US media is reporting that Democratic presidential candidates Bernie Sanders and Julian Castro will attend this year’s annual convention of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), an important part of the US Muslim Brotherhood. According to a report by the Religious News Service:
August 6, 2019 (RNS) – Democratic presidential candidates Bernie Sanders and Julian Castro will attend a presidential forum at the country’s largest Muslim gathering later this month.
The presidential forum, which will include moderated one-on-one sessions with the candidates, will take place Aug. 31 at the Islamic Society of North America’s annual convention in Houston. Known as ISNACON, the gathering is expected to draw about 30,000 attendees from around the country.
“Our community is paying attention to how politicians engage with us, and is differentiating between those who say that they stand for religious freedom, and those who back it up with actions,” said Wa’el Alzayat, head of the Muslim voter advocacy organization Emgage, which organized the forum with ISNA and the Muslim Public Affairs Council. “Attending this event and speaking directly to our community in these critical times is a perfect example of the latter.”
Sen. Sanders, I-Vt., who earlier this year hired what is likely America’s first-ever Muslim presidential campaign manager, was the first candidate to confirm his attendance for the event. Sanders has previously participated in an interfaith event at Washington, D.C.’s Masjid Muhammad and visited a mosque after the New Zealand terrorist attacks.
Former US Housing Secretary Castro confirmed his attendance at the event soon after. Organizers said they invited other leading Democratic candidates as well as President Donald Trump.
Read the rest here.
The GMBDW “boilerplate” description of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) is 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 US 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 US 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.
The Global Muslim Brotherhood Daily Watch (GMBDW) 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 ISNA was under new leadership and that this reflected a meaningful change. In light of multiple contacts between the Obama Administration and ISNA, in April 2103 we posted a detailed analysis examining the question of whether or not ISNA had changed or somehow reformed since the above description was written. (It should noted that President Obama himself sent a message to the 2015 ISNA conference.) As we wrote at that time:
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.
Our evidence at the time that ISNA had not fundamentally changed included the following:
- Many important US Muslim Brotherhood leaders remain active in the organization.
- ISNA has failed to date to acknowledge any aspect of its actual origins or its history of fundamentalism, anti-semitism, and support for terrorism.
- ISNA also continues to maintain close ties to the Global Muslim Brotherhood
So, once again we ask,, what has changed since we concluded in 2013 that ISNA had not fundamentally broken from its Muslim Brotherhood past? As far as its leaders, the current ISNA President is Dr. Sayyid M. Syeed whose ISNA bio describes as follows:
Dr. Sayyid M. Syeed is the former National Director of ISNA‘s Office for Interfaith and Community Alliances in Washington, DC. Before heading the Washington office, he served for 12 years as ISNA Secretary General. He served as President of MSA and pioneered its transformation into ISNA. He’s also formerly served as Secretary General of the International Islamic Federation of Student Organizations (IIFSO), General Secretary of the Association of Muslim Social Scientists (AMSS),
Although Dr. Syeed does have a reputation as a “moderate” he has been a long-time ISNA leader in the Muslim Student Association (MSA), the International Islamic Federation of Student Organizations (IIFSO), and the Association of Muslim Social Scientists (AMSS), part of the US and Global Muslim Brotherhoods. It does not seem likely that an organization seeking to break decisively with its extremist past would chose a President with such a history.
Perhaps more telling is the ISNA Vice-President Safaa Zarzour whose ties would suggest that he is even far less appropriate as a leader for an organization that claims to have somehow “reformed.” According to his ISNA bio:
Safaa Zarzour is an educator, attorney and a community activist. Professionally, he is the Superintendent of Universal Schools in Illinois and Indiana. He is also the Principal of Zarzour Law LLC. Previously, he has served as Secretary General of ISNA, General Council and Chief Operations Officer of Zakat Foundation of America, and Chief Executive Officer of IQRA International Foundation, and as an adjunct law professor at Loyola Law School.
As we posted in January 2010, the Universal Schools located in Bridgeview, Illinois, has had strong ties to the US Muslim Brotherhood. Bassam Osman has been listed on the school website as a director and as a “Representative of NAIT.” A Hudson Institute report authored by the GMBDW editor identifies Mr. Osman as a US Muslim Brotherhood leader and representative of the North American Islamic Trust (NAIT), a part of ISNA and holding title to many US mosques and Islamic facilities associated with the US Brotherhood. Osman was also a former director of the Quranic Literary Institute (QLI), used among others things as a vehicle for transferring funds to Hamas. In 1998, the Chicago Tribune reported [see Note 1 below]that Abdul Amine, the current Universal Schools Chairman of the Board, has an office that was ” just a stone’s throw’ from QLI and also donated $10,000 to the organization. Amine was also reported to be the investment manager for a real-estate deal linked to the QLI and suspected at that time to be related to money laundering on behalf of Hamas.Ingrid Mattson, another NAIT Trustee, and former ISNA President, also served on the Board of Directors of the Universal School where she also taught Islamic Studies.
A Time Magazine article reports that although the Universal School is located next door to the Bridgeview Mosque, the school asserts its independence from the mosque which a 2004 Chicago Tribune investigative report had associated with Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood. However, the Tribune investigation also showed clear links from the Bridgeview mosque to organizations associated with Universal School board members and/or tied to the US Muslim Brotherhood or Hamas support infrastructure:
- The Tribune reported that the mosque had been deeded to NAIT in 1981 by Islamic fundamentalists who had taken over the mosque from its former leaders. As noted above, NAIT is part of ISNA and one time school board director ripIng Mattson is a former ISNA VP.
- The Tribune investigation reported that in 1985, Jordanian Sheikh Jamal Said became the new mosque prayer leader, replacing Ahmed Zaki Hammad who later became the President of ISNA. Sheikh Said was reported to have been inspired by the Muslim Brotherhood, educated at a Saudi Arabian University, and noted for his sermons espousing strict Islamic fundamentalist views and critical of America as “a land of disbelievers.”
- Mosque leaders were also leaders of the Quranic Literacy Institute, and the Islamic Association for Palestine, the predecessor of the Council for American Islamic Relations (CAIR). As noted in this post, school board members are also affiliated or had been tied to the QLI and CAIR.
In 2005, The Tribune reported that the Bridgeview Mosque had donated money to four Islamic charities that were leater identified as involved in financing terrorism—the Islamic American Relief Agency, the Holy Land Foundation, Benevolence International, and the Global Relief Foundation. One of the mosque’s eight-member executive committee was the late Muhammad Salah,, a Muslim Brotherhood member who was imprisoned in Israel in 1993 on Hamas financing charges. He was later designated a terrorist by the US Treasury Department but the designation was rescinded in 2012 after he filed a lawsuit contending that government monitoring of his economic transactions was unconstitutional.
According to a Danish think-tank report, the Zakat Foundation of America (TZFA) was established by a former employee of the Benevolence International, as noted above designated by the US Treasury as a terrorist entity. The report goes on to state that during 2003-2005, the TZFA had been helping the Foundation for Human Rights and Freedoms and Humanitarian Relief (IHH) deliver goods from Turkey to Iraq and Afghanistan, sometimes deceptively camouflaging IHH trucks with the TZFA logo. In 2009, the IHH website reported that TZFA cooperates with the IHH on co-organizing “social projects” in different regions and had sent $80,000 to Gaza through the IHH. The GMBDW has long reported on the role of IHH as the sponsor of the Huge 2010 Gaza Flotilla that was involved in a violent altercation with Israel naval forces. We have also reported on IHH recruitment of “human shields” for Gaza, the investigation of the IHH President for financing Al-Qaeda through the IHH, and allegations that IHH might have been involved in transporting weapons to Syria on behalf of the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood.
In June 2010, we reported on the ties between the IQRA International Foundation (aka IQRA International Educational Foundation) and the International Board of Educational Research and Resources (IBERR), a little known South African organization linked to the global Muslim Brotherhood. IBERR was founded by Yusuf Islam (formerly Cat Stevens) resulted from the First World Conference on Islamic Education held in Makkah, Saudi Arabia in 1977.
In addition, and not included in Mr, Zarzour’s ISNA biography, is that he is the Chairman of Chicago chapter of the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR.) Investigative research posted on GMBDW has determined that CAIR had it origins in the US Hamas infrastructure and documents released in the Holy Land Trial have revealed that the founders and current leaders of CAIR were part of the Palestine Committee of the Muslim Brotherhood as well as identifying the organization itself as being another part of the US Brotherhood. A 2008 post discussed an interview with the then Deputy leader of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood in which he confirms a relationship between his organization and CAIR. Again, Safaa Zarzour would seem an unlikely leader to represent an ISNA that had broken with its past.
As far as acknowledging any evidence to suggest that ISNA has in any way acknowledged its past, we see no reason to change what we wrote in 2013:
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.
Finally, with respect to ISNA’s ties with the Global Muslim Brotherhood, it should be noted that the 2018 ISNA conference featured Ghulam Nabi Fai as a moderator of a panel titled “Kashmir: Tale of Subjugation and Resistance.” We reported in July 2012, that Dr. Fai, the Executive Director of Kashmiri American Council, had been convicted and imprisoned for violation of federal tax laws after being accused by the FBI of acting as an agent for the Pakistani intelligence service involved in secret lobbying efforts inside the US. As reported in that post, Dr. Fai is not only closely tied to the US Muslim Brotherhood but also a Member of the Board of Directors of the Istanbul-based the Union of the NGOs of the Islamic World, a key part of the Turkish Muslim Brotherhood network that was instrumental in developing and executing the June 2010 Gaza Flotilla that was involved in a violent altercation with Israeli naval forces. It should also be noted that as we reported in October 2018, the Islamic Society of North America-Canada has been suspended and fined by federal regulators over concerns the group may have financially supported Kashmiri terrorist groups.
In total, we see no reason to change the evaluation we made in 2013— that ISNA is and remains an integral part of the US and Global Muslim Brotherhood. For two prominent Democratic Presidential candidates to address this years ISNA conference is a continuation of what we described in 2016 as “The Madness of the Democratic Party”, at that time considering US Congressman Keith Ellison (D-MN) for the post of Democratic National Chair.
(We would, like to point out that the GMBDW has no political affiliation and that in November 2016, we reported on “The Madness of the Republican Party.)
Note 1: Chicago Tribune “Terror-Funding Probe Touches Suburban Group; The Fbi is Investigating An Oak Lawn Organization Suspected Of Investing In Real Estate To Launder Money For Hamas.” September 8, 1998