… despite judge’s order he be released | Albuquerque Journal h/t ReligionOfPeace.com
One of New Mexico’s top Muslim spiritual leaders has been held in federal detention for more than two months, despite a judge’s order he be released on bond, a move federal officials say is necessary due to alleged national security concerns.
Imam Talha Elsayed
In a lawsuit filed in federal court seeking his release, Tahla Elsayed’s attorney says he is the target of a “witch hunt.”
The arrest of Elsayed, a Saudi-born Egyptian citizen and Islamic studies scholar, on Sept. 1 stunned the local Muslim community and leaves the two mosques in Albuquerque without an imam, or priest.
Elsayed, 35, is suing U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in federal court after the agency refused to allow him to post a $10,000 bond ordered by an El Paso immigration court judge, who ruled Nov. 1 that Elsayed was neither a danger to the community nor a flight risk.
The lawsuit – which includes hundreds of pages of documents, including those from his bond hearing – contends Elsayed has been the subject “of a witch hunt based simply on his religion and national origin,” and should be released.
He has been seeking a visa to work and had refused a demand by a Homeland Security agent that he leave the country. He is charged with overstaying his visa, despite having an application pending with immigration authorities.
The documents show that the FBI said it has “an investigative interest” in Elsayed and that a DHS attorney said the case “possibly involved a national security concern.”
ICE declined to comment, citing pending litigation.
The imam’s detention has rattled Albuquerque’s small, but growing, Muslim community.
Omar Momani serves on the board of the Dar Al-Salam Foundation of New Mexico and describes Elsayed as “a well-known imam” with “amazing qualifications.” Marrying a deep knowledge of the Quran and a “fun” lecture style, Elsayed “has everything you’re looking for in an imam or priest,” Momani said.
His detention was “a huge shock.”
“It was like somebody sucker-punched us in the face,” Momani said. “We didn’t know why this was happening. Everything we did was through a lawyer. The paperwork was filed. Why this was happening?”
Elsayed first came to Albuquerque three years ago at the invitation of the Islamic Center of New Mexico, where he led prayers during the holy month of Ramadan and offered religious lectures. He returned for Ramadan in 2014.
The new mosque in northeast Albuquerque, Dar Al-Salam, invited him back in 2015 as a guest lecturer, and, early this year, the Dar Al-Salam Foundation applied to the U.S. government for a new visa that would let Elsayed work, providing religious instruction.
While he waited for a response from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to his application, he and his wife, Ebtesam, enrolled their four children in Albuquerque public schools and volunteered in the Muslim community.
Then, Homeland Security Investigations called. Continue reading
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