What ISNA Doesn’t Publicize About Its Convention Speakers

by Ryan Mauro

On May 8, the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) announced that Rachid Ghannouchi, the founder of Tunisia’s Islamist Ennahda Party, will speak at its annual convention in Washington D.C. on Saturday, September 1. Its description of Ghannouchi makes him sound like the exact type of Muslim leader the West needs to promote at home and abroad but there are a few little details that ISNA isn’t publicizing.

ISNA is designated by the U.S. government as an “unindicted co-conspirator” in the trial of the Holy Land Foundation, a charity that was shut down for financing Hamas. The Muslim Brotherhood’s own documents identify ISNA as one of its fronts in the U.S. Another group founded by Brotherhood ideologues, the Muslim Public Affairs Council, had Ghannouchi as a speaker in November.

Ghannouchi is similarly affiliated with the Brotherhood. He is reportedly a member of its International Guidance Bureau. He is also an official with two groups under the leadership of Sheikh Yousef al-Qaradawi, the top Brotherhood cleric who never fails to condone violent jihad.

Here are some facts about Ghannouchi that are nowhere to be seen on the ISNA website, much of which are taken from an indispensable article by John C. Zimmerman from 2005 in the  Journal of Social, Political and Economic Studies:

  •  “There are no civilians in Israel. The population—males, females and children—are the army reserve soldiers, and thus can be killed,” he once said.
  • “We must wage unceasing war against the Americans until they leave the land of Islam, or we will burn and destroy all their interests across the Islamic world,” he said in reaction to the Gulf War. He also referred to the U.S. as “Crusader America.”
  • His 1993 book is dedicated to Hassan al-Banna, the original founder of the Brotherhood; Imam Maududi, the founder of Bangladesh’s Jamaat-e-Islami and Sayyid Qutb, the Brotherhood member who inspired Bin Laden. The book also praises Hasan al-Turabi, the leader of Sudan’s Muslim Brotherhood who was, at that very moment, trying to unite jihadists of different kinds into a grand alliance.
  • “The Palestinian woman, mother of the Shahids [martyrs], is a martyr herself, and she has created a new model of woman," he said in 2001.
  • In 2002, he signed a joint statement with Hamas, Hezbollah and the Muslim Brotherhood endorsing jihad against “Zionists” that seek to “destroy the entire Islamic ummah.”
  • He says he is more optimistic than a Hamas figure who predicted Israel’s end by 2027.
  • He favors Hamas over Fatah because Hamas is “maintaining the resistance” while Fatah has “given up the choice of jihad.”

And what has his Ennahda Party done since the Arab Spring toppled Tunisian President Ben Ali? Here is some more information that ISNA won’t be mentioning:

  • Its nominee for Prime Minister said, “We are in the sixth caliphate, God willing.”
  • Its party platform says Israel is an “alien entity planted in the heart of the homeland, which constitutes an obstacle to unity.”
  • A man was sentenced to four years in prison for throwing Qurans into toilets. His lawyer says he is mentally ill.
  • Two people were sentenced to seven years in jail and fined $800 for posting drawings of the Prophet Mohammed on Facebook.
  • The director of a private television station was fined $1,575 for showing a film that depicts God.

It is true that Ennahda decided against making the next constitution based on Sharia Law, saying that the current description of Islam as Tunisia’s official religion is adequate. But, it must be remembered that only 89 of the 217 members of the Constituent Assembly belong to Ennahda. Almost all of the rest are secularists who would oppose a Sharia-based constitution. The Islamist party had no other option.

In an interview on April 9, Ghannouchi hit all the right notes. He said that Sharia needs a “suitable, operational framework” that “modern democracy” can provide. He observed that Islam is growing in the West because of its freedoms and Islamists often find shelter in the democracies that they condemn. But then came this:

“The Sharia is implemented in accordance with the circumstances of the times…The Sharia is not ready-made for implementation at any time and anywhere.”

In other words, Ghannouchi is advocating the same doctrine of "gradualism" espoused by the Muslim Brotherhood.

Ghannouchi’s Ennahda Party may have won the Tunisian election with 42% of the vote, but most of the other 56% went to secularists. There is a divide in Tunisia, just like there is a divide in the Muslim world as a whole. And ISNA is promoting the Islamist side.

Ryan Mauro is ClarionProject.org's National Security analyst and a fellow with the Clarion Fund. He is the founder of WorldThreats.com and is frequently interviewed on Fox News.

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