Jihad on the defense team [updated]

Mohamed Farah is one of the ten “Minnesota men” charged with seeking to join ISIS; his case is set for trial along with four others before Judge Michael Davis in federal court in Minneapolis in May. Yesterday Judge Davis entered a somewhat cryptic order. The order states that on March 25 prosecutors notified Farah’s counsel of their “intent to introduce testimony and and evidence at rial in which a member of Mohamed Farah’s defense team, Sheikh Hassan Jami, is referenced by a co‐conspirator apparently preaching about jihad and related topics.”

Based on the notice, Judge Davis has ordered that the prosecutors “file a motion and supporting memoranda to inquire as to whether there are grounds to disqualify counsel Murad M. Mohamud and P. Chinedu Nwaneri and/or Sheikh Hassan Jami before noon” today. The other parties are to file responses. The matter is set for a hearing before Judge Davis on Friday afternoon. The Star Tribune story on Judge Davis’s order and related background is here.

What is going on here? It is not clear to me.

One Farah defense team “member” is the source of the issue. Judge Davis gives his name as Sheikh Hassan Jami. The Star Tribune gives his name as Sheikh Hassan Ali Mohamud Jami. The Sheikh’s home base, the Minnesota Da’wah Institute, gives his name as Imam Hassan “Jaamici” Mohamud. Check out Mohamud’s résumé here. Mohamud was born in Somalia. He memorized the Koran at the age of thirteen. He is an expert in Islamic law. In 2009 the local FOX affiliate found Mohamud advising Muslims to avoid the “hellfire that comes with living in America.”

Mohamud is not listed on Judge Davis’s order as one of Farah’s lawyers. Mohamud is a graduate of William Mitchell College of Law in St. Paul (now Mitchell Hamline College of Law). It is not apparent to me that Mohamud is licensed to practiced law in Minnesota. What is Mohamud doing on Farah’s “defense team”? Nwaneri lists him as a member of his firm here; the Nwaneri firm’s listing does not state that Mohamud is licensed to practice law in the United States.

Mohamud explained to the Star Tribune that jihad is indeed preached in Islam, but it’s not what you think: “We don’t believe jihad is killing civilians. We don’t believe jihad is disrupting the lives of normal people.” Mohamud added: “It is protecting innocent people who are now struggling in Syria, those who are helpless and who [President] Bashar [Assad] is now slaughtering.” Whether or not jihad includes joining ISIS is apparently beyond the limits of the Star Tribune’s curiosity, as is the meaning of the word “innocent” in Mohamud’s lexicon.

The Star Tribune’s story adds an oblique reference to the Countering Violent Extremism program that I wrote about here in the Weekly Standard and here in the Star Tribune: “Last month, Mohamud was uninvited from a behind-the-scenes security tour with about 50 imams and other members of the Muslim community at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport [!]. He has said he believed that action came in response to his critiques of Minnesota’s federal pilot project aimed at stemming terror recruitment.” In a long article on the CVE program, the Guardian quotes Mohamud: “For the US attorney’s office, the office that’s supposed to prosecute people, to join social service initiatives, that creates a lot of suspicion among the community.”

The Star Tribune story refers to a behind the scenes airport security tour for local members of the Muslim community. Reading the story, my printable reaction is you’ve got to be kidding me. The tour is another one of the many loose ends related to the case. This morning I sent the Metropolitan Airports Commission a request for information regarding the tour. I’m sure those of us who frequent the Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport would find it of interest. The tour, however, is also apparently beyond the limits of the Star Tribune’s curiosity.

As for the matter involving Imam Hassan “Jaamici” Mohamud pending before Judge Davis, we will have to check back on Friday.

UPDATE: Metropolitan Airports Commission spokesman Patrick Hogan promptly responds: “The MAC was not involved in the tour. It was conducted by federal agencies working at MSP. I’m not sure whether Customs and Border Protection or the Transportation Security Administration was the lead on the tour, but it was a federal event, not a MAC event, so I don’t have details or even know who was invited.” As I say above, you’ve got to be kidding me.