The Washington Post has published a profile Iqbal Unus, of one of the important figures of the U.S. Muslim Brotherhood. The profile begins
Iqbal Unus delayed the start of his open house by an hour, hoping more candidates would show up to hear about the country’s first accredited training program for Muslim clergy. But by 7:30 p.m., just three new people were picking at plates of chicken and rice in the library of the International Institute of Islamic Thought in Northern Virginia. If Unus, 67, was discouraged, he didn’t show it. Instead, he launched into his sales pitch for replacing imported imams with American-trained spiritual leaders. We must be able to put Islam into an American context,” he declared. It’s a noble sentiment, but one that not all Americans accept at face value. Unus has spent 40 years building some of the country’s best-known Muslim organizations, but the past decade has driven home how unsettled the relationship remains between his faith and his country. And few places are more emblematic of that tension than the library of the Herndon think tank where he works. More than nine years ago, federal agents looking for evidence of terrorism financing hustled Unus, the institute’s director of administration, and his colleagues into this very library. They were kept there for hours while computers and boxes of documents were carted out. almost the same time, 14 agents and police officers broke through the front door of Unus’s house with a battering ram and handcuffed his wife and daughter — a raid that sparked an unsuccessful civil rights lawsuit that the Unuses pursued all the way to the Supreme Court. Neither Unus nor any other institute leaders has ever been charged in the government’s probe of a network of Herndon-based Muslim charities, businesses and organizations. But neither have they been formally cleared. Unus has been wedged in an uncomfortable limbo ever since — a predicament that resonates with many Muslims who have encountered scrutiny and distrust in the years since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Sympathizers see Unus as a founding father of American Islam whose rights and reputation were trampled by overzealous investigators. Others have never stopped voicing doubts about his loyalties and motives and those of the organizations he’s led.
A start in the ’70s
The associations that have made Unus an object of suspicion date back four decades, to his days as a student at Georgia Tech in Atlanta. After arriving from Pakistan in 1970 to study physics, he helped launch what are still two of the country’s largest Muslim groups, the Muslim Students Association and the Islamic Society of North America.
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A Hudson Institute report identifies the Muslim Student Association (MSA) and the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) as important parts of the U.S. Muslim Brotherhood and also identifies Iqbal Unus as one of the original incorporators of ISNA.
The same Hudson report also details how the International Institute of Islamic Thought (IIIT) IIIIT was founded in the U.S. in 1980 by U.S. Muslim Brotherhood leaders including Jamal Barzinji and Hisham Altalib who wished to promote the Islamization of Knowledge as conceived by Ismail Al-Faruqi and who were also early leaders of ISNA. 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 March 2002 in connection with the financing of terrorism and both organizations had been under investigation at that time by the U.S. Justice Department until at least mid 2007. The organization appeared to have withdrawn from public view following the 2002 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.