JOHNSTOWN, Pennsylvania: The leader of a Pennsylvania Muslim center has resigned after telling a newspaper that a death sentence was warranted for best-selling author and critic of Islam, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the former Dutch parliament member.
Fouad ElBayly said Wednesday he had stepped down as imam and president of the Islamic Center of Johnstown. He said the center’s board members requested his resignation.
The request came after ElBayly’s comments about Ali, who spoke April 17 at the University of Pittsburgh-Johnstown.
“She has been identified as one who has defamed the faith. If you come into the faith, you must abide by the laws, and when you decide to defame it deliberately, the sentence is death,” ElBayly was quoted saying in an April 22 story in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.
ElBayly, a native of Egypt who came to the United States in 1976, and Mahmood A. Qazi, the center’s founder, had tried to get the university to cancel Hirsi Ali’s appearance, saying her criticisms were unjustified and could create dissension in their community.
Hirsi Ali, a native of Somalia, wrote the script for the film, “Submission” — a fictional study of abused Muslim women, with scenes of near-naked women with Quranic verses written on their bodies. While some Muslims called it blasphemous, Hirsi Ali said it expressed her dream of an Islamic Age of Enlightenment.
The film’s director, Theo van Gogh, was murdered on an Amsterdam street in 2004, and his killer thrust into his chest a letter threatening Hirsi Ali’s life. She has since moved to the U.S., joined the conservative think tank American Enterprise Institute in Washington, D.C., and written the best-selling autobiography, “Infidel,” a graphic account of how she rejected her faith and the violence she said was inflicted on her in the name of Islam.