ISNA headquarters in Plainfield, Ind.
JERUSALEM – An Islamic group that was named by the Justice Department as an unindicted co-conspirator in a scheme to raise money for Hamas and is closely tied to the Muslim Brotherhood is the official endorsing agency for the U.S. Armed Forces Muslim chaplain program.
The Islamic Society of North America, or ISNA, also runs regular events for the military’s Muslim chaplains.
Last week, WND reported the Muslim chaplain program was founded by a terror-supporting convict while the Army’s first Islamic chaplain, who is still serving, has been associated with a charity widely accused of serving as an al-Qaida front.
Now, ISNA’s involvement in the chaplain program is coming under closer scrutiny.
Since the Muslim chaplain program’s inception in 1993, ISNA has been the official endorsing agency of the new chaplains.
In 2005, ISNA initiated a yearly Muslim chaplain conference that includes leadership talks for chaplains in both the military and U.S. prison system.
‘Burn down the master’s house’
Discover the Networks notes that ISNA –through its Saudi-government-backed affiliate the North American Islamic Trust – reportedly holds the mortgages on 50 percent to 80 percent of all mosques in the U.S. and Canada.
“Thus the organization can freely exercise ultimate authority over these houses of worship and their teachings,” states Discover the Networks.
ISNA was founded in 1981 by the Saudi-funded Muslim Students’ Association, which was founded partially by the Muslim Brotherhood. The two groups are still partners.
WND previously attended an MSA event at which violence against the U.S. was urged by speakers.
“We are not Americans,” shouted one speaker, Muhammad Faheed, at Queensborough Community College in 2003. “We are Muslims. [The U.S.] is going to deport and attack us! It is us versus them! Truth against falsehood! The colonizers and masters against the oppressed, and we will burn down the master’s house!”
ISNA was named in a May 1991 Muslim Brotherhood document – “An Explanatory Memorandum on the General Strategic Goal for the Group in North America” – as one of the Brotherhood’s likeminded “organizations of our friends” who shared the common goal of destroying America and turning it into a Muslim nation, according to Discover the Networks.
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.”
According to terrorism expert Steven Emerson, ISNA “is a radical group hiding under a false veneer of moderation” that publishes a bimonthly magazine, Islamic Horizons, that “often champions militant Islamist doctrine.” The group also “convenes annual conferences where Islamist militants have been given a platform to incite violence and promote hatred,” states Emerson. Emerson cites an ISNA conference in which al-Qaida supporter and PLO official Yusuf Al Qaradhawi was invited to speak.
Emerson further reports that in September 2002, a full year after Sept. 11, speakers at ISNA’s annual conference still refused to acknowledge Osama bin Laden’s role in the terrorist attacks.
Also, ISNA has held fundraisers for terrorists, notes Discover the Networks. After Hamas leader Mousa Marzook was arrested and eventually deported in 1997, ISNA raised money for his defense. The group also has condemned the U.S. government’s post–Sept. 11 seizure of Hamas’ and Palestinian Islamic Jihad’s financial assets.
ISNA, meanwhile, has an extensive relationship with the Obama administration, which recently announced it is open to diplomacy with the Muslim Brotherhood.
The relationship began even before Obama took office.
One week before last year’s presidential inauguration, Sayyid Syeed, national director of ISNA’s Office for Interfaith and Community Alliances, was part of a delegation that met with the directors of Obama’s transition team. The delegation discussed a request for an executive order ending “torture.”
ISNA President Mattson represented American Muslims at Obama’s inauguration, where she offered a prayer during the televised event. Mattson also represented ISNA at Obama’s Ramadan dinner at the White House.
In June 2009, Obama senior aide Valerie Jarrett invited Mattson to work on the White House Council on Women and Girls, which Jarrett leads.
One month later, the Justice Department sponsored an information booth at an ISNA bazaar in Washington, D.C.
Also that month, Jarrett addressed ISNA’s 46th annual convention. According to the White House, Jarrett attended as part of Obama’s outreach to Muslims.
In February, President Obama’s top adviser on counter-terrorism, John Brennan, came under fire for controversial remarks he made in a speech to Muslim law students at New York University. The event was sponsored by ISNA.
During the speech, Brennan stated that having a percentage of terrorists released by the U.S. return to terrorist attacks “isn’t that bad,” since the recidivism rate for inmates in the U.S. prison system is higher.
He also criticized parts of the Bush administration’s response to Sept. 11 as a “reaction some people might say was over the top in some areas” that “in an overabundance of caution [we] implemented a number of security measures and activities that upon reflection now we look back after the heat of the battle has died down a bit we say they were excessive, OK.”
WND reported Brennan stated at the ISNA-organized event that the Obama administration is working to calibrate policies in the fight against terrorism that ensure Americans are “never” profiled.
Speaking at the question-and-answer session, Brennan declared himself a “citizen of the world.”
“We need to be looking at ourselves as individuals. Not the way we look or the creed we have or our ethnic background. I consider myself a citizen of the world,” he said.
Brennan told the audience the Obama administration is trying to “make sure that we as Americans can interact in a safe way, balance policies in a way that optimizes national security but also optimizes the opportunity in this country never to be profiled, never to be discriminated against.”
Muslim convict founded chaplain program
ISNA has not been the only official endorsing agency of the military’s Muslim chaplain program.
A former endorsing agency along with ISNA was the American Muslim Armed Forces and Veterans Affairs Council, created in 1991 and operating under the umbrella of the American Muslim Foundation.
The American Muslim Foundation was founded by Abdul Rahman al-Amoudi, an Islamic cleric who served as an Islamic adviser to President Bill Clinton and who guided the establishment of the military’s Muslim chaplain program.
Al-Amoudi reportedly handpicked the army’s first Islamic chaplain, Imam Abdul-Rasheed Muhammad, who still serves in that position.
Al-Amoudi was instrumental in selected several other of the military’s six Islamic chaplains.
Al-Amoudi currently is serving a 23-year sentence for illegal terrorism-related financial transactions with the Libyan government and for his alleged role in a Libyan conspiracy to assassinate then-Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah.
Al-Amoudi was described as an “expert in the art of deception” in a report by Newsweek journalists Mark Hosenball and Michael Isikoff.
The Newsweek article noted Al-Amoudi espoused moderate, pro-American views while lobbying for Muslim causes in the U.S. but then expressed support for Hamas and Hezbollah at an Islamist rally.
Al-Amoudi founded the American Muslim Council, a lobbying group to advocate on behalf of Muslims in the United States, in 1990.
Army’s first chaplain tied to ‘al-Qaida front’
Muhammad was recommended for appointment by Al-Amoudi’s American Islamic Council.
Al-Amoudi attended Muhammad’s swearing-in ceremony just as he was present for the 1996 swearing-in of the military’s second Muslim chaplain, Lt. JG Monje Malak Abd al-Muta Ali Noel Jr.
Each Muslim chaplain must first be endorsed by an official Islamic agency.
Like most of the military’s Muslim chaplains, Muhammad’s endorsing agency was the ISNA.
Muhammad is a convert to Islam. In 1974 he joined the Lost-Found Nation of Islam, a Black Muslim group that espoused racial separatism and Black Nationalism. Muhammad later said he did not fully subscribe to the radical group’s philosophy, but was attracted by what he said was the organization’s emphasis on personal responsibility and self-help.
“In the projects where I grew up,” Muhammad said, “the women were exploited. In the Nation of Islam the men were always polite. They were always clean cut. I felt the Nation of Islam had more to offer than the church.”
In a 1993 interview with Muslehuddin Ahmed of Islam4all.com, Muhammad detailed his association with the Muslim World League, or MWL, a Saudi-funded Muslim charity accused of terrorism financing and ties to al-Qaida.
The website reports Muhammad was in dialogue with the charity to help establish the army’s Muslim chaplain program.
During the period of Muhammad’s association with the MWL, the group spawned Muslim charities that were alleged fronts for al-Qaida and Osama bin Laden.
Muhammad recounted to Islam4all how he was an “honored guest” of the MWL for his Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca.
“He was also full of praise for the Muslim World League for its excellent arrangements, which it had made for its guests, and was highly impressed by its dedicated Secretary General Dr. Ahmad Muhammad Ali, who symbolized for him a model Muslim leader,” reported Islam4all.
The Islamic website reported Muhammad offered to work closely with the MWL and that he began an “ongoing interaction with the MWL in shaping and developing a vital Islamic presence within the U.S. Armed Forces.”
The website reported Muhammad “evinced keen interest in the magazines and other publications of the Muslim World League and other similar organizations for support in his Dawah work.”
The MWL, meanwhile, was founded in Mecca in 1962 and bills itself one of the largest Islamic non-governmental organizations.
But according to U.S. government documents and testimony from the charity’s own officials, it is heavily financed by the Saudi government.
The MWL has been accused of terror ties, as have its various offshoots, including the International Islamic Relief Organization, or IIRO, and Al Haramain, which was declared by the U.S. and U.N. a terror financing front.
The Treasury Department, in a September 2004 press release, alleged Al Haramain had “direct links” with Osama bin Laden. The group is now banned worldwide by United Nations Security Council Committee 1267.
There long have been reports citing accusations the IIRO and MWL also repeatedly funded al-Qaida.
In 1993, bin Laden reportedly told an associate that the MWL was one of his three most important charity fronts.
An ADL profile of the MWL accuses the group of promulgating a “fundamentalist interpretation of Islam around the world through a large network of charities and affiliated organizations.”
“Its ideological backbone is based on an extremist interpretation of Islam and several of its affiliated groups and individuals have been linked to terror-related activity,” the profile says.
In 2003, U.S. News and World Report documented that accompanying MWL’s donations, invariably, are “a blizzard of Wahhabist literature.”
“Critics argue that Wahhabism’s more extreme preachings – mistrust of infidels, branding of rival sects as apostates, and emphasis on violent jihad – laid the groundwork for terrorist groups around the world,” the report continued.
An Egyptian-American cab driver, Ihab Mohamed Ali Nawawi, was arrested in Florida in 1990 on accusations he was an al-Qaida sleeper agent and a former personal pilot to bin Laden. At the same time he was accused of serving bin Laden, he also reportedly worked for the Pakistani branch of the MWL.
The MWL in 1988 founded the Al Haramain Islamic Foundation, developing chapters in about 50 countries, including for a time in Oregon until it was designated a terror organization.
In the early 1990s, evidence began to grow that it was funding Islamist militants in Somalia and Bosnia, and a 1996 CIA report detailed its Bosnian militant ties.
The U.S. Treasury designated Al Haramain’s offices in Kenya and Tanzania as sponsors of terrorism for their role in planning and funding the 1998 bombings of two American embassies in East Africa. The Comoros Islands office was also designated because it “was used as a staging area and exfiltration route for the perpetrators of the 1998 bombings.”
The New York Times reported in 2003 that Al Haramain had provided funds to the Indonesian terrorist group Jemaah Islamiyah, which was responsible for the 2002 Bali bombings that killed 202 people. The Indonesia office was later designated a terrorist entity by the Treasury.
In February 2004, the U.S. Treasury Department froze all Al Haramain’s financial assets pending an investigation, leading the Saudi government to disband the charity and fold it into another group, the Saudi National Commission for Relief and Charity Work Abroad.
In September 2004, the U.S. designated Al-Haramain a terrorist organization.
In June 2008, the Treasury Department applied the terrorist designation to the entire Al-Haramain organization worldwide
Bin Laden’s brother-in-law
In August 2006, the Treasury Department also designated the Philippines and Indonesia branch offices of the MWL-founded IIRO as terrorist entities “for facilitating fundraising for al Qaida and affiliated terrorist groups.”
The Treasury Department added: “Abd Al Hamid Sulaiman Al-Mujil, a high-ranking IIRO official [Executive director of its Eastern Province Branch] in Saudi Arabia, has used his position to bankroll the al-Qaida network in Southeast Asia. Al-Mujil has a long record of supporting Islamic militant groups, and he has maintained a cell of regular financial donors in the Middle East who support extremist causes.”
In the 1980s, Mohammed Jamal Khalifa, Osama bin Laden’s brother-in-law, ran the Philippines offices of the IRRO. Khalifa has been linked to Manila-based plots to target the pope and U.S. airlines.
The IRRO has also been accused of funding Hamas, Algerian radicals, Afghanistan militant bases and the Egyptian terror group Al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya.
The New York Post reported the families of the 9/11 victims filed a lawsuit against IIRO and other Muslim organizations for having “played key roles in laundering of funds to the terrorists in the 1998 African embassy bombings,” and for having been involved in the “financing and ‘aiding and abetting’ of terrorists in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.”
‘Saudi government front’
In a court case in Canada, Arafat El-Asahi, the Canadian director of both the IIRO and the MWL, admitted the charities are near entities of the Saudi government.
Stated El-Asahi: “The Muslim World League, which is the mother of IIRO, is a fully government funded organization. In other words, I work for the Government of Saudi Arabia. I am an employee of that government.
“Second, the IIRO is the relief branch of that organization, which means that we are controlled in all our activities and plans by the Government of Saudi Arabia. Keep that in mind, please,” he said.
Despite its offshoots being implicated in terror financing, the U.S. government never designated the MWL itself as a terror-financing charity. Many have speculated the U.S. has been trying to not embarrass the Saudi government.
With research by Brenda J. Elliott