The Obama Administration reacted to Rep. Peter King’s hearings on Muslim radicalization by highlighting examples of Muslim cooperation with the government. Unfortunately, it sent Deputy National Security Advisor Denis McDonough to speak in support of the president of the Islamic Society of North America, a group tied to the Muslim Brotherhood that is one of the reasons that King’s hearings are necessary.
On March 6, McDonough spoke at a mosque called the All Dulles Area Muslim Society in Sterling, V.A., praising the institution and its imam, Mohamed Magid, who is also the president of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA). Though the organization says it “rejects all acts of terrorism, including those perpetrated by Hamas, Hizbullah and any other group that claims Islam as their inspiration,” ISNA was listed by the federal government as an “unindicted co-conspirator” in the trial of the Holy Land Foundation, a charity found guilty of financing Hamas as part of the Muslim Brotherhood network in the U.S.
ISNA has fought against this label and lost. In July 2009, a judge ruled that though the government should not have publicly labeled the organization, “ample evidence” was provided to tie it to Hamas. It was founded by the Muslim Students Association, a Brotherhood affiliate, and one of the Brotherhood’s internal documents from 1991 identifies ISNA as one of its fronts. Sami al-Arian, a Brotherhood operative later imprisoned for being a secret leader of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, is one of its co-founders. During the Holy Land trial, it was learned that the charity received checks written out to “the Palestinian Mujahadeen,” a reference to Hamas’ military wing, from accounts jointly owned by ISNA and the North American Islamic Trust. Despite all of this, McDonough praised Magid and ISNA.
“Thank you (Imam Magid), also, for being one of our nation’s leading voices for the values that make America so strong, especially religious freedom and tolerance,” McDonough said. He specifically mentioned his work with ISNA as something to be commended. Magid is also thanked for advising the government.
“Over the past two years, I—along with my White House colleagues—have benefited from the advice of many of your organizations through our Office of Public Engagement,” he said.
McDonough’s embrace of ISNA is just the latest example of the group’s relationship with the federal government. In 2007, Mohamed Magid traveled to the Middle East as part of the State Department’s Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs’ Citizen Exchange Program. This happened even though he served as an advisor for the Sterling Charitable Gift Fund whose offices were raided as part of a terrorism-financing investigation into the SAAR network.
The offices of the All Dulles Area Muslim Society were also raided in March 2002 with good reason. As Ben Johnson outlines, the former chairman of the mosque, Ahmad Totonji, used to be the Vice President of the International Institute of Islamic Thought, another Brotherhood group. The mosque’s legal counsel was also the attorney for Brotherhood operative Abdurahman Alamoudi who is now in jail on terrorism-related charges. Totonji also served as the co-founder of the Muslim Students Association and the World Assembly of Muslim Youth, whose offices were raided in 2004. He also has ties to Louis Farrakhan.
Shortly after the raids on ADAMS, Mahid put together an event for “community building” that included various Muslim Brotherhood figures, including the Executive Director of the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), Nihad Awad. He has vocally supported Hamas, was an official in the Hamas-financier Islamic Association of Palestine and according to the government, he is a member of the Muslim Brotherhood’s secret Palestine Committee in the U.S.
Awad took part in a secret meeting in 1993 where deception was mentioned as an important part of the Brotherhood’s strategy in the U.S. and like ISNA, CAIR was also labeled as an “unindicted co-conspirator” in the Holy Land trial. The FBI later cut off ties to CAIR for this label but continued using ISNA for outreach to the American-Muslim community. This relationship continues despite the extremism promoted at ISNA conferences. For example, on January 15, ISNA had a Diversity Forum Banquet that included Siraj Wahhaj and Zaid Shakir as speakers, two preachers that have a well-documented history of spouting extremism.
In July 2009, President Obama’s Senior Advisor for Public Engagement and International Affairs, Valerie Jarrett, spoke at ISNA’s annual conference. At the same exact event, one of the speakers was Imam Warith Deen Umar, the former New York prison chaplain who was fired for praising the 9⁄11 hijackers as “martyrs” to prisoners. He also referred to U.S. soldiers as “pigs” and called on Muslims to fight the enemies of Islam. As far back as the 1980s, an FBI document stated that ISNA’s conferences “provided opportunities for the extreme fundamentalist Muslims to meet with their supporters.”
If the government wants to bring attention to Muslims who fight against extremism, it shouldn’t be applauding an organization like ISNA that it has labeled as an “unindicted co-conspirator” in a terrorism financing trial. ISNA may not have been convicted of a crime but as ruled in 2009, it can be tied to Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood. It continues to give speaking slots to extremists like Siraj Wahhaj and Zaid Shakir and isn’t fighting to discredit the ideology of preachers like Sheikh Yousef al-Qaradawi.
The government does no favors to the country or to the Muslim community by advertising ISNA as an organization worthy of support.