‘Moderate Islamists’ Turn on MI Gov. for Pro-Israel Comment

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Michigan Governor Rick Snyder is getting an up-close look at the extremism of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA). After Clarion Project brought attention to his speaking engagement at ISNA’s conference, his spokesperson defended ISNA. Now, he is facing an Islamist backlash merely for stating his support of Israel’s right to exist.

ISNA has a moderate presentation but an extremist history. ISNA was labeled an unindicted co-conspirator in 2007 during the trial of the Holy Land Foundation. The Justice Department said ISNA is an entity of the U.S. Muslim Brotherhood, a determination supported by the Brotherhood’s own documents.

Our article mentioned these facts and reviewed the speaker lineup for ISNA’s conference, which consists largely of Islamist radicals. Significant media coverage followed our report. We provided this information to Governor Snyder’s office and asked for a response.

Press Secretary Sara Wurfel responded by defending ISNA as a moderate organization. The official statement read in part:

“ISNA has been consistent in rejecting all acts of terrorism and violence, and Congressional investigations and inquiries have resulted in no ties to terrorism, and the organization has as its mission ‘to foster the development of the Muslim community, interfaith relations, civic engagement, and better understanding of Islam.

“ISNA has advocated for a ‘just and fair settlement of disputes between Israel, the Palestinians, and their neighbors through diplomacy and other peaceful means.’ ”

Snyder personally complimented ISNA during his remarks.  He said, “Thank you for your interfaith efforts with Christian and Jewish organizations.” He even endorsed ISNA’s Islamist-filled schedule, stating, “The tracks of your program are well-selected and meaningful to all of us.”

But then he uttered one line that has raised the ire of Islamists who also spoke at the event: “I’m a strong supporter of Israel and believe in its right to exist.”

The Islamists say the comment is offensive and anti-Muslim. Of course, nowhere did he actually attack Muslims or Palestinians. All Snyder did was state his opposition to the Islamist goal of destroying Israel.

Now some of ISNA’s top speakers are vowing to punish him politically.

Hatem Bazian, the chairman of American Muslims for Palestine, is the loudest voice. He spoke twice at the ISNA conference, once on “Islamophobia” and once on the Muslim-American identity. He is also a founder of the Islamist-led Zaytuna College, which led another ISNA session.

His organization hosts radical speakers and has strong U.S. Muslim Brotherhood links. He recently posted an article on his Facebook page that refers to Hamas and Hezbollah as “the resistance” and proudly proclaims, “One of the strongest armies in the world could not accomplish its goal of disarming and defeating the unified Palestinian resistance in Gaza.”

Bazian wrote on August 30 that Gov. Snyder was “insulting and demonstrated a lack of basic political respect to the community” and showed a “complete disregard of our community.” He pledged, “Governor Rick has lost our vote and if he runs for President then count on me to call and organize Muslims across the country to oppose his candidacy.”

Imam Omar Suleiman, who spoke five times at the ISNA conference, joined Bazian's call on Facebook. He is an instructor at the radical Al-Maghrib Institute and member of the Shariah Council of the Islamic Circle of North America, another group with an extensive history of extremism.

Suleiman said, “I'm shocked and appalled and hope the community mobilizes to make these politicians pay for insulting us on our stage.”

Zahra Billoo, executive director of the San Francisco Bay Area chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, spoke six times at the ISNA conference. She was featured as “one of the most remarkable young Muslim leaders and activists who are elevating Muslim American culture in the new millennium.”

Her extremist history includes justifying the terrorism of Hamas, promoting anti-American themes and offending fellow Muslims by questioning whether slain U.S. soldiers should be honored on Memorial Day. On Twitter, she agreed agreed with others who are bashing Snyder’s comments as offensive.

Ahmed Rehab, executive director of the Chicago chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, also responded on Facebook. He described Snyder’s comments as an “ill-advised slap in the face to our community.”

The hysterical reaction to Snyder’s comments should show him why the concerns about ISNA are legitimate.

Snyder endorsed ISNA’s Islamist-friendly program and is now facing the wrath of its speakers for a quick statement of support for Israel’s right to exist. Only radicals who believe Israel should be eliminated would find that offensive.


Ryan Mauro is the ClarionProject.org’s national security analyst, a fellow with the Clarion Project and an adjunct professor of homeland security. Mauro is frequently interviewed on Fox News.

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Meira Svirsky

Meira Svirsky is the editor of ClarionProject.org