A Terrorist Suspect in Our Midst : Sheik Abdul Rahman, who shouldn’t even be in U.S., visits West Covina

A news story Wednesday noted that Sheik Omar Abdul Rahman is currently visiting West Covina. When last heard from, the Egyptian-born Muslim cleric was in Detroit, and before that in Jersey City, where he frequently preached at the Majid El Salam mosque. Ordinarily the travels of Abdul Rahman would be a matter of little general interest. But these are not ordinary times. Abdul Rahman is now a public figure, and his very presence in this country is a scandal.

To begin with, he should never have been granted a visa because for more than a decade he has been listed by the State Department as a suspected terrorist. Yet he legally entered the country, and soon after obtained a green card as well. The government now seeks to deport Abdul Rahman for, among other things, alleged polygamy and lying on his visa application. A judge on Wednesday ruled he could be deported, but appeals may stall that process for perhaps several years.

Abdul Rahman made the suspected-terrorists list because of his links with the fundamentalists who assassinated Egypt’s President Anwar Sadat in 1981. Since then he has continued to advocate the overthrow of the Egyptian government. His association with violence has not abated. Suspects in the 1990 murder in Manhattan of the Israeli political extremist Meir Kahane and in last month’s bombing of the World Trade Center worshiped at his Jersey City mosque. Cairo says that Abdul Rahman’s U.S.-recorded sermons preaching attacks on Christian Copts and Western tourists are regularly smuggled into Egypt.

Abdul Rahman is in the United States only because some U.S. official screwed up by issuing him a visa. He has been able to remain here only by virtue of his patently ludicrous claim to sanctuary under the rules of political asylum. Granted, he has been neither convicted nor accused of any U.S. crime, and it may be simply a coincidence that where he goes, violence tends to follow. Maybe. But we still find it outrageous and scary that our government can seemingly do nothing to prevent a suspected terrorist like Abdul Rahman from preaching hatred and roaming this country at will.