Wagdi Ghoneim: Unwanted

This is a guest post by habibi.

Egyptian Islamist Wagdi Ghoneim, the singing Jew hater, has chosen bigotry for his life’s work.  Have a look at him way back in 1988, profiled as a rising star in the Islamist firmament by the US consulate in Alexandria, Egypt:

“The message propagated by Ghoneim is bluntly anti-Christian, anti-Jewish, and anti-Western. Observant Muslims are admonished to avoid western clothes, Western music, even to avoid shaking hands with non-Muslims.”

“Ghoneim accuses the government of Egypt of favoring the Christian minority by allowing the building of fifty new churches per year (a figure that would surprise several local priests who cannot even obtain permission to repair, for example, caved-in roofs). Ghoneim also charges that the Copts are using monasteries and convents to hide arms that eventually will be used against Muslims. The increasingly obvious problem of drug abuse is depicted not only as a straying from God’s established rules, but as the result of a Zionist-American conspiracy against the Islamic umma.”

That incitement is typical of Ghoneim, to this day.  He should not wonder why he is unwanted in so many places. 

Let’s recap what the authorities in several countries have made of Mr Ghoneim

Egypt: during Egypt’s turbulent years of vicious Islamist terrorism and brutal state repression, Ghoneim was arrested and imprisoned several times in his home country, like other Muslim Brotherhood leaders.  In the end he chose voluntary exile and has said that he fears arrest should he return to Egypt.

Canada: on his way from America to a lecture tour in Canada in January 1998, Ghoneim was arrested at the border by the Canadian authorities.  He was held for 24 hours for questioning by the Canadian Security Intelligence Service and then denied entry to Canada because of his links with the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas.  This was not the first time Canada blocked Ghoneim: its embassy in Cairo rejected his request for a visa in 1993. 

USA: Ghoneim moved to the US in 2001.  He served as an an imam at the Islamic Institute of Orange County in Anaheim, California.  He also campaigned for KindHearts, an Ohio-based Islamic charity whose assets have since been frozen by the US for its links with Hamas, and worked with the North American Imams Federation (NAIF).  Some NAIF leaders have expressed sickening hatred of Jews and have been linked to terrorism.  They also include some of the figures in the controversial “flying imams” case.

In late 2004, Ghoneim asked for a renewal of his US “religious worker” visa, which had expired in June.  The answer from the immigration authorities was unusual for an applicant in his circumstances.  Rather than an extension or a rejection by post, it was an arrest team that took him into custody in early November for violations of immigration law.  In January 2005 he voluntarily left the country for Qatar rather than face continuing deportation procedures.

At his departure, the US said it had held him without bond after his arrest “because of concerns his past speeches and participation in fund raising activities could be supportive of terrorist organizations, including Hamas”.   An official added this tart rejection of Ghoneim:  Frankly, our task is not to sit around and wait for people to blow up buildings,” Odencrantz said. “Our task is to look at situations and circumstances and take action against people.”

Switzerland: in September 2005 Ghoneim planned to attend an Islamic conference in Switzerland.  He was stopped at the Geneva airport and denied entry to the country.  The decision was made by the Swiss domestic security service.  It did not release a formal statement, but according to IslamOnline “airport authorities” cited fundraising for Hamas, Ghoneim’s arrest record in Egypt, and his expulsion form the United States.  Swiss newspaper Le Temps reported that turning Ghoneim back marked a policy shift against radical Islamists, who had found the country a soft touch in earlier years.

Bahrain: as part of a bid to increase their political influence in Bahrain, powerful Bahraini sympathizers with Islamist extremists managed to secure a place in the country for Ghoneim.  The offer included a fast track to Bahraini citizenship and a television platform for his preaching.  Ghoneim, just expelled from the US, happily accepted.

This development alarmed Bahraini liberals, especially when they too became targets of Ghoneim’s ire.  He sued the liberal newspaper Al Ayam for publishing columns about him which charged that “…the preacher and the Muslim Brotherhood had brought extremist ideas to Bahrain, disseminated ideas that threatened to erode the country’s values of tolerance and pluralism, promoted a rigid interpretation of social life, and disturbed the relationship between the country’s Sunni and Shiite communities”.  When one reviews Ghoneim’s story, this appears to be fair comment.  For Ghoneim, though, it amounted to nothing less than “offending Islam”.

Liberals fought back and scored an important success when Ghoneim’s television programme was cancelled.  Shortly after that they got even better news.  In November 2007 Kuwaiti opponents of Ghoneim dug up and publicised a tape of an abusive lecture he had given in 1990.  According to Arab media reports and bloggers, in that lecture Ghoneim supported Saddam’s invasion of Kuwait, called it Allah’s punishment for a gay pride event held in Kuwait before the invasion, and insulted Kuwait’s rulers and society.  This affront to Gulf solidarity was enough to get him kicked out of Bahrain. He never did secure a Bahraini passport.

South Africa: in July 2008 South African authorities arrested Ghoneim for visa violations, held him for three days, and then expelled him from the country under a court order.  Ghoneim claimed he had always been welcome in South Africa, which was true in the past, as far as I know.  But apparently not any more.

Qatar: Ghoneim has found a refuge here, like his fellow Egyptian Islamist Yusuf al Qaradawi.  Provided he does not upset local sensitivities, which evidently do not include an aversion to international hate preaching, Ghoneim may be safe in Qatar.

Well, make up your own mind about him.  Here he is in ecstasy for jihad on Qatar TV.  He sets holy war at the pinnacle of Islam and demands that Muslims support it, on pain of denunciation as hypocrites if they do not.


The video continues in a second clip here and a third here.  In the third clip, he specifically mentions “our mujahideen brothers” in Afghanistan, Bosnia and Herzigovina, Chechnya, Kosovo and Palestine.  In other words, he supports the murder of British troops in Afghanistan, among so many others theologically marked for death in the name of his Islam.

In one of his latest televised tirades, in January 2009 Ghoneim appeared on al Jazeera dressed in military fatigues.  Here’s why:

Interviewer: We are used to seeing you in certain clothing, but today, you are wearing what looks like an army uniform. Why?

Wagdi Ghneim: I wanted to hold a submachine gun as well, but didn’t know where to get one. I wanted to show you that although we are preachers and Islamic scholars, we are the leaders of the nation as well. Just as we lead the nation with regard to ablution and prayer, people need to see us on the scene in times of Jihad. Brother, I tell you with all honesty that this is not where I should be. My place is not in the studio, with a suit and tie, or in the university, lecturing about ablutions. No, my brother. My natural place is in Palestine. This should be true for all of us. The religious scholars should lead the way. People follow us, and we say: Come to Jihad” – because we are the nation of Jihad.

On Ismail Haniyeh, leader of Hamas:

This is the man who is fighting today. This is our role model.

As consolation for so much rejection around the world, Ghoneim is still sought out by some prominent Islamists living in Britain.  As HP has reported, he was invited to a Hamas festival on 15 February 2009 by the Palestinian Forum in Britain.  He is frequently recommended as a “scholar” in British Islamist internet forums.  Video tapes of many of his talks are available on several web sites.  They are also distributed on CDs and DVDs.

It appears that he is indeed welcome to visit the UK.   According to this report, he did address the Gaza conference in London as planned.

I don’t know about Jacqui Smith, but for my part I am quite satisfied that Ghoneim’s presence in the UK is not conducive to the public good, as the curt phrase for the unwanted goes.  I hope she sets things right.  Since he’s so fond of singing, perhaps this send-off from the UK would do for Mr Ghoneim.