The Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) has announced that Tunisian Muslim Brotherhood leader Rachid Ghannouchi will be speaking at the organization’s 49th annual convention to be held at the end of August. According to the announcement:
(May 8, 2012) ISNA is very excited to announce that, in addition to the already exciting lineup of speakers, Tunisian leader Rached Ghanouchi will join the 49th Annual ISNA Convention as a speaker during our Saturday night main session. Ghanouchi has been at the forefront of peaceful reform during the Tunisian Arab Spring and was named this year by TIME Magazine as one of the 100 most influential people in the world. Foreign Policy magazine also named him one of their 2011 Top 100 Global Thinkers. An advocate of religious tolerance and freedom, women’s rights, non-violent leadership, transparent government and open elections, worker’s rights, education for all, and a strong opponent of dictatorship, Ghanouchi was imprisoned, tortured, and later exiled from Tunisia for 20 years for challenging the oppressive regime. Despite this, he continued to hold on to his ideals of service and non-violent opposition. Returning to Tunisia in 2011 for the first time in two decades, he continued his work to reform Tunisia into a fair and open democracy and currently leads as President of the al-Nahda political party. Following the first-ever democratic elections in Tunisia last year, the policies of equality and democracy presented by Ghanouchi and the al-Nahda party led them to win more than 40 percent of the vote and the right to form the new government of Tunisia. There is much to learn about building a peaceful pluralistic consensus around equal rights from the lessons of Ghanouchi and the Arab Spring.
Rachid Ghannouchi (many spelling variations) is the leader of the Tunisian Islamist movement known as Nahda (aka Ennahda, Al Nahda) and can best be described as an independent Islamist power center who is tied to the global Muslim Brotherhood though his membership in the European Council for Fatwa and Research (ECFR) and his important position in the International Union of Muslim Scholars (IUMS), both organizations led by Global Muslim Brotherhood Youssef Qaradawi. An Egyptian news report has identified Ghannouchi as a leader of the Muslim Brotherhood “abroad.” Ghannouchi is also one of the founding members of the World Assembly of Muslim Youth (WAMY), a Saudi organization closely linked to the Muslim Brotherhood and dedicated to the propagation of “Wahabist” Islam throughout the world. Ghannouchi is known for his thinking on the issue of Islam and citizenship rights. Earlier posts reported on the return of Mr. Ghannouchi to Tunisia following his long exile in the UK.
Mr. Ghannouchi has had a long history of association with extremism and Palestinian terrorism. From 1988-92, the Islamic Committee for Palestine organized conferences and rallies in the United States that featured the leading lights of Islamic extremist movements throughout the world. One example of such a conference took place in Chicago from December 22-25, 1989 and featured Mr. Gahannouchi as a speaker. Its theme was “Palestine, Intifada, and Horizons of Islamic Renaissance” and other speakers included Abd Al-‘Aziz Al’Awda, the “spiritual leader” of Islamic Jihad and Muhammad ‘Umar of Hizb Al-Tahrir, the Islamic Liberation Party.
In 1994, scholar Martin Kramer had reported on Mr. Ghannouchi’s his extremist background:
Assuming a valid distinction can be made between Islamists who are “extremist” and “reformist,” Ghannouchi clearly belongs to the first category. Since his last visit to the United States, he has openly threatened U.S. interests, supported Iraq against the United States and campaigned against the Arab-Israeli peace process. Indeed, Ghannouchi in exile has personified the rejection of U.S. policies, even as he dispatches missives to the State Department.
Kramer also notes the following statement by Mr. Ghannouchi in which he alleges that Jews are behind a “worldwide campaign against Islam”:
The Jews everywhere are behind a worldwide campaign against Islam. Islam and the West could reach an accommodation, he says, were it not for the worldwide machinations of the Jews, who fan the fires of mistrust. Beware the Jews, he admonishes the West: “We Islamists hope that the West is not carried away by the Jewish strategy of linking the future of its relationship with the Islamic world with a war against Islam.
In another article posted that same year on an Islamic website, Mr. Ghannouchi wrote:
Zionism can be seen as hostile to every element rooted in ethical and religious principles (excepting those remnants, which can be exploited as slogans and national myths). It both represents and serves the new existential ethos which transforms the human race into ‘marketing’ and ‘geopolitical’ units which can be deployed, rewarded or punished by the powers that be, who are accountable to no-one save themselves. Zionism, then, nurtured by and in turn nurturing this global pseudo-civilization, represents a secular onslaught on the heart of our Islamic nation. The Islamic project, by contrast, is its polar opposite, representing the hope that human civilization can be rescued from this new worship of the golden calf. To speak of saving Palestine from the Zionists is to speak simultaneously of one’s hope for a global liberation. The ‘Palestinian cause’ does not signify the simple reconquest of a patch of territory occupied by aggressors. It is not even about peace and war; Its implications go much further. For to strike at Zionism in Palestine is to strike at the enemy in its new citadel, which it has constructed at the centre of the world, in the very heart of our Muslim nation, in a land which has always been of unlimited strategic and spiritual fecundity. The West, as a civilization, seems set to extend its influence to the heartland of the Old World, the better to destroy the surviving traces of spiritual resistance which have remained intact there, and finally to obliterate mans remaining hopes for the rebirth of a civilization which is qualitative and humane, rather than quantitative and secular.”
As recently as 2002, Mr. Ghannouchi co-signed a statement that said “The bodies of the men and women of Palestine are shields against the Zionist agenda, which its greater target is to destroy the entire Islamic Ummah.” The statement was also signed by:
- Mustafa Mashhour, the Supreme Guide of the Muslim Brotherhood
- Esam Al Atar, leader of the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood
- Hassan Nasrallah, Secretary General for Hezbollah
- Ahmed Yassin, the late former spiritual leader of Hamas
In March, Mr. Ghannouchi said that the Israeli military action in the Gaza Strip, “is compatible with Israel’s aggressive nature”. In a May 2011 interview, Ghannouchi called for and predicted the end of Israel.
As documented in a Hudson Institute report, ISNA grew directly out of the U.S. Muslim Brotherhood. Contrary to its claim that ISNA has a “long record of fighting hate, extremism, and bigotry, including anti-Semitism”, the organization actually 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. A previous post discussed the ties between the ISNA Secretary-General, a former leader of the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) Chicago chapter, and an Illinois school with close links to the Mosque Foundation, itself tied to fundraising for Hamas.
Despite it’s long history of association with fundamentalism, terrorism, and anti-Semitism, ISNA has been successful of late in building alliances with Jewish leaders and organizations. Former ISNA officials such as Muzammil Siddiqi, Sayyid Syeed, and Mohamed Magid have been particularly active in promoting Holocaust awareness, including participating in a trip last August to concentration camp sites in Europe.
A post from October 2011 reported on a controversial conference associated with ISNA that was accused by a critics of being sponsored by organizers who made of anti-Semitic and anti-gay remarks.