‘Pro-Israel’ congressman secures $1 million in federal funds for pro-Hamas group

The grant is one of the largest federal grants ever made to an American mosque.

By Sam Westrop, Middle East Institute

New York Congressman Ritchie Torres has defended his decision to secure over $1 million of federal funding for a hardline Islamist organization in the Bronx whose officials openly support Hamas and the October 7 attacks.

Torres is known to be a pro-Israel Democrat and recently made a solidarity visit to Israel, in which he was warmly welcomed by Israeli citizens and officials.

He said that on his trip we was treated like a celebrity.

“It’s unusual for me to have people ask for my autograph without mistaking me, without thinking that I’m someone other than myself,” Torres told the New York Jewish Week.

However, in late March, Torres’ office confirmed that he had successfully ensured $1,050,000 from the taxpayer would be provided to the Bronx Muslim Center, a branch of the deeply controversial Muslim American Society (MAS).

In 2019, congressional colleagues of Rep. Torres called for an investigation into the MAS after its Philadelphia branch hosted an event in which children sang about torturing and beheading Jews, to widespread media condemnation.

Today, MAS and its Bronx Muslim Center (BMC) are closely aligned with pro-Hamas causes.

Read  2 Democratic Party lawmakers call for resignation of Columbia president over antisemitic protests

In Arabic posts on his social media, the BMC imam, Hamud Alsilwi, disseminates praise for Hamas founder Ahmad Yassin for “making the Jews sleepless in Palestine.”

He advocates stoning adulterers to death, and has disseminated text urging his followers to be “glad” that fighting in the Middle East “stirs jihad in the souls of Muslims, which terrifies the West.”

Alsilwi is openly aligned with the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, and spreads hateful conspiracy theories about Shia Muslims secretly working on behalf of Israel, in alliance with Jews and Christians, to undermine and kill Sunni Muslims.

Meanwhile, BMC official Akram Omar has shared Hamas-produced propaganda on his social media. On October 7, he re-posted praise for the October 7 attacks, featuring video of cheering crowds.

BMC Official Akram Omar reposts praise of the October 7 attacks

Omar also lionizes the Palestinian “resistance” and denounces Muslims who criticize Hamas.

In speeches given to crowds at the BMC, Omar promises that Palestinians are “willing to die” to defeat the “terrorist group Israel.

BMC Official Akram Omar re-publishes Hamas propaganda

Meanwhile, the BMC has emerged as a key institution amid increasingly radical anti-Israel protests across the United States.

Social media posts by BMC have urged its followers to engage in the large scale anti-Israel protests and efforts to “disrupt” American cities and infrastructure.

Read  2 Democratic Party lawmakers call for resignation of Columbia president over antisemitic protests

BMC social media posts also openly support Palestinian efforts towards “victory” and “liberation.”

The center has repeatedly collaborated with American Muslims for Palestine (AMP), which lawmakers in both parties, including close colleagues of Torres, accused of serving as a leading advocate for Hamas.

Indeed, BMC recruits activists for AMP rallies, promotes AMP press conferences, and advocates AMP’s BDS initiatives.

Previously, BMC’s social media accounts have also posted footage, noticed by the Investigative Project on Terrorism, of senior Hamas leaders Ismail Haniyeh and Khaled Meshaal at the funeral of the late Muslim Brotherhood spiritual guide and internationally infamous cleric, Yusuf Al-Qaradawi.

As for the BMC’s parent organization, the Muslim American Society, federal prosecutors have described it as “the overt arm of the Muslim Brotherhood in the United States.”

NYC law enforcement have previously expressed concerns about the Bronx Muslim Center and its parent organization.

A 2006 NYPD reports: “NYPD source reporting indicates that individuals believed to be supporters/members of Hamas may have links to the Bronx Muslim Center …”

The awarded $1 million is to be provided through the federal government’s Community Development Block Grant, following a request by Representative Torres first issued in March 2023.

The grant is one of the largest federal grants ever made to an American mosque.

Read  2 Democratic Party lawmakers call for resignation of Columbia president over antisemitic protests

It is by far the largest grant received by a domestic institution of the Muslim Brotherhood in the United States.

Despite ostensible blocks on government monies benefiting religious activities, Congressman Torres has confirmed that the money is for the construction of the “Bronx Muslim Center so that more Muslim residents of the Bronx have a place to worship freely.”

FWI reached out to Representative Torres’ office for comment.

In response, the congressman published, before this article was even released, a Twitter post inexplicably denouncing this publication as “far-Right,” referring to the BMC as a community “fixture,” denying the anti-Semitism and pro-terror rhetoric of MAS, and, most curiously, admitting the federal funding was to be used for religious activities.

Representative Torres has a long history of collaboration with the Bronx Muslim Center, including attending events and photo opportunities with MAS officials, both before and after he became a member of Congress.

The congressman’s collaboration with dangerous radical forces in New York may well come as a shock to some of his backers, given the significant praise in the pro-Israel community for Torres’ steadfast support for Israel and his frequent denunciations of anti-Semitism.

Representative Torres must address this contradiction.