The US Naval Academy And the US Muslim Brotherhood Part 2: The Case Of Akbar Ahmed

Akbar Ahmed
Akbar Ahmed

The Global Muslim Brotherhood Daily Watch has identified a second professor at the US Naval Academy who is close to the International Institute of Islamic Thought (IIIT), a part of the US Muslim Brotherhood and where Global Brotherhood leader Youssef Qaradawi reportedly serves as a trustee. The GMBDW reported yesterday that Ermin Sinanovic, who is teaching a course at the academy on “Muslim World Affairs”, would also be teaching at two different venues for IIIT. Dr. Sinanovic was not alone however. In September 2008, US media reported that Dr. Akbar Ahmed would be joining the U.S. Naval Academy to fill a new chair for Middle East Studies and would be teaching courses, advising midshipmen and faculty, and assisting in research projects. According to his CV, Dr. Ahmed served as First Distinguished Chair for Middle East/Islamic Studies at the US Naval Academy from 2008-2009.

Dr. Akar Ahmed is a former Pakistan High Commissioner (Ambassador) to the UK and Ireland and currently the Ibn Khaldun Chair of Islamic Studies at American University in Washington DC. He is frequently described as a prominent Islamic moderate who has received numerous awards and accolades. However, Dr. Ahmed also has a long association with the International Institute of Islamic Thought (IIIT), established in 1980 by some of the most important figures in the U.S. Muslim Brotherhood. Dr. Ahmed’s association with IIIT appears to have begun with a relationship to Ismail Faruqi who Dr. Ahmed said appointed him to both IIIT and the Islamic Institute of Advanced Studies, previously known as the Graduate School of Islamic & Social Sciences (GSISS), an organization once sanctioned to certify Muslim chaplains for the U.S. military and also associated with the US Muslim Brotherhood. Dr. Ahmed writes:

Later from his base in Temple University, where he headed the Islamic Studies Department, [Dr. Faruqi] embarked on the serious and gigantic task of re-thinking the fundamental concepts of modern social sciences within an Islamic framework. He called it  ‘the ‘Islamization of Knowledge’. This was his vision and it became his passion. Towards this end he helped set up the International Institute of Islamic Thought, and, recently, the Islamic Institute of Advanced Studies, both in the USA. (My name was placed on the faculty of the two Institutes thanks to him.)

Other close of ties of Dr. Ahmed to IIIT include:

  • Dr. Ahmed wrote a book published by IIIT and described by Ismail Faruqi as “the first of a series of works which the International Institute of Islamic Thought presents to the reader in fulfillment of its program for the Islamization of the sciences.” Dr. Ahmed was honored by IIIT in 2001, partially in consideration of his book.
  • Dr. Ahmed has been a member of the advisory board of the American Journal of Islamic Social Sciences, the publication of the Association of Muslim Social Scientists, another part of the U.S. Brotherhood and headquartered at IIIT .

Dr. Ahmed is also currently an adjunct scholar at the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding, a think tank whose other scholars include many individuals tied to the US Muslim Brotherhood including Louay Safi, a former Research Director at IIIT and important US Muslim Brotherhood leader and who will be one of Dr. Sinanovic’s co-instructors at the upcoming IIIT Summer Program.

None of these associations are mentioned in Dr. Ahmed’s most current CV.

A brief review of Dr. Ahmed’s positions on suicide bombings suggest that he has staked out a position similar to that of Tariq Ramadan, a global Muslim Brotherhood leader and grandson of the Brotherhood’s founder, with whom he has jointly signed lat least one  letter. That is, while condemning such terrorism as “un-Islamic”, Dr. Ahmed attempts to contextualize the phenomenon, blaming it on social/political circumstances rather than religious incitement.

A 2007 newspaper article suggested that Dr. Ahmed was one of four Muslim-Americans that played a role in crafting a Department of Homeland Security memo urging employees not to use terms including ‘jihad,’ ‘jihadist’ or ‘Islamic terrorist’ in describing Islamic terrorists.

In a 2008 TV interview with Iranian TV (no longer available), Dr. Ahmed suggested that the “Zionist movement” was behind the effort to stereotype and “demonize” Muslims. He said :

(Time; 4:52) I am thinking of primarily of things like the neo-conservative movement; I am thinking of the Zionist movement, people who have certain policies they want to get in the United States especially but the Western world in general behind and in order to mobilize towards that they have a convenient tool in this stereotyping/ demonization of Muslims. For example, it is much easier for example to defend the war in Iraq if you take in assumption that all Muslims should be treated in a stereotypical movement.

At the end of the show, Dr. Ahmed compared the Israeli treatment of Palestinians to the Nazi treatment of Jews stating “that doesn’t justify them perpetrating the same kind of violence on the Palestinians.”

The International Institute of Islamic Thought (IIIT) describes itself as “a private, non-profit, academic, cultural and educational institution, concerned with general issues of Islamic thought and education” and using the slogan “Towards Islamization of Knowledge and Reform of Islamic Thought.”  The concept for IIIT was developed at a meeting held in Lugano, Switzerland that was attended by many luminaries of the Global Muslim Brotherhood including Youssef Qaradawi. IIIIT was founded in the U.S. in 1980 by U.S. Muslim Brotherhood leaders including Iraqi-born 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 the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA). A1991 internal document of the US Muslim Brotherhood, introduced as evidence in the holy Land Foundation trial, included IIIT in “a list of our organizations and organizations of our friends.”

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. The IIIT Council of Scholars includes a number of important individuals from the U.S. Muslim Brotherhood such as Ingrid Mattson, the former President of ISNA. IIIT has a network of affiliates located in Europe, Africa, the MIddle East, and Asia and is heavily involved with publishing and promoting publications by Global Muslim Brotherhood leaders including Youssef Qaradawi.

As with Ermin Sinanovic, the GMBDW has found no evidence to suggest any improper behavior in the time Dr. Ahmed spent teaching at the Naval Academy although also similarly we wonder about the propriety of an instructor for the US military being so closely associated with IIIT. However, perhaps of even greater concern, we wonder about the influence on future US military officers of individuals so close to an organization promulgating the views of the Global Muslim Brotherhood.

For part 1 of this story, go here.

For information on the US Naval Academy’s  Center for Middle East and Islamic Studies, go here.

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