Sheikh Jamal Said is a Chicago-area imam at the Bridgeview Mosque, also known as The Mosque Foundation, that preaches Wahhabi form of Islam. Jamal was facing federal charges for racketeering along with several alleged Hamas fundraisers, which ended in a mistrial. The fiery cleric once held fundraisers for dead suicide bombers.
Jamal Siad, 60, is a Palestinian immigrant who grew up in the West Bank. During the Arab-Israeli war of 1967, his family moved Jordan, eventually having a house in Amman. He was schooled in Islam at a Saudi Arabian university. He came to Chicago to teach Arabic to African-American Muslims.
Sheikh Jamal Siad is the spiritual leader of the mosque along with Mosque Foundation president Osama Jammal. Of the 50 mosques and 400,000 Muslims in Islamic centers of Chicago, Bridgeview is near the top attracting 10,000 plus worshipers each week, a million dollars a year operation. According to The Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago, most worshipers are of Palestinian descent.
In 1973, the Mosque Foundation and the American-Arabian Ladies Society purchased the plot of land at 7360 W. 93rd St. for $50,000. They settled on Bridgeview, a village just southwest of Chicago would be the future home of mosque. But before the mosque was completed, the Mosque Foundation transferred its title to the North American Islamic Trust, a subsidiary of the Islamic Society of North America. The Islamic trust now owns nearly a third of all mosques and Muslim centers in the United States. In 1981, A pale stone building with its large blue dome was built for $1.3 million. Financing was raised from Kuwaiti donors, the government of Saudi Arabia and religious ministry of the United Arab Emirates.
In 1985, at age 28, Sheik Jamal became prayer leader in Bridgeview.
A plea from Bridgeview to a Saudi charity asked for money "before it becomes too late and we may lose our children because they are living in an unIslamic society." One mosque fundraising brochure warned that Chicago's Muslims were at risk of "melting in the American society, culture and lifestyle."
The Bridgeview mosque has been under federal surveillance for over a decade.
Sermons are in Arabic and claim authentic interpretations of the Koran along with following strict Islamic rule. Jamal Said mixes eloquent sermons with ardent pleas to help oppressed Muslims. As prayer leader, he preached that America was a land of disbelievers, where families were not valued. Some of the sheik's edicts include: don't celebrate Valentine's Day and Thanksgiving because those were not Islamic holidays. Don't listen to contemporary music. Women should not travel long distances without chaperons. Those that criticize mosque leaders to outsiders are "hypocrites"
- Ties to the radical Muslim Brotherhood, founders of Hamas
- Abdullah Azzam, Osama bin Laden's spiritual mentor, visited Bridgeview in the mid-1980s as part of a national tour to recruit supporters for the Afghan war against the Soviet Union. At least three Bridgeview men signed up.
- Raised $50,000 for Palestinian activist Sami Al-Arian, a former University of South Florida professor who is charged with being the U.S. leader of Palestinian Islamic Jihad.
- Jamal raised money at one national Islamic conference by asking people to donate in the memory of a Palestinian suicide bomber, according to the Chicago Tribune.
- The Mosque Foundation was also linked to the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development. Unindicted co-conspirator in America's largest terror prosecution. It was shut down and had its assets frozen by the Federal government on December 4, 2001.
- Fellow mosque leaders, Muhammad Salah, was known for his Palestinian fundraising activities. In 1993, while part of the mosque's eight-member executive committee, Salah was arrested at a Gaza Strip checkpoint and accused of financing Hamas military operations. He was sent to an Israeli prison for five years. Israel officials claim an America religious leader recruited him into the Muslim Brotherhood, which led to his involvement in Hamas.
- In March 2002, the mosque hired a new assistant prayer leader, the man who had run the local office of an Islamic charity, until it was closed by the federal government for alleged terrorism ties.
- In 2004, Khaled Smaili, onetime President and CEO of the now-defunct terror-linked charity KindHearts. He presented the "Mosque of the Year" award to Mosque Foundation President during a fundraising.
- Held board positions with Mazen Asbahi in the Allied Asset Advisors Fund, the subsidiary of the North American Islamic Trust and linked with the Muslim Brotherhood. Mazen has significant influence in the Muslim community, is a Chicago lawyer and was chosen as Barack Obama's Muslim liaison for the campaign. Mazen Asbahi resigned one week after starting due to a question about his ties to Sheikh Jamal Said.
Pre-9/11, the Mosque Foundations and Jamal Said were investigated for supporting Hamas financially. By the late 1990s, federal agents were knocking on doors, trading leads with investigators in other cities and flying to Israel to interview authorities. Agents wanted to investigate the mosque itself, viewing it as a gold mine of information that could help their inquiry into terrorism financing, said Mark Flessner, the former prosecutor who led the investigation. Before the 2001 legislation, intelligence gathered with the special wiretaps could not be used for criminal cases. If prosecutors wanted information on the same targets, they needed to get their own wiretap orders after meeting the higher legal burden of proving there was probable cause to suspect criminal activity. Only after the Sept. 11 attacks did the government's interest in Hamas and mosque leaders materialize.
After the Patriot Act passed shortly after 9-11, prosecutors were granted access to years' worth of surveillance previously unavailable to them. Federal actions led directly to terror-funding schemes and the organizations behind them. It became an expose about a complex web of small businesses and charitable associations accused of funneling money to Palestinian terrorist groups.
In 2007, the federal trial of Jamal Said for racketeering in connection with The Holy Land Foundations, ended in a mistrial.