AAH rallies against Islamic Circle of North America in Hartford demands organisation be put on terror watch list
July 10, 2007
Protesters Target Islamic Convention In Hartford
By LYNN DOAN
Courant Staff Writer
July 9, 2007
Anti-terrorism protesters rallied in Hartford Sunday outside the annual convention of the Islamic Circle of North America, despite the organization's recent efforts to fight the characterization of Muslims as terrorists.
For the first time since the Islamic Circle of North America began holding its annual convention at the Connecticut Convention Center two years ago, a group of about 12 protesters rallied to demand that the U.S. government shut down the organization and freeze its accounts.
Coincidentally, this year's convention also marks the first time the organization has opened its doors to non-Muslims in an effort to dispel suspicion and misconceptions about the faith and its followers.
Joe Kaufman, head of Americans Against Hate, a Florida-based group whose website describes it as a terrorist watchdog group, on Sunday accused the Islamic Circle of North America of making $99,000 in charitable contributions the protesters say ended up in the hands of Hamas militants.
Kaufman demanded that the federal government freeze the organization's bank accounts and place the Muslim Brotherhood of Pakistan, which he believes is affiliated with the organization, on the U.S. Department of State's list of foreign terrorist organizations.
"Giving money to a terrorist organization is illegal in the United States, and many groups have been shut down for this," said Kaufman, who flew in from Coral Springs, Fla., for the protest. "I expect the same for Islamic Circle of North America."
As Kaufman spoke and protesters held up signs reading "Young Muslims, Young Hamas" and "ICNA-Hamas Connection," convention organizers quickly ushered their visitors into the convention center and asked that they ignore the protest.
"They have the right to protest. That's the beauty of America," said Naeem Baig, secretary-general for the Islamic Circle of North America. "But they are obviously misinformed."
He said the Islamic Circle of North America is not connected to the group in Pakistan and only contributes to charitable causes related to emergency health care and education.
"We're not some secret organization," he said. "We're an open organization that works in relief and social services."
Baig said he wished the protesters had attended Saturday's full-day seminars for non-Muslims to learn about the religion and the organization's true beliefs and goals.
James Yee, a former U.S. Army Muslim chaplain who has regularly attended the Islam conventions, described Sunday's protest as "anti-American."
"It seems like these individuals are completely misinformed," said Yee, who was chaplain to prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, until he was arrested on espionage charges and then released three months later with the charges dismissed. "If the [Islamic Circle of North America] is in any way connected to terrorists, the U.S. government would have obviously cracked down against them."