The website for Masjid Omar Ibn El Khattab, just a mile from the Ohio State University campus, proclaims itself "the Muslim Heart of Columbus." And yet the mosque, described as one of the most ideologically hardline in the city, has grabbed the media spotlight once again: former attendees were recently reported as having joined the Islamic State (ISIS) in Syria.
As mosque officials struggle to distance themselves from yet another resident terror cell, the recent news raises questions about the extensive history of this Ohio mosque as a turnstile for terrorism.
Just a few [months] ago, I reported here at PJ Media that three individuals who lived just yards from Masjid Omar for two years joined ISIS in Syria in July 2014. Rasel Raihan was killed in Syria in a U.S. airstrike. His older sister Zakia Nasrin and her husband Jaffrey Khan are still in Raqqa, according to internal ISIS documents which NBC News obtained from an ISIS defector.
In that NBC News report, the mosque's president, Basil Gohar, tried to distance the trio from the mosque. He said that Jaffrey, despite living so close to the mosque for two years, had only attended the mosque for a few weeks and had kept to himself.
Gohar's claims about these individuals -- and particularly his claims about the prior al-Qaeda cell that was centered around the mosque -- are flatly dishonest.
When one of the previous Columbus al-Qaeda cell members, Christopher Paul, pleaded guilty to conspiring to use weapons of mass destruction against Americans, Basil Gohar publicly rose to the defense of the longtime al-Qaeda operative and his associates. He defended their innocence and prayed that their imprisonment elevated their place in paradise.
When Paul was arrested in April 2007, the Justice Department noted -- in press statements and in federal court filings -- that the al-Qaeda operative was conducting training INSIDE THE MOSQUE: