What do you get when you cross a Muslim nuclear physicist working on classified military projects and a Muslim chaplain who administers to prisoners?
Dr. Moniem El-Ganayni is not the only imam to have served as a chaplain inside a state prison. But he may be the only one who is also a nuclear physicist working on classified U.S. military projects that require a security clearance.
But in October, the two tracks of his life collided. His security clearance was suspended, barring him from the lab where he has worked for 18 years.
So what went wrong?
Long a respected member of the Pittsburgh Muslim community and a founder of the Islamic Center of Pittsburgh in Oakland, the Egyptian-born Dr. El-Ganayni also was the imam at Pennsylvania State Correctional Institution-Forest in Marienville, Forest County, for five months in 2007. His contract was canceled in August after disputes over Ramadan observance and visiting policies.
Twelve weeks after that, agents from the Energy Department, and later the Pittsburgh FBI, began questioning him about a book he distributed to inmates at the prison as well as speeches he made opposing FBI recruitment at local mosques and prayers he led there.
Of course, this didnâ€™t pose a problem for a Muslim where allegiance to the ummah trumps things like the security of your country.
It all began with a book, “The Miracle in the Ant,” one of numerous volumes published by Harun Yahya, an Islamic creationist from Turkey. The book details ant anatomy and behavior, and argues that these characteristics disprove the theory of evolution.
Dr. El-Ganayni had ordered the book for the Forest prison library and was passing out photocopied chapters for the Muslim inmates housed in segregation to read in their cells. Eventually, he came to the chapter called “Defence and War Tactics,” about ants that produce acid, use camouflage or enslave other ants.
So why did the authorities become suspicious of his loyalties? What was so special about that little book about ants?
Then there’s this passage, under the heading “Walking Bombs”:
“The ultimate in public service is to destroy enemies by committing suicide in defense of the colony. Many kinds of ants are prepared to assume this kamikaze role in one way or another, but none more dramatically than a species of Camponotus of the saundersi group living in the rain forests of Malaysia.”
A post 9-11 over reaction by the FBI? You decide.
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