The Islamic Society of North America's (ISNA) roots in the Muslim Brotherhood have been strengthened by newly declassified FBI memos and from a second, highly unlikely source.
The records, recently obtained by the Investigative Project on Terrorism through Freedom of Information Act requests, show that FBI agents investigated a parent organization to ISNA, the North American Islamic Trust (NAIT), during the mid 1980s.
The FBI investigation concluded that the Muslim Brotherhood members who founded U.S.-based groups had risen to "leadership roles within NAIT and its related organizations," including ISNA, "which means they are in a position to direct the activities and support of Muslims in the U.S. for the Islamic Revolution." The FBI memo also said that:
Within the organizational structure of NAIT, there have been numerous groups and individuals identified as being a part of a covert network of revolutionaries who have clearly indicated there (sic) support for the Islamic Revolution as advocated by the AYATOLLAH KHOMEINI and his government as well as other fanatical Islamic Shiite fundamentalist leaders in the Middle East. This faction of Muslims have declared war on the United States, Israel and any other country they deem as an enemy of Islam. The common bond between these various organizations is both religious and political with the underlying common goal being to further the holy war (Islamic Jihad).
The FBI memos date back to 1987-88. Dozens of pages of the released files are redacted in their entirety. But others contradict ISNA claims that it "never was, and is not now, affiliated with or influenced by any international organizations including the Muslim Brotherhood." Furthermore, ISNA still considers NAIT an affiliated organization. ISNA's president is an ex-officio NAIT board member and Muzammil Siddiqi, NAIT's chairman, serves on ISNA's governing board.
NAIT holds the deeds to more than a quarter of the mosques in the United States and continuously seeks to build on that volume.
The dispute is important as ISNA officials assert that the organization is a voice of moderation in the American Muslim community, actively courting outreach and dialogue with government officials and leaders of other religions. ISNA President Ingrid Mattson was among the organization's representatives at last week's international interfaith conference in Madrid. As the IPT reported last week, conference organizer Abdullah al-Turki is alleged in civil lawsuits to have ties to a senior Al Qaeda financier and has openly justified Palestinian suicide bombings.
ISNA's denials, however, are challenged by the Chicago Tribune, federal prosecutors in Dallas, internal Muslim Brotherhood documents and the newly declassified FBI memos. ISNA officials have ignored those reports or denied their legitimacy. Their most recent denial came in the wake of a mistrial in the first HLF trial last October. A retrial is scheduled for September.
But in the past month, ISNA co-founder and convicted terrorist Sami Al-Arian acknowledges that he was a Muslim Brotherhood member in 1981 – the year ISNA formed. Click here and read paragraph 6 on page 5, then see Al-Arian's biography to see his claim that he is an ISNA founder.
In his June 24 affidavit, Al-Arian admits for the first time that his former charity, the Islamic Committee for Palestine (ICP) advocated for the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), a fact he heatedly denied for more than a decade. ICP conferences routinely featured leaders of the PIJ and other terrorist groups.
Similarly, the FBI concluded that ISNA conferences in the 1980s "provided opportunities for the extreme fundamentalist Muslims to meet with their supporters."
Among the recently declassified FBI memos, NAIT activities are described:
Their support of JIHAD (a holy war) in the U.S. has been evidenced by the financial and organizational support provided through NAIT from Middle East countries to Muslims residing in the U.S. and Canada. The organizational support provided by NAIT includes planning, organizing and funding anti-U.S. and anti-Israel demonstrations, pro-PLO demonstrations and the distribution of political propaganda against U.S. policies in the Middle East and in support of the Islamic Revolution as advocated by the (Government of Iran).
ISNA and NAIT are fighting their continued inclusion as unindicted co-conspirators in the Hamas-support trial of the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development (HLF) and five former officials. In a recent rebuttal, prosecutors listed a series of checks routed by ISNA to HLF, often dedicated for "Palestinian Mujahideen" in the memo line. The military wing of Hamas initially was referred to as the Palestinian Mujahideen, prosecutors said.
Internal documents released at the trial show ISNA's founders had been leaders of the Muslim Students Association, which also was founded by Muslim Brotherhood members who came to the U.S. for college. In addition to introducing all the financial transactions between ISNA/NAIT and HLF, prosecutors introduced a Muslim Brotherhood "Explanatory Memorandum" on the group's goals, as the document explains:
The process of settlement is a "Civilization-Jihadist Process" with all the word means. The Ikhwan [Muslim Brotherhood] must understand that their work in America is a kind of grand Jihad in eliminating and destroying the Western civilization from within and "sabotaging" its miserable house by their hands and the hands of the believers so that it is eliminated and God's religion is made victorious over all other religions. Without this level of understanding, we are not up to this challenge and have not prepared ourselves for Jihad yet. It is a Muslim's destiny to perform Jihad and work wherever he is and wherever he lands until the final hour comes, and there is no escape from that destiny except for those who chose to slack. But, would the slackers and the Mujahedeen be equal.
ISNA is the first U.S.-based organization listed under a section titled "A list of our organizations and the organizations of our friends."
In their brief, prosecutors continue in describing the Explanatory Memorandum:
At the end of the document, the memorandum lists those Muslim Brotherhood organizations that – if they all worked together – could help accomplish this grand objective. These organizations include ISNA, NAIT, the Occupied Land Fund (OLF)(the former name of the Holy Land Foundation), the Islamic Association for Palestine (IAP), the United Association for Studies and Research (UASR), and others.
The documented links between ISNA and the Muslim Brotherhood have reached critical mass. While it is not illegal to be a part of the Brotherhood, ISNA knows its credibility is at stake here. It appears to have dug in its heels too deeply.