Joe Kaufman, a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center, is Chairman of the Joe Kaufman Security Initiative and the 2014, 2016 and 2018 Republican Nominee for U.S. House of Representatives (Florida-CD23).
In what is being called an act of domestic terrorism, over a dozen individuals related to a militia group have been charged with involvement in the alleged plot to kidnap Michigan Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer. The Governor has used this as an excuse to verbally attack President Trump, whom she claims is provoking an extremist atmosphere in the US. Yet, the Governor has, in recent times, personally embraced and legitimized an extremist group, herself – one that has significant ties to overseas terrorism. Shouldn’t Governor Whitmer renounce all forms of terror, before she criticizes others for doing the same or even far less than she has?
On October 6th, a criminal complaint was signed charging six men with their alleged participation in a conspiracy to kidnap Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer. Since then, at least eight others were also indicted. The individuals in question are said to be related to Wolverine Watchmen, a violent under-the-radar militia group that has, as well, targeted police officers. According to the indictment, the men had accused the Governor of “treason” and had conducted training exercises readying themselves for the abduction.
On October 18th, Whitmer used her position as Governor and the alleged crime that was unfolding against her to issue a statement in condemnation of President Donald Trump, accusing the President of “inciting this kind of domestic terrorism.” While President Trump has undoubtedly been critical of Whitmer and other Governors for responding weakly to racially charged riots that have taken place in their respective states, Whitmer’s assertion against him is a wild exaggeration and smacks of hypocrisy, as Whitmer has embraced extremism, in her own right.
This past May, Governor Whitmer penned a letter of praise to the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA), gushing over the group and its leadership for their response to the coronavirus pandemic. Writing “on behalf of the state of Michigan,” the Governor stated in the letter, “Your actions have made a positive difference in the lives of many people and have become an inspiration to myself and to countless others.” This group that has inspired the Governor has numerous relations to overseas terrorism.
ICNA was established, in September 1968, as the American arm of Jamaat-e-Islami (JI), the largest Islamist group in South Asia. In over five decades, ICNA continues to act in the same capacity, as a partner to JI, as a sharer of JI leadership, and as a harborer of one of JI’s most ruthless murderers, Ashrafuz Zaman Khan.
In August 2006, JI announced on its website that its charitable apparatus, the Al-Khidmat Foundation (AKF), had taken a delegation to the Damascus, Syria home of then-global head of Hamas, Khaled Mashal, presenting Mashal with a check for $100,000. Mashal thanked the delegation and said that Hamas would continue terrorist activities against Israel. At the time of the transaction, ICNA was a partner to AKF and topped the list of donors on AKF’s website. AKF’s current President, Muhammad Abdus Shakoor, is a former Secretary General of ICNA; ICNA continues to be a partner to AKF; and JI continues to openly support Hamas.
ICNA has a dawah (Islamic outreach) wing called ‘WhyIslam?’ that it launched in 1999. Up until recently, WhyIslam? featured a message forum on its official website, which was known to attract fans of terrorist groups. This included its moderators, who used the forum to post messages in favor of Hamas and the destruction of Israel. The Chief Patron of WhyIslam? and a frequent speaker at ICNA national conferences is Yusuf Islahi. Islahi is, as well, a top-ranking leader of the JI-Hind, the Indian branch of JI.
In 1971, not long after ICNA’s founding, JI’s then-paramilitary wing, al-Badr, was helping to massacre people in East Pakistan, what is now known as Bangladesh, in a genocide that took the lives of up to three million people. One of al-Badr’s commanders, Ashrafuz Zaman Khan, was sentenced to death (in absentia), in November 2013, for the torture and murder of 18 individuals. Khan held the positions of Vice President of ICNA National and President of ICNA-New York. Khan appears to still be involved with ICNA as an imam for the group.
In December 2017, ICNA’s overseas relief function, Helping Hand for Relief and Development (HHRD), organized an event masked as something to help people with disabilities that featured representatives from AKF as well as the Timergara, Pakistan chief of Falah-e-Insaniat Foundation (FIF), Qari Rehmatullah. In November 2010, over seven years prior to HHRD’s event, the US government designated FIF a front for the Pakistani terrorist organization Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT).
In October 2000, ICNA’s South East Region division placed, on the homepage of its website, links to the official websites of Hamas, Hezbollah and the Taliban. The group also published a link to qoqaz.net, a now-defunct financing and recruitment website for al-Qaeda, along with a request for ICNA’s viewers to provide “material support” to the site. The request was made by then-ICNA National President Mohammad Yunus. The webmaster of the ICNA South East Region site, Syed Khawer Ahmad, was also a webmaster and website developer for Hamas, itself.
Syed Ammar Ahmed is currently the Government Affairs Coordinator for ICNA Relief USA, the division of ICNA that has been giving out food during the coronavirus pandemic. In February 2010, following a debate he participated in at a school, Ahmed wrote on Facebook that he “hates white people” and joked that he “should have threatened to blow up the school.”
This author has provided details about ICNA’s many terrorism ties to Governor Whitmer’s office. I spoke to her staff at length about the need for the Governor to rescind the letter that she wrote, but as of this writing, I was told by her staffer, who knew me by name, that there has been no change made to the status of the letter.
As a potential victim of domestic terrorism, in the form of a violent militia that sought to kidnap her, Governor Whitmer should have reevaluated her misguided letter to ICNA. It would have been a sign that she eschewed terrorism in every form. Instead of seizing upon this ‘teachable moment,’ she exploited the kidnap terror plot for political points and used it as a pretext to verbally attack and savage President Trump, just weeks before the elections.
Of course, no decent American wants to see harm come to the Governor or any sitting government official in our country, but shame on Governor Whitmer for calling out one extremist group, while embracing and lauding another. It is time for the Governor to rectify this error in judgement. It is time for the Governor to rescind her letter and, in doing so, repudiate ICNA.
ICNA can try to mask its sinister intentions by giving out vegetables during the pandemic or by creating events in the name of people with disabilities, but in the end, the group’s phony altruism can never outweigh its terrorist associations.
Beila Rabinowitz, Director of Militant Islam Monitor, contributed to this report.