A Texas community leader and ally to prominent Democrats has a history of making anti-Israel comments and associates with Hamas-linked groups, according to an investigation by The Dallas Express.
Dr. Omar Suleiman is an Ethics Advisory Board member at Southern Methodist University (SMU) who called Israel a “terrorist regime,” said Palestinians experience what it is like to “live under Nazis,” warned “the beginning of the end of Zionism is here,” and said Palestinian activists must use “any means necessary” to “demand their freedom.”
Suleiman made these remarks as an influential imam with nearly 6 million combined followers on Facebook, Instagram, and X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter.
“We ask Allah to humiliate this Israel, the way that Allah humiliated Beni Israel,” he said in a 2012 discourse. “We ask Allah to humiliate those who occupy the ‘land of [Palestine].’”
Several congressional Democrats, such as Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN), and Rep. Colin Allred (D-TX), associated with Suleiman through political or campaign events, many of which were focused on Palestinians. This influence landed him an invite he accepted from then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) in 2019 to deliver an opening prayer at the House of Representatives.
Suleiman is a resident scholar of the Valley Ranch Islamic Center in Irving. The Yaqeen Institute, where Suleiman serves as the founder and president, did not respond to a request for comment.
He is also a member of the Council of American Islamic Relations (CAIR) and was the keynote speaker for its Califonia chapter’s banquet in 2016. During the 2007 trial of the Holy Land Foundation (HLF) for Relief and Development, evidence was presented that demonstrated that CAIR leaders were linked to the terrorist group Hamas. CAIR was named as an unindicted co-conspirator in the case.
Suleiman spoke at the American Muslims for Palestine (AMP) 2018 conference. Salah Sarsour, who was an AMP board member as late as 2019, was determined by the FBI in 2001 to have fundraised for HLF, which had its assets frozen by the U.S. Treasury after it was discovered the group had funneled money to Hamas.
Sufian Nabhan, who was also an AMP board member in 2019, had previously worked for the Islamic Association of Palestine (IAP), which was found liable for aiding and abetting Hamas.
Hatem Bazian, the founder of AMP, was a featured speaker at a fundraiser benefiting KindHearts for Charitable Humanitarian Development, which was dissolved in 2011 after the U.S. Treasury revealed it sent funds to Hamas.
“Israel today is a case of a parasite living off the American body,” AMP Executive Director Osama Abuirshaid said in 2021.
Suleiman tweeted a link last year to an online fundraising campaign from the Coalition for Civil Freedoms (CCF). A co-founder of CCF, Sami Al-Arian, was deported by the Department of Justice in 2006 after he pleaded guilty to conspiring to provide services to the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), a U.S.-designated terrorist organization. His daughter Leena works as the executive director for CCF, which aims to provide legal and financial support for alleged and convicted terrorists.
In 2021, Suleiman called for the release of convicted terrorist Aafia Siddique, who was sentenced to an 86-year prison sentence for a conviction on charges that she planned to kill U.S. nationals and military officers in Afghanistan. The speech was delivered outside the Fort Worth prison where she still resides.
“I enjoyed visiting our dear Dr. Zakir Naik … in Malaysia in his home and benefiting from him as always Al Hamdulilah,” Suleiman posted on Facebook with a photo of the two of them. “May Allah protect him and reward him for his relentless dedication to Deen.”
His Malaysia trip included a separate meeting with Zoubir Bouchikhi, a former imam in Houston who was deported. Bouchikhi purportedly said that non-Muslims are the “worst of Allah’s creations, even lower than animals.”
“Houston, I found Shaykh Zoubir!” Suleiman posted on Facebook with a photo of them together. “First time seeing him in over a decade. He came to my wedding 15 years ago in Louisiana and [I] finally got to visit him with my whole family in Malaysia. So many memories. May Allah unite us all in His eternal gardens of Al Firdaws.”
Suleiman lists on his LinkedIn that he is still an adjunct professor at SMU. However, the university said in a statement that he has not taught a class in four years and only serves the college on the ethics advisory board.
“Omar Suleiman has not taught classes at SMU since the end of 2019,” Kim Cobb, the executive director of media and community relations for SMU, told The Dallas Express. “He is one of 28 members of the Maguire Center for Ethics Advisory Board, which meets twice a year to consider how to promote ethics both within the university and in the community at large.”
Cobb would not say whether SMU condemns Suleiman’s statements on Israel, saying that board members have “the right to express his or her own opinions.”
“The advisory board’s membership is deliberately designed to bridge a wide range of backgrounds and beliefs, to help view discussions of ethics through a broad lens,” she continued. “As an advisory group, its members do not speak for the University or decide SMU policy. Each member of the advisory board has the right to express his or her own opinions as protected by the First Amendment, and the University is committed to the free exchange of ideas and opinions as foundational to its academic mission.”
An extensive list of Democrats at the national and Texas level have associated with Suleiman. Rep. Omar spoke with him at a CAIR event in 2021 along with Rep. Cori Bush (D-MO). Omar also spoke with him at an American Muslims for Palestine event in 2021 with Rep. Tlaib. Neither Omar, Tlaib, nor Bush’s offices responded to a request for comment.
Allred praised Suleiman and posted a photo of himself with the imam in 2019 after his prayer at the Capitol.
“His message of peace, unity, and support for our fellow Americans is needed now, more than ever,” Allred wrote of Suleiman.
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) campaigned with Suleiman in 2020. His office did not respond to a request for comment.
Beto O’Rouke campaigned with Suleiman during his 2018 Democratic run for Senate. His office did not respond to a request for comment.
Suleiman received several honors from Texas leaders in recent years, SMU touted.
Dallas County Commissioner Elba Garcia previously honored him with a proclamation. Her office did not respond to a request for comment.
Texas Rep. Terry Meza (D-Irving) presented Suleiman with a Texas flag flown over the state capitol in a ceremony. Meza told The Dallas Express the anti-Israel comments made by Suleiman “do not comport with the Imam that I honored.”
“I honored the Imam with a Texas flag in recognition of his presence in support of the Jewish community when the Colleyville Synagogue was attacked by a gunman last year,” Meza said in a statement. “His show of support for the Jewish community at that difficult moment was [an] honorable and decent display of solidarity with them against terrorists, even when they are Muslims. The comments that you refer to do not comport with the Imam that I honored.”
Irving Mayor Rick Stopfer visited Suleiman’s mosque at Valley Ranch in March and presented him with a proclamation from the city, according to SMU. However, the mayor’s office said this recognition of Suleiman was misrepresented by the university.
“This was not a Mayor Proclamation; it was precisely a Certificate of Recognition to you regarding the support of the interfaith clergy that gathered at Good Shepherd Roman Catholic Community on January 15, 2022, regarding the 11-hour standoff at the Colleyville Synagogue, in support of law enforcement, and those trapped inside,” Shanae Jennings, city secretary and chief compliance officer for the City of Irving, told The Dallas Express.
Jennings emphasized that the mayor supports diversity. He did not condemn Suleiman’s anti-Israel comments.
“Irving demographics include people of all ages, colors, sizes, beliefs, and preferences; there are over 200 houses of worship in our community,” Jennings told The Dallas Express. “Mayor Stopfer appreciates the efforts of the interfaith alliance that he works with and views others with compassion.”
CORRECTION: This article was updated at 8:50 p.m. on November 13, 2023, to correct an error pertaining to Irving City Secretary and Chief Compliance Officer Shanae Jenning’s title.