FDNY Chaplain Resigns After 9/11 Remarks
Friday September 30, 2005 8:01 PM
By MICHAEL WEISSENSTEIN
Associated Press Writer
Sat Oct 01, 2005 6:37 pm
The fire department’s new Muslim chaplain abruptly resigned Friday after saying in a published interview that he believes something other than al-Qaida hijackers brought down the World Trade Center.
"It became clear to him that he would have difficulty functioning as an FDNY chaplain," Fire Commissioner Nicholas Scoppetta told reporters an hour before Imam Intikab Habib was to be officially sworn in. "There has been no prior indication that he held those views."
Habib told Newsday in an interview published Friday that he was skeptical of the official version of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, which killed 343 firefighters.
"I’ve heard professionals say that nowhere ever in history did a steel building come down with fire alone," he told the newspaper.
"It takes two or three weeks to demolish a building like that. But it was pulled down in a couple of hours," he said. "Was it 19 hijackers who brought it down, or was it a conspiracy?"
The 30-year-old Guyana native joined the department as chaplain on Aug. 15 after the FDNY’s Islamic Society recommended him for the part-time position, which pays $18,000 a year.
Scoppetta said Habib, who was educated in Islamic law in Saudi Arabia and preaches at a New York mosque, had appeared qualified and passed a background check.
Habib made his comments after Newsday asked him whether he thought firefighters would object to a chaplain trained in Saudi Arabia. The country was home to 15 of the 19 men who hijacked four jets on Sept. 11, 2001, crashed two of them into the trade center towers and one into the Pentagon. The fourth crashed in Pennsylvania.
"There are so many conflicting reports about it," the newspaper quoted Habib as saying. "I don’t believe it was 19 … hijackers who did those attacks." He said he didn’t know who was responsible for the attacks.
"It’s sad," said Kevin James, a spokesman for the Islamic Society of Fire Department Personnel. "We had no idea those were his views. He’s entitled to his opinion but he’s not the right person for the chaplain."
Mayor Michael Bloomberg welcomed Habib’s resignation.
"The remarks were offensive and the mayor is satisfied that the chaplain has resigned," mayoral spokesman Ed Skyler said.
Some have blamed the destruction of the trade center on a U.S. or Israeli plot designed to whip up support for attacks on Muslim countries. In 2003, New Jersey eliminated Amiri Baraka’s position as poet laureate after he wrote a poem suggesting Israel had advance knowledge of the attacks.