See below for more background information on this radical group
Declassified FBI documents recall an MSA-PSG 1982 attack on anti-regime students in Norman, Oklahoma in which students were set upon with knives, tear gas and other weapons. Their MSA-PSG attackers utilized martial arts tactics as well.
Founding MSA-PSG members included Ibrahim Yazdi and Musafa Chamran, former Iranian foreign minister and former intelligence chief, respectively. Another founding member was Sadegh Ghotbzadeh, a close aide and foreign minister to Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, leader of the 1979 Islamist revolution.
Nothing has changed about the group since Khomeini’s death. In 1999, then FBI director Louis Freeh said MSA-PSG was “comprised almost exclusively of fanatical, anti-American, Iranian Shi’ite Muslims.” A review of the group’s upcoming conference and its recent activity shows this still to be true.
The conference is being held at the Hyatt Regency, which is shocking considering that the Hyatt announced in September 2018 that it “will no longer allow hate groups, those who primarily seek to disparage or demean a specific group, to host meetings or events at our hotels.”
The Hyatt’s announcement came in response to criticism of the hotel chain for hosting the annual conference of ACT! For America, an activist organization dedicated to countering Islamist extremism.
If the Hyatt plans to honor its promise on banning groups who promote hate, it should take a much closer look at the speakers and guests for MSA-PSG’s upcoming event in Phoenix:
Sheikh Seyed Abbas Ayleya is the head of the Zainab Organization in Lynwood, Washington. A supporter of Khomeini, Ayleya was the first head of the Islamic Republic of Iran. In the past he said that Khomeini is an ulama (a body of Muslim scholars) that people should look up to. In addition, he has said that despite Khomeini’s death, the enemies of Islam are “shivering from him and his personality, and his views, and his speeches, up until this date.”
Abdul Alim Musa, a California native, is the director of Masjid Al-Islam in Washington, D.C. Musa is anti-American, pro-Iran and pro-terrorism. In a 2012 Al Quds Day speech, he referred to America as a member of the triangle of terror and called it one of the “three monsters.” He is friends with former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. He has referred to suicide bombers as heroes, according to the The Washington Post.
Imam Abofazl Nahidian runs the Manassas Mosque in Virginia. Nahidian is a virulent conspiracy theorist. A report from MEMRI TV shows Nahidian placing the responsibility for 9/11 on Israel. “September 11 was not done by Muslims. It was done by the plot of the Zionists, in order to justify their occupying the land of the Muslims, such as Afghanistan, such as Iraq, such as now Pakistan,” Nahidian said. Clarion Project previously reported on how Nahidian’s mosque received $140,000 from the Alavi Foundation (an Iranian front group) in 2004 and $53,000 from them in 2005.
Sheikh Salim Yusufali is an American citizen who studied at Stanford. He is currently the head of the Wali Ul Asr School in Canada. Wali Ul Asr was the center of a major controversy in 2010 after one its female students praised Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah in a speech competition. The student said Nasrallah stood up to the “Yazids of his time.” (Yazid, the second caliph of the Umayyad caliphate, is considered despicable in Shi’a Islam.) Like many U.S. Shiite sheikhs, Yusufali studied in Qom, Iran. Yusufali is also the principal officer for the Ahlul Bayt Digital Islamic Library Project, a non-profit organization based in Minnesota. In addition, Yusufali suggested that people who want to understand the news better should read the writings of Iran’s current Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. In 2016, Yusufali participated in a question and answer session with Syed Ali Murtaza Zaida, a Pakistani sheikh, who has expressed support for Hezbollah in his Urdu lectures. Clarion Project has reported on Zaida’s comments about Hezbollah. “The Shia party in Pakistan is bluffing a lot, saying things and they don’t do it. That’s wrong. Hassan Nasrallah says something, and he does it. And they should look to him to be as strong as he is and have the same kind of conviction,” Zaida said.
Nurudeen Ali converted to Shiite Islam as a teenager. According to MSA-PSG’s website, he spent seven years in Qom, Iran. His comments about the United States and its officials are evidence of the kind of belief system he supports. In a 2013 speech, he referred to former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld as a shaytan (devil).
Marzieh Hashemi is a New Orleans native and reporter for Press TV, a media outlet funded by the Iranian regime. Hashemi lived in Tehran for several years. In April 2018, she shared on her Facebook page Ali Salam’s Insightmedia website and its Hezbollah-themed t-shirts and other merchandise, making it clear that she doesn’t just support Iran’s leaders, but a U.S-designated terrorist organization as well.
Sheikh Rasoul Naghavi is an Iranian and visiting fellow at Georgetown University. He is part of the Al Walaa Foundation, a Georgia-based non-profit, which Clarion Project covered in October 2018 for hosting Sheikh Mirza Muhammad Baig. Baig supports jihad as well as wilayat al faqih (the idea that Iran’s current leader should be followed without question and is the rightful leader until the return of the 12th Imam).
Seyed Ali Musawi and Seyed Farhat Abbas, both of whom studied in Qom, according to MSA PSG’s website.
Salam Al-Attar is a physician, who previously served as president of the Al-Mahdi Islamic Community Centre of London, Ontario. An influential player at Al-Mahdi is Mulana Syed Muhammad Rivzi. The center’s website frequently links to Rivzi’s writing. Clarion Project covered Rivzi in November 2018 after he was invited to lecture at the Islamic Husseini Center in Florida. “In his book Marriage and Morals in Islam, the website reads, “… homosexuality is a punishable crime against the laws of God. In the case of homosexuality between two males, the active partner is to be lashed a hundred times if he is unmarried and killed if he is married; whereas the passive partner is to be killed regardless of his marital status.”
Ali Salam is a diehard activist, ardent supporter of Hezbollah, the Islamic Republic of Iran and conspiracy theorist. He was shown in a promotional video of the conference posted on Facebook. His company, Insight Media, sells graphic t-shirts that blame the Jewish people for 9/11 and have Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah’s face on them.
More Background on MSA-PSG
A 1984 FBI investigation found that the Iranian regime was using multiple interconnected fronts to conduct intelligence and even terrorist activity in America. The investigative files say that the pro-Khomeini network preached that it is in a “holy war” against the U.S. and “they believe that salvation can be obtained through martyrdom.”
An FBI report from 1988 further named MSA-PSG as a component of the Iranian regime’s network in America, a network that the FBI suspected was planning terrorist attacks on U.S. soil, including “kamikaze-like” attacks at U.S. landmarks.
The Muslim Students Association (MSA) was founded by the Muslim Brotherhood in 1963. Though MSA-PSG is technically independent of the Sunni-oriented MSA, the FBI report from 1984 described the Persian-speaking group as a faction of the original MSA.
The files show that the FBI learned that 30 MSA-PSG members had traveled to Iran to meet with regime officials to discuss how to counter their opponents in America. “There are also indications that the PSG acts as the intelligence-gathering arm of the Iranian intelligence service,” the report says, adding, “The MSA-PSG acts as an extension of the present regime in Iran and operates on United States campuses to silence opposition through acts of intimidation and/or terror.”
Ryan Mauro is ClarionProject.org's Shillman Fellow, national security analyst and the director of Clarion Intelligence Network. Mauro is also an adjunct professor of counter-terrorism. He is frequently interviewed on top-tier television and radio.
Justen Charters is a research analyst with the Clarion Intelligence Network.