National media has reported further details on the award of a $1.5 million grant from the International Institute of Islamic Thought (IIIT), a part of the U.S. Muslim Brotherhood, to George Mason University for an endowed Chair in Islamic Studies. According to a report in the Washington Times, both George Mason and IIIT expressed the belief that a federal investigation into IIIT’s role in terrorism financing was “dormant”:
George Mason University is expanding its Islamic studies program with a $1.5 million grant from a Northern Virginia-based think thank still operating under the cloud of a six-year federal terrorism investigation. University spokesman Dan Walsch said the school wants to expand its Islamic studies, including using the money to have a chairman for the department and to “gain a better understanding of Islam’s role in the world.” He also said school officials have had no direct contact with the government regarding the investigation into the Herndon-based International Institute for Islamic Thought and their understanding is the investigation is “dormant.” The FBI told The Washington Times only that it cannot comment on past or ongoing investigations. The IIIT’s Northern Virginia center was among 14 homes and offices raided by federal agencies in March 2002 in an attempt to disrupt domestic financing for global terrorism. The raids – known as Operation Green Quest – resulted in 21 search warrants, 12 arrests, four indictments and the seizure of about $10.3 million smuggled into the United States, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Iqbal Unus, a spokesperson for the IIIT, founded in 1981, said he was not aware the investigation remains open. “I’m sure they have done due diligence,” he said. “They have lawyers and some very smart people there and they found there is no reason to be concerned.” The group’s federal tax filing for 2005, the most recent available, shows the majority of its income that year, $2.85 million, came from gifts, grants and contributions. George Mason accepted the money Nov. 3 after Temple University decided in January against the offer. School officials were aware of Temple University’s decision, Mr. Walsch said. “After much discussion and consideration, Temple decided to neither accept nor reject this generous offer,” said Temple spokesman Ray Betzner. “The university indicated that no decision regarding this matter would be made until the post-September 11 federal investigations [of the group]are complete.” The group was suspected to be a major funding source for University of South Florida professor Sami Al-Arian’s World and Islam Studies Institute. Al-Arian pleaded guilty in 2006 to providing services to terrorist groups and is now serving 57 months in federal prison.
A previous post discussed the University’s announcement of the award and previous attempts by IIIT to set up a similar program at Temple University in Philadelphia and at the University of Central Florida.
IIIT was 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 2003 in connection with the financing of terrorism. The organization appeared to withdrawn from public view following the 2003 raids, but seems to be enjoying a renaissance of late. IIIT has a network of affiliates located in Europe, Africa, the MIddle East, and Asia. Although little is known about the activities of these IIIT affiliates, recent posts have discussed plans by IIIT to construct colleges in Bosnia and Lebanon.
A report in the Washington Post from June 2007 indicated that IIIT and the SAAR Foundation were still under investigation by the Justice Department:
The Northern Virginia investigation burst into public view in March 2002, when federal agents raided homes and businesses in Herndon and elsewhere in the region. The searches led to the convictions of two people, including prominent Muslim activist Abdurahman Alamoudi, who admitted that he plotted with Libya to assassinate Saudi Arabia’s ruler. But no charges have been filed against the principals of the cluster of companies and charities at the center of the investigation, and the charities deny any terrorist ties. Federal officials have called the probe the nation’s largest terrorism-financing investigation. Muslim groups have labeled it a fishing expedition, but law enforcement officials have defended it as highly complicated, involving a complex trail of international transactions among corporations and charitable entities. Law enforcement sources have said that they expect further prosecutions, but the timing or nature of any possible charges remains unclear.