ADL's Interfaith Summer Camp Infiltrated by Supporters of Al Qaeda Terrorist
How would you feel if you sent your son or daughter to an Anti-Defamation League summer camp only to find out that the camp’s youth coordinators are supporters of a convicted Al Qaeda terrorist?
Brothers Bilal and Ammaar Mirza have been involved with Anti-Defamation League’s (ADL’s) Camp Interfaith in beautiful Andover, New Hampshire since they were teenagers, first as campers and then as staffers. Yet at the very same time, they have also been active in a Boston area extremist Islamist movement that is viciously anti-American and tinged with anti-Semitism, a movement that has coalesced around the cause of a local jihadist celebrity, Tarek Mehanna.
Tarek Mehanna, a Sudbury native, is currently serving a 23 year sentence in Federal prison for conspiracy to provide material support to Al Qaeda, conspiracy to murder in a foreign country, and lying to the FBI about his attempts to join up with Al Qaeda in Yemen. Tarek Mehanna liked to refer to himself as “the media wing of Al Qaeda in Iraq” and told his friends that he felt Osama Bin Laden was like a father to him. He and his co-conspirators had visited the 9/11 Ground Zero site in NYC, where he snapped photos of himself grinning and holding up the index finger salute used by Islamic extremists.
In recorded conversations, he said he wished “Allah’s mercy on just the [World Trade Center] buildings, not the sinners that were in it.”
According to the FBI, Mehanna had planned an assault rifle massacre of shoppers in North Attleboro’s Emerald Square Mall. An FBI agent assigned to his case recounted in court filings how “Mehanna and his coconspirators, who shared videos and took real pleasure in the deaths of American servicemen, seemed to delight in the most horrific atrocities.” The Feds intercepted online conversations in which Mehanna gleefully urges his friends to check out a terrorist video he found online where Al Qaeda fighters in Iraq rip open the ribcages of US soldiers, pour gasoline in their chest cavities and set them on fire. “[N]ice juicy BBQ,” Mehanna gloated to his friends. “Texas BBQ is the way to go. I want more BBQ sauce videos.”
Throughout the course of his trial, Americans for Peace and Tolerance (our organization) identified and filmed ADL youth programs coordinators Bilal and Ammaar – as well as their father Farooq – taking active part in multiple rallies organized by the so-called “Free Tarek” movement. We have also extensively documented the vicious anti-American rhetoric from speaker after speaker at these gatherings, as well as hateful anti-Semitic online postings like “Close Guantanamo Bay, Reopen Auschwitz,” by members of the group. Mehanna’s admirers also include people who do more than cheer him on: A prayer card in support of Mehanna was found in the apartment of the Boston Marathon bombers.
Here is Bilal Mirza at a rally outside Moakley courthouse during Tarek Mehanna’s bail hearing:
Here is his father, leaving the Moakley Courthouse with the entire Mehanna family after Tarek Mehanna’s first court date:
Here are Bilal and Ammaar at a rally on the Boston Common held in protest of Mehanna’s conviction just six months before they were dispatched by the ADL to work with Jewish and Muslim children:
They’re chanting “Free Tarek” with the rest of the extremist crowd, riled up by Mehanna’s family members and the leader of the Boston Marathon bombers’ mosque, who told the assembled Muslims that they’ll be the next victims of the wicked American government if they don’t do something about it.
But ADL youth program coordinator Bilal Mirza told the Boston Herald that, “he’s known Mehanna for years and looks up to him,” saying, “He’s always been a great mentor.” Here is what Bilal wrote about Mehanna while calling for his release:
“Tariq [sic] is a great, humble, and gentle person. His actions, mannerisms, as well as his overall demeanor exude the qualities of intrinsic humanity. He is not only a [sic] honest Muslim, but also and endearing human being. … He does not deserve the things that are happening to him.”
Inexplicably then, the ADL hired a man who considers someone who gloats over the vicious mutilation of American troops and the murder of 3,000 Americans on 9/11 “an endearing human being” who “exude[s] the qualities of intrinsic humanity.” And ADL hired him to work with and influence children entrusted to its care, If having his moral views doesn’t disqualify Bilal from becoming an ADL youth camp staffer, what would?
Bilal and Ammaar are not just random young men who happened to work summers at ADL’s camp: our research indicates that the entire Mirza family is as close to the ADL as it is to the Mehanna clan.
In fact, young Bilal and his father Farooq Mirza were prominently honored at the ADL’s 2013 Nation of Immigrants Seder. Farooq was given the honor of being a co-chair of the event together with such notables as former Boston Mayor Tom Menino and Newton Mayor Setti Warren.
Bilal Mirza was a member of the ADL Seder’s planning committee. ADL New England’s Executive Director Robert Trestan personally introduced Bilal at the podium and asked “those of you who came here with children, those of you who have kids at home” to consider sending them to the interfaith summer camp for some quality time with Bilal. After taking the podium, Bilal proceeded to quote a Quranic verse traditionally interpreted as rebuking Jews for deviating from divine truth.
Bilal seems to be advancing at ADL. In August 2013, he worked with the organization to expand the summer camp program into a year-long program called “ADL Interfaith Youth Leadership Coalition.” The launch was held at Babson College, where Bilal is the campus Muslim chaplain. Northeastern University had to dismiss its own Muslim chaplain, Abdullah Faaruuq, after our organization exposed his own support of Tarek Mehanna. But given the “Jewish stamp of approval” provided him by the ADL, it’s no surprise to see Bilal remain in his perch at Babson and rise to such positions of influence where he can spread his views to New England’s Muslim youth.
As highly regarded as they are by ADL, Bilal and Farooq Mirza also seem much esteemed by the notorious Saudi-funded and Al Qaeda terrorist-founded Islamic Society of Boston (ISB). Farooq Mirza was given a place of honor right next to former Boston Mayor Menino at the ISB’s Roxbury mosque grand opening in 2009.
Bilal Mirza seems close with the Imam of ISB Cambridge, where the Boston Marathon bombers prayed and, according to the FBI, posed for pictures with the mosque’s Al Qaeda “black flag of jihad.”
ADL New England’s Board Chair Jeff Robbins is rumored to be the replacement of ADL’s national head, Abe Foxman, when Foxman retires in late July. Before he became an ADL official, however, Robbins was so deeply concerned about the Islamic Society of Boston’s terrorist connections that he drafted a memorandum to the Federal Justice Department outlining “crimes that may have been committed by the ISB or by officers of the ISB.” In the memorandum, Robbins accused the ISB’s leaders of “Providing Material Support to Foreign Terrorist Organizations.” But now as an ADL official bound by Foxman’s interfaith policies, Robbins honors some of the ISB’s most prominent activists and allows them to live with and supervise Jewish children, whose parents trust the ADL to inculcate them with proper values, and to keep them safe.
So what actually goes on at ADL’s Camp Interfaith? This quote from a 2006 Boston Globe puff piece about the camp comes from a teenage Jewish girl: “Even if we're discussing whether Hezbollah is a terrorist group," she said, ``afterward we can still be friends and go play soccer." Does ADL really want to teach American Jewish teens that they can be friends with Muslims here only if they betray the Jews of Israel?
Even more concerning: what are ADL’s radical Muslim staffers teaching New England’s young Muslims at this camp? Bilal Mirza is himself an anti-Israel ideologue. The year after he first started working at ADL’s Camp Interfaith, Bilal uploaded an album of pictures from his trip to Gaza to his Facebook profile. The album was titled: “If you support Israel, look at the destruction you support.”
These are not the kinds of things that ADL advertises when it sends out the fundraising letters that annually help it net close to $50 million of precious Jewish communal capital. When Bubbe sends that donation check believing ADL’s promises to fight the anti-Semitism and anti-Israelism her grandchildren face on campus, little does she know that ADL is using her hard-earned retirement savings to bring anti-Semites and Israel haters literally into its own tents, giving them career-boosting cover in the process.
Has ADL’s leadership become so arrogant and doctrinaire leftist that it refuses to do minimal checking of its Muslim interfaith partners? Or is it so incompetent that it can’t use Google to do the sort of simple vetting of job applicants that McDonald’s does routinely?
Until ADL breaks its ties with terrorist supporters like the Mirzas and does a thorough audit of its vetting process for interfaith partners, Jewish children who attend its interfaith camp will continue being exposed to interpersonal “peace-making” scenarios where they can hear from ADL staffers that Hizbullah may not really be a terrorist organization – no matter its expressed mission to murder all Jews.
They will continue being exposed to “youth coordinators” like Bilal Mirza, who have claimed that if Jewish kids support Israel, they support destroying Palestinian kids’ homes.
But even more concerning is that if ADL does not correct its faulty vetting policy, Muslim children in New England will be exposed to extremists like Bilal, who claim that an Al Qaeda terrorist is actually an honest Muslim who is simply a victim of the evil American government.
We were in fact first warned about the Mirzas by moderate Boston Muslims concerned about the radicals within their community. And they – the true moderates we should all be befriending – are deeply upset by how groups like the ADL simple-mindedly expose their children to Islamic extremists under the guise of interfaith dialogue. Does the ADL have no relations with the truly moderate, patriotic members of the Muslim community in New England?
Interfaith work is extremely important in these volatile times. It needs to be done well by competent professionals. Jewish and Muslim parents in New England should demand no less. ADL must conduct a thorough of how this happened, explain to the community what went wrong, dissociate itself entirely from the Mirza family and put its Interfaith Youth Leadership Coalition on hold until it can guarantee that Jewish and Muslim children are safe in its care.
Meanwhile, it is clear to us: ADL’s leaders have deserted their organization’s mission, its members, and its donors. It’s time for its donors to tell them "enough."
Ilya Feoktistov and Charles Jacobs are Research Director and President of Americans for Peace and Tolerance.