Mayor Admits Mistake in Imam Lunch

Inviting an imam linked to the World Trade Center bombing in 1993 to City Hall was a slip-up, officials said

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Inviting an imam connected to the 1993 World Trade Center bombings to City Hall for a community meeting was a mistake, according to the mayor’s office.

    Imam Siraj Wahhaj was one of nine Islamic leaders who met Wednesday with the Mayor Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly over concerns of possible blacklash against the local Muslim community following the Fort Hood shooting.

    But it was the imam's history with the World Trade Center bombing in 1993 that became the big story. An embarrassed staffer later said the imam should never have been there.

    Wahhaj was never indicted in 1995 for the World Trade Center bombing, but the feds believed he had some association.

    The imam appeared as a witness for the defense later that year in the trial of Omar Abdel-Rahman, a blind sheik who was convicted of trying to obliterate the United Nations and the Lincoln Tunnel.

    "If we were aware of his full background it would have been done differently," an aide said, the Daily News reported

    The Brooklyn imam is oversees the Masjid al Taqwa mosque in Bedford-Stuyvesant where he led African-American converts to Islam.

    "He was invited by staff because he leads a large mosque in Brooklyn," mayoral spokesman Stu Loeser told the News earlier in the night. "The mayor had never met him and wasn't aware of his background."

    "We're trying to reach out to leaders in various Muslim communities throughout the city, because we're trying to prevent the sort of anti-Muslim backlash we've seen elsewhere" following the Fort Hood massacre, Loeser said.

    The accused shooter in the Texas military base shooting was a Muslim Army major.

    "If the mayor had any discomfort he would not have invited me," Wahhaj said after the meeting. "Of course, he knew who I was. The mayor is very smart."

    Paul Browne, spokeman for the NYPD, said Kelly had not met with the religious leader previously.

    "It was a good, frank conversation between the mayor and the police commissioner and all the other participants," Wahhaj said, according to the paper.

    Wahhaj was in the news last month when a jury threw out his $5 million case against Curtis Sliwa for claiming the mosque had guns run to Canada.