On March 9, 1977, the United States was unfamiliar with terrorism on its soil. However, on that day 35 years ago, Hanafi Muslims carrying rifles and machetes seized the B’nai B’rith International headquarters building on Rhode Island Avenue in Washington, D.C., taking more than 100 people hostage.
The hostage situation ended when three ambassadors from Muslim nations—Iran, Egypt and Pakistan—persuaded the terrorists based on passages from the Koran to end the hostage situation. By the end of the 39-hour attack, one person was killed, two others were shot, dozens were injured, and all were terrorized.
At the time, a secular, pre-revolutionary Iran was a friend to the United States, and to a lesser extent, Israel. Today, the world faces the threat of a nuclear-armed Iran, a country whose leaders deny the Holocaust, refuse to recognize Israel’s right to exist, issues threats against the Jewish people, and which relies on religion to justify intolerance and hate.
B’nai B’rith was not the only target that day. The Hanafi Muslim terrorists also held hostages at the District building (Washington’s city hall), and the Islamic Center. The group said it was avenging the murders of seven members of a Hanafi leader’s family four years earlier at the hands of a rival Muslim group.
Those held hostage in the three locations 35 years ago were innocent bystanders, as are the victims of Islamic extremism today. These events, and so many more, have as their genesis blind hatred and ignorance.
B’nai B’rith International implores those in the family of civilized nations to exert every possible effort to wipe out terrorism worldwide.
B’nai B’rith Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin is available to comment on the similarities and differences between the terrorism of 1977 and international terrorism today. B’nai B’rith may also be able to arrange interviews with former hostages.
See where B'nai B'rith International stands on the issues.