ISNA Hosts Conference Featuring Global Muslim Brotherhood Leaders


Continuing the increasing use of the U.S. as a venue for networking by the Global Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) has announced that it has held a symposium together with the Georgetown University’s Alwaleed bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding (ACMCU) which featured prominent members of the global Brotherhood. According to an ISNA blog:

“Religious freedom in the Muslim world is a pivotal issue and one of ‘deep concern’ for many Muslim Americans. Previously, I reported on the meetings and discussions that Muslim American leaders and scholars engaged in with their Tunisian counterparts to develop ‘standards and protocols to guarantee equal participation of various religious groups in Muslim-majority countries.’ This past monday ISNA and ACMU held a symposium involving academics, specialists and activists that discussed the rights of religious minorities from a broad array of angles: On Monday, ISNA joined Georgetown University’s Alwaleed bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding (ACMCU) to host a Symposium on Religious Freedom and the Rights of Minorities in Islam in Washington, DC.  ISNA President Imam Mohamed Magid and ACMCU Assistant Director Dr. John Voll welcomed an audience of over 100 representatives of faith organizations, academic institutions, think-tanks, and foreign embassies. ISNA is currently working together with Muslim leaders worldwide to promote a mechanism for developing Islamic standards and protocols on religious freedom and the role of religious minorities in the Muslim-majority communities.  A full video of the conference will be available next week but you can find highlights below. Shaykh Abdallah bin Bayyah of Mauritania kicked off the symposium by providing the audience with background on the fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence) of the rights of religious minorities in Muslim-majority communities.  The word ‘minorities’ does not exist in Islamic thought, Sh. Bin Bayyah said, but rather multiple ‘religious groups.’  He added, ‘Islam sees humanity as one unified group,’ quoting the Qur’anic verse, ‘O mankind, indeed We have created you from male and female and made you peoples and tribes that you may know one another.’ In the first panel, ISNA Board Member Dr. Jamal Badawi expanded upon the notion of plurality and diversity and connected it to the objectives of shariah, which seek to provide goodness to everyone.  ‘Shariah is not what Muslims are doing and what they’ve done,’ he reminded the audience. ‘Allah is perfect, and Muslims are imperfect.’ 

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Abdallah Bin Bayyah, last known to be living in Saudia Arabia, is a well known global Muslim Brotherhood figure also from Mauritania. According to an on-line biography, Sheikh Bin Bayyah was born in Eastern Mauritania and was the son of “one of the greatest scholars of his time.” According to this source, Sheikh Bin Bayyah was taught Islamic subjects by his father and in his early 20’s, was sent by the Mauritanian government to Tunis to study Islamic jurisprudence. Upon his return to Mauritania, he became a judge in the Ministry of Justice. He was also chosen to be the head of the Shariah section of the court of appeals and later to “High Authority for Religious Affairs.” Sheikh Bin Bayyah held numerous government posts including Vice-President, Prime Minister, and Permanent Secretary of the People’s Party of Mauritania. Sheikh Bin Bayyah is a member of the European Council for Fatwa and Research, the theological body headed by Global Muslim Brotherhood leader Youssef Qaradawi and affiliated with the Federation of Islamic Organizations in Europe, essentially comprising the European Muslim Brotherhood.

Dr. Jamal Badawi is a leader in many of the most important organizations of the Global and U.S. Muslim Brotherhood including the Islamic Society of North America ISNA), the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR- Canada), the Fiqh Council of North America (FCNA), the Muslim American Society MAS), and the European Council for Fatwa and Research (ECFR). He recently retired from an academic position at St. Mary’s University in Halifax and continues to be one of the most widely traveled North American Muslim Brotherhood leaders. In 2007, as one of the GMBDW’s earliest posts, we analyzed the role of Dr. Badawi in the leadership structure of the U.S. Muslim Brotherhood. The Investigative Report has recently published a profile of Dr. Badawi titled “Jamal Badawi: Enduring Link to ISNA’s Radical Past.” 

As documented in a Hudson Institute reportISNA 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.

The Alwaleed bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding is associated with longtime Global Muslim Brotherhood supporter Dr. John Esposito.

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