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Mysterious Trip to Flight 77 Cockpit
One longtime member of the Tucson mosque said Saudi men must go through adjustments that are often more difficult than Arabs from less strict societies. "If you take him from that environment into this environment, a radical transformation is bound to occur," he said.
He also noted that Hanjour arrived in Tucson as U.S. troops were moving against Iraq from their base in Saudi Arabia during the Persian Gulf War. The American "occupation" of Saudi Arabia inflamed bin Laden and other fundamentalist Muslims who believed it desecrated the land of the two holiest sites in Islam, Mecca and Medina.
That rhetoric began to creep into the Islamic Center, according to one longtime member who asked not to be identified. At the Friday khutba, or lecture, speakers began to focus more intensely on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the expanding U.S. role in the Middle East.
Some speakers, he said, would urge members to "defend our religion" against the "infidels" who threatened Islam. The man said he sometimes protested afterward, saying: "That's not the way to indoctrinate these young people. Most of these people are freshmen, 18 or 19 years old. What does that do to the way they look at the world?"
The Islamic Center had been a source of intrigue for some time before Hanjour's arrival in Tucson. Throughout the 1980s, the mosque provided money, support and, at times, fighters to the forces resisting the Soviet occupation in Afghanistan, according to longtime members. Those activities, members noted, were supported by the U.S. government, which also opposed the Soviets. "When the U.S. government stopped, we stopped. We followed our government," said Shahin. He added that the mosque should not be held accountable for former members who may have engaged in terrorism long after they left Arizona.
In 1983 and 1984, the mosque's president, according to state corporation records, was Wael Hamza Jelaidan, a Saudi national who was also president of the Muslim Students Association and a graduate student at the School of Agriculture until March 20, 1985, when he withdrew.