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Context of 'November 21, 2006: Six Muslim Imams Removed from US Airliner'

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Bilal Philips.Bilal Philips. [Source: Lightuponlight.com]Shortly after the end of fighting in the US-led Persian Gulf war against Iraq, the US allows the Saudi government to conduct a massive program to convert US soldiers still stationed in Saudi Arabia (see March 1991) to Islam. Huge tents are erected near the barracks of US troops and Saudi imams lecture the soldiers about Islam and attempt to convert them. Within months, about 1,000 soldiers, and perhaps as many as 3,000, convert to Islam. Some US officials express concern about the aggressive conversion effort and the long term implications it may have, but the program is not stopped. Radical imam Bilal Philips helps lead the conversion effort. He will later explain that a special team of fluent English speakers, some trained in psychology, was amply paid by the Saudi government to convert the soldiers. Converts had their pilgrimages to Islamic holy cities paid for and Muslim imams were assigned to follow up with them when they returned to the US. Philips is openly hostile to the US, saying such things as, “Western culture led by the United States is an enemy of Islam.” He will later note that some of his converts went to fight in Bosnia and others were the subject of terrorism probes in the US. (US Congress, Senate, Committee on the Judiciary 10/14/2003; Mintz and Vistica 11/2/2003) Philips will work with the Saudi government and one of the “Landmarks” bombers to send 14 Muslim ex-US soldiers to fight in Bosnia in 1992 (see December 1992). Listed as an unindicted coconspirator in the 1993 WTC bombing, he will be deported from the US in 2004. (Australian Associated Press 4/4/2007)

Six American Muslim religious leaders (imams) are forced off of a US Airways jetliner soon after boarding. The plane was scheduled to leave around the time of evening prayers and the imams decided to pray off to the side of the gate before boarding. This apparently made some passengers nervous and they reported it to a flight attendant who then, with the captain, asked the six Muslims to leave the plane. When they refused, the police were called and they were led away in handcuffs. (Associated Press 11/21/2006)


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