- Enforces extremist Wahhabi theological writ in America's mosques
See also: Muslim Brotherhood
Established in 1981 by the Saudi-funded Muslim Students' Association of the U.S. and Canada (MSA), the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) calls itself the largest Muslim organization on the continent. ISNA was created by MSA with the help of one of Palestinian Islamic Jihad's founding students, Sami Al-Arian. Another noteworthy founding member of ISNA was Mahboob Khan.
Today ISNA's annual conventions draw more attendees -- usually over 30,000 -- than any other Muslim gathering in the Western Hemisphere. ISNA's mission is to function as "an association of Muslim organizations and individuals that provides a common platform for presenting Islam, supporting Muslim communities, developing educational, social and outreach programs and fostering good relations with other religious communities, and civic and service organizations."
ISNA focuses heavily on providing Wahhabi theological indoctrination materials to a large percentage of the mosques in North America. Many of these mosques were recently built with Saudi money and are required, by their Saudi benefactors, to strictly follow the dictates of Wahhabi imams -- an edict that affects the tone and content of the sermons given in the mosques, the selection of books and periodicals that may be read in mosque libraries or sold in mosque bookshops, and the policies governing the exclusion or suppression of dissenters from the congregations.
Through its affiliate, the North American Islamic Trust -- a Saudi government-backed organization created to fund Islamist enterprises in North America -- the Saudi-subsidized ISNA reportedly holds the mortgages on 50 to 80 percent of all mosques in the U.S. and Canada. Thus the organization can freely exercise ultimate authority over these houses of worship and their teachings.
Writes Kaukab Siddique, the editor of New Trend, an Islamic periodical of extremist views that is nonetheless opposed to Wahhabi domination of American Islam: "ISNA controls most mosques in America and thus also controls who will speak at every Friday prayer, and which literature will be distributed there."
Islam scholar Stephen Schwartz describes ISNA as "one of the chief conduits through which the radical Saudi form of Islam passes into the United States." Adds Schwartz: "Our view is that the number of mosques under Wahhabi control actually totals at least 600 out of the official total of 1,200, while, as noted, Shia community leaders endorse the figure of 80 percent Wahhabi control. But we also offer a number of 4-6,000 mosques overall, including small and diverse congregations of many kinds."
According to Sufi leader Sheikh Muhammad Hisham Kabbani's testimony before a State Department Open Forum on January 7, 1999, extremists have taken over "more than 80 percent of the mosques in the United States ... This means that the ideology of extremism has been spread to 80 percent of the Muslim population, mostly the youth and the new generation." Kabbani based his statement on his personal investigation of 114 American mosques. "Ninety of them," he said, "were mostly exposed, and I say exposed, to extreme or radical ideology, based on their speeches, books and board members." This is largely due to the efforts of ISNA.
According to terrorism expert Steven Emerson, ISNA "is a radical group hiding under a false veneer of moderation"; "convenes annual conferences where Islamist militants have been given a platform to incite violence and promote hatred" (for instance, al Qaeda supporter and PLO official Yusuf Al-Qaradhawi was invited to speak at an ISNA conference); has held fundraisers for terrorists (after Hamas leader Mousa Marzook was arrested and eventually deported in 1997, ISNA raised money for his defense); has condemned the U.S. government's post-9/11 seizure of Hamas' and Palestinian Islamic Jihad's financial assets; and publishes a bi-monthly magazine, Islamic Horizons, that "often champions militant Islamist doctrine."
Adds Emerson: "I think ISNA has been an umbrella, also a promoter of groups that have been involved in terrorism. I am not going to accuse the ISNA of being directly involved in terrorism. I will say ISNA has sponsored extremists, racists, people who call for Jihad against the United States."
Emerson further reports that "In September 2002, a full year after the 9/11 attacks, speakers at ISNA's annual conference still refused to acknowledge Bin Laden's role in the terrorist attacks."
WTHR, an Indianapolis television station located close to ISNA's Plainfield, Indiana headquarters, said it had found "about a dozen charities, organizations and individuals under federal scrutiny for possible ties to terrorism that are in some way linked to ISNA."
In December 2003, U.S. Senators Charles Grassley and Max Baucus of the Senate Committee on Finance listed ISNA as one of 25 American Muslim organizations that "finance terrorism and perpetuate violence." ISNA is known to have permitted the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development (and a number of other Islamic charities with terror connections) to set up booths at its conventions, and in some cases has helped raise money for them.
Upon learning of the arrest of Sami Al-Arian, the University of South Florida computer science professor who eventually would be found guilty of conspiring to fund the terrorist organization Palestinian Islamic Jihad, ISNA issued a statement criticizing the U.S. government for its prosecution of Al-Arian.
ISNA was named in a May 1991 Muslim Brotherhood document -- titled "An Explanatory Memorandum on the General Strategic Goal for the Group in North America" -- as one of the Brotherhood's 29 likeminded "organizations of our friends" that shared the common goal of destroying America and turning it into a Muslim nation. These "friends" were identified by the Brotherhood as groups that could help teach Muslims "that their work in America is a kind of grand Jihad in eliminating and destroying the Western civilization from within and 'sabotaging' its miserable house by their hands ... so that ... God's religion [Islam] is made victorious over all other religions."
Also named in the Muslim Brotherhood document were:
Several organizations are considered constituents of ISNA. These include the Association of Muslim Social Scientists of North America, the Islamic Medical Association of North America, the Association of Muslim Scientists and Engineers, the Council of Islamic Schools in North America, the Muslim Students Association of the U.S. and Canada, and Muslim Youth of North America.
ISNA was a signatory to a February 20, 2002 document, composed by C. Clark Kissinger's revolutionary communist group Refuse & Resist, condemning military tribunals and the detention of immigrants apprehended in connection with post-9/11 terrorism investigations. In ISNA's estimation, the Patriot Act constitutes an assault on the civil liberties of Muslim Americans and ought to be repealed.
ISNA endorses the Immigrant Workers Freedom Ride Coalition, which seeks to secure amnesty and civil liberties protections for illegal aliens, and policy reforms that diminish or eliminate restrictions on future immigration.
ISNA chose not to endorse or participate in the May 14, 2005 "Free Muslims March Against Terror," an event whose purpose was to "send a message to the terrorists and extremists that their days are numbered . . . [and to send] a message to the people of the Middle East, the Muslim world and all people who seek freedom, democracy and peaceful coexistence that we support them."
Among ISNA's more prominent members and affiliates (past and present) are Mohammed Nur Abdullah, Muzammil Siddiqi, Siraj Wahhaj, Ihsan Bagby, Jamal A. Badawi, Abdullah Idris Ali, Hadia Mubarak (a former President of the Muslim Students Association who now sits on ISNA's Board of Directors), and Omar J. Siddiqui (the Muslim Youth of North America Chairman who is also a member of the ISNA Board).
ISNA's current President is Ingrid Mattson, professor of Islamic Studies at the Macdonald Center for Islamic Studies, and of Christian-Muslim Relations at Hartford Seminary in Connecticut.
Also affiliated with ISNA is Abdurahman Alamoudi, who in 1982 founded the Islamic Society of Boston under ISNA's tax-exempt umbrella.
In July 2006, ISNA Secretary General Sayyid M. Syeed joined Sojourners leader Jim Wallis and National Council of Churches (NCC) General Secretary Robert Edgar in opposing any U.S. military action against Iran's nuclear weapons program -- instead advocating "direct negotiations" with Tehran. At ISNA's 44th annual convention (held in Rosemont, Illinois) in August 2007, NCC's Interfaith Relations office sponsored an Ecumenical Study Seminar for "reflecting and learning together."
In the summer 2007 Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development (HLF) trial (which looked into evidence of HLF's fundraising on behalf of Hamas), the U.S. government released a list of approximately 300 of HLF's "unindicted co-conspirators" and "joint venturers." Among the unindicted co-conspirators were groups such as ISNA, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, Hamas, INFOCOM, the Islamic Association for Palestine, the Muslim Arab Youth Association, the United Association for Studies and Research, and the North American Islamic Trust. The list also included many individuals affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood and/or Hamas. Among these were Omar Ahmad, Abdurahman Alamoudi, Yousef al-Qaradawi, Abdallah Azzam, Jamal Badawi, Mohammad Jaghlit, Mousa Abu Marzook, Abdel Aziz Rantisi, and Ahmed Yassin.
According to the Investigative Project on Terrorism, an 86-page report issued by the office of U.S. Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) states that the Department of Justice (DOJ) has conducted outreach work with ISNA. Most notably, in September 2007 DOJ co-sponsored ISNA's national convention -- with American taxpayer dollars.