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Former Des Moines Imam arrested on immigration-related charges
The man who formerly led the Islamic Center of Des Moines will soon be back in the state to face criminal immigration-related charges.
Imam Ibrahim Dremali and his wife, Safaa Rashad Eissa, were arrested at their Arlington, Texas, home on Oct. 6 by local and federal agents acting on a warrant issued by the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Iowa. According to the warrant, Dremali and his wife are suspected of conspiracy and fraud in [the] naturalization process, an immigration offense.
According to a spokesman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement for the region, agents with ICE, Office of Homeland Security Investigations, the Federal Bureau of Investigations and the Arlington Police Department were all involved in the arrest.
Dremali and Eissa have appeared before a federal U.S. Magistrate in Texas, according to both the spokesman and court documents, and have been released on their own recognizance. The two are scheduled to once again appear in court, this time in Des Moines, on Oct. 20 at 2 p.m. Dremali was ordered to surrender his passport and limit travel to the presiding court districts as a condition of release.
An order has been filed with the court for appointment of a federal public defender in the case.
Few additional details are provided in court records, and federal officials have declined to speak further “since this is an ongoing investigation.” Officials with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for Iowa’s Southern District have not yet responded to inquiries about the case.
Dremali began to serve as the Imam of the Islamic Center of Des Moines in March 2005, by way of the Islamic Center of Boca Raton, Fla. He left Des Moines in 2008 to pursue a teaching position in Texas, and has since been engaged in a battle with cancer.
On Wednesday an e-mail plea was distributed by Miriam Amer, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations Iowa Chapter, requesting that members of the Iowa Muslim community contact federal lawmakers on Dremali’s behalf. According to that message, Dremali is of tenuous health and is no longer able to travel the few blocks from his home for services at the Arlington mosque.
The message contends that the charges are “ludicrous” and “the by-product of a vindictive grudge.”
… Imam Dremali has been a vital source of interfaith relations and outreach in the Muslim community throughout the U.S., and has worked tirelessly against terrorism, extremism, and Islamophobia, building a solid foundation of friendship, caring and cooperation between the major U.S. religious groups, politicians and civic communities.
Imam Dremali is only one of a small handful of people who hold Ph.D.s in the U.S. in Islamic Jurisprudence, and is therefore a vital resource for the U.S. in interfaith, national and international relations.
Media and other accuse moderate Muslims of not speaking out or acting against terrorism or extremism. Imam Dremali did speak out — this heinous treatment is despite his activism. Imam Dremali’s arrest and persecution teaches a negative lesson for moderate Muslims that will keep them from speaking out against extremists or acts of terror committed in the name of Islam. …
A spokeswoman in U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin’s office confirmed that inquires about the case were received Thursday from Iowa constituents, and that staff members are working to gather more information from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security on the situation.
Dremali graduated from Al-Azhar University in Cairo, Egypt, according to information posted on the Dremali Foundation website. He is a professor at the American Open University, teaching courses in Fiqh (Jurisprudence), family law, Islamic finance and criminal law. He is a member of the Assembly of Muslim Jurists in America (AMJA) and an advisor for the American Muslim Association of North America (AMANA). He has more than 20 years of experience in the United States as an Imam, and as a director for Islamic schools from Pre-K to High School. He is a frequent speaker for Islamic centers, universities, dawah conferences, radio shows and interfaith programs across the U.S. and overseas.
Upon coming to Iowa, Dremali participated as an anti-war activist and was quoted as saying that his “mission as a Muslim is to bring peace.” Critics who followed the Dremali’s work in Florida, however, continued questioned his commitment to cause.
According to news reports filed by (the now defunct) Boca Raton News, Dremali came under scrutiny in Florida due to his associations with others who were arrested on charges related to money laundering and acts of terrorism. Several of the Sept. 11 hijackers lived in nearby Delray Beach, which may have contributed to the speculation that Dremali and other mosque leaders had information or unsavory associations.
In the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks, Dremali told Boca Raton police he and other members of the mosque had experienced anti-Muslim backlash. He also claimed that unknown assailants had threatened him with guns outside of his Boca home.
“We are not terrorists. We want to live in peace with no problems,” Dremali told the Boca Raton News in 2003 as part of a report about the suspicions. “We have a very peaceful religion. We are Americans. I love this country and that is why we stay in this country.”