The website of the International Institute of Islamic Thought has reported on the latest in a series of international exchange programs held under the auspices of the U.S. State Department. According to the IIIT announcement:
As part of the State Department’s International Visitor Program entitled “Religion and Society: A Dialogue,” two delegations of religious scholars and unviersity professors visited IIIT on Thursday April 17 and Friday, April 18, 2008. The program for the delegation from Thailand and the Phillippines included twelve religious scholars, six from each country. Most of the members of the delegation were professors of Islamic studies in their respective universitites. Their program, which was coordinated by Georgetown Unviersity and Indiana University, focused on learning about the role of religion in American society, the relationship between religion and the State and interfaith relations, beside Islam and Muslims in the US. The Indonesian delegation, which was coordinated by Legacy International, included twelve scholars from three different provinces in Indonesia, most of them professors in Islamic state universities in Indonesia. Members of both delegations listened to presentations about IIIT, its mission, its history, its current activities and future plans, presented by Dr. Hisham Altalib who addressed the Thai and Phillippino delegations, and Dr. Jamal Barzinji who spoke to the Indonesian scholars. A lively discussion on the Islamization of Knowledge, minority Jursiprudence and Islam in America ensued. IIIT presented the scholars with copies of its most recent publications as gifts.
Previous posts have reported on other international exchange activities involving IIIT which have included Chinese, Pakistani, French, as well as other Malay/Indonesian delegations, all of which were sponsored by the State Department.
IIIT was founded in 1980 by important members of the Global Muslim Brotherhood who wished to promote the “Islamization of Knowledge” and Youssef Qaradawi, now the most important leader of the global Muslim Brotherhood, played an important role in the European meeting which gave birth to the organization. An earlier post also reported that Qaradawi was recently identified by the South African IIIT affiliate as an IIIT “executive member.” 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 2003 and is still under investigation by the U.S. Justice Department in connection with the financing of terrorism. The organization appeared to withdraw from public view following the 2003 raids, but seems to be enjoying a renaissance of late. The involvement of IIIT in Malaysia/Indonesia is likely related to the role of Anwar Ibrahim, an important Malay Islamist and opposition politician who helped to found IIIT and who currently serves as an IIIT director. IIIT has offices in many parts of the world and while part of the U.S. Muslim Brotherhood, appears to center its activities largely outside of the U.S.