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Chicago-area United Methodists last month voted to divest from companies doing business with Israel, including Caterpillar and General Electric. A few weeks later, in July, the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), whose annual convention was outside Chicago, appreciatively gave the Northern Illinois Conference of United Methodism its Interfaith Unity Award.
“At the national level, the Islamic Society of North America has found a close ally in The United Methodist Church,” ISNA’s program cooed, “both working together in campaigning for social justice, peace and equity.” No doubt. Apparently ISNA did not specifically cite the Chicago-area United Methodist stance against Israel. But presumably this policy only enhanced ISNA’s commendation for United Methodism’s “remarkable” solidarity.
Of course, no direct mention was made during the award ceremony of ISNA’s having been named in 2007 as an unindicted conspirator in the Holy Land terrorist financing case. According to the Dallas Morning News, court documents showed that the Islamic Society of North America was “an integral part of the [Muslim] Brotherhood’s efforts to wage jihad against America through non-violent means.” But National Council of Churches chief Michael Kinnamon was present for the Chicago Interfaith Unity Award. And ISNA’s website advertises Kinnamon’s own effusive defense of ISNA from last year.
As an ally and friend of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), I lament that the United States of America has neglected to consult with ISNA leadership before publicly designating the organization as an ‘unindicted co-conspirator’ in the alleged terrorist funding activity of the Holy Land Foundation.
He surmised that “since September 11th, it has become increasingly socially acceptable to fear difference in others, occasionally even in the arenas of law and public policy.” And he lamented that the “label of ‘co-conspirator’ is damaging to the excellent reputation of ISNA and those who collaborate with them to build a better America.”
Probably Kinnamon had not examined the evidence against ISNA that the court case revealed. But his NCC does want to protect ISNA as a key interfaith partner, since he explained that the NCC and ISNA have been conducting a “rich” Muslim-Christian dialogue since January 2008. “In my experience working with ISNA, their leaders have offered the United States a strong and consistent Muslim voice for peace,” he reassuringly noted, citing their “their interfaith collaboration to end nuclear weapon proliferation” and “work to prevent domestic violence” as evidence that “ISNA has collaborated effectively with others to promote national security.”
So Kinnamon was bewildered about the allegations against ISNA, since “support of violent terrorist tactics seems diametrically opposed to the character of this distinguished body of the North American Muslim faithful.” He hoped that the “damage done by this discriminatory action can be reversed and that ISNA will continue to manifest God’s peace in North America.” ISNA understandably included Kinnamon in their July convention. “Working with United Methodists has taught us the value of shared experience,” added Imam Kareem Irfan, president of the Council of Religious Leaders of Metropolitan Chicago, in subsequent remarks to the United Methodist News Service. He’s the first Muslim to head the Chicago interfaith council.
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