The Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) announces the appointment of Safaa Zarzour as its new secretary general. Mr. Zarzour will move to his new office in Plainfield, IN, from Bridgeview, IL, early next week. Mr. Zarzour is a lawyer and educator, and has outstanding contributions to integrate Islamic communities and institutions to mainstream American society. He holds a Juris Doctor degree from DePaul University School of Law and a Masters in Education from the University of Illinois in Chicago. He practiced law in Illinois and is also a passionate educator. He has served as an adjunct professor at Loyola Law School teaching courses in Education and Islamic Law. For over a decade, he served as a teacher and then principal at Universal School, one of the largest PreK-12 independent Islamic schools in the United States. Mr. Zarzour is active in interfaith circles. He is a member of the Board of Advisors of the Bernadine Center at the Catholic Theological Union in Chicago where he serves along with distinguished faith leaders from the Muslim, Jewish and Christian communities. He has participated for several years in the Mid-Atlantic Muslim-Catholic Dialogue….Mr. Zarzour is a well known civic leader in Chicago’s Southwest Suburb. He has served in various capacities in his town, including as an administrative coordinator, Zoning Commissioner, and an elected trustee of the Bridgeview Public Library. Over the last 15 years, Mr. Zarzour helped establish and has served on the boards of a variety of local community and advocacy organizations. His civic and educational work has been featured in many media including 60 Minutes, PBS Front Line, Chicago Tribune, Time Magazine and many others. Mr. Zarzour has received several honors and awards for his public service. Most recently, Chicago’s Mayor Richard Daley handed him the Chicago Commission on Human Relations’ 2009 Outstanding Service Award.
The ISNA announcement fails to identify Mr. Zazour’s extensive ties to the U.S. Muslim Brotherhood which a Hudson Institute report says includes ISNA as a major component. For example, Mr. Zazour is a board member and President of the Chicago chapter of the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR.) Investigative research posted on GMBDW has determined that CAIR had it origins in the U.S. Hamas infrastructure and documents released in the Holy Land Trial have revealed that the founders and current leaders of CAIR were part of the Palestine Committee of the Muslim Brotherhood as well as identifying the organization itself as being another part of the U.S. Brotherhood. A recent post discussed an interview with the Deputy leader of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood in which he confirms a relationship between his organization and CAIR.
Mr. Zazour’s CAIR biography also identifies him as a board member and former principal of the Universal School, located in Bridgeview Illinois and which has strong ties to the U.S. Muslim Brotherhood. Bassam Osman has been listed on the school website as a director and as a “Representative of NAIT.” A Hudson Institute report authored by the GMBDW editor identifies Mr. Osman as a US Muslim Brotherhood leader and representative of the North American Islamic Trust (NAIT), a part of ISNA and holding title to many US mosques and Islamic facilities associated with the US Brotherhood. Osman was also a former director of the Quranic Literary Institute, used among others things as a vehicle for transferring funds to Hamas. Ingrid Mattson, another NAIT Trustee, and former ISNA President, also served on the Board of Directors of the Universal School where she also taught Islamic Studies. A Time Magazine article reports that although the Universal School is located next door to the Bridgeview Mosque, the school asserts its independence from the mosque which a 2004 Chicago Tribune investigative report had associated with Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood. However, the Tribune investigation also showed clear links from the Bridgeview mosque to organizations associated with Universal School board members and/or tied to the US Muslim Brotherhood or Hamas support infrastructure:
- The Tribune reported that the mosque had been deeded to NAIT in 1981 by Islamic fundamentalists who had taken over the mosque from its former leaders. As noted above, NAIT is part of ISNA and one time school board director ripIng Mattson is a former ISNA VP.
- The Tribune investigation reported that in 1985, Jordanian Sheikh Jamal Said became the new mosque prayer leader, replacing Ahmed Zaki Hammad who later became the President of ISNA. Sheikh Said was reported to have been inspired by the Muslim Brotherhood, educated at a Saudi Arabian University, and noted for his sermons espousing strict Islamic fundamentalist views and critical of America as “a land of disbelievers.”
- Mosque leaders were also leaders of the Quranic Literacy Institute, and the Islamic Association for Palestine, the predecessor of the Council for American Islamic Relations (CAIR). As noted in this post, school board members are also affiliated or had been tied to the QLI and CAIR.
In 2005, The Tribune reported that the Bridgeview Mosque had donated money to four Islamic charities that were leater identified as involved in financing terrorism—the Islamic American Relief Agency, the Holy Land Foundation, Benevolence International, and the Global Relief Foundation. One of the mosque’s eight-member executive committee was the late Muhammad Salah,, a Muslim Brotherhood member who was imprisoned in Israel in 1993 on Hamas financing charges. He was later designated a terrorist by the US Treasury Department but the designation was rescinded in 2012 after he filed a lawsuit contending that government monitoring of his economic transactions was unconstitutional.
ISNA itself has a long history of fundamentalism, anti-semitism, and support for terrorism and during the recent Holy Land Foundation terrorism financing trial, ISNA was named as an unindicted co-conspirator.
(Additional Source: Gaines, William and Andrew Marti. “Terror-Funding Probe Touches Suburban Group.” The Chicago Tribune. September 8, 1998)