The arrest this week of five men of Pakistani origins in Lodi, California, on what are likely to be terrorism-related charges (terrorism was initially a formal part of the picture but was then retracted) has prompted extensive media coverage. The coverage has uncovered some mysteries, which I note here in the hopes of finding answers to.
Qari Saeed-ur-Rehman, chief cleric of Jamia Islamia seminary, speaks about his grandson, Hamid Hayat, during an interview with the Associated Press at his madrassah in Rawalpindi, Pakistan. (Associated Press)
- Hamid Hayat, 22, arrested on his return from what he admits was a jihadist camp in Pakistan, is an American citizen born in Stockton, California who attended school (though only up to the sixth grade) in the United States. That being the case, why does the Los Angeles Times write that, "Apparently unable to follow the proceedings in English, Hayat listened with the help of an Urdu translator"? Perhaps it's because Lodi contains an Urdu-speaking ghetto; an earlier article quotes one Pakistani immigrant, Raja Khan, estimating that around 80 percent of Lodi's Pakistanis are not fluent speakers of English. (In the absence of the two imams yesterday, the mosque service was held in Urdu.) June 14, 2005 update: Johnny Griffin III, the lawyer for Hamid's father, says the Hayats didn't make some statements attributed to them in the complaint. "For one thing, there was no interpreter present, and Hamid speaks and understands very little English." July 8, 2005 update: "Hamid Hayat was born in the United States and at age 9 moved to Pakistan for about nine years before returning to Lodi," reports the Sacramento Bee today, partially clearing up the mystery – but how many American nine-year-olds cannot speak English? July 23, 2005 update: A cousin of Hamid Hayat, Usamaa Ismail, reports the Lodi News-Sentinel, "maintains that his cousin was either tricked into telling agents he allegedly attended a terrorism training camp in Pakistan or that agents misunderstood his words spoken in Pushtu, the language spoken by many Pakistanis in Lodi."
- When he was arrested, Hamid Hayat, the junior-high dropout, was packing cherries. His father, Umer, sells ice cream from a truck. But his maternal grandfather, Qari Saeed ur Rehman, founded the Jamia Islamia Madrassa in 1962 (and still runs it), is a leader in the Jamiat Ulema Islam Party, and served as minister of religious affairs in the late 1980s. The family is Pakistani religious royalty – so, what are the father and son doing in California as unskilled laborers? July 22, 2005 update: Evidently, this question puzzles others too. Muhammed Adil Khan – the Pakistani imam the U.S. government alleges was behind the terrorist cell in Lodi – knew Qari Saeed ur Rehman in Pakistan and visited with his son-in-law in Lodi. According to what he told the FBI, Khan found Umer Hayat "crazy, insincere and stupid" and was "surprised that Sayyed Rahman would allow his daughter to marry Umer Hayat."
- Hamid Hayat's attorney, Wazhma Mojaddidi, explaining why his family traveled so often to Pakistan, said that it went "on one occasion to seek medical treatment for the mother." It traveled to Pakistan for medical reasons? Urdu-speaking doctors are not hard to find in northern California and they dispose of far superior facilities, so what's up?
- On April 19, 2003, on the way to Pakistan, the same day Hamid and Umer Hayat were stopped at Dulles International Airport outside of Washington, D.C. Customs and Border Protection spokeswoman Christiana Halsey revealed that they were found with $28,093 in cash. What is an ice-cream vendor doing with such an amount of money and why is he breaking U.S. customs regulations by taking out so much cash without declaring it? Sep. 13, 2005 update: As partial payment for their bail money, the Hayats put their house up on bond and papers filed yesterday indicated that their two-house compound is appraised for $390,000 and has no outstanding debt. Again, where does all the money come from? Oct. 27, 2005 update: I am not the only one wondering about the provenance of the Hayat fortune. In a ruling today, Judge Garland E. Burrell Jr. wrote that said Umer Hayat "appears to have access to a significant amount of cash from an unexplained source."
- And, speaking of money and travel, here is something curious about the Farooqia Islamic Center: the 2003 tax return of this apparently Islamist institution (it hosted the likes of Siraj Wahaj and links to the Islamic Society of North America and the Saudi Ministry of Religious Affairs) shows operating expenses of $57,544 in 2003, of which over one third, or $20,625, was spent on travel. I wonder why.
(June 11, 2005)
July 3, 2005 update: An important Los Angeles Times article by Rone Tempest raises another question:
- How was it that Shabbir Ahmed was let into the United States in January 2002, just weeks after he had led at least one anti-American rally in Islamabad, Pakistan? His hatred of the United States was well known before he was granted entry. According to the Times, Ahmed
was one of the main speakers at an anti-U.S. demonstration at a market near the U.S. Embassy in the Pakistani capital. While demonstrators burned American flags and effigies of President Bush, Pakistan Press International news service reported that the slight, bearded Muslim cleric exhorted the crowd to join a jihad, or holy war, against the United States. A month later at another rally, the Boston Globe quoted Ahmed as calling for a rebellion against Pakistan's president, U.S. ally Gen. Pervez Musharraf: "Whoever is against Islam," said Ahmed, "we will destroy him. If this is rebellion, we are not afraid of rebellion. Blood is going to be spilled in Pakistan."
On arrival in California, Ahmed became imam in Lodi. He has then made at least two return trips to Pakistan. Ahmed thus had at least four encounters with U.S. officials without having set off alarms. Only on Nov. 15, 2004, when a visa extension application of his was processed, did Ahmed's name turn up on a watch list. At an immigration hearing on June 24, he admitted making the anti-American speeches. DHS officials have no explanation for why Ahmed was allowed into the country at least three times.
Sep. 27, 2006 update: Another mystery:
Umer Hayat has been out of prison since August 25, 2006, since pleading guilty to lying to federal agents about the amount of cash he tried taking to Pakistan in 2003. In his month on the outside, reports Jeff Hood of the Stockton Record, he has tried and failed to get a job.
His ice cream truck, which he has used to make a living, is broken, and he doesn't have the $400 to fix it. … U.S. District Judge Garland E. Burrell Jr. ordered Hayat to serve three years' probation and pay $3,700 in fines during his sentencing hearing last month. Now the government is sending Hayat collection notices for that money. "I don't have anything right now," Hayat said, adding that he supports his family on $550 a month worth of welfare and food stamps while living in a converted garage.
What happened to the two-house compound appraised for $390,000? To the tens of thousands being carried around in cold, hard cash? The family had to live off of something the past year and a bit, but not that much.
Apr. 27, 2007 update: I provide some background in a blog today on "Lodi's Pakistani Community."