Pro-Iranian regime network of Islamic Centers in the US

There are a number of Islamic organizations in the US that are tied to the Iranian regime, disseminate its ideology and attempt to generate support for its political agenda. The vast majority of American Muslims follow a moderate Islam and reject extremist views including the Iranian regime’s ideology. Subsequently, Iran’s influence is limited to a very slim portion of US Muslims, predominantly in the Shia community.

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Introduction

In February 1979, Ayatollah Khomeini and a group of clergymen associated to him seized power in Iran. From the outset, Khomeini’s regime utilized all the means and tools at its disposal to establish and fortify its brand of Islamic fundamentalism in Iran a export it throughout the Islamic world.

The American Muslim community has also been targeted by Iran since the Islamic Revolution with the regime’s narrative of “liberating Palestine and eradicating Israel as a symbol of Western presence at the heart of the Islamic world” finding some resonance amongst American Muslims. Moreover, some of the Iranian regime’s high ranking officials were US educated and had previously been very active amongst the leadership of US-Muslim organizations in the US. This position was crucial in facilitating the new regime’s relations with the US-Muslim community. However, the Iranian hostile policies towards the US and the cutting of diplomatic ties between the two countries, limited the Iranian inroad.

In the 1980s, the Iranian regime opened several Islamic Centers and Mosques in the US and begun collaborating with many other existing Islamic institutions across the country. Over the past 37 years, the Iranian regime’s appeal among the US-Muslim community has considerably diminished, largely because of its repressive policies inside Iran and its regional policies which have fuelled sectarian wars in several countries.

There are approximately three and a half million Muslims in America, with Sunnis making up 84% and Shiites 16%. The large majority are moderate Muslims who reject extremist views including the Iranian regime’s ideology. Subsequently, Iran’s influence and support for its political policies are limited to a very slim portion of US Muslims, predominantly in the Shia community.

There are a number of the Islamic organizations in the US that are tied to the Iranian regime, disseminate its ideology and attempt to generate support for its political agenda. For the past three decades, the New York based Alavi Foundation has contributed tens of millions of dollars to the pro-regime Islamic organizations in the US. (See Alavi’s financial reports at the end of this report) Moreover, the pro-regime Iranian-Americans, some of whom have business interests in Iran, provide financial support for the activities of these organizations. In addition to the Islamic Centers and Mosques, the Iranian regime has also launched several initiatives to increase its influence amongst US-Muslims such as the “Muslim Congress” and “Ashura Project”.

The Iranian regime’s activities through its Islamic centers are designed to generate support for its regional policies, extend its influence in the Islamic world, influence US public opinion and potentially affect US policy towards Iran.

This report will be regularly updated and more organizations will be added to the list.

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The Islamic Education Center of Houston

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The Islamic Education Center of Houston (IEC) was founded in the 1980s by a group of Iranian-American Shiites who support the Islamic Republic. The Center serves as a mosque for daily prayer and Friday congregation, and other religious ceremonies. It also operates a full time primary and secondary Islamic school called “Al-Hadi School of Accelerative Learning”.

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Al-Hadi school

IEC’s property belongs to the Iranian regime owned Alavi Foundation. In 2009, the Federal government moved to seize Alavi Foundation’s assets, including the IEC property in Houston. According to a government lawsuit, “the property was purchased in 1988 for $1.1 million and that $285,000 worth of improvements were made on the land between 1997 and 2004.” (See Alavi’s financial reports at the end of this report)

Since 2005, the Houston center has been organizing an annual gathering called “Muslim Congress” that is held in different cities across the US. The 2016 Congress was held in August in Dearborn, Michigan.

IEC holds the annual celebration of the Iranian revolution. Its 2016 ceremony featured a speech by radical and anti-Semite, Imam Mohammad al-Asi. He also spoke during the Center’s 2015 event honouring the anniversary of Imam Khomeini’s death.

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The center’s top imam is Ghulam Hurr Shabbiri. Here he is speaking at the Center’s 2014 event celebrating the anniversary of the Islamic Revolution in Iran. One of the Center’s leading imams is the controversial Imam Hamza Sodagar who also preaches at the Iranian regime’s other Islamic Centers around the world.

One of the Center’s imams is the Iranian cleric Ali Akbar Badiei whom the Iranian press calls the director of the Houston center. Here is Badiei speaking at the Center during the 25th anniversary of Imam Khomein’s death and the 36th anniversary of the Islamic revolution. This is a report by the Iranian press about Badiei’s 2016 speech in Houston to explain the Iranian Supreme Leader’s letter to youth around the world.

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Ali Akbar Badiei

Before coming to the US and directing the Houston Center, Badiei was the director of the pro-Iranian regime Islamic Center of Manchester in England. Badiei travels to Iran regularly to reports his activities to the Iranian authorities and speaks at government sponsored events. This is a report about Badiei’s speech during the 2016 “Islamic unity conference” in Tehran.

The Islamic Center of Houston has been actively participating in the Iranian regime’s sponsored Quds Day rally, designed to fuel anti-Israeli hatred around the globe. The Center’s Imam Hamza Sodagar spoke during the 2015 rally in Houston. The Center organises different political events that are in line with the Iranian regime’s regional policies, for example, the public demonstration against Saudi Arabia. This is the 2016 Ashura procession ceremony by the Houston Center.

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The Islamic Education Center in Maryland

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The Islamic Education Center in Potomac, Maryland is a pro-Iranian regime center founded in 1998. Its property belongs to Iran’s Alavi Foundation. (See Alavi’s financial reports at the end of this report) Furthermore, the Center has received regular donations amounting to almost $2 million since 1995 from the Foundation. The Center is led by its Imam, the Iranian cleric Ahmad Bahreini, and operates a Farsi schoolfor children.

Each year, the Center celebrates the anniversary of the Islamic revolution and the Iranian officials at the Iranian interest section in Washington participate in the event. It also organizes the Iranian New Year celebration, the holy month of Muharram mourning (the death of Imam Hossein), and other religious events.

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The Islamic Institute of New York

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The Islamic Institute of New Yorkis a pro-regime organization that has been funded by the Alavi Foundation, which also owns the Center’s property. Additionally, according to the Alavi Foundation’s tax reports, the Islamic Center has been given more than $1 million in donations. (See Alavi’s financial reports at the end of this report)

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The Center operates the Razi school, an Islamic Pre-Kindergarten through to 12th Grade school.

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Islamic Center of New York holding Ashura march in New York

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Iran ambassador to UN Mohammad Khazaei speaking at the Islamic center of New York

The Center organises religious events and the Ashura Procession march. It celebrates Iranian New Year and anniversary of the Iranian Revolution. The Iranian Ambassador to the UN is a regular speaker at the Center’s events.

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Manassas Islamic Centre in Virginia

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Manassas Mosque in Virginia is a pro-Iranian regime center led by radical and anti-Semite Imam Abulfazl Nahidian. The Mosque operates an Islamic school for children and holds daily prayers. The Mosque’s building was purchased thanks to a donation by Alavi Foundation (See Alavi’s financial reports at the end of this report).

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Abulfazl Nahidian at Manassan Mosque

The Mosque organizes event to honour the founder of the Islamic Republic, the anniversary of his death, religious events and celebration of the Islamic revolution. Here is Nahidian speaking during the Quds Day rally in Washington, DC. Here is radical and anti-Semite, Imam Mohammad Asi, speaking at Manassan Mosque in 2015, honouring the founder of the Islamic revolution.