The International Institute of Islamic Thought (IIIT) and the American Muslims for Constructive Engagement (AMCE), two organizations representing the U.S. Muslim Brotherhood, have held a meeting to discuss issues relating to Muslim unity. According to the IIIT announcement:
Twenty prominent Shia and Sunni scholars from the US and Canada gathered at IIIT on Friday, January 23 to Saturday, January 24, 2009 to discuss the challenges that the current global environment poses to Muslim Unity, particularly in relation to Shia-Sunni communities worldwide. The meeting, which was sponsored by the American Muslims for Constructive Engagement (AMCE) and the International Institute of Islamic Thought (IIIT) focused on three major themes: (a) the belief systems and rituals of worship of Shia and Sunni, the common grounds in these areas that constitute the essence of unity between the two communities and the differences that they need to clarify and discuss, (b) political thought with focus on concepts like the Imama and Khilafa, their original manifestations and impact on institution building and potential social and cultural practices, and (c) potential realities with a focus on the current global environment, and how it impacts Sunni-Shia relations…….In the opening session, Dr. Jamal Barzinji, Vice President of IIIT, welcomed the participants, and explained the relevance of the subject to IIIT’s interest in reforming Islamic thought, as well as to IIIT’s objectives of addressing the crises that engulf the Umma and enhancing of Muslim Unity. Dr. Mahmoud Ayoub, who provided guidance to the project from its inception, gave the keynote address on Friday evening and explained the rationale behind the meeting and its objectives. He focused on the importance of Muslim unity and particularly to a current global environment that poses serious threat to the Umma, its fundamental values, its sense of identity and its mission to human civilization. The participants agreed to issue a communique that will highlight the major points discussed and the agreements reached, and circulate it to interested individuals and organizations.
All of the Sunni leaders participating in the meeting are known to be tied to the U.S. Brotherhood including:
- Mohamad al-Hanooti Fiqh Council of North America (FCNA)
- Sayyed Saeed Islamic Society of North America (ISNA)
- Sulayman Nyang Howard University
- Dr. Zahid Bukhari Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding, Georgetown University
- Johari Abdul Malik Dar al Hijrah
- Mohammad Nimer American University
The pubic presence of so many U.S. Brotherhood figures at IIIT is unusual.
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 have withdrawn from public view following the 2003 raids and although a report in the Washington Post from June 2007 indicated that IIIT and the SAAR Foundation were still under investigation by the Justice Department, IIIT seems to be enjoying a renaissance of late. Previous posts have discussed visits by foreign Muslims to IIIT sponsored by the U.S. State Department, a relationship between IIIT and George Mason University, and the role of IIIT in working with a probably Pentagon subcontractor in Iraq. Another post discussed plans by IIIT to construct colleges in Bosnia and Lebanon.
As previous posts have noted, the AMCE leadership is a Who’s Who of the U.S. Muslim Brotherhood representing almost the entire U.S Muslim Brotherhood network including IIIT, the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), the Council for Islamic American Relations (CAIR), the Muslim American Society (MAS), the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA), the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC), a former executive of the SAAR Foundation and others. The AMCE appears to have grown out of an earlier relationship between IIIT, the International Center for Religion & Diplomacy (ICRD), and the Institute for Defense Analyses (IDA), also discussed in earlier posts.