Much of the world saw the attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on September 11, 2001 as a new threat to America whose perpetrators were a small group of terrorists known as al-Qaeda. They were unaware of the tremendous network and support that the terrorists received from the American Muslim community for many years. They were not aware of the role militant Islamic theology plays in mainstream Muslim groups and, as President Bush referred to Islam as “a religion of peace,” the justifications for 9/11 and cover-ups made by mainstream Muslim groups were all but ignored. In fact, even today many people are still not aware of the dangers of the ideology of “Islamism.”
Like fascism or communism, Islamism is a dangerous ideology (distinct from the religion of Islam but based on some of Islam’s teachings and practiced only by Muslims) devoted to the upheaval of society and the overthrow of the current order. Adherents of Islamism look towards a world run by Islamic religious law, Sharia.[i]
While the Islamic religion and Islamism are fundamentally different, there is significant concern about the growing control of Islamist leaders over mainstream Islamic institutions. The head of the moderate Sufi Islamic Supreme Council Shaykh Muhammad Hisham Kabbani noted at a 1999 State Department Open Forum that the extremist Islamists “ took over the mosques.” He notes that “they took over more than 80% of the mosques that have been established in the US. And there are more than 3,000 mosques in the US.”[ii] Because of his statements, Shaykh Hisham Kabbani has been harassed by Muslim organizations that purport to be mainstream organizations. The Shaykh has been harassed by groups including the American Muslim Political Coordination Council (AMPCC), American Muslim Alliance (AMA), the American Muslim Council (AMC), Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC), Islamic Circle of North America, Islamic Society of North America, and the Muslim Student Associations of USA & Canada (MSA).[iii] It must be emphasized that the religion of Islam is not the same as the terrorist ideology of Islamism. According to Dr. Daniel Pipes, “Islam is the religion of the Qur'an and the Sunna; Islamism is the political path of Hasan al-Banna, Abu'l-A`la al-Mawdudi, and Ayatollah Khomeini.”[iv]
While making clear that Islamism is not Islam, there are a significant number of overlaps. These threats are due to the radicalization of the Islamic political leadership – a worldwide phenomenon. According to Matthew Epstein, a lawyer and assistant director of the Investigative Project, the largest non-governmental organization devoted to researching the militant Islamic threat, the Islamic political leadership in the United States have parallels with the radicalization of the Islamic leadership worldwide, including “a ... conspiratorial belief that Western nations, led by the United States, aim to destroy Islamic culture” and “an acceptance that violence in the name of Islam is justified in the face of western aggression against the ummah (Islamic community).” Epstein points out that the institutional Muslim leadership in the U.S. has become anti-Western and anti-American. Numerous mainstream American Muslim organizations have portrayed U.S. counterterrorism policy as anti-Muslim in an attempt to weaken the legitimate and constitutional search for domestic terrorists.[v]
In understanding domestic terrorism, one has to understand that it is defined not just by terrorist attacks which occur on American soil or even on American targets, but must include terrorist financing and backing of terrorists and terrorism which occurs overseas. When understanding Islamism, it is important to remember that the goal to make America a Muslim country, run by Sharia law, does not have to be obtained through force. In 1996, the then-head of the American Muslim Council (AMC) Abdulrahman Alamoudi, spoke about this at a Chicago, Illinois conference of the Islamic Association for Palestine. He said:
It depends on me and you, either we do it now or we do it after a hundred years, but this country will become a Muslim country. And I [think] if we are outside this country, we can say oh, Allah destroy America but once we are here, our mission in this country is to change it. And (the prophet) told us that there are three ways of changing things, either by your hand or your mouth or within yourself, and we can change it by our hand and by our mouth, but positively. There is no way for Muslims to be violent in America, no way. We have other means to do it. You can be violent anywhere else but in America.[vi]
When advocating violence overseas and advocating the Islamification of America, Alamoudi is expressing a view common among Islamists, yet he is a mainstream leader of the American Muslim community. His organization, the American Muslim Council, was addressed by FBI director Robert Mueller at its 2002 conference in Alexandria, Virginia. Mueller’s spokesperson called the AMC “the most mainstream Muslim group in the United States.”[vii] While these organizations are mainstream Muslim groups, according to Matthew Epstein, “they draw support from far fewer American Muslims than they claim fall under their leadership.” Given their funding from Saudi Arabia and other wealthy benefactors, however, militant Islamists garner a disproportionate amount of power and attention.[viii] According to a CIA report, of the more than 50 Islamic non-governmental organizations that existed in 1996, “available information indicates that approximately one-third of these Islamic NGOs support terrorist groups or employ individuals who are suspected of having terrorist connections.”[ix] In analyzing militant Islam one has to understand both that while approximately 16 out of 50 organizations with terror ties is significant, the majority of Islamic NGOs were not suspected of terrorist connections in 1996.
Terrorist activity is perpetrated in America through a variety of techniques. Terror groups recruit American passport holders as it is easier for them to travel undetected in North America and abroad. There are numerous corporations and charitable organizations existing in the United States which fund, assist, and justify terrorism against American targets.[x] Two of the most prominent are connected to Hamas: Internet Service Provider InfoCom corporation (which hosts and has hosted the websites of several terrorist organizations including the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development) and CAIR, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, purportedly a civil rights organization for American Muslims.[xi] Osama bin Laden and his affiliates have created “front” organizations under false cover to raise funds for his al-Qaeda network. The most prominent had offices in London, Kansas City, and Denver. The Islamic Jihad terrorist network set up its headquarters under the false cover of an academic institute connected to the University of South Florida. Numerous relief agencies and charitable organizations located in the United States funnel money to terrorist groups overseas, some of which attack American citizens and American targets.
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[i].Daniel Pipes, Militant Islam Reaches America. New York: Norton, 2003, xv, 80.
[ii].Shaykh Muhammad Hisham Kabbani, “Islamic Extremism: A Viable Threat to U.S. National Security: An Open Forum at the U.S. Department of State.” 9 January 1999. <http://www.islamicsupremecouncil.org/bin/site/wrappers/default.asp?pane_2=content-extremism_inamerica_unveiling010799>.
[iii].Islamic Muslim Council Media Alert, “National Muslim Organizations Incite Modern Day Lynch Mob.” (March 2, 1999) <http://www.islamicsupremecouncil.org/bin/site/wrappers/default.asp?pane_2=content-extremism_inamerica_unveiling030299>
[v].”Saudi Support for Islamic Extremism in the United States.” Testimony of Matthew Epstein before the United States Senate Judiciary Committee Subcommittee on Terrorism, Technology, and Homeland Security. September 10, 2003.
[vi].Abdulrahman Alamoudi. Islamic Association of Palestine Conference, Chicago, Illinois, 1996. Reprinted in Testimony of Matthew Epstein “Saudi Support for Islamic Extremism in the United States.” (September 10, 2003).
[vii].Testimony of Matthew Epstein before the United States Senate Judiciary Committee Subcommittee on Terrorism, Technology, and Homeland Security. September 10, 2003.
[ix].Affidavit of Special Agent David Kane. United States of America vs. Soliman S. Biheiri, 03-365-A (District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, August 2003).
[x].Testimony of Steven Emerson before the House Subcommittee on National Security, Veterans Affairs and Intergovernmental Relations of the House Committee on Government Reform. October 11, 2001.
[xi].Testimony of Matthew Epstein before the United States Senate Judiciary Committee Subcommittee on Terrorism, Technology, and Homeland Security. September 10, 2003.; United States of America vs. Randall Todd Royer et al. 03- (District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, June 2003); United States of America vs. Bayan Elashi, et al. CR NO.3:02-CR-052-R (District Court for the Northern Division of Texas, Dallas Division 17 Dec. 2002).; Steve McGonigle, “Aid Push Made for 5 tied to Hamas,” Dallas Morning News (15 Feb. 2003) - Reprinted at http://www.freerepublic.com/.; Steven Emerson, American Jihad. 104-105.; Haganah b’Internet - http://haganah.us/