President and First Lady Bill and Hillary Clinton enjoyed a friendly relationship in office with the chairman of a mosque that counted 9/11 hijackers as worshippers and invited controversial Muslim Brotherhood-linked television preacher Yusuf al-Qaradawi in for a meeting.
The Daily Caller recently reported that Bill Clinton sent a handwritten note on official stationery in March 2000 to Bassam Erstwani, the chairman of the board of the Dar Al-Hijrah Mosque in Falls Church, Virginia, in response to a letter from the chairman. Clinton’s note was released as part of a document dump by the Clinton presidential library.
The note was marked “THE PRESIDENT HAS SEEN 3-10-00.”
“I’m interested in all these suggestions. Let’s follow up,” Clinton said in the note, in which he also said that it would be good to have support from Muslims. Clinton signed the note “Bill.”
The Dar Al-Hjrah Mosque was visited by FBI agents after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks after it was discovered that 9/11 hijackers had worshipped at the mosque. Former Dar Al-Hijrah imam Mohammed Al Hanooti was named an unindicted co-conspirator in the 1993 World Trade Center attack by a U.S. attorney.
Leaked photographs published by the terrorism watchdog website Shoebat.com reveal that Estwani met with Yusuf al-Qaradawi — who was banned from entering the United States in 1999 for supporting terrorism — inside the Dar Al-Hijrah mosque.
“Our brothers in Hamas, in Palestine, the Islamic resistance, the Islamic Jihad, after all the rest have given up and despaired, the movement of the Jihad brings us back to our faith,” al-Qaradawi said in a 1995 speech in Toledo, Ohio before he was banned from the country.
On the topic of suicide bombings, al-Qaradawi said in April 2001, “They are not suicide operations…These are heroic martyrdom operations.” Al-Qaradawi’s television program on the al-Jazeera network has made him one of the most iconic and controversial Muslim scholars in the post-9/11 world.
Meanwhile, Bassam Erstwani made multiple White House visits during the Clinton presidency and was photographed both shaking hands with President Clinton in the Oval Office and also smiling next to Hillary Clinton at a White House event.
At some point after Clinton wrote the note and Erstwani visited the White House, Clinton White House official Maureen Shea sent an email to a colleague acknowledging concerns about Dar Al-Hijrah.
“He should be addressed as Imam Estwani – you know the language you use for such things, but we really would advise against the President going to that mosque so don’t want to get his hopes up – if the President is going to do a mosque visit we would prefer it in one of the longer-established Muslim American communities – and we really aren’t going to try to get him in for a one-on-one with the President,” Shea wrote.
The Dar Al-Hijrah mosque’s imam from January 2001 to April 2002 was Anwar Al-Awlaki, a senior al-Qaeda recruiter linked to a handful of high-profile terrorists. U.S. officials stated that Al-Awlaki preached to three of the 9/11 hijackers while he was imam of the Falls Church mosque, and was also linked to the Fort Hood shooter.
Al-Awlaki left the United States for Yemen in 2002 and was killed in a September 2011 drone strike commanded by the CIA.