Who is Omar Suleiman?

This is a guest post by Beeman

Last Tuesday, BBC Three broadcast an hour long documentary titled ‘United States of Hate: Muslims Under Attack’ by ‘award-winning director and producer Steph Atkinson’.

As the title suggests, the documentary focuses on a surge in ‘Islamophobia’ in the USA. Over the course of the programme we follow ‘one of the most prominent Imams in the United States’ Omar Suleiman, who describes ‘a very systematic dehumanisation of 1.8 billion people’ through media etc, before comparing it to the historical plight of blacks at the times of lynching in the US.

Suleiman, the main character in the documentary, is portrayed in a thoroughly positive light. After being shown a small, but armed, anti-refugee protest by an anti-Muslim group, we hear that ‘despite the hostile reception to the refugees, Omar is preaching a message of understanding at a nearby mosque’.

The narrator goes onto say ‘he may teach tolerance, but I want to know if he can prevent extremism in his own community’ which gives Suleiman an opportunity to reassure – ‘there are no young people in my community that hold those views’ -nand style himself as someone who ‘crushes those views right away’ (which specific views was not made clear).

We later see someone from one of the anti-Muslim groups who says he fears ‘all of them (refugees) are terrorists’. He meets up with Suleiman who persuades him into ‘reconsidering’ his views.

In discussion with this individual, Suleiman again states his credentials as a ferocious campaigner against extremism as he says ‘I’m actually putting my life on the line’ to fight radicalism and is on ‘ISIS’ hit list whilst at the same time being told you’re not doing enough’.

The documentary closes with reference to the Brussels attacks, with final words given to Suleiman’s ‘own thoughts as to where blame lies’ as he states ‘Islamophobes’ are ‘giving ISIS the world that they want’ and ‘are creating more Islamic terrorism’.

Who really is Omar Suleiman?

Omar Suleiman was shown in a remarkably generous light in this documentary. As someone with liberal views teaching ‘understanding’, ‘tolerance’ who wants to ‘crush’ extremist views. The filmmaker Atkinson in an interview promoting the documentary calls him ‘a very positive person’. However that’s an utterly astonishing portrayal of him and his views once you have more information.

Sulieman is in actual fact an Islamist. He has talked of Sharia as something ‘we as Muslims want to implement in the United States’. Like every Islamist, he is colossally anti-Israel, referring to them regularly on social media as ‘JSIL’ (Jewish ISIS).

He has also espoused explicitly anti-gay views writing on his own Facebook page …

“When Allah describes homosexuality as a repugnant shameless sin and details his punishment of a people that practised sodomy, how can anyone who believes in Allah not find it immoral?

If as Muslims we don’t take a clear stance on this, we will be forced to conform and watch this disease destroy our children. Practicing homosexuality is a sin like adultery, drinking etc. The sin should be condemned, and the sinner should be called to the path of the Most Merciful”

He works as an instructor at Mishkah University (formerly Sharia Academy of America) and the AlMaghrib Institute. According to his bio, he ‘has sought knowledge and studied’ under Salafist preachers Salah As-Sawy (also founder and President of Mishkah University), and Hatem Al-Haj (also involved in a senior role at the University).

Suleiman refers to As-Sawy as a ‘dear friend’ and eulogised him in a YouTube video calling for Muslims to study under him, stating he is an inspiration and says ‘I have not seen anyone in the West who parallels his knowledge’.

As-Sawy, who is also Secretary General of the radical organisation the Assembly of Muslim Jurists of America, is someone who has written a fatwa refusing to rule out engaging in ‘offensive Jihad’ in the future but for time being advocates of a ‘defensive jihad’.

He has among other things also reportedly issued fatwas encouraging deception and lying for the sake of ‘repulsing evil’, said the ‘devil’ has misled Muslims into believing Sharia punishments are ‘harsh and barbarous’, and that Muslims should ‘revive the obligation of Jihad’ in regards to Israel.

Suleiman also calls Al-Haj ‘beloved’ and his ‘mentor’. Al-Haj is most notable for causing controversy for advocating ‘Female Genital Cutting’, and has also reportedly advocated stoning adulterers, death for apostates, and talked of how women should not leave their homes for outside jobs.

Meanwhile, the AlMaghrib Institute, where Suleiman is listed as an ‘instructor’, is also known for having a number of links to extremism.

Their founder, Muhammad Alshareef (who Suleiman appears friendly with), has written a paper titled ‘Why the Jews were cursed’. Their vice-president Waleed Basyouni reportedly has supported Hamas (Suleiman also appears friendly with him referring to him as ‘dear’).

Another one of the ‘instructors’ is Yasir Qadhi, has been reported to have numerous extremist views on the topics such as of homosexuality, barbaric punishments etc. Suleiman has recommended people towards his work.

One previous speaker at the AlMaghrib Institute was until 2009 the famous Al-Qaeda recruiter Anwar al-Awlaki. Suleiman has condemned al-Awlaki’s views, but stated prior to his release from prison in Yemen in 2007 he was ‘so level headed’, ‘our beloved imam’ and ‘so beloved to our community’.

Suleiman is also friendly with some of the UK Islamist circuit as well, including people like Zahir Mahmood (known for stating ‘Hamas are freedom fighters’), and of course Moazzam Begg and CAGE who he has words of support for too.


So to summarise, in this programme we saw an Islamist with numerous dubious views and associations, given an hour long BBC documentary go unchallenged as he talks about Muslim oppression.

And worst of all, not only were his Islamist views and hardline connections not mentioned at all on the programme, he was seemingly actively portrayed in a falsely positive light as someone teaching ‘understanding’, ‘tolerance’ who wants ‘peace’ and is ‘putting his life on the line’ to ‘crush’ extremism.

Suleiman openly states where he works on his Twitter bio, many of his views are a quick Google away, so how did the BBC and the documentary makers fail to do the appropriate vetting? Did they knowingly promote and falsely push an Islamist as someone promoting ‘tolerance’?

Anyhow, the result of this means we have essentially now seen an hour of something that bordered very close to Islamist propaganda in the irresponsible and dishonest way it portrayed Suleiman.

It is also worth noting, that there was one rather short segment on the programme apparently ‘15 minutes from Omar’s mosque’ that did show an anonymous Islamist stating how he wants Sharia ‘throughout the entire world’ and complaining of how in a democracy ‘you can outlaw the laws that are set by the creator’ citing tolerance towards homosexuals.

We were then told by the narrator that the anonymous Islamist is ‘lawful and denounces violence’ but his vision is ‘at odds with the Texans I’ve met so far’. Ironically that vision actually aligned almost perfectly with that of Omar Suleiman and his friends at the AlMaghrib Institute and Mishkah University …