The American Civil LIberties Association (ACLU) has filed a motion asking a federal court for several actions aimed at reversing the naming of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) and the North American Islamic Trust (NAIT) as unindicted co-conspirators in the Holy Land Foundation Terrorism Financing Case. According to an ACLU statement:
The American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Texas filed a legal challenge today to clear the names of two mainstream Muslim organizations labeled by the government as “unindicted co-conspirators” in its criminal case against the Holy Land Foundation (HLF). Government attorneys publicly identified the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) and the North American Islamic Trust (NAIT) as co-conspirators before the HLF trial, even though neither organization was the subject of a criminal investigation or charged with any crimes.”By publicly branding these groups as criminals without providing a forum for them to defend themselves or clear their names, the government has acted with blatant disregard for their constitutional rights,” said Hina Shamsi, staff attorney with the ACLU National Security Project. “The government’s action is especially shameful because the charge it makes is so inflammatory – it has caused each organization’s reputation and good name to be dragged through the mud. The government has a constitutional obligation to correct the record and clear the names of ISNA and NAIT.”
The ACLU statement goes far beyond civil rights issues by seeking to portray ISNA and NAIT as “mainstream organizations” providing valuable services:
Both ISNA and NAIT are mainstream charitable organizations that provide valuable services to the Muslim community and beyond. ISNA supports American Muslim communities, develops educational, social and outreach programs and fosters good relations with other religious communities as well as civic and service organizations. NAIT holds in trust titles to mosques, Islamic centers, schools and other real estate belonging to Muslim communities across the U.S., enabling these communities to safeguard and pool their assets in accordance with U.S. law and Islamic principles. “ISNA’s goal is to promote the participation of American Muslims in this country’s civil and political life, and in interfaith dialogue,” said Ingrid Mattson, President of ISNA. “Our efforts have been severely undermined by a government-imposed stigma and the inflammatory misrepresentation of ISNA in the public sphere. Until now, we’ve had no way to clear our names and we’re asking the court to set the record straight.”…”The violation of the rights of these groups implicates both their reputations as well as core constitutional principles like the Fifth Amendment’s presumption of innocence,” said Lisa Graybill, Legal Director of the ACLU of Texas.
In fact, both NAIT and ISNA were created as organizations to help the U.S. Muslim Brotherhood make a transition from a student organization, based in the Muslim Student Association (MSA), to one that could operate in the larger community. An extensive analysis of the organization concluded that:
ISNA is, in fact, an organization seriously tainted by extremism—the current views of the State Department and ISNA’s own protestations of moderation notwithstanding. This conclusion stems from a close analysis of three characteristics that can be used as indicators of extremism. ISNA’s organization was evaluated based on the presence of fundamentalism, anti-Semitism, and connections to terrorism. In this analysis, Islamic fundamentalism refers to “a political ideology based on a ‘selective and arbitrary politicization of religion. ’” Charges of anti-Semitism can be leveled against individuals and organizations who decry “Zionist conspiracies, ” such as the control of the media or governments. Terrorist organizations are designated according to the State Department’s own list. In looking at these criteria, an overwhelming body of evidence emerges that ISNA as an organization—its founding, funding, and leadership—is connected to a global network of extremists. Moreover, both its ideology and its practices exhibit clear extremist characteristics.
A 2001 FBI memo identifies current ISNA-affiliated Fiqh Council of North America member Mohammad Al-Hanooti as a participant in a 1993 Philadelphia meeting of “senior leaders of HAMAS, the Holy Land Relief Foundation and the Islamic Association of Palestine. The memo also cites FBI informants who said that Al-Hanooti “was a big supporter of HAMAS and that “it was well known in the Palestinian community in the northern New Jersey area that Al- Hanooti was an active HAMAS supporter, purportedly holding fund-raising activities, as well as supporting visitors to the United States from Israel and Jordan, to speak on behalf of HAMAS. ” Another FBI informant stated that “In 1993, that Al-Hanooti collected over six million U. S. dollars for support of HAMAS in Israel. ”
It should also be noted that there is evidence that persons and organizations associated with FCNA chairman Dr. Alwani provided financial support for Hamas. According to U. S. government documents, the Safa Group “maintained $162,000 as ‘a library trust”’ for HAMAS -front HLF [Holy Land Foundation]. In 1997, HLF received three Safa Trust checks in the amounts of $75,000, $87,500, and $162,500…” ISNA also has ties to the Islamic Association for Palestine (IAP), described by a Treasury Department intelligence official as “intimately tied to the most senior Hamas leadership.
In December 2001, ISNA joined other U. S. Islamic organizations associated with the Saudi/Muslim Brotherhood network in claiming that HLF has been “targeted by pro-Israel organizations and individuals” and asking President Bush to “reconsider what we believe is an unjust and counterproductive move that can only damage America’s credibility with Muslims in this country and around the world and could create the impression that there has been a shift from a war on terrorism to an attack on Islam.”
In 2004, ISNA Secretary-General Sayyid Syeed acknowledged donating money to HLF calling it “innocent support for what the organization believed was a good cause. ” Dr. Sayyid also acknowledged supporting the legal defense fund of Hamas leader Mousa Marzook who was deported from the U. S. in 1997 and is on the State Department’s designated terrorist list stating “It doesn’t hurt if you give a few words of support or if you give a few words of sympathy.” Marzook was reported to have thanked ISNA in an open letter of appreciation for support of his legal defense fund.
When evidence of Holy Land’s activities was publicly revealed, ISNA Secretary-General Sayyid Syeed asserted that the terrorist-related activities of Holy Land were not known to him or to ISNA, but ISNA immediately shifted its support to the KindHearts charity despite the numerous indications that its was acting as a replacement for Holy Land. In today’s motion, the ACLU is asking a federal court to declare the government’s public naming of ISNA and NAIT as unindicted co-conspirators a violation of the Fifth Amendment; to order the expunging of the organizations’ names from any public record that identifies these groups as unindicted co-conspirators; and to block the government from labeling ISNA and NAIT this way in the future without specific permission from the court.
The ACLU statement said the organization is seeking the folloiwng actions:
…to declare the government’s public naming of ISNA and NAIT as unindicted co-conspirators a violation of the Fifth Amendment; to order the expunging of the organizations’ names from any public record that identifies these groups as unindicted co-conspirators; and to block the government from labeling ISNA and NAIT this way in the future without specific permission from the court.
The Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) initiated legal action last August also seeking to be removed from the list of unindicted co-conspirators which also identified NAIT and ISNA as part of the U.S. Muslim Brotherhood.