ANALYSIS: The Rehabilitation Of ISNA; Have They Really Changed?


islamic-society-of-north-america-isna-annual-convention-2012_315x256There has been much talk of late in the blogosphere of what is being described as Muslim Brotherhood “infiltration” of the US government in connection with Obama administration appointments to agencies such as the Department of Homeland Security Advisory Council. When we extensively covered these DHS appointments, we noted that it made little sense to describe them as infiltration since the notion implies a secret or covert process. The President of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), for example, would indeed seem an unlikely choice as an infiltrator given that he represents the largest and perhaps best known of the US Muslim Brotherhood organizations. In addition, we also identified Dr. Quintan Wiktorowicz as one of the principle architects of what appears to be a conscious policy to employ so-called “peaceful Islamists” as a bulwark or counter to Al Qaeda and related organizations, as opposed to any kind of infiltration on the part of the US Brotherhood.

In the case of ISNA, our “boilerplate” description of the organization is as follows:

The Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) describes itself as “an independent, open and transparent membership organization that strives to be an exemplary and unifying Islamic organization in North America by contributing to the betterment of the Muslim community and society at large. ISNA emerged out of the early U.S. Muslim Brotherhood infrastructure and documents discovered in the course of the the terrorism trial of the Holy Land Foundation confirmed that the organization was part of the U.S. Muslim Brotherhood. ISNA was named as a Holy Land unindicted co-conspirator as a result of what the US Justice Department called the organization’s ” intimate relationship with the Muslim Brotherhood, the Palestine Committee, and the defendants in this case.”  In 2009, a US federal judge ruled “The Government has produced ample evidence to establish the associations of CAIR, ISNA and NAIT with HLF, the Islamic Association for Palestine (“IAP”), and with Hamas.” ISNA has had a long history of fundamentalism, anti-semitism, and support for terrorism.

However, the Global Muslim Brotherhood Daily Watch has known for sometime that important elements of the US government were of the opinion that ISNA was an organization that had substantially changed in character over the years. In 2009, we met privately with an FBI official who told us that they were of the opinion that ISNA was under new leadership and that this reflected a meaningful change in the organization. Since that time, the GMBDW and its predecessor publication has reported on numerous occasions where the US government has acted in such a manner that suggests concurrence with this view of ISNA as a rehabilitated organization. Recent examples of US officials meeting with ISNA include:

  • The attendance of the US OIC Envoy Rashad Hussain at a January 2013 Washington meeting hosted by ISNA to honor the new President of Somalia
  • The attendance of numerous US officials at the 2012 ISNA Annual Conference
  • The attendance of White House officials at a 2012 Washington interfaith event that including ISNA
In addition, in just four days US OIC Envoy Rashad Hussain is scheduled to speak an ISNA conference in Dallas, Texas.

So, what exactly is the evidence that the ISNA of today has broken radically with its past history of fundamentalism, anti-semitism, and support for terrorism not to mention its ties to both the US and Global Muslim Brotherhood? Evidence for change might be said to include more robust condemnations of terrorism beginning with this 2008 ISNA statement that although denying culpability in the Holy Land terrorism financing case, for the first time condemned terrorism while identifying Hamas and Hezbollah by name. ISNA has also been engaged in an active program of interfaith cooperation that has included partnerships with Jewish organizations and  visits to concentration camp sites in Europe.

Yet despite these notable developments, there are good reasons why the Global Muslim Brotherhood Daily Watch remains deeply skeptical about any true change in the nature of ISNA. To begin with, many important US Muslim Brotherhood leaders remain active in the organization including most significantly Jamal Badawi who is scheduled to speak at the upcoming Dallas conference identified above. Dr. Badawi is a leader in many of the most important Global Muslim Brotherhood organizations aside from ISNA including the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR Canada), the Fiqh Council of North America, the Muslim American Society (MAS), the European Council for Fatwa and Research and the International Union of Muslim Scholars.  Documents released during the Holy Land Foundation terrorism financing trial indicate that he was (and probably still is), a member of the leadership structure of the U.S. Muslim Brotherhood. (The FBI official referred to above called this an “issue of legacy leadership.”) Other recent leaders of ISNA have interlocking relations with other US Muslim Brotherhood organizations such as Safaa Zarzour who only recently resigned as the ISNA Secretary-General and who is a board member and Chairman of the Chicago chapter of the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) as well as being associated with other parts of the US Muslim Brotherhood. Past ISNA President Ingrid Mattson was appointed in 2009 to the then newly established Council of Scholars of the International Institute of Islamic Thought (IIIT), another part of the US Brotherhood.

ISNA also continues to maintain close ties to the Global Muslim Brotherhood such as by hosting Tunisian Muslim Brotherhood leader Rachid Ghannouchi on at least two recent occasions. Among other things, Mr Ghannouchi is an important leader of the International Union of Muslim Scholars (IUMS), headed by Global Muslim Brotherhood leader Youssef Qaradawi and which also features Jamal Badawi as a member. In May 2012, ISNA co-sponsored a symposium on the rights of religious minorities that featured Abdallah Bin Bayyah, an associate of Youssef Qaradawi who sits on the European Council for Fatwa and Research (ECFR).  In December 2012, ISNA co-sponsored the “Inaugural International Conference on Citizenship and Minorities in the Muslim World” in Tunis, Tunisia that featured Mr. Ghannouchi as well as other Global Muslim Brotherhood leaders including Abdallah Bin Bayyah. US OIC Envoy Rashad Hussain was also in attendance.

In addition to the presence within ISNA of US Muslim Brotherhood leaders and its ongoing and close ties to both the US and Global Muslim Brotherhood, ISNA has failed to date to acknowledge any aspect of its actual origins or its history of fundamentalism, anti-semitism, and support for terrorism. For these reasons, the Global Muslim Brotherhood Daily Watch concludes that ISNA remains, as it always has been, an integral part of the US Muslim Brotherhood.

Comments are closed.