There used to be a time when the greatest threat within the United States government emanated from Arabists in the State Department, Arabists meaning those persons who favor Arab interests and positions in international affairs. Today, a new threat has emerged and from the most unlikely of places, the Department of Defense (DOD), and this time it’s not from Arabists but from Islamists, coming from outside the department, looking to infiltrate the most sensitive of areas in our nation.
On September 1, 2006, Deputy Secretary of Defense Gordon R. England was featured as a speaker at the 43rd annual convention of the Islamic Society of North America or ISNA. He began his speech by stating the following:
Friends, fellow Americans, people of faith - Good afternoon! Thank you to Dr. Louay Safi for the kind introduction, and a special thank you to Sheikh Muhammad Nur Abdulla, and Dr. Ingrid Mattson, for your leadership and for the invitation to join you at this Islamic Society of North America conference.
Thank you also for the pleasant lunch, and the opportunity to dialog with the Society’s leadership. It was most beneficial to share ideas and values.
It is a profound honor for me to be here with you today, representing all the men and women in the United States military, and all the civilians who serve America in the Department of Defense and throughout the US Government.
ISNA was established by the Muslim Brotherhood (MB)-associated Muslim Students Association (MSA) in 1981, helped into existence by a group of MSA alumni and a teaching assistant at North Carolina State University (NCSU) named Sami Al-Arian, who only two years prior co-founded Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) in Egypt. ISNA was incorporated using the same physical address as the MSA, which was also the address used to incorporate the American Hamas financing wing, the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development (HLF).
In December of 2003, ISNA was the subject of a terrorism investigation launched by the U.S. Senate Finance Committee “into possible links between nongovernmental organizations and terrorist financing networks.”
In June of 2007, ISNA was named an “unindicted co-conspirator” in a legal case brought by the Justice Department against HLF officials that dealt with the funding of millions of dollars to Hamas. During the trial, a May 1991 MB document bearing ISNA’s name was presented as evidence, stating: “The Ikhwan [Brotherhood] must understand 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 and the hands of the believers so that it is eliminated and G-d’s religion is made victorious over all other religions.”
Even today, right on ISNA’s official website, one can read the following quotes: “May Allah fight the jews and the christians. They took the graves of their Prophets as places of prostration . Two deens [religions] shall not co-exist in the land of the Arabs.” And “The Hour will not be established until you fight with the Jews, and the stone behind which a Jew will be hiding will say. ‘O Muslim! There is a Jew hiding behind me, so kill him.’” The statements have been on ISNA’s site since March of 2006, months before England gave his speech.
Furthermore, ISNA Executive Council member Muhammad Nur Abdullah (see above) and board members Jamal Badawi, Yusuf Ziya Kavakci, and Muzammil Siddiqi all currently serve as Sharia Scholars for the ‘Fatwa Bank’ on Islam Online. Contained in it is a fatwa (religious ruling) mandating violence against American troops, entitled ‘Seeking Martyrdom by Attacking US Military Bases in the Gulf.’ It states, “[A]ttacking American soldiers who came to launch war against Muslims is an obligation and Jihad, as they are true invaders. Hence, killing any transgressing American soldier is an obligation and a kind of Jihad since those occupying troops came to invade Muslim lands.”
For such a high-ranking government official, as Deputy Secretary England is, to participate in an event sponsored by ISNA is alarming to say the least, but the series of events that followed the speech were far worse and will have much greater implications for the future.
England was named Deputy Secretary in May of 2005. Prior to that, he had held two terms as Secretary of the Navy. Serving on England’s staff, while he was with the Navy, was an individual by the name of Hesham Islam. Islam, an Egyptian-born former Naval officer (Retired Commander) and former Merchant Marine for Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, while at Naval Postgraduate School, wrote a thesis exhibiting what has been described as anti-Israel and anti-Semitic viewpoints. Islam has since moved on to join Deputy Secretary England’s DOD staff as his Special Assistant for International Affairs.
It has been reported that it was Commander Islam that suggested England address ISNA’s annual conference. And of course, England going to ISNA was an open invitation for ISNA to return the favor by coming to DOD, which the group took advantage of.
On April 26, 2007, DOD issued a “News Article” about ISNA’s visit with the agency the day before. A photo in the release depicts Deputy Secretary England with the President of ISNA Ingrid Mattson and the U.S. Vice President of ISNA Mohamed Hagmagid Ali. It was taken at England’s office in the Pentagon.
Also attending the event was the President of the Muslim American Society (MAS) Esam Omeish, who, last September, resigned his government appointed position to the Virginia Commission of Immigration, after a video surfaced showing him advocating violent jihad. Information regarding Omeish’s attendance is found on the website of American Muslims for Constructive Engagement (AMCE), an organization created by the International Institute for Islamic Thought (IIIT) to bring radical Muslims closer to the U.S. government. In March of 2002, IIIT’s Virginia offices were raided by the FBI in a terror financing probe. In March of 2006, DOD helped pay for an IIIT conference.
Now, it needs to be said that the April photo op and the England speech were not the first times DOD had had dealings with ISNA. In truth, ISNA has been a part of DOD’s Muslim chaplaincy program since July of 2002, when it was named as an “endorser of Chaplains.” However, not everyone was happy about ISNA’s involvement in this program.
In a meeting of the terrorism subcommittee of the Senate Judiciary Committee held in October of 2003, Senators Charles Schumer, Jon Kyl and Dianne Feinstein voiced concern over ISNA’s role at DOD. Senator Schumer cited the fact that Siraj Wahhaj, an individual named by the U.S. government as a possible co-conspirator of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, was at the time a board member of ISNA. Nonetheless, little was done; ISNA kept its position.
Today, thanks to its chief advocate in the government, Hesham Islam, ISNA’s role within the Department of Defense is stronger than ever. As has been discussed in depth by such journalists as Bill Gertz, Frank Gaffney and Kenneth Timmerman, this relationship has forced the Islamic law expert for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Stephen Coughlin, out of his job.
Coughlin, a major in the Army Reserves working as a civilian contractor for the Joint Staff, had recently put together a 333-page document exposing radical Islam’s threat to the West, entitled “TO OUR GREAT DETRIMENT”: IGNORING WHAT EXTREMISTS SAY ABOUT JIHAD [PDF]. As well, he had raised concerns about the dangerous ties of ISNA and other groups that have been courted by Commander Islam. Coughlin understood what many inside the government do not, that there are mainstream American Muslim organizations that threaten our country from within.
While groups like ISNA and MAS work hard to create a false aura of moderation and modernity, and while they cunningly strive to make inroads in the most sensitive of U.S. government sectors, these same groups hide within their websites declarations of violence aimed at non-Muslims. In reality, they hide their true self. And when individuals, such as Stephen Coughlin, come along, they try to discredit them and remove them from the process. This time, they were successful.
Earlier this month, DOD’s Central Command (CENTCOM) canceled a speech that was to be given in front of its personnel by Ahmed Bedier, a leader of the Hamas-related Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR). In doing as such, CENTCOM, the arm of the government responsible for combat operations abroad, exhibited integrity.
It is time for the Defense Department to follow its military offspring and match that integrity by removing ISNA and its friends from its offices. These organizations are threats to our security and have no business taking part in our government, let alone being in our country.
DOD does a great job protecting us, by fighting our enemies abroad. It mustn’t forget that those same enemies have counterparts stationed here, as well.
“Ultimately we can never be full citizens of this country… because there is no way we can be fully committed to the institutions and ideologies of this country.”
- ISNA board member, Ihsan Bagby, ‘Political Activities of Muslims in America,’ 1991
“We are those who have given a pledge of allegiance to Muhammad that we will carry on Jihad as long as we live.”
- ISNA official website,‘Fighting in the Cause of Allah (Jihaad),’ March 17, 2006 - Present