Gavin Newsom Gave Millions to Mosques that Cheer the Annihilation of Jews

California Gov. Gavin Newsom (Getty Images)
November 16, 2023

California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D.) has awarded millions of dollars in taxpayer funds to mosques whose leaders have preached anti-Semitic hate and called for violence against Israel.

Newsom’s administration awarded $200,000 this year to the Sajjadia Islamic Society as part of its Nonprofit Security Grant program, which aims to help nonprofits protect against terrorist attacks. In a sermon at the mosque this month, the pro-Iran cleric Hamza Sodagar touted Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah and said that Allah sent "the rockets from Hamas or Hezbollah" to strike Israel. Newsom has also awarded grants to mosques like the Islamic Center of Hawthorne and Islamic Center of Riverside, whose imams have decried the "malevolence of the Jews" and prayed for Allah to "destroy them."

All told, the Newsom administration has given $40 million to California mosques whose leaders cheer the annihilation of Jews and Israel. Such rhetoric could fuel precisely the kind of violence the grants are meant to prevent. Newsom, considered a future Democratic presidential contender, said last month he will double funding in his state for its nonprofit security program, citing the "unconscionable terrorist attacks in Israel." Funds will be awarded to both synagogues and mosques, Newsom’s office said.

A spokesman for California's Office of Emergency Services, which administers the grants, said after a Washington Free Beacon inquiry that it is investigating whether any of the mosques have breached their grant requirements by facilitating hate speech.

"If it is determined they have, their funding will be immediately revoked," said Brian Ferguson. "As a matter of principle, the State of California rejects hate speech and discrimination in all of its forms. Such speech is a menace to democratic values, social stability and peace."

Newsom gave $200,000 last year to the Islamic Society of Corona-Norco, where preacher Hussam Ayloush asserted in a Nov. 3 sermon that it is a "lie" that Hamas’s invasion of Israel last month was an "unprovoked attack."

"If I hear that term again, I’ll go crazy," he said. "Unprovoked in what dictionary?"

At the Islamic Center of San Gabriel Valley, which received $200,000 this year, preacher Amir Mertaban expressed support for Iraqis who fought American forces and Palestinians currently fighting Israel.

"The Palestinian brothers and sisters that are fighting resistance, shame on you if you label them terrorists," Mertaban said. He also disputed that Hamas fighters murdered innocent Israelis during the Oct. 7 invasion. "If you’re going to make a claim that Muslims killed innocent civilians, you better be able to prove it."

Other grant recipients have served as breeding grounds for Islamist terrorists. Newsom’s office awarded $200,000 to the Islamic Center of San Diego, which served as the home mosque for two 9/11 hijackers. Its imam, Taha Hassane, said last month that "resistance [against Israel] is justified."

"We cannot accuse somebody who is fighting for his life to be a terrorist. The terrorist is the one who started the occupation, not the one who is defending himself," he said in an Oct. 20 sermon.

Newsom’s office gave $200,000 to Masjed of Riverside, affiliated with the Islamic Center of Riverside, the one-time home of Syed Rizwan Farook, who murdered 14 people in a terrorist attack in San Bernardino in 2015. The mosque is led by Imam Mahmoud Harmoush, who in 2019 called for the destruction of Jews.

"Oh, Allah, liberate the Al Aqsa Mosque and all the Muslim lands from the unjust tyrants and the occupiers," Harmoush said in a 2017 sermon. "Oh, Allah, destroy them, they are no match for you."

"Wake up, it is time to be a Muslim. Prayer is not the only thing."

Similar rhetoric has emanated from the Islamic Center of Hawthorne, the recipient of a $200,000 grant last year. "Make Islam dominate the world. Oh Allah, purify the Al-Aqsa Mosque from the malevolence of the Jews," Hamdy Sadek said in a sermon last year, the Middle East Media Reporting Institute reported. Sadek asserted that "weak Muslims" would be "affected by the media of the Jews."

Newsom has awarded grants to several Islamic advocacy groups with alleged links to Hamas. The statement from Newsom’s office announcing the doubling of the grant program quoted the head of California’s chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, an advocacy group that the federal government has labeled a co-conspirator of Hamas. Zahra Billoo, the executive director of CAIR’s San Francisco chapter, has made anti-Semitic remarks in the past and urged Muslims to oppose "polite Zionists."

Her brother, Ahmed Billoo, has preached at several mosques funded by Newsom’s program: the Islamic Institute of Orange County, Muslim Community Center of Greater San Diego, and Islamic Center of San Gabriel Valley.

In 2019, Ahmed Billoo reportedly published a prayer while traveling in Israel calling to "reduce their numbers, exterminate them, and don't leave a single one alive." In 2007, he said Islam "justifies" suicide bombers on a "case-by-case basis."