President of ISNA Addresses Extremist Group in India

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One of America’s top Muslim leaders recently met with the leaders of a leading Indian Islamist group while on a trip to Hyderabad.

Azhar Azeez is the President of the Islamic Society of North America, (ISNA), the largest Islamic organization in America. While on a recent trip to India, he met with the leaders of Indian Islamist group Jamaat e-Islami.

Jamaat e-Islami was founded by Abul A’la Maududi in 1941 with the goal of promoting Islam as a total code for life. It recently altered its doctrine and says it supports democracy and secularism in India. However, it is still primarily an ideological movement with limited impact in the political sphere.

Jamaat e-Islami’s branch in Bangladesh was involved in war crimes against non-Muslims during Bangladesh’s  1971 war of independence.

ISNA was founded in part by members of the Egyptian Islamist group the Muslim Brotherhood. Declassified FBI memos reveal that ISNA was identified as a Brotherhood front as early as 1987. One memo cites a source that has traveled worldwide on behalf of ISNA and other Brotherhood entities who is “convinced that this organization has a secret agenda which includes the spread of the Islamic Revolution to all non-Islamic governments in the world which does include the United States.” but has no formal ties to that or any other Islamist group.

The president of the U.S. Muslim Brotherhood from 1984 to 1994, an Egyptian named Ahmed Elkadi, joined ISNA’s Executive Council in 1984. Sami Al-Arian, an admitted Muslim Brotherhood operative from 1978 to 1983 was one of ISNA’s founders. He was convicted in 2006 for his involvement with the Palestinian Islamic Jihad group.

In 1999, an issue of ISNA’s Islamic Horizons magazine had Muslim Brotherhood founder Hassan al-Banna on the cover with the heading, “A Martyr of Our Times.” The ISNA piece implied that it wants to assume al-Banna’s mantle, stating: “It is hard to imagine that we will easily find someone to fill al-Banna’s place, but at least a collective leadership should emerge to take on that task.”

In 2007, ISNA was designated as an unindicted co-conspirator in the trial of the Holy Land Foundation, a charity shut down by the U.S. government for financing Hamas. The U.S. government listed ISNA as one of the “individuals/entities who are and/or were members of the U.S. Muslim Brotherhood.”

The Holy Land Foundation was based within the ISNA building. ISNA also deposited checks into its account that were made out to the “Palestinian Mujahadeen,” the name used at the time for Hamas’s military wing. The funding was transferred to the Holy Land Foundation.

More recently, in August 2017, a group of gay Muslims from Muslims for Progressive Values were expelled from the ISNA conference by officials who did not want homosexuality promoted at the event.


Read more about the Islamic Society of North America.



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Elliot Friedland

Elliot Friedland is a research fellow at Clarion Project.

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