CULVER CITY, CA, 10 September 2006--Late this afternoon, as much of the world
reflected on 9-11, the United American Committee, the Minutemen, and the Coptic
Christians of America stood at the King Fahd Mosque calling out, "You kill
Jews!" before hanging an effigy of Osama bin Laden on a makeshift gallows
in the back of a rented pick up truck.
It was a grotesque, hideous image--a Black man in the U.S. performing a
lynching-in-effigy. On one level it was a bizarre caricature--the lynching
wasn't real, so maybe the Black man, posing for the press and agitating his
predominantly white audience, wasn't real either. At another level, the historical
cascade of violence from whites lynching African-Americans to an
African-American lynching Osama bin Laden--today transformed into a surrogate
for all Muslims--was a breathstopping recollection of scenes from a century ago.
The anti-Muslim groups stood opposite the mosque, on the southwest corner of
Huron and Washington Streets. Counter protestors had secured the area in
front of the mosque before the persecutors - arrogantly flaunting U.S. flags in
an equation of religious intolerance and patriotism - arrived. Both groups
slowly added to their numbers in what would become a tense stand-off as the
adversaries spilled into Huron Street. Heated, near-violent, face-to-face
confrontations erupted, at times quelled only by intrepid Christian and Muslim
clergy people walking between the groups. A single police cruiser and
two vacant cop motorcycles sat placidly fifty yards away, at the 7-11 across the
street, leaving the Muslims and their supporters to protect themselves from the
The United American Committee is headed by Jesse Petrilla, a former UC-Irvine
student who made his mark in college by showing offensive drawings of the
Prophet Muhammad at the university, the same drawings that sparked riots in
Europe. The Black man who hung the effigy, Ted Hayes, himself a member of
UAC, brought a handful of white Minutemen to back him up. The presence of
the Copts, who arranged for the demonstration permit, brought the bloody
Egyptian streetfighting between the minority Coptic Church and Islamic
revivalists to Los Angeles. The anti-immigrant group Save Our State was slated
to appear, but evidently reconsidered.
Against the eighty or so anti-Muslim protestors, stood a hundred and
fifty-member alliance of neighborhood religious groups and those who have been
fighting in the streets against the rising tide of racism and fascism in
Southern California. Hamilton United Methodist Church, the Interfaith
Community United for Justice and Peace, the United University Church at USC,
Culver City Presbyterian Church, the Culver City Interfaith Alliance, the Culver
Palms United Methodist Church, Unity and Diversity World Fellowship, and the
Community Call to Action and Accountability of Bethel AME Church stood in
solidarity and prayer with members of the King Fahd Mosque during the
As they prayed, the zealots on the opposite corner caterwauled "America
One church representative said, "Jesus says 'Love thy
enemies.'" The president of the Culver City Interfaith Alliance added
a quote from George Washington: "We give to bigotry no sanction and to
persecution no assistance." A spokesperson for the group United
University lamented, "What's really sad is that people are learning that
living in fear is the way to live." The representatives of the Unity
and Diversity World Fellowship went to heart of the issue: "Fascism and
ignorance polarizes people," one said.
Meanwhile, other counter protestors chanted, "Brothers, sisters, have no
fear--Muslims are all welcome here." They continued, "Black,
Latino, Arab, Asian, and white; Stop the hate, stop the hate, defend our civil
Shortly after 5:00 p.m., Hayes' pickup truck arrived. A designated
"executioner" climbed into the truck bed, and Hayes covered the
executioner's face in a black executioner's hood. The unidentified man
donned a black bathrobe, and he and Hayes looped the noose dangling from a
makeshift yardarm around the 3/4 size doll, which was dressed in military
fatigues with "Bin Laden" on the pocket and topped with a Bin Laden
mask. They hoisted the figure into the air as their supporters cheered and
gleefully lobbed shoes at the effigy. Hayes finished the ritual by blowing
on what appeared to be a small shofar.
Then Hayes called on the Muslims to denounce Bin Laden and terrorism,
claiming, "We love Muslims," and "Today, the American people have
justice!" A moment later he pointed to two men wearing embroidered
kufis and bellowed, "You are terrorists!" Then he pronounced to
the Muslims gathered a few yards away, "We are here to make you better
Muslims. We believe in freedom."
The counter protestors replied with "No more lynch mobs!" and
"UAC, racist slime--being Muslim is not a crime!"
The King Fahd mosque was first targeted by the Jewish
Defense League. JDL leaders Irv Rubin and Earl Krugel were arrested on
terrorism charges. They had guns, five pounds of explosives, and plans to blow
up not only the mosque but the office of an Arab American Congressman, Darrel
Issa of San Clemente. Krugel allegedly said on tape that Arabs "need
a wakeup call" and the JDL needed to do something to one of their
Woshippers at the King Fahd Mosque were shocked.
"He's as evil as the other evil people who did damage to innocent
lives," one said of Rubin. "The mosque would have been filled with
hundreds of people.
Rubin reportedly killed himself in prison; Krugel was
murdered while in prison, perhaps by neo-Nazis.
The UAC has links through its communications director to
The homegrown terrorists of the UAC chose the mosque because, according to
Commission Report, two of the alleged Twin Tower bombers had "spent
time at the King Fahd mosque and made some acquaintances there" during a
two-week visit in January, 2000--eighteen months before the attack.
The report speculates that the alleged bombers made contact with an imam at
the mosque, Fahad al Thumairy, but concluded that "we have not found
evidence that Thumairy provided assistance to the two operatives."
Thumairy was subsequently expelled from the mosque, and was not permitted to
re-enter the U.S. after a trip to Saudi Arabia.
The director of the mosque, Usman Madha, agreed to an interview before the
demonstration. When asked about the meaning of this protest in Los
Angeles, Madha commented on the UAC, "The protestors should, if they really
care about the United States, become part of America and want peace. They
should remember the people who lost their lives innocently. They should
turn their anger into energy and do something constructive." On
the "fatwa" against demanded by the anti-Muslim protestors, Madha
explained, "A fatwa is not the domain of a religious institution," and
wondered with some anger, "Why are we obliged to give any sort of
statement? Who are they to demand that we do something? A fatwa can
not be given by anybody out there," and he waved his hand derisively.
When asked about being targeted, the director claimed the mosque was the
"wrong target." He said it is "a religious institution, not
involved in politics. It should not be a target. No religious
institution should be. It's hate-mongering."
Madha turned to the question of the alleged bombers' presence at the
mosque. "Any religious institution--a mosque, church, synagogue,
Hindu temple--a person or people can walk in, come and pray and leave, but do
they actually tell the people [at the institution] they are going do
something? People who deliver parcels . . . if they do something wrong,
does that mean the Post Office, a government agency, is responsible?
Somebody could walk in, walk out, and do something crazy. Does that mean
the mosque is responsible?"
"Muslims are part of America. All immigrants, and native Muslims,
our African-American brothers and sisters, are here to build our lives and this
country, not to destroy it. Being here is an immigrant's dream. We
are as patriotic as anybody, we love this country."
Hayes grabbed his bullhorn and intoned, "The judgment of God is upon
you," pointing a long, chilling finger at a Muslim who had debated him.
As the near-battle on the street concluded, one counterprotestor confronted
Hayes, looking directly at him. He said, "I've never seen a Black man
leading a lynch mob before. Let me repeat: I've never seen a Black
man leading a lynch mob before. I've seen overseers. I've seen
Clarence Thomas, I've seen Condi Rice, and I've seen you. You're an
overseer, you're a servant of the white man--Uncle Ted, Uncle Tom."
Hayes quietly thanked the speaker and turned away.
It was nearly 6:00 p.m. when the departing UAC, Minutemen, Copts, and their
supporters were pursued across the street to the vacant lot next to the
7-11. There, they made plans to burn the effigy at dawn Monday morning at
the homeless refuge known as the Dome Village in downtown Los Angeles.