ICNA's Search for Radicalism Should Start Within
December 15, 2009
The Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA), which touts itself as a leading grassroots Muslim organization, stood with American law enforcement last week in condemning violence and distancing itself from the actions of five of its young, American mosque attendees. These would-be terrorists traveled to Pakistan, intent on killing American soldiers whom they saw as waging a war on Islam.
Leaders at the Alexandria-based ICNA mosque expressed shock at the men's decision to give up bright futures for jihad. "The teachings of this mosque are the Koran, moderation, tolerance and peaceful interaction with our neighbors and other faiths,' said Essan Talawi, a guest imam at the mosque where the five men attended and were active members of its youth group."
Youth group director Mustafa Abu Maryan said extremism and violence are not part of the mosque's teaching. "We have always focused on community, community, community," he said.
ICNA issued a declaration saying, "Extremism has no place in Islam, and ICNA works tirelessly to oppose extremist and violent ideology." This concern marks a dramatic reversal for ICNA. Faced with a similar episode 12 years earlier, the group honored a member who travelled across the world to wage jihad in Indian-controlled Kashmir.
ICNA's 1997 Southeastern Regional Convention honored Lawrence Nicholas Thomas (aka Jibril Abu- Adam), an American citizen and convert to Islam, who was killed while fighting alongside terrorists in Kashmir. Jibril had travelled to Pakistan and trained with Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) (the Righteous Army), which was later designated by both the U.S. Treasury and UN as an Al Qaeda support organization.
After training at the LeT base, Jabril Abu-Adam and his unit went to Kashmir and ambushed Indian troops. Less than three months later, he was killed while attacking an Indian army post. At the November 1997 event, a plaque was presented to his family which read: "In recognition of Jibril Abu-Adam (also known as Lawrence Nicholas Thomas) for his devotion to His Creator and his ultimate sacrifice on behalf of his fellow Muslims in Kashmir."
ICNA's magazine, The Message, also saluted Abu Adam in a December 1997 article entitled, "Actions Speak Louder than Words." The article glorified the death of Muslim fighters, claiming "they lay peacefully where they fell and took on the appearance of being asleep, whereas the corpses of the fallen enemy began to decompose and became distorted, disfigured." It also detailed Abu-Adam's life, and praised his dedication and decision to wage jihad:
"By age 19, he decided to dedicate himself to jihad. However,' Jibril asserted, 'the duties to my family are on a personal level while the duty to my Ummah (Muslim community) is the top priority.' Pointing in the direction of Kashmir, he said, 'I have to help these people. I am just waiting for the snow on this mountain to melt. Then I will cross over into Kashmir, Insha'Allah.' The snow melted. On 26 October 1997, at the village of Doda in Kashmir, there was a skirmish. Thirty-four Indian soldiers were killed, and four Muslims became shaheed (martyrs). Allahu Akbar! Among those who became shaheed was Jibril, Insha' Allah. (It is reported from reliable sources that Jibril was responsible for killing 17 of the 34 Hindu fighters)."
In addition to honoring Abu Adam's personal decision, the article exhorts other Muslims to follow in his path. The article begins with this statement:
"The Qur'an urges Muslims to seek knowledge and then to act on the knowledge they acquire. It also says that the person who merely obtains knowledge without taking actions is like a donkey carrying books, i.e., such knowledge becomes a burden that benefits no one. For one young man, knowledge became a source of inspiration that led him to take actions that can benefit everyone."
The article glorifies jihad and martyrdom, going to great length to describe the miracles Allah provides for his soldiers. Among the points noted in the article, were statements such as, "It is quite evident that Jibril's struggles were motivated by devotion to Allah (SWT). Clear signs that the conflict in Kashmir is jihad are numerous," and, "It is recounted in authentic hadith that on the Day of Judgment, each shaheed can intercede with Allah for seventy of his family members."
This is not the first time that an ICNA publication or speaker has portrayed violence as admirable or has encouraged followers to fight in Jihad. At the July 2001 26th Annual Conference, ICNA's president Zulfiqar Ali Shah led the following chant:
· Shah: "Our way, our way, is jihad, jihad." (In Arabic: Sabilnah, Sabilnah; al-jihad, al-jihad")
· The crowd: "Al-jihad, al-jihad."
· Shah: "Our way is al-jihad." (Arabic)
· The crowd: "Al-jihad, al-jihad."
At a rally prior to the conference, Shah continued to advocate violence in Kashmir. Significantly, the five young jihadis who prayed at the ICNA center may have tried to link up with Jaish-e-Mohammed, a group dedicated to liberating the Kashmir region from India. Shah advocated supporting the Mujahideen of Kashmir to the large, public audience, saying:
"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]. Let's give a big takbir for our mujahideen brothers and sisters in Kashmir
... My brothers and sisters, nobody can eliminate or destroy the nation whose children are ready to die for the sake of what they stand for, the nations who love death more than they love life, nobody can perpetrate injustice upon them."
At its 2000 conference, Tayyib Yunus, leader of the ICNA youth branch known as Young Muslims, urged ICNA members to send their children to fight in jihad:
"The youth is very important, as parents, for us to facilitate the youth. And, we all want to see our youth to succeed to become doctors, to become engineers; but how many of you can actually say that you want to send your son to Jihad, to Chechnya ? How many of you can actually say that? [Takbir! Allahu Akbar!] How many of you can actually say that you want to send your child [He begins to sob] Takbir! Allahua Akbar! Takbir! Allahua Akbar! [He cries uncontrollably now, after a delay, he begins to speak again] How many of you can actually say that you want to send your youth to fight in Jihad or to send them to Azhar or to these Islamic Institutions to become educated?" [Emphasis added]
Now that young men associated with one of its centers have taken to battle, ICNA officials scratch their heads and wonder where the group came up with such radical ideas. As past president Dr. Muhammad Yunus noted in a 1991 article in the Message International:
"[T]he ultimate purpose of Jihad is to establish an Islamic system of government and to establish the truth of Islam in state and society." An endeavour that is not restricted to certain countries but the ultimate goal is to establish Islam all over the world and to bring about a world Islamic revolution, because the message of Islam is for all mankind."
ICNA's goals include a pledge "to seek to obtain the pleasure of Allah (SWT) through working for the establishment of Islam in all spheres of life." With that as a goal, and its past glorification of jihadism, the claims by the group's officials that they can't figure out what motivated five young members to forfeit their futures for jihad appear especially dubious.
Reader comments on this item
Can peace and violence coexist?
Submitted by MountainLaurel, Jul 18, 2010 18:38
In his response to John K., "anonymous" pointed out that since its founding, Islam has promoted violence and glorified death. He also pointed out that Islam was founded (in the 7-8th centuries) long before the crusades and western culture. While we continue to hear that it's western aggression that has brought terrorism down on our heads, I think it's clear that Islam simply looks for convenient scapegoats to be reasons for its terrorism, and even if it didn't have a reason, would continue to employ violent jihad, in its quest for dominance. It's in the koran, and all of ICNA'S books continue the theme. To think that Islam will change it's spots is dangerous nonsense. All these groups with ties to the Muslim Brotherhood and other terror groups should be declared subversive or worse, and closed down. Those Muslims who protest must be deported. Islam brings jihad (violence), intolerance and hatred. It is simply incompatible with what America stands for.
Submitted by Kaplan, Dec 16, 2009 20:39
ICNA has largely Pakistani membership. Pakistan and India have been at odd since their independent in 1947. It is on going conflict. The video shown here is just a reflection of that conflict. So what if they use the word Jihad! Different country use different slogon to galvinize. US uses democracy, national security among others to advance its causes. Further, Americans of various ethnicities often return to their country of national origin in times of difficulties or serve. Examples, American Jews routinely serve in Israeli army!
I understand the concern of Americans or US residents fighting against US forces. I think that should be a redline that should not go unpunished, but if a Pakistani American fights with Pakistan against India, let them.
Submitted by PRCS, Dec 16, 2009 16:29
ICNA issued a declaration saying, "Extremism has no place in Islam, and ICNA works tirelessly to oppose extremist and violent ideology."
Those assertions are bald-faced lies, and the Muslims who make them have correctly concluded that we--we western nations--remain too ignorant of Islam's true teachings to authoritatively challenge that nonsense.
Muslims believe the Qur'an is God's literal and unchangeable word. As translated by Yusafali, chapter 5 verse 38 states: As to the thief, Male or female, cut off his or her hands: a punishment by way of example, from Allah, for their crime: and Allah is Exalted in power.
That most of the world's Muslims will never amputate a thief's hands does not negate what the Qur'an says. Nor is it appropriate to assign the 'extremist' label to those Muslims who conduct them today; in Somalia for example. For, while such behavior exceeds the norms of the world's moderate Muslims, it neither exceeds nor violates Islam's teachings; it complies with them.
To believe ICNA's notion that extremism has no place in Islam is to believe that Islam gives Muslims the freedom to choose which Islamic teachings they wish to follow and to ignore those they don't. Even more nonsensical is their assertion that they work tirelessly against 'violent ideology'.
Like the amputation of thieves' hands?
How relevant is our own innocence?
Dec 16, 2009 16:20
Dear John K.,
If you believe that because of our own lack of collective innocence, we should be allowing domestic groups to encourage acts of violence against us and others, I think you are misguided. I too found that the lack of recent evidence in this article was a bit telling. However, these fve youths were not born after July 2001, thus they were most likely influenced by things they were taught during their impressionable youths 8 years ago. Furthermore, they are probably not the only youths in this position.
I don't believe the point of this article was to say that we Americans are blameless, but rather to try to get Muslims and non-Muslim Americans to wake up a bit and recognize that this message is being taught to Muslims right here in our country and it has serious repurcussions.
Islam does not hide the fact that it is a universalist religion and its goal is that all humans accept its message. Furthermore, the history of Islamic violence and conquest is not relegated to the post-September 11th world, this century, or even this millenia. If you want to blame American policy for Islamic violence and terrorism, then I think you sorely miss the bigger picture. Islamic violent conquest has a history that goes back to the founding period of Islam. It predates American foreign policy, Western colonialism & imperialism and the crusades. I am not saying that Islam is the problem, rather the problem is the message of hatred and violence, of jihad, crusade, holy war, etc. whatever the ideology that spews it: The religion of death and the worship and glorification of death as opposed to life and tolerance. We must be aware that this message is spreading and its source is domestic as well as abroad and it has to be stopped. We should take a long, hard look at our policies, as we always should, but not in the hopes of appeasing those who wish to kill or covert us so long as we value our freedom and independence. And we should take a long, hard look at those within our own country who use the freedoms that it provides to try to destroy it and replace it with the intolerant religious regimes of the past. I think the goal of this article was to get the ICNA to wake up, look at its past messages and accept its own partial responsibility for this situation, and then hopefully work to correct the situation in the present for the sake of the future.
Are we that innocent?
Submitted by John K, Dec 16, 2009 11:22
With all due respect to the writer who has obviously worked diligently to search the past references about this organization but has failed to produce anything after July 2001, It seems that either he lives in the past or is radically biased against anyone other than his own religious group. Lets not forget that our CIA toppled a 100% democratic government of Iran for oil back in the 50s which gave rise to extreme anti-american sentiment in Iran. Lets not forget that due to our sponsored sanctions after the first gulf war in Iraq, more than 5.5 million innocent children and women died because of not having access to food and medicine according to the UN statistics. Lets also not forget the hundreds of thousands of innocent children, women and men who have died in Afghanistan as a direct result of our invasion there so we could install Hamid Karzai, an ex-employee of UNOCAL, who within his first year helped build the oil pipeline via another American company Haliburton, under the guise of hunting for bin laden who by the way is still nowhere to be found. My question is, are we really that innocent? That when we point fingers at others for disliking americans, in a way we are implying that we are perfectly innocent and have never harmed them or their interests. I agree that extremism is bad for everyone but the only way its going to be eliminated is thru true justice, openness, admitting our own faults, and discontinuing hostile policies and actions against other sovereign nations. Thank you.