Backgrounder: Islamic Circle of North America


Introduction

Updated: January 18, 2011

 

The Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA) is a Muslim community organization established in 1971 and based in Jamaica, New York. The organization, which operates 22 regional offices in the U.S., says it "seeks to obtain the pleasure of Allah (SWT) through working for the establishment of Islam in all spheres of life."

 

ICNA is affiliated with a number of mosques and Islamic centers around the U.S., which provide various educational programs and services to local Muslim communities. ICNA is closely aligned with the Muslim American Society (MAS), organizing joint regional conferences with MAS throughout the year.

 

These conventions, which attract thousands of participants, have featured known anti-Semites and provided a platform for extremist rhetoric. At the 2010 ICNA-MAS convention in Rosemont, Illinois, several speakers delivered anti-Semitic remarks, including portraying the Jews as having undue influence on the U.S. government and linking Judaism to theft and oppression. One year earlier, the 2009 ICNA-MAS convention in Chicago served as a forum for religious scholars and political activists to rail against Jews, call for the eradication of the state of Israel and accuse the United States government as waging a war against Muslims at home and abroad.

 

The December 2009 convention was designated by ICNA, MAS and other organizations as a venue to begin the effort to combat radicalization within the Muslim community. This effort was announced in the wake of the arrests in Pakistan of five Muslim-American students from Virginia for allegedly attempting to join a terrorist group. The five youths, who were sentenced to 10 years in prison by Pakistan's anti-terrorism court in June 2010 for criminal conspiracy and funding a banned terrorist organization, attended the ICNA Islamic Center in Alexandria and participated in a youth group, the Young Muslims of Virginia (YMVA), affiliated with the center.

 

Young Muslims (YM), a national division of ICNA dedicated to serving the needs of Muslim American youth, provides programming and educational materials.  Some of these materials are infused with overt anti-Semitism and expressions in support for terror. YM's Web site features an online resource library with several books by radical ideologues who advocate violent jihad, including five books by Sheik Yusuf Qaradawi and another five by Syed Abul 'Ala Maududi.

 

Local chapters of ICNA have also attracted anti-Semitic speakers to their organizational meetings and fundraisers. The San Francisco Bay Area chapter of ICNA invited Imam Amir Abdul Malik Ali of the anti-Semitic Sabiqun movement to its fundraiser on June 20, 2010.

 

Anti-Semitism and extremism have also marked many anti-Israel rallies endorsed by ICNA around the U.S. where protestors engaged in offensive Holocaust imagery likening Jews and Israelis to Nazis, as well as expressed support for terror. On January 3, 2009, ICNA endorsed a rally in New York City, which featured signs that read: "Israel: the Fourth Reich" and "Holocaust by Holocaust Survivors." (See the video here.) Protesters chanted numerous anti-Semitic slogans, including "Palestine is our Land, the Jews are our Dogs," "From the River to the Sea Palestine is Arab [land]," and "Shame, Shame USA! Bush, How Many Jews are in the Government?"



WhyIslam

ICNA has organized and funded "WhyIslam," a national advertisement campaign which it claims seeks to educate the public about Islam and to "clarify many of the misconceptions" about the religion.  However, the campaign's Web site for years provided links to external sites that promote anti-Semitism, anti-Christian teachings and hatred of Israel.

 

  • From July 2000 through September 2003, the WhyIslam site provided a link to the "It Is Truth" Web site dedicated to disseminating the statements and fatwas of Sheikh Abdul Majeed Al-Zindani, who was classified in 2004 as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist by the U.S. government for supplying weapons to Al Qaeda. In 2009, al-Zindani made a public plea for millions of Muslim men to fight against Israel.

  • From October 2003 through March 2007, the WhyIslam site provided a link to the "Islam Q&A" Web site of the anti-Semitic and anti-Christian teachings of Sheikh Muhammad Al-Munajjid. The site includes Al-Munajjid's religious ruling in which he says, "The Jews…infiltrated Freemasonry and reached high positions within it…and subjugated them [the Masons] to their own aims. One of the clearest indications of their intense desire to conceal their plans to destroy religions and provoke political revolutions is what it says in the Protocols of the Elders of Zion."

  • From November 2003 through the end of 2009, the WhyIslam site provided a link to an anti-Semitic and extreme anti-Israel Web site called "Jews for Allah." The site aims to convert Jews to Islam and includes the article, "Islam: A Religion of Terror?" which says: "It is the Jewish influenced media of the West which has portrayed Islam to be something that it is not … Whilst trying to destroy Islam through this instrument of the media, the Jews clearly try to portray an image of themselves as being the oppressed people…" 

  • From January 2006 through the end of 2009, "IslamOnline," a Web-based publication connected to Sheik Yusuf Qaradawi, was accessible through WhyIslam.  The publication promotes anti-Israel terrorist groups, has referred to Zionism as a "cancer" and has repeatedly claimed that the close ties between the U.S. and Israel demonstrate their mutual desire to oppress Muslims.  In January 2008, "IslamOnline" published a poem in its Arts and Culture section that gave graphic instructions on how to behead someone.

  • From January 2006 through the end of 2009, WhyIslam linked to the Web site of Harun Yahya, an anti-Semitic Turkish writer whose articles demonize Jews who support Israel as "godless" and blames them for committing atrocities.  One article penned by Yahya quotes French Holocaust denier Roger Garaudy and another cites Yahya's own book titled The Holocaust Deception.

The WhyIslam campaign, created by the New York and New Jersey chapters of ICNA, has had extensive reach in cities across the U.S. The campaign ran advertisements on approximately 30 buses in Seattle from September through November 2008; on more than 140 municipal buses in San Francisco and four billboards in the Bay Area in February 2009; on 1,000 subway cars in September 2008 and hundreds of buses in September 2009 in New York; and on approximately 50 municipal buses in June 2009 in the Washington, D.C. metro area on. Twenty-four billboards went up in 18 different cities in the U.S., including Tampa, Portland and Houston.

 

The WhyIslam campaign has been widely embraced by others in the Muslim American community. Among the groups the San Francisco branch of ICNA lists on its Web site as endorsing the campaign are the Muslim American Society (MAS), the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) San Francisco chapter and the Islamic Organization of North America (IONA), which is the North American branch of a radical anti-Semitic and anti-American Pakistani organization, Tanzeem-e-Islami.

 

WhyIslam claims to have network of volunteers that have established direct contact with prison inmates through correspondence. It also places advertisements in community newspapers and distributes promotional materials at community booths in malls.  



Ideology and Dissemination of Extremist Materials

ICNA's ideology is closely linked to Jamaat e-Islami, the largest Islamist party of Pakistan. According to an article in ICNA's publication The Message, "Using the organizational development methodology of Maulana Mawdudi and the Jamaat Al-Islami of Pakistan, which lays special emphasis on spiritual development, ICNA has developed a strong foundation." Maulana Mawdudi, a.k.a. Syed Abul 'Ala Maududi, is a jihadi ideologue who's writing are widely distributed by ICNA. He has written that "the nation of Jews will be exterminated" in the end of days.

 

ICNA's youth division, Young Muslims (YM), promotes educational materials infused with overt anti-Semitism and support for terror. YM's Web site features an online resource library with several books by radical ideologues who advocate violent jihad, including five books by Sheik Yusuf Qaradawi and another five by Mawdudi.

 

Among these books is Qaradawi's The Priorities of the Islamic Movement in the Coming Phase, in which he calls for violent jihad and praises Hamas, hailing it as "the steadfast, brave, aware Islamic resistance movement." Qaradawi also evokes offensive Jewish stereotypes. The text reads:

 

Financiers in the Christian West provide missionary foundations all over the world with the funding necessary for their work, donating billions of dollars for that purpose. The same applies to Jewish capitalists who, despite the known Jewish miserliness and money worship, have given generously to the Jewish cause before and after the establishment of Israel.

 

Young Muslims' resource library also features a document called "Brotherhood: The Essential Relationship" prepared by the Muslim American Society's Tarbiyah (Education) Department. The document discourages "worldly relationships" outside of the "brotherhood of Islam" and states:

 

The heart of the believer harbors no love for the polytheists and rejecters of faith even if they are of his kin. The hearts of the believers are however filled with love for other true believers, the people of jihad and the people of the mosques. These are his true brothers.

 

The document also interjects accounts from Hassan al-Banna, the founder of the radical Egyptian group the Muslim Brotherhood.

 

ICNA’s ideological world view has also been outlined in the March 2010 edition of ICNA’s Sisters Wing Member’s Handbook. The handbook states that “Wherever the Islamic movement succeeds to establish true Islamic society, they will form coalition and alliances. This will lead to the unity of the Ummah and towards the establishment of the Khilafah,” Arabic for Caliphate, the religious, political and economic system of Islamic governance.

 

The handbook also contains a recommended reading list for new members. The list contains ICNA- sanctioned authors, including several of the above mentioned anti-Semitic Islamist leaders and imams. ICNA members are urged to read titles written by Syed Abul ‘Ala Maududi, Hassan al-Banna and Sheikh Yusuf Qaradawi, among others.



ICNA and MAS

ICNA is closely aligned with the Muslim American Society (MAS), with which it holds annual conventions drawing thousands of participants each year. MAS has a similarly troubling history of associations with radical organizations and individuals who promote terrorism and anti-Semitism, and reject Israel's right to exist.

 

At their joint convention in Rosemont, Illinois, from December 23-27, 2010, several speakers made anti-Semitic and conspiratorial remarks, portraying Jews as a privileged group with undue power. During a panel about U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East sponsored by the anti-Israel group American Muslims for Palestine (AMP), Osama Abuirshaid, an AMP board member, said that the Jewish community is "revered in this country [the United States]" and spoke of "the Israel lobby" and its influence on the U.S. government. Abuirshaid asked, "How influential is this lobby in Washington?  This establishment is as committed to Israel as it is to America." Another speaker, Othman Atta, who often presents at AMP events, lambasted Judaism, saying, "Theft, detention, denial of rights…this is all done in the name of the Jewish religion."

 

One year earlier, the 2009 ICNA-MAS convention in Chicago served as a forum for religious scholars and political activists to rail against Jews, call for the eradication of the state of Israel and accuse the United States government as waging a war against Muslims at home and abroad.

 

The 2004 ICNA-MAS Annual Conference in Chicago featured several members of the Islamic Association for Palestine (IAP), an organization described by the U.S. government as part of "Hamas' propaganda apparatus," including Mohammad al Hanooti, IAP's first president. Salah Soltan, the founder and former president of the Islamic American University (IAU) in Michigan, whose chairman is Sheik Yusuf Qaradawi, also attended the ICNA-MAS annual conference that year.

 

At an ICNA-MAS strategic planning meeting in Chicago in June 2001, Zulfiqar Ali Shah, ICNA's president at the time, stated: "If we are unable to stop the Jews now, their next stop is Yathrib [Saudi Arabia], where the Jews used to live until their expulsion by Prophet Muhammad. That's the pinnacle of their motives."

 

ICNA and MAS have also drawn closer in recent years to the Islamic Organization of North America (IONA), which is the North American branch of a radical anti-Semitic and anti-American Pakistani organization, Tanzeem-e-Islami. IONA distributes anti-Semitic literature, including a book, The Prohibition of Riba, that blames the Jews for spreading usury in order to advance various conspiracies against humanity. 

 

Dr. Talat Sultan, head of ICNA between 2002 and 2006, gave a keynote speech at IONA's 2004 conference in Detroit. According to the San Francisco branch of ICNA, IONA has also endorsed the "WhyIslam" campaign. 




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