ISNA Secretary General, Safaa Zarzour, and former ISNA President, Dr. Muzammil Siddiqi, were featured speakers at the annual dinner of IQRA, the largest and oldest educational organization dedicated to producing curriculum and text books for Islamic full time and weekend schools in the United States. The event brought together over 500 attendants who came out to celebrate IQRA’s 27 years of service to the Muslim community and to Islamic education. Safaa Zarzour highlighted the importance of IQRA as an indispensable institution for our community, ensuring that our schools have the appropriate material and text books in the two most vital subjects, Arabic and Islamic studies. He also spoke about the example of hard work and sacrifice that IQRA founders, Dr. Abidullah and Dr. Tasneema Ghazi, have set for him personally and Muslim educators in the United States in general. Dr. Siddiqi highlighted the role proper Islamic education can play in producing healthy, emotionally balanced, socially responsible, and God-conscious individuals who will be of great benefit to society at large. Audience at the event also learned about the international scope of IQRA’s work in 20 countries around the world as well as their online academy which provides resources for students and teachers world wide.”I am here for two reasons: one because of my tremendous respect and admiration for the selfless and vital work of Dr. Abidullah and Dr. Tasneema Ghazi; and, because of ISNA’s commitment to support those organizations that perform a crucial role in building and strengthening the Muslim community, such as IQRA,” said Safaa Zarzour.
The IQRA web site provides a history of the organization:
IQRA’ International Education Foundation is a non-profit Islamic educational establishment (waqf) instituted to creatively respond to the growing need of our children, youth, and adults for sound Islamic instruction in the modern global village. The concept of IQRA’s comprehensive program of Islamic education was set in motion when Abidullah and Tasneema Ghazi helped establish an Islamic Sunday school on the campus of Harvard University in 1968. Searching for instructional material quickly led to the discovery of the woeful state of Islamic education, particularly in the West. It was time for action to be taken. Enjoining the extraordinary combination of a professional educator matched with an Islamic scholar, the Ghazis were entrusted with the task of developing a program of supplementary religious education. With their remarkable fusion of Islamic and Western learning, the Ghazis conceptualized a complete system of Islamic Studies based on a traditional madrasah syllabi structure, utilizing modern educational methodologies. While the Harvard Sunday school proved to be an incubator, the application of this system was realized in classrooms of Islamic supplementary schools in Minneapolis and San Diego where the Ghazi’s later resided. In 1979, Drs. Abidullah and Tasneema Ghazi moved to Chicago where they took on the task of writing Islamic Studies textbooks for the Muslim Community Center, Chicago (MCC). The curriculum for Islamic supplementary schools, as well as nearly 20 titles from the popular Sirah series – including Our Prophet: Muhammad Rasulullah (S), Mercy to Mankind, Messenger of Allah and Stories from the Sirah – were printed by 1981. As an official organization, IQRA’ International Educational Foundation was registered in the State of Illinois as a non-profit organization in 1983 in compliance with IRS section 501-C (3). Since then, IQRA’ has produced a comprehensive, systematic and integrated system of Islamic religious knowledge, involving 150 textbooks, workbooks, teacher’s guides, curriculum manuals and other educational materials. It is a program that is extremely popular in North America and in many English-speaking communities across the world.
Iqra founders and current officers Abidullah and Tasneema Ghazi are also associated with the International Board of Educational Research and Resources (IBERR), a little known South African organization linked to the global Muslim Brotherhood. IBERR was founded by Yusuf Islam (formerly Cat Stevens) and says that it distributes Islamic educational material around the world. Although its website has recently been redone and contains very little information about the organization, earlier websites indicated that IBERR members included some prominent names from the global Muslim Brotherhood. In addition to Yusuf Islam, these include:
- Abdalla Idris Ali (Islamic Society of North America)
- Abdul Hamid Abu Sulaiman (International Institute of Islamic Thought (IIIT)
- Ibrahim Hewitt (INTERPAL, Muslim Council of Britain)
- Fathi Malkawi (IIIT USA)
The older websites also said that IBERR resulted from the First World Conference on Islamic Education held in Makkah, Saudi Arabia in 1977.
As documented in a Hudson Institute report, ISNA grew directly out of the U.S. Muslim Brotherhood. The organization 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 as a result of what the government called “ISNA’s and NAIT’s intimate relationship with the Muslim Brotherhood, the Palestine Committee, and the defendants in this case.” Although it is true that recently ISNA has issued condemnations of terrorism which for the first time identify Hamas and Hezbollah by name, there is no indication that the organization has ever addressed or acknowledged its history of support for terrorism. Also, as the Hudson Institute report observes, almost all of the ISNA founders remain active in the organization and ISNA maintains close relations with all other components of the U.S. Muslim Brotherhood.