In 1988, an FBI informant warned that the International Institute of Islamic Thought (IIIT), a Muslim Brotherhood front, was focusing on getting “peacefully get inside” U.S. academia. Proof of that mission’s success comes in the form of Hartford Seminary, a non-denominational, interfaith graduate school with extensive Islamist ties.
IIIT’s latest newsletter has a photo of Dr. Heidi Hadsell, President of Hartford Seminary and Dr. Vanda MacMurty, chairman of Hartford Seminary’s board, visiting IIIT headquarters in Virginia on April 21.
The photo shows them standing next to IIIT leaders Yaqub Mirza, Jamal Barzinji, Abubaker Al-Shinghieti, Ermin Sinanovic and Hisham Altalib. Several of these IIIT officials are the original founders of the organization when it was set up as a Muslim Brotherhood front.
The picture is a symbol of the close relationship that IIIT has established with Hartford Seminary, including a $1 million donation to endow a faculty chair in Islamic Chaplaincy at the school in March 2013. Separately, Hartford received $17,500 in 2008 from an Iranian government front.
In July 2012, Dr. Hadsell spoke at an IIIT fundraiser where she thanked it for its assistance “particularly in the area of Imam training and education, and the study of Christian-Muslim relations in general.” She was also booked to speak at a scheduled IIIT event at the Woodrow Wilson Center on December 9 that was cancelled.
IIIT Executive Director Abubaker Al-Shingieti is a Hartford Seminary trustee.
From 1990 to 1998, Al-Shingieti held a series of official positions with the government of Sudan, a major abuser of human rights that has been listed by the State Department as a State Sponsor of Terrorism since 1993. His last position was as Director of Political Affairs for President Omar Bashir, who was indicted in 2009 and 2010 for war crimes including genocide by the International Criminal Court.
Dr. Mahmoud Ayoub, a Hartford Seminary faculty associate in Islam and Muslim-Christian Relations, is also a member of IIIT’s Council of Scholars. He taught for IIIT’s summer students program last year.
Hartford Seminary Professor of Islamic Studies and Christian-Muslim Relations Yahya Michot joined the faculty in 2008. He also is co-editor of the Seminary’s The Muslim World journal. He is listed on IIIT’s list of scholars in its 2013 Summer Institute for Scholars.
According to the book Brother Tariq: The Doublespeak of Tariq Ramadan, Michot justified the massacre of Buddhist Monks by terrorists in Algeria in 1996. He is also a close associate of Tariq Ramadan, the grandson of the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood and the son of a senior Brotherhood leader.
Michot also refers to Ibn Taymiyya “our principal guide” and “one of the great Muslim scholars.” Taymiyya’s radical preaching is incompatible with Western democracy. Steven Simon of the Brookings Institute says Taymiyya is responsible for the “elevation of jihad—not the spiritual struggle that many modern Muslims take it to be, but physical combat against unbelievers—to the rank of the canonical five pillars of Islam.”
Najib Awad, the director of Hartford Seminary’s International Ph.D. program and Associate Professor of Christian Theology, is a Christian from Syria. He is listed on IIIT’s list of scholars in its 2013 Summer Institute for Scholars.
Ingrid Mattson, a member of IIIT’s Council of Scholars, served as a Hartford Seminary Professor of Islamic Studies and Christian-Muslim Relations from 1998 to 2012. She was the director of the MacDonald Center for the Study of Islam and Christian-Muslim Relations.
Mattson was president of the Islamic Society of North America, a group that the Justice Department labeled a U.S. Muslim Brotherhood entity and unindicted co-conspirator in the largest terrorism-financing trial in American history.
Mattson endorses the teachings of radical cleric Imam Zaid Shakir. He has an extensive Islamist background that includes preaching that Sharia governance is superior to the U.S. Constitution and that American democratic secularism is flawed because it grants equality between Muslims and non-Muslims.
This partnership is the product of a decades-long Muslim Brotherhood influence operation.
The Background of Hartford Seminary’s Partner
The FBI’s source inside the Muslim Brotherhood network in America revealed that IIIT had a six-phase plan to “institute the Islamic Revolution in the United States,” with influencing universities as a primary objective. The Brotherhood had made sure that “no traceable ties to IIIT” and other fronts existed.
Notably, IIT’s Director of Academic Outreach from 1984 to 1994 was Sayyid Syeed, former secretary-general of the Islamic Society of North America. In 2006, Syeed was videotaped stating, “Our job is to change the Constitution of America.”
The source’s information is validated by a 1991 U.S. Muslim Brotherhood memo that listed IIIT as part of the Brotherhood network. The goal of this network was to “work in America as a kind of grand jihad…in eliminating and destroying the Western civilization from within…”
In 1992, secret Palestinian Islamic Jihad leader Sami al-Arian—who now sits in prison on terrorism charges— said that his group and IIIT are essentially one entity. IIIT was his largest donor, giving him at least $50,000.
In 2002, the U.S. government raided the offices of IIIT and the residences of six IIIT leaders as part of a terrorism-financing investigation. The affidavit of U.S. Customs Service Special Agent David Kane explains why. For example, IIIT founder Jamal al-Barzinji (who is seen in the photo with Dr. Hadsell) had his home searched because he “is not only closely associated with PIJ [Palestinian Islamic Jihad]…but also with Hamas.” The FBI’s informant in 1988 also named him as a Brotherhood operative.
The investigation into IIIT continued until at least 2007 when Al-Arian refused to testify about the group.
IIIT’s status as a Brotherhood affiliate remains. The same leadership is in power and there’s no indication that it has turned against the Islamist cause. For example, in an April 2011 article, a board member of IIIT’s London branch described the U.S. government and military as terrorists.
IIIT’s website has a photo taken on September 24, 2012 showing Barzinji and Al-Shinghieti meeting with Brotherhood leader Mohammed Morsi, then-President of Egypt. The caption underneath the picture states that Morsi “welcomed the participation of IIIT in the reform of higher education in Egypt.”
The significance of this photo is worth repeating: The organization that Hartford Seminary has interlocking leadership with was also going to collaborate with the Muslim Brotherhood in instituting its radical sharia agenda in Egyptian academia.
You can learn the entirety of IIIT’s Islamist background by reading the Clarion Project’s fully-documented profile of the organization.
Other Islamist Ties
The late Ibrahim Abu-Rabi was a faculty member from 1991 to 2008. He was a professor of Islamic Studies and Muslim-Christian Relations, as well as co-director of MacDonald Center for the Study of Islam and Christian-Muslim Relations. He also was a senior editor for the Seminary’s The Muslim World journal.
Stephen Schwartz, executive-director of the Center for Islamic Pluralism, writes that Abu-Rabi authored a book in 1996 “that unabashedly praised such leading Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood figures as Hassan Al-Banna (1906-49) and Sayyid Qutb (1906-66).”
Dr. Daniel Pipes writes in his review of the book that Abu-Rabi is clearly a fan of Muslim Brotherhood cleric Sayyid Qutb, whose writings have inspired countless Islamist radicals. Pipes states:
“To say that Abu-Rabi' is sympathetic to Qutb (and several other fundamentalist authors) would be an understatement. In fact, he serves as their apostle to an English-speaking audience. For example, he explains Qutb's concept of intellectual imperialism, segues into his own elaboration of this topic, then returns to Qutb. Author and subject meld into a nearly seamless whole.”
Pipes also points out that Abu-Rabi thanks University of South Florida Professor Ramadan Abdullah, who shortly thereafter became the leader of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorist group in Syria. The New York Times reported that Abu-Rabi “exploded the image he had carefully cultivated for four years as a soft-spoken scholar who preached understanding and eschewed militant rhetoric.”
Schwartz points out that Abu-Rabi organized student trips at the University of Alberta to Al-Fatih Islamic Institute in Damascus, which is controlled by the terrorism-sponsoring government of Syria. He points out that Hartford Seminary has been directly involved with the Al-Fatih Islamic Institute.
A Hartford Seminary delegation including Dr. Heidi Hadsell, the school’s president, spent 10 days in Syria in October 2005. They met with the founder of the Al-Fatih Islamic Institute and its dean of languages, as well as leaders of two state-controlled universities. The Seminary’s newsletter says that Hadsell “said that the trip was an excellent start to a cooperative partnership between the Seminary and the colleges and universities in Syria.”
In January 2012, the Seminary announced that Omar Awass, a graduate of Al-Fatih Islamic Institute and participant in IIIT’s Scholars Research Program, would become a Visiting Professor of Islamic Studies and Muslim-Christian Relations.
We were warned all the way back in 1988 by a FBI informant inside the U.S. Muslim Brotherhood that IIIT was set up as a front to infiltrate and influence academia. IIIT’s relationship with Hartford Seminary is a fulfillment of that mission.
Ryan Mauro is the ClarionProject.org’s National Security Analyst, a fellow with the Clarion Project and is frequently interviewed on top-tier TV stations as an expert on counterterrorism and Islamic extremism.