abdur-Rashid’s other controversial pronouncements was his 2005 defense of Rafiq Sabir, an American doctor who agreed to work as a medic for al-Qaeda. “Dr Sabir was well-known here in Harlem and known, really, as a humanitarian physician,” Abdur-Rashid said. Sabir was convicted of supporting terrorism and subsequently sentenced to 25 years in prison.

The imam also twice visited the White House during the Obama administration. The unusual inter-faith event will take place on Thursday.

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