Thursday, August 11, 2005


Another Month, Another Lodi Al-Qaida Update

Or is it al-Qaida, as I spelled it last time?

Or maybe Al Qaeda, the way I spelled it the time before?

A couple of angles this time. First, as you may have heard, courtroom proceedings are continuing. The trial date of August 23 have been postponed to allow prosecutors time to further prepare their case:

U.S. District Judge Garland E. Burrell Jr. decided Friday to push back the trial date at least two months. The trial originally was scheduled for Aug. 23. Burrell cited the "voluminous documents" the government still needs to collect and review from 40 federal, state and local agencies, including those from the intelligence community.

That's a lot of agencies. And it turns out that the investigation was going on much longer than I had remembered, apparently at least as far back as August 2002, according to one report. Or maybe just since May 2005. A possible explanation for the confusion:

Patty Pontello, spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney's Office, said the government actually was investigating another individual from Lodi for more than two years.

She declined to comment further on the other individual but reiterated that the government started to focus its attention on the Hayats in May.

The Hayats, father and son, are part of the Lodi cell that's been in the headlines. Also involved is Shabbir Ahmed. His ties to Al-Qaida, and his possible plans in this country, were discussed in court proceedings on his current, and only charges so far, of overstaying his visa:

"Do I believe he is planning a terror attack?" FBI agent Gary Schaaf said. "That's some of the information that has been provided to us."

And what sort of information has been provided? Well Ahmed had been involved in the beginning steps of setting up a terror training camp in the Lodi area and was a middle man for communicating orders from Bin Laden. Read on:

According to the FBI, bin Laden would give orders to Taliban commander Jala Luddin Hoqqani, who would pass them on to Muhammed Adil Khan, another Lodi imam who is also in custody on visa violations.

Adil Khan would then tell Ahmed, his protege and head of the Lodi mosque, whose membership included Umer Hayat and his son Hamid Hayat, Pakistanis who face terror-related charges.

Hamid Hayat has said that his attack orders would have come from Ahmed. But how does one go about finding the sorts of people who might be willing to attend a camp and carry out these attacks? One option is to create a madrassa, an Islamic school that, perhaps brainwashing is too harsh a term, but madrassas teach and promote a harsh and extreme form of Islam. These sorts of schools in countries like Pakistan, at which both Khan and Ahmed have worked, have turned out terrorists. The school in Pakistan? The Jamai Farooqia school. The proposed school in Lodi (for which seven acres of land have been purchased, but construction has not begun)? The Farooqia Islamic Center. Perhaps not the best name choice.

However, according to Nasim Khan (apparently no relation to Adil Khan above), the Lodi mosque has had plans for opening the school and community center for more than ten years. Funds have been raised locally, and Adil Khan was brought on board when it was thought he could help fundraising efforts beyond the local area. Nasim Khan notes that the money for the land was raised locally. The Farooqia Islamic Center would primarily serve people from Lodi, Stockton, and Sacramento. The center would not just function as a school. Nasim Khan was asked about his vision of the center:

Nasim Khan: A regular, secular school with Islamic values and an American curriculum. ... We had a vision that we would have a school where children could come to be safe, and it would be open to everybody. We envision it as a program center, a community center where we'd have free clinics, elderly (services) and a regular school.

We're responsible, law-abiding citizens, and we want to do something positive for our community-- that's the image we need to get out there.

And he continued:

This is not Adil Khan's or Shabbir Ahmed's project -- this is a community project. Adil Khan was involved because we thought he was a person who could go out and have this project completed. ... We'd been working on this long before Adil Khan came. (Now) we have to find a way to go ahead and somehow achieve this.

And a little more about the name of the school, from both Nasim Khan and Shujah Khan:

Q: What associations does the project planned for Lodi have to the conservative teachings of the Jamai Farooqia school in Pakistan, run by Adil Khan's father?

Shujah Khan: Lodi people, they did not know what is Farooqia Islamic Center in Karachi. We just wanted a school here.

Nasim Khan: We don't carry connections with anything abroad. The school is not a madrassah, like it's being portrayed -- it's a regular school. ... The name was established way before anything negative came out about (Farooqia). ... The project is not even off the ground yet. Let it be built and function, then scrutinize it.

Q: Should Farooqia leaders consider changing the name of the school to avoid speculation of ties to the Pakistani school of the same name?

Shujah Khan: That Farooqia Islamic Center (in Pakistan) previously produced people who went against the United States, it would be a legitimate call to change the name.

Seems pretty reasonable. Nasim Khan is a board member and Shujah Khan is former Vice President of the Lodi mosque. This school seems destined to be scrutinized before it can be built and function. If it is even built in the first place. Turns out an appeal against the building permit will be heard at the San Joaquin County Board of Supervisors meeting on September 27.

Some local residents have complained about potential noise and traffic difficulties, and a family building a home on property adjacent to the center site have privacy concerns as well. Howard Seligman, the attorney for the family who has filed the appeal says it is a land use issue, and not motivated by politics or fears about the Muslim community. At least some county representatives agree that it is a land use question, and that that is how the issue should be decided:

San Joaquin County Supervisor Jack Sieglock said he's received many calls from local residents about the school being built in the area, ranging from traffic and noise to conflicts within the Muslim community.

"There are a lot of issues to grapple with here," Sieglock said, "but you have to look at this as a land use decision."

That's the response Planning Commissioners gave on July 22, when they voted 3-1 to approve the center's permit to break ground on the property. That decision came less than one year after Farooqia leaders first approached the County Planning Commission for a land use permit in September 2004.

The information above has been drawn from several sources:

Trial date information and Patty Pontello from The Stockton Record.

Info on the Farooqia Islamic Center in Lodi from The Lodi News-Sentinel here (interview) and here (planning commission). News-Sentinel reporter Sara Cardine conducted the interview and wrote the planning commission piece. Thanks Sara! She can be reached at

And finally, the bin Laden connection info came from this Fox News report here.

Roger Simon has been very good to me on these Lodi Cell reports. I don't mean to presume his link, but he's so darn fast with it, and I'm so darn slow checking in here, half of you have come and gone before I can say thanks. If you haven't come here from there, go check him out. And if you did come here from there, thanks for stopping by! It's always nice to be Simonized.
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