By Ryan Mauro (@RyanMauro)
The Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), a group with Muslim Brotherhood origins, is again using its interfaith allies to accuse its opponents of being part of an anti-Muslim conspiracy. On January 15, the First Congregational United Church of Christ in Washington D.C. hosted an event about the “Islamophobia Network” that was sponsored by ISNA.
The speakers included Rev. Dennis Wiley, co-pastor of Covenant Baptist United Church of Christ; ISNA president Mohamed Magid; Rachel Laser of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism and Rabia Chaudry, president of the Safe Nation Collaborative. Sponsors included the Jewish Community Relations Council, Sojourners and Rabbis for Human Rights—North America.
Laser focused on the report, “Fear Inc.: The Roots of the Islamophobia Network” that dismisses concern about the U.S. Muslim Brotherhood as anti-Muslim propaganda. The article about the event on ISNA’s website quotes an unnamed participant as expressing their surprise at “how few powerful organizations or people are behind an intentional anti-Muslim campaign.”
For ISNA and its allies, any action against the U.S. Muslim Brotherhood network in America is “Islamophobia.” In 2004, Magid reacted to counter-terrorism raids by accusing elements of the U.S. government of being “intent on dismantling Muslim organizations and bringing them down.”
An interfaith group called Shoulder to Shoulder organized the church event. The group includes ISNA as a member, and Magid is a member of its executive committee. This is the same interfaith coalition that wrote a letter in March 2012 protesting the NYPD’s use of the anti-Islamist film, The Third Jihad, saying it is “bigoted propaganda.” The film, which is narrated by a devout Muslim, educates viewers about the Muslim Brotherhood origins of ISNA and similar groups.
ISNA and its interfaith allies make it sound like the “Islamophobes” make up accusations out of thin air. In reality, their critics rely upon verifiable open-source information, the U.S. Muslim Brotherhood’s own documents and the statements of the federal government.
Though ISNA says it is “not now nor has it ever been subject to the control of” the Muslim Brotherhood, the U.S. government listed it in 2007 among entities “who are and/or were members of the U.S. Muslim Brotherhood” in the trial of the Holy Land Foundation. In 2009, a federal judge ruled that there was “ample” evidence tying ISNA to Hamas to justify its designation as an unindicted co-conspirator in the Holy Land trial.
Internal U.S. Muslim Brotherhood documents agree with the government’s position on ISNA. A 1991 memo lists ISNA as one of “our organizations and the organizations of our friends.” It also lists the ISNA Fiqh Committee and ISNA Political Awareness Committee, as well as several other groups that ISNA callsits “constituent organizations” on its website. The memo says that the Brotherhood’s “work in America is a kind of grand jihad in eliminating and destroying the Western civilization from within.”
Declassified FBI memos show that ISNA and its related groups were identified as Brotherhood fronts as far back as 1987. A confidential source inside the U.S. Brotherhood network told the FBI that the groups have a “secret agenda which includes the spread of the Islamic Revolution to all non-Islamic governments in the world which does include the U.S.”
In 1993, the FBI wiretapped a secret U.S. Muslim Brotherhood meeting in Philadelphia where the participants discussed using ISNA as a cover. It is true this information is from about two decades ago, but there has been no cleansing of Islamist personnel. In fact, a 2009 Hudson Institute studyconcluded, “All but one of the individuals listed on the ISNA founding documents remain active either in ISNA or one of its affiliated organizations.”
One such individual is Sayyid Syeed. He is a founder of ISNA and served as its secretary-general from 1994 o 2006. A new documentary includes footage of him saying in 2006 that “our job is to change the constitution of America.” He is now the national director of ISNA’s Office of Interfaith Relations.
Syeed and Magid endorsed a message from the National Interreligious Leadership Initiative for Peace in the Middle East urging the U.S. to push harder for a two-state solution that “provides for a secure and recognized Israel.” The backgrounds of ISNA and other Islamist endorsers of the message, however, contradict this message.
The Muslim Brotherhood, from which ISNA came, is dedicated to Israel’s elimination. Another endorser is Imam Rauf of Ground Zero Mosque fame. Though he came out swinging against the Brotherhood’s power grab in Egypt, hespoke in favor of a “one-state solution” in 2005 and has predicted Israel’s ultimate demise.
Another endorser is the leader of the Islamic Circle of North America, a group whose origins lie with the Pakistani Islamist group, Jamaat-e-Islami. ICNA has an interfaith campaign of its own. Like ISNA, ICNA is listed in the 1991 U.S. Muslim Brotherhood memo as one of its affiliates.
The Islamic Center of America’s Interfaith Office for Outreach also endorsed the Middle East peace message. The mosque is led by Imam Hassan Qazwini, who has hosted Louis Farrakhan and held a memorial for Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah, considered a spiritual leader of Hezbollah, when he died in 2010. Fadlallah supported suicide bombings and the elimination of Israel and questioned the Holocaust. Qazwini has boasted that Fadlallah “considered me his son” and the two met whenever he traveled to Lebanon.
For groups like ISNA, interfaith engagement is about more than healthy relationships between Muslims and non-Muslims. It is political coalition-building designed to undermine support for Israel and legitimize the Brotherhood-originated groups while delegitimizing their opposition.
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