ISNA Uses Saudi Money For Fellowship Program


The Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) has reported that it has used money from the Kingdom Foundation headed by Saudi Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal to establish a fellowship program for Muslim graduate students. According to the report:

Nonprofits, especially Muslim nonprofits, face a scarcity of trained personnel. In response to this situation, ISNA has used money it received through a Kingdom Foundation grant to establish a fellowship program for Muslim graduate students specializing in nonprofit management, philanthropy, and related fields. In addition to fulfilling academic requirements, fellows serve as interns at ISNA and other nonprofit organizations where they receive hands-on experience. As interns, they give back to the community by searching for methods and organizing projects to improve Islamic nonprofit work across the country

Two specific programs involving the work of the ISNA fellow were identified. The first program is related to ISNA youth programs:

Over the past three years, ISNA has worked hard to revitalize its youth programs and services. The “magic” behind them is that they are run for and by the youths. Instead of telling them what to do, they are given ownership and encouraged to spread their wings. Although their energy, enthusiasm, and optimism drive these programs, the youths do need some assistance from adults to maximize their potential. ISNA fellow Saif Omar (executive director, Fawakih Arabic and Islamic Studies Program), a graduate student in public policy at Harvard who spent 2006 in Syria on a Fulbright scholarship, is working with Iyad Alnachef (director, ISNA Youth Programming and Services [YPSD]) to sharpen YPSD’s strategic outlook in order to provide the Muslim Youth of North America (MYNA) with that support and infrastructure. As part of MYNA’s rejuvenation, Thamreen Siddiqui, a graduate student in social work at Loyola University and MYNA alum, is using her fellowship to help create the MYNA Alumni Association. MYNA hopes to create a solid foundation for previous MYNA, MAS, and other youth group members to take on this journey. This group of alums will help energize and mentor youths. Siddiqui has served as a social services and health coordinator with the Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago (CIOGC).

The second program involving the ISNA fellows concerns the theological arm of ISNA known as the Fiqh Council of North America (FCNA):

The Fiqh Council of North America (FCNA) provides guidance for Muslims to live in a manner consistent with Islamic principles and serves as a consultative body that produces legal opinions. The demand for its services comes from Muslims looking for fatwas on day-to-day issues, such as prayer, families, or finance. Despite the demand, however, the organization’s resources are limited. ISNA fellow Shahzan Akber has been defining effective strategies to deliver this value in the most efficient manner possible. To achieve this, he is establishing grassroots community partnerships with FCNA so that the organization can seek local Muslim community input on how it can best serve them. In the next phase, Akber will develop a dynamic strategic plan that includes external and internal assessments and stakeholder surveys, analyzes and prioritizes major organizational goals, designs further strategies to meet these goals, and develops and refines tactical operational plans for FCNA. Akber, a graduate student in public affairs with a concentration in nonprofit management and social entrepreneurship at Indiana University, is a program manager at the Rolls-Royce Corporation in Indianapolis. He also served as president of Georgia Institute of Technology’s MSA and co-founded the Intercollegiate Muslim Students Association of Georgia.

FCNA, headed by former ISNA president Muzammil Siddiqi, is an organization comprised of Islamic scholars, most if not all of whom are associated with the global Muslim Brotherhood including Jamal Badawi, identified in a Hudson Institute report as having been a member of the Shura Council of the U.S. Muslim Brotherhood. FCNA grew out of the activities of the Muslim Student Association (MSA) and later became affiliated with ISNA, itself an outgrowth of MSA. FCNA maintains a relationship with other similar bodies in the global Muslim Brotherhood including,the European Council for Fatwa and Research, headed by Muslim Brotherhood leader Youssef Qaradawi as well as the Islamic Fiqh Academy in Saudi Arabia. FCNA has or has had members that have been also part of IIIT such both Taha and Zainab Al-Alwani It is not clear how active FCNA has been in recent years as very little information has been publicly released about it activities other than the issuance of a fatwa against terrorism in July 2005.

Previous posts have discussed Prince Talal’s donations to the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) and the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), both part of the U.S. Muslim Brotherhood, as well as his support of the Georgetown University Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding (CCMU), run by long-time Muslim Brotherhood supporter Dr. John Esposito. Prince Talal has also made numerous financial contributions to a pan-Islamic interfaith dialog organization that is closely tied to the global Muslim Brotherhood and which has an antisemitic statement posted on its website. In March 2008, the Kingdom Foundation established by Prince Talal was one of the sponsors of a conference held by the World Congress of Muslim Philanthropists (WCMP), a new international Islamic philanthropic organization with strong Muslim Brotherhood representation. In November 2008, Prince Talal, increased his ownership stake in Citigroup to 5%.

(Source: Islamic Horizons July 2009 – August 2009 “Trained To Serve; Kingdom Foundation Supports Training For Muslim Graduate Students Specializing in Nonprofit Management, Philanthropy, and Related Fields”)

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