The Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy (CSID) has announced its 11th Annual Conference to be held in April and which is scheduled to feature prominent representatives of the U.S. government along with global Muslim Brotherhood figures including Tariq Ramadan, recently cleared for entry into the U.S. by the U.S. State Department. According to the CSID announcement the conference, titled “U.S. Relations with the Muslim World: One Year After Cairo”, will feature Ramadan as luncheon keynote speaker and, listed only as “invited”, Senator John Kerry as giving the concluding keynote. Also scheduled to speak at the conference are Salah Ali Abdulrahman, head of the Muslim Brotherhood of Bahrain, and Ruhail Gharaibeh the deputy leader of the political wing of the Jordanian Muslim Brotherhood. Participating in a roundtable discussion titled “Perspectives on Muslim Engagement” will be Farah Pandith, the Special Representative to Muslim Communities at the U.S. Department of State and Emile Nakhleh, the former head of the CIA program on political Islamism.
Tariq Ramadan is perhaps best described as an independent power center within the global Brotherhood with sufficient stature as the son of Said Ramadan, and the grandson of the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood to challenge positions taken by important Brotherhood leaders. His statements and writings have been extensively analyzed and he has been accused by critics of promoting anti-Semitism and fundamentalism, albeit by subtle means. On the other hand, his supporters promote him as as example of an Islamic reformer who is in the forefront of developing a “Euro Islam.” Ramadan is currently professor of Islamic Studies at the University of Oxford’s Faculty of Theology and senior research fellow at St. Antony’s College (Oxford), Dohisha University (Kyoto, Japan) and at the Lokahi Foundation (London). Previous posts discussed his dismissal from his positions as an adviser on integration for the city of Rotterdam and from a Dutch University over his role as a talk show host on Iranian TV.
Interestingly, an earlier post revealed that in February 2009, Islamic Action Front (IAF) leader Ruhail Gharaibeh (aka Ruheil Gharaibeh) had spent a week in Washington, DC where he was reported to have met with “leading academics, researchers, and other members of the policy community.” The IAF is generally considered to be the political wing of the Jordanian Muslim Brotherhood and its current leader is Secretary-General Ishaq Farhan, a Jordanian of Palestinian origin, one of the three founders of the IAF, and a former education minister and senator. Mr. Farhan is also listed as a director of the International Institute of Islamic Thought (IIIT), founded in the U.S. in 1980 by important members of the Global Muslim Brotherhood who wished to promote the “Islamization of Knowledge.” IIIT was associated with the now defunct SAAR Foundation, a network of Islamic organizations located in Northern Virginia that was raided by the Federal government in March 2002 in connection with the financing of terrorism. In 2000, Mr. Farhan was denied entry to the U.S. after having had his visa revoked in the prior year without informing him. The New York Times reported at that time that unidentified American diplomats called Mr. Farhan a “moderating force” and that he “as kept a distance from the vociferous opposition to peaceful relations with Israel.” However, in 2003 a media report said that the IAF had “declared a jihad in favor of Iraq and Palestine if the US attacks Iraq.” More recently, after congratulating President Obama on his election, the IAF called his decision to send more troops to Afghanistan “a hostile step against the Arab and Islamic worlds. In 2009, the IAF also called Israeli actions in Gaza “the ugliest crime in history.”
CSID was founded in 1998 largely by the efforts of Georgetown University academic Dr. Esposito who during the 1990’s served in the State Department as a “foreign affairs analyst” and who has at least a dozen past or present affiliations with global Muslim Brotherhood/Hamas organizations. Many members of the early CSID board were associated with IIIT, the American Muslim Council, and the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC). For example, past CSID board members included Jamal Barzinji and Taha Al-Alwani, both associated with IIIT and both important leaders in the U.S. Muslim Brotherhood who helped to establish many of the most important U.S. Brotherhood organizations. Antony Sullivan, the current CSID Vice-Chair, has many ties to U.S. Brotherhood groups including the Association of Muslim Social Scientists (AMSS), the United Association for Studies and Research (USAR), and the Circle of Tradition and Progress (COTP), a group whose other founding members included Youssef Qaradawi, the most important leader of the global Muslim Brotherhood. From its inception, CSID has argued that the U.S. government should support Islamist movements in foreign countries and has received financial support from the U.S. State Department, the National Endowment for Democracy and the United States Institute of Peace.