The Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) always denies its Brotherhood connections and says it is “moderate.” Some ISNA officials downplay its origins, insisting that it has charted its own course independent of the Brotherhood. ISNA’s Fiqh Council, its body of scholars, says otherwise.
In 2004, the Chicago Tribune reported that ISNA officials say “Brotherhood members helped form those groups but that their overall influence has been limited.” When ISNA is unable to escape the facts, it downplays them.
The same Islamists that birthed ISNA as a Muslim Brotherhood front lead the organization. A 2009 Hudson Institute study concluded, “All but one of the individuals listed on the ISNA founding documents remain active either in ISNA or one of its affiliated organizations.” The Brotherhood lobby members “continue to exist in their original form.”
To understand ISNA, you must understand that its Islamist orientation requires it to adhere to sharia, or Islamic law. Another word interchangeable with sharia is fiqh. The website, OnIslam.net, explains that “fiqh is our understanding and knowledge of Allah's Shari`ah.”
When making decisions, ISNA and other groups look to authoritative scholars of fiqh or sharia. It is these scholars that stand behind the moderate “faces” of ISNA like President Mohamed Magid. If you want to know the true nature of ISNA, you must look at its Fiqh Council of North America.
Of the 17 Fiqh Council officials, 14 have strong Islamist records. That is all but one member of the Executive Council and all but two of the Council members. The remaining members are not necessarily moderate. In fact, their inclusion should be considered a strike against their credentials as “moderates.”
The Executive Council has seven officials. The one without an obviously Islamist track record is Vice Chairman Dr. Zainab Alwani. However, she still has been published by the International Institute of Islamic Thought and Association of Muslim Social Scientists, two U.S. Muslim Brotherhood entities.
The six members of the Fiqh Council are:
Chairman Dr. Muzammil Siddiqi
“[Muslims] should participate in the [U.S. political] system to safeguard our interest and try to bring gradual change for the right cause … We must not forget that Allah’s rules have to be established in all lands, and all our efforts should lead to that direction.”
Siddiqi was more specific in a 2001 speech, where he said that sharia’s penal system must also be eventually established:
“The criminal law of the sharia is not practiced here and it is not even required for Muslims to practice the criminal law in a non-Islamic state … Once more people accept Islam, insha’allah, this will lead to the implementation of sharia in all areas.”
Executive Director Dr. Zulfiqar Ali Shah
Shah is a former President of the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA), another U.S. Muslim Brotherhood entity with origins in the Pakistani Islamist group, Jamaat-e-Islami. ICNA’s 2010 official handbook laid out a gradualist strategy towards creating a sharia state.
At a 2001 ICNA conference, Shah led the audience in declaring support for overseas Islamist fighters, chanting in Arabic, “Our way, our way, is jihad, jihad.” He mentioned Palestine and Kashmir as specific areas where Muslims must assist fighters:
“Whether they are brothers in Palestine or Kashmir, they belong to the Muslim ummah and we are united with them in their struggle. We stand for them and we are for their support and for the victory in Muslim [sic—Islam] … [praise] our mujahideen brothers and sisters in Kashmir.”
Dr. Mohamad A. El-Sheikh
El-Sheikh was a member of the Sudanese Muslim Brotherhood from 1973 to 1977 and is a founder of the Muslim American Society, which federal prosecutors say was “founded as the overt arm of the Muslim Brotherhood in America.”
From August 2003 to May 2005, he was the imam of the radical Darl al-Hijrah Islamic Center that has a history of links to Al Qaeda, Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood. He also was a regional director for the Islamic American Relief Agency. The U.S. government froze its assets in 2004 because of its links to Al Qaeda, the Taliban, Hamas and Al-Ittihad Al-Islamiya.
In 2004, El-Sheikh said that Palestinian suicide bombings are justified because, “if certain Muslims are to be cornered where they cannot defend themselves, except through these kinds of means, and their local religious leaders issued fatwas to permit that, then it becomes acceptable as an exceptional rule, but should not be taken as a principle."
Dr. Jamal Badawi
He used to be listed by ISNA as a member of the Board of Directors. He was named an unindicted co-conspirator in the largest terrorism-financing trial in U.S. history because he fundraised for the Holy Land Foundation, a U.S. Muslim Brotherhood entity that was convicted of funding Hamas.
A 1992 U.S. Muslim Brotherhood phone book identifies Badawi as one of its officials. He is also a close associate of Sheikh Yousef al-Qaradawi, the terrorism-supporting spiritual leader of the Muslim Brotherhood.
He has consistently supported Palestinian suicide bombers and terrorists. For example, in 2009, he preached that Islamist terrorists in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip are justified in killing Israelis, and he condemned Muslims who stand against them. Again in 2010, he said that the Palestinian “combative jihad” is justified.
Badawi has also taught that husbands can strike their wives as punishment if “a wife persists in bad habits and show[s] contempt of her husband and disregard for her marital obligations.”
Shaikh Abdur Rahman Khan
He is the chairman of the Islamic Circle of North America’s Shari’ah Council. He used to be a scholar for the Islamic Foundation but was apparently fired, based on an online petition demanding his reinstatement.
Shaikh Muhammad Nur Abdullah
The regular Council has 10 members, eight of whom have strong Islamist records. The remaining two are Dr. Deina Abdelkader and Dr. Ali Solaiman Ali. As stated before, this does not clear them. Their presence on this body is evidence itself of extremism.
The eight members are:
Dr. Munar Fareed
He was a Secretary-General of ISNA and is now in South Africa.
Shaikh Muhammad Hanooti
Hanooti has been an ISNA official since at least 1978 and has led multiple Islamist organizations and mosques linked to Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood. A 1988 U.S. Muslim Brotherhood document shows that he led one of its secret committees.
From 1984 to 1986, he led the Islamic Association for Palestine, a pro-Hamas Muslim Brotherhood front. He has been an imam for the Dar al-Hijrah Islamic Center, Islamic Center of Passaic County and Islamic Center of Jersey City. He attended a secret Brotherhood/Hamas meeting in 1993 where participants discussed how to use deception to advance the cause.
A 2001 FBI memo states that confidential informants revealed that Hanooti is a “big supporter” of Hamas and was “purportedly holding fund-raising activities, as well as supporting visitors to the United States from Israel and Jordan, to speak on behalf of HAMAS.” Another informant confirmed that Hanooti raised over $6 million in the U.S. for Hamas in 1993.
Imam Yahya Hendi
Hendi testified on behalf of Sami al-Arian in 2003. Al-Arian was arrested and later convicted for being a secret Palestinian Islamic Jihad leader and admitted to having been a Muslim Brotherhood operative. During the questioning, Hendi said that Islamic law justifies suicide bombings.
Dr. Yusuf Z. Kavakci
Kavakci is a Shura member of ISNA and was the imam of Dallas Central Mosque. A 1999 article said his mosque “is considered to be one of the most active centers of Hamas activity in the United States and hosts … the primary conduits for Hamas activity and fundraising in the United States.”
Dr. Muhammad Qatanani
Qaranani is the imam of the Hamas-linked Islamic Center of Passaic County. He was arrested and convicted by Israel in 1993 for being a member of Hamas and the Jordanian Muslim Brotherhood.
The Department of Homeland Security seeks his deportation because of his terrorist links and the fact that he did not disclose his conviction on his Green Card application.
“It is certainly suspicious when a person who has been convicted of being a member of, and providing services, to Hamas, who has personal ties to a Hamas militant leader, and a Hamas fundraiser also sends undisclosed cash to the West Bank,” a 2008 court filing by Homeland Security explains about Qantanani
In Arabic lectures between 2007 and 2009, Qantanani prayed for the defeat of “occupation and oppression” in Iraq, Palestine and Chechnya, referring respectively to the U.S., Israel and Russia. He also said it is permissible for Muslims to donate to the families of suicide bombers and that Muslims should not criticize Yousef al-Qaradawi, the pro-terrorism spiritual leader of the Muslim Brotherhood.
Qatanani has also said that the U.S. needs to limit its free speech to stop “hate” speech towards Islam.
Imam Hassan Qazwini
Qawini leads the Islamic Center of America in Michigan. The mosque has had Louis Farrakhan of the Nation of Islam as a guest speaker. Qazwini boasted that Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah, a spiritual leader of Hezbollah, “considered me his son” and the two met whenever he traveled to Lebanon. Qazwini’s mosque held a memorial service for Fadlallah when he died in 2010.
Dr. Muddassir H. Siddiqui
Siddiqui learned Islamic law in Saudi Arabia and worked for the Saudi government for 20 years. From 1990 to 2002, he was the legal advisor for the Saudi embassy in the U.S. The Saudi government is the leading promoter of Salafism, a radical strain of Islam.
Today, he advises companies on how to implement sharia-compliant finance.
Dr. Ihsan Bagby
Bagby is the executive director of the Kentucky chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), another U.S. Muslim Brotherhood entity. He was also a national board member for CAIR from 1995 to 2013 and the General-Secretary of the radical Muslim Alliance in North America.
A 1991 publication quoted him as saying, “Ultimately, we [Muslims] can never be full citizens of this country…because there is no way we can be fully committed to the institutions and ideologies of this country.”
The Islamic Society of North America is the largest Muslim organization in the United States. As such, it is courted by the highest levels of the U.S. government. The U.S. military has even restarted hiring the chaplains that it endorses.
People in positions of influence should not judge ISNA by its press releases and pleasant media interviews. Its documented history and the make-up of its Fiqh Council of North America is where the truth can be found.
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.