By: John Perazzo
FrontPageMagazine.com | Tuesday, August 21, 2007
It sounds so nice, so brimming with hope and cheer: “Christians will join with more than 35,000 Muslims for fellowship and conversation.” Thus says the National Council of Churches’ (NCC) announcement that its Interfaith Relations office will sponsor an Ecumenical Study Seminar for “reflecting and learning together” at the 44th annual convention of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), which will be held in Rosemont, Illinois at the end of August.
You may reasonably ask, of course, exactly what ISNA is. Could it possibly be, as the foregoing announcement seems to imply, a group of genuinely moderate Muslims that finally has stepped forward to collaborate with a Christian organization in a spirit of mutual acceptance and respect?
Not on your life.
Established in 1963 by the by the Saudi-funded Muslim Students’ Association of the U.S. and Canada, ISNA calls itself the largest Muslim organization on the continent. Its annual convention draws more attendees -- consistently over 30,000 -- than any other Islamic gathering in the Western Hemisphere.
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.” The organization’s raison d’etre, he explains, is to provide Wahhabi theological indoctrination materials to a large percentage of the mosques in North America. (Wahhabism, which emerged in 18-century Saudi Arabia, has been described by one Somali journalist as “the austere and closed school of thought” that “sows hatred and rancor even among Moslems,” and as “the sect that produced 15 of the 19 suicide bombers of Sept. 11.”)
Many American 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 publications available in mosque libraries and bookshops, and the policies governing how dissenters from congregations should be treated. Through its affiliate, the North American Islamic Trust -- a Saudi government-backed organization created to fund Islamist enterprises in North America -- ISNA reportedly holds the mortgages on 50 to 80 percent of all mosques in the U.S. and Canada. Thus it can freely exercise ultimate authority over these houses of worship.
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.”
WTHR, an Indianapolis television station located close to ISNA’s Plainfield, Indiana headquarters, recently 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 was a leading figure in the terrorist organization Palestinian Islamic Jihad, ISNA issued a statement criticizing the U.S. government for its prosecution of Al-Arian.
ISNA was a signatory to a February 20, 2002 document, composed by C. Clark Kissinger’s revolutionary communist organization 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 notable members and affiliates are the following:
- Former ISNA President Mohammed Nur Abdullah, who immigrated to the U.S. from Sudan in 1978, is a member of the Sharia Scholars Association of North America. Sharia is a brutally harsh system of strictly enforced Islamic law.
- In the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, former ISNA President Muzammil Siddiqi appeared as a goodwill ambassador at an official ceremony at the National Cathedral in Washington, DC. But nearly a year earlier (on October 28, 2000), Siddiqi had publicly stated: “America has to learn, if you remain on the side of injustice, the wrath of God will come. Please, all Americans. Do you remember that? If you continue doing injustice, and tolerate injustice, the wrath of God will come.”
- Former ISNA Vice President Siraj Wahhaj was named by U.S. Attorney Mary Jo White as a possible co-conspirator to the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center, and testified as a character witness for convicted terror mastermind Omar Abdel Rahman, the blind sheikh imprisoned for his role in plotting the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. According to Salon.com, in a 1991 speech before the Islamic Association of North Texas, Wahhaj characterized Operation Desert Storm as “one of the most diabolical plots ever in the annals of history” and predicted America’s imminent demise unless it “accepts the Islamic agenda.”
- In a WorldNetDaily report detailing how certain Muslim group leaders are hoping that “the U.S. Constitution will one day be replaced by Koranic law,” ISNA board member and Director Ihsan Bagby, an Islamic fundamentalist, is quoted as saying: “Ultimately we [Muslims] can never be full citizens of this country [the U.S.], because there is no way we can be fully committed to the institutions and ideologies of this country.”
- In 1982 Abdurahman Alamoudi (who is currently serving a 23-year prison sentence) founded the Islamic Society of Boston under ISNA’s tax-exempt umbrella. Alamoudi is a self-professed supporter of both Hamas and Hezbollah; he has defended the terrorist leader Omar Abdel Rahman of the Islamic Group; he lamented that no Americans had died during al Qaeda’s 1998 bombing of the U.S. Embassy in Kenya; and he recommended that more operations be conducted like the 1994 Hezbollah bombing of the Argentine Jewish Mutual Aid Association cultural center in Buenos Aires, in which 85 people died.
Remarkable though it may seem, the objectives and worldviews of ISNA and its leading luminaries are entirely compatible with those of the National Council of Churches and its hierarchy. Consider, for example, that one of the leaders of the upcoming Ecumenical Study Seminar at ISNA’s August conference will be the Rev. Dr. Shanta Premawardhana, NCC’s Associate General Secretary for Interfaith Relations. When a Danish newspaper in early 2006 printed a series of cartoons that lampooned the Islamic prophet Mohammad, Premawardhana wrote that the publication of the cartoons was “a provocation” implying that “every Muslim is a potential terrorist”; that the resulting Muslim protest riots throughout the world “must be considered in the context of a growing Islamophobia in European societies”; and that Muslims were understandably offended by “Western Christians who have enjoyed hegemonic power for over five centuries of European colonial domination [and who] are continuing to enjoy it under the empire-building of a professedly Christian U.S. president.” Premawardhana further referred to the November 2005 Muslim riots that overran many parts of France as a “wide-spread youth revolt” which served as “ample evidence that France was not as tolerant and welcoming a place as it is portrayed to be.”
In short, ISNA and the NCC are a highly compatible pair of bedfellows. Both organizations view Western culture and its institutions as the principal cause of interreligious and international strife. Both are ever-prepared to condemn the West for even the slightest perceived affront to the Islamic world, while turning a blind eye to even the most outrageous endorsements of hatred and intolerance on the part of Muslims. And both will affirm this perspective at ISNA’s national conference later this month.
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