Federal prosecutors have named three prominent Islamic organizations in America as participants in an alleged criminal conspiracy to support a Palestinian Arab terrorist group, Hamas.
Prosecutors applied the label of "unindicted co-conspirator" to the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the Islamic Society of North America, and the North American Islamic Trust in connection with a trial planned in Texas next month for five officials of a defunct charity, the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development.
While the foundation was charged in the case, which was filed in 2004, none of the other groups was. However, the co-conspirator designation could be a blow to the credibility of the national Islamic organizations, which often work hand-in-hand with government officials engaged in outreach to the Muslim community.
A court filing by the government last week listed the three prominent groups among about 300 individuals or entities named as coconspirators. The document gave scant details, but prosecutors described CAIR as a present or past member of "the U.S. Muslim Brotherhood's Palestine Committee and/or its organizations." The government listed the Islamic Society of North America and the North American Islamic Trust as "entities who are and/or were members of the U.S. Muslim Brotherhood."
The secretary-general of the Islamic Society of North America, Muneer Fareed, said his group was surprised to be named in the Texas case. "I can tell you categorically that the current administration of ISNA, as well as its stakeholders, they have no connection to my knowledge with any Holy Land foundations," he said.
Mr. Fareed denied his group has any ties to Hamas, though he said it is difficult to police all 300 mosques under his umbrella. "We might have a kid whose dad was president of Hamas for all I know," he said. "How do you verify these things?"
The Islamic official expressed was frustration at the lack of detail in the prosecution's filing. "Perhaps there's some evidence. I just don't really know what it is," he said.
Spokesmen for CAIR did not respond to messages seeking comment yesterday. Efforts to contact the North American Islamic Trust were unsuccessful.
The identification of the alleged co-conspirators could aid prosecutors when the Holy Land Foundation and five of its officials, Shukri Abu-Baker, Mohammad El-Mezain, Ghassan Elashi, Mufid Abdulqader, and Abdulraham Odeh, go to trial on July 16 in Dallas. Statements by and about co-conspirators are exempt from rules barring hearsay.
Judge A. Joe Fish will have to decide whether to accept the government's description of the alleged conspiracy.
The practice of publicly naming unindicted co-conspirators is frowned on by some in the legal community, chiefly because there is no trial or other mechanism for those named to challenge their designation. Justice Department guidelines discourage the public identification of unindicted coconspirators by the government.
"In all public filings and proceedings, federal prosecutors should remain sensitive to the privacy and reputation interests of uncharged third-parties," the Justice Department's manual for prosecutors says. When co-conspirator lists have to be filed in court, prosecutors should seek to file them under seal, the guidelines say.
In practice, the lists are often made public. A list of co-conspirators was released in connection with the federal trial in 2005 of a former college professor, Sami Al-Arian, on terrorism support charges. However, when Enron executives went on trial last year, the list of alleged co-conspirators was kept under seal. Prosecutors on the Holy Land Foundation case could not be reached yesterday and did not respond to an e-mail.
The inclusion of the Islamic groups on the list of alleged conspirators could give ammunition to critics of the organizations. CAIR, in particular, has faced persistent claims that it is soft on terrorism. Critics note that several former CAIR officials have been convicted or deported after being charged with fraud, embargo violations, or aiding terrorist training. Spokesmen for the group have also raised eyebrows for offering generic denunciations of terrorism but refusing to condemn by name specific Islamic terrorist groups such as Hamas or Hezbollah.
In addition, one of the Holy Land Foundation defendants, Ghassan Elashi, founded CAIR's Texas chapter. CAIR's Washington office was also set up in 1994 with $5,000 in seed money from the foundation, according to congressional testimony by a researcher into Islamic extremism, Steven Emerson.
Last year, Senator Boxer of California, a Democrat, withdrew an award she gave to an official at a local CAIR chapter. She said she had concerns about statements by some CAIR officials and about claims of financial links to terrorism. Many FBI officials meet regularly with CAIR representatives and clerics from the Islamic Society of North America.
A New York Times article published in March said unidentified government officials believed that the criticism of CAIR was unwarranted. A former FBI official, Michael Rolince, said yesterday that the co-conspirator designation might prompt CAIR to be more direct in denouncing terrorism but was no reason to cut off all contact with the group.
"People could say the same thing about the FBI. They're not all choirboys," he said. "We don't go into this with blinders on."
Separately, a reporter for the Dallas Morning News, Steve McGonigle, is fighting the prosecution's efforts to call him as a witness at the Holy Land Foundation trial.
In filing to quash the subpoena last week, Mr. McGonigle said prosecutors want to question him about an interview that he conducted in 1999 with the spiritual leader of Hamas, Sheikh Ahmad Yassin. Yassin, who was killed in an Israeli airstrike in 2004, denied any connection between Holy Land Foundation and Hamas.
However, Mr. McGonigle reported that records showed that the foundation sometimes singled out the families of Hamas "martyrs" for assistance.
Mr. McGonigle's lawyer said his client could be targeted by terrorists if he forced to testify. "A journalist who is perceived to have acted as an agent for the U.S. Government will almost inevitably be placed at a substantially greater risk when on assignment in the Middle East," the attorney, Paul Watler, wrote.
MIM:There are two upcoming ISNA conferences and camp for "Youth (da'wa) Workers".
MIM:The members of the ISNA board of directors have ties other Islamist organisations.
Crowne Plaza Dallas Galleria 14315 Midway Road, Addison, TX - 75001 June 30, 2007
Yusuf Ziya Kavakci
Sayyid M. Syeed
Imam Zaid Shakir
Other invited Speakers are:
Other local Imams from DFW area
MYNA Youth Camp lead by Iyad
Description: Qualified youth activists (age 12-18) and advisors from throughout the United States and Canada will gather to participate in MYNA's Annual National Youth Training Retreat. The retreat will be held at Camp Y-Noah: Clinton, Ohio- in an environment of spirituality, excitement, and adventure. Participants will take part in spectacular state-of-the-art leadership and skill-developing workshops, sports, team-building activities, and great entertainment programs- all led by nationally renowned scholars and highly successful activists and role-models. Be one of the first to enjoy this one-of-its kind experience. All applications will be reviewed by MYNA National advisors after receiving the recommendation letters and the essays. (Note: finance should not hinder participation) Invited Guest Speakers and Performers: Dr. Jamal Badawi Dr. Muneer Fareed Imam Siraj Wahhaj Dr. Sherman Jackson Imam Mohammad Magid Sh. Abdalla Idris Ali Br. Altaf Husain Dr. Jawad Shah Kareem Salama Dawud Wharnsby Ali Native Deen Questions? Email: [email protected] Phone: 317.838.8126 NationalRetreatFlierFlier
MIM: Mission statement of the now defunct Islamic Association of Palestine the American wing of Hamas.
The Islamic Association for Palestine (IAP) is a not-for-profit, public-awareness, educa-tional, political, social, and civic, national grassroots organization dedicated to advancing a just, comprehensive, and eternal solution to the cause of Palestine and suffrages of the Palestinians.
The IAP is open to all men, women, and youth that agree with the IAP?s goals and principles. Since its founding in 1981, the IAP has grown into the largest Muslim, Arab, and Palestinian American grassroots organization dedicated to the cause of Palestine with tens of regional and local chapters, representatives, and offices around the country. A national Board of Directors, an Executive Committee, local committees, and a number of staffers run the IAP.
1. Presenting Religious and Historical Perspectives on Palestine. Palestine is the land of Al-Quds (Jerusalem) and Al-Aqsa Mosque: the second house of worship to be built on earth -40 years after the Ka`ba in Mecca-, the first Qiblah (prayer direction) for Muslims, the third Holy Shrine, prophet Mu-hammad?s Isra` and Mi`raj (journey and ascension) stage between Mecca and heavens, and birth place of prophet Issa (Jesus). Palestine is the heart of the cradle of prophethood and revelations, where many prophets were born, lived, visited, and/or died at. Father of Prophets, Ebraheem (Abraham), who was welcomed by the Canaanites (old Palestinians) when he migrated from Ur, Iraq to their historical land, was promised by God to make the Holy Land inherited -not by a chosen people-, but by the good be-lievers regardless of their race or ethnicity. Palestine was conquered and occupied by several ancient and new forces, but the only people that had never ceased to be the majority and to continually live on its land, is its Arab population starting with the Canaanites and ending with today?s Palestinians. Hence, the IAP works with all true believers to keep Palestine and its people free, open, and ruled justly.
2. Educating People about the Palestinian Issue. The Israeli occupation of Palestine has led to in-justice and oppression against Palestinians, and instability and troubles throughout the Middle East, and beyond. Consequently, the IAP works for the real peace that results in all forms of occupation are ended, all Palestinians in exile are allowed a return to their homeland, illegal Jewish settlements are dissolved, Jerusalem is ruled by Palestinians, and freedom and democracy are established for all resi-dents.
3. Rallying Efforts in Support of the True Solution to the Palestinian Problem. The IAP urges American Muslims, Arabs and Palestinians as well as all fair-minded Americans to exercise their important role in promoting a just and unbiased American position toward the issue of Palestine, and ex-posing dangers of the unconditional tax-funded American aid to Israel.
4. Sustaining the Palestinian American Community. As exiled refugees and immigrants, the IAP advocates finding remedies to social, second-generation?s identity, and cultural challenges that Palestin-ian-Americans face in the American society.
5. Empowering Muslim and Arab American Communities and Promoting their Global Issues. Muslim, Arab, and Palestinian Americans are part of the one global Ummah (nation), and their issues are fully intertwined domestically and internationally. Accordingly, the IAP acts to strengthen Muslim and Arab Americans? economic and political status, encourages their active role in making American public policies, and fighting discrimination, stereotyping and defamation acts against them, and in sup-porting Muslim and Arab issues around the world.
IAP AREAS OF ACTIVITIES
Education and Public Awareness
IAP organizes conventions, festivals, lectures, seminars, debates, dialogues, exhibitions, Friday sermon tours, and Ramadan campaign. It also provides specialized literature and audio-visuals as well as material for schools on the Palestinian issue and history of the Holy Land. The IAP disseminates information through its home page on the Inter Net and faxing System.
Political Action and Lobbying
The IAP issues public statements, action-alerts, press releases, and articles. It organizes demonstrations, press conferences, protest-telegrams, and a petition drives. The IAP lobbies political lead-ers, works in coalitions, and encourages voter registration and election participation.
The IAP publishes the Arabic Al-Zaytuna bi-weekly newspaper and other special publications. It conducts studies of importance and makes the information available to the public.
Public Relations and Dialogue
The IAP builds strong bridges with various Muslim, Arab, Palestinian and other American groups through its activities and contacts with community centers, mosques, churches, media, civil and human rights institutions, intellectuals and officials.
The IAP conducts recreational events, like: camps, picnics, and Eid folklore parties. It facilitates social and educational activities for youth and others. It trains Muslim activists and youth in effective leadership and public relations.