Muhammad Shahidullah is a man of seeming contradictions.
An imam, he is active in interfaith outreach, speakingto the New York Police Department and visiting the White House in April as part of an interfaith delegation. In December 2017, he participated in an interfaith event organized at New York’s 9/11 Tribute Museum, attended the United Nations World Interfaith Harmony Week a year earlier, and has been recognized in a New York City Council citation as “an outstanding citizen, one whom is worthy of the esteem of both our community and the great City of New York.”
But Shahidullah also runs a proselytizing website, Dawah USA, that ostensibly seeks to invite people to Islam but in fact serves as a clearing house for extremist and Islamist propaganda, the Investigative Project on Terrorism finds.
Tax records for the New York-based Dawah USA Inc. show that it is registered as doing business as the Interfaith Center USA. Shahidullah, a Bangladeshi native who lives in Queens, New York’s Jamaica neighborhood, serves as president of both organizations.
Extremist material published on the Dawah USA website includes an audio of American-born al-Qaida cleric Anwar al-Awlaki’s infamous 2002 “It’s a War on Islam” speech. It frames government counter-terrorism efforts as “a war against Muslims and Islam” that seeks to alienate Muslims from the mainstream of society.
The perception the West is waging a war against Islam has been one of the mosteffective messages in radicalizing Muslims. Though he was killed in a 2011 U.S. drone strike, Awlaki remains one of the most influential voices in online radicalization.
Shahidullah declined to discuss the content on his website after repeated requests for comment.