Syrian Imam’s Anti-Gay Rhetoric Not a Disqualification for U.S. Visa

Sheikh Mohammad Rateb al-Nabulsi was issued a visa for a 17-city tour of US mosques to raise money and support for the Syrian uprising. He arrived New Year’s Day.

The radical Syrian cleric has made no secret of his virulent anti-gay views. Appearing April 28, 2011, on al Aqsa TV, the official network of the Hamas terrorist organization in Gaza, al-Nabulsi said: “Homosexuality involves a filthy place and does not generate offspring. Homosexuality leads to the destruction of the homosexual. That is why, brothers, homosexuality carries the death penalty.”

The radical’s remarks were translated into English and widely distributed in the diplomatic and intelligence communities. The independent Middle East Media Research Institute, MEMRI, translated a 2¹/₂-minute segment from the speech, in which al-Nabulsi explained with clear contempt the spread of homosexual practices in Western countries.

In addition to his anti-gay pronouncements, Sheikh al-Nabulsi has publicly endorsed holy war against Westerners and Jews as well as suicide bombings against Israel, America’s democratic ally in the region.

“All the Jewish people are combatants,” he said in a religious edict that appeared in Arabic on his personal website.

“[The Israelis] do not have a regular army; they have a reserve army, and all the people can fight, so this is essentially an entirely aggressive entity from A to Z. This is the Sharia ruling.”

“The enemy . . . says ‘suicide operations’ to deceive Muslims, that this is suicide, but we should call them ‘martyrdom operations,’ ” he said.

The Muslim leader came to the United States for a fundraising tour for a newly formed coalition of radical Islamist militias fighting Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad. The Syrian civil war has cost more than 100,000 civilian lives, according to United Nations’ estimates.

The cleric’s tour was sponsored by the Syrian American Council and Shaam Relief, groups that are spearheading a massive lobbying campaign to convince Congress to support an anti-Assad alliance of Islamist groups, some of them with reported ties to al Qaeda.

During his month-long tour, al-Nabulsi spoke in Arabic to audiences from coast to coast. His appearances, heavily promoted on Facebook, began in Spring Hill, Fla., on Jan. 1 and included a stop in Jersey City. There are no publicly available records of how much money he raised.

The Syrian American Council submitted al-Nabulsi’s visa request to the State Department’s Syria desk. A Department official told the American Media Institute that all visa requests, especially for individuals from countries on the State Department’s list of state sponsors of terrorism, get scrutinized.

“Every visa applicant undergoes a screening to detect connections to terrorism, and that includes inputs from multiple federal partners,” the official said.

Asked whether al-Nabulsi’s televised remarks calling for killing homosexuals and Jews should have banned him from travel to America, a second State Department official, specializing in visa requests, pointed to Section 212(a)(3) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, which covers a broad range of terrorist-related activity, including promoting the use of violence and incitement. Nonetheless, the visa was issued.

“Under current policy, a foreign national applying for a US visa who is known to have promoted jihad and suicide bombings would be ordinarily deemed ‘undesirable’ and denied a visa,” according to a report from the Investigative Project on Terrorism, a Washington, DC-based group founded by investigative reporter Steven Emerson.

After the Investigative Project on Terrorism published translations of these and other comments from his website, al-Nabulsi issued a statement on Jan. 18, denying that he promoted the killing of civilians.

“It is not permitted to kill civilians, non-combatants, using any method, regardless of their national, ethnic or religious background,” he said in a statement distributed by the Syrian American Council.

Both State Department officials contacted by the American Media Institute regarding al-Nabulsi’s visa referred to his retraction and suggested that “false reporting” was responsible for the furor over his visa.

Within days of AMI’s contact with the State Department, al-Nabulsi removed the reference to killing Jewish civilians from his website.

“They say one thing in Arabic and another in English,” Emerson said. “Deception is part of the arsenal of war, and these guys have perfected deception to an art. They know how to play America and our vulnerabilities so their disinformation is accepted as the truth.”

Or chances are the Obama administration simply wants to look the other way. To avoid offending Muslims, they ignore hate speech.

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