Joe Kaufman is a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center; a writer for the Counter-Islamist Grid, a project of the Middle East Forum; and the Chairman of the Joe Kaufman Security Initiative. He was the 2014, 2016 and 2018 Republican Nominee for U.S. House of Representatives (Florida-CD23).
Last month, the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA) announced its sponsorship of a school project that would provide grants to Muslim teachers and schools in need, what might seem to be an innocuous and laudable undertaking. However, the group sponsoring the project, ICNA, has ties to overseas terror, and the face of the project, Syed Ammar Ahmed, is a radical who once joked about threatening to blow up a school. And to provide a further grim irony, Ahmed is currently an adjunct professor affiliated with different colleges. Why are American youth being subjected to such groups and individuals without so much as an internet background check?
ICNA is the American arm of South Asian Islamist group, Jamaat-e-Islami (JI). JI’s militant apparatuses have caused much murder and mayhem. One former JI death squad leader, Ashrafuz Zaman Khan, who was sentenced to death himself, in absentia, for multiple murders in Bangladesh, is currently active in ICNA and has served for years in ICNA’s top leadership. ICNA has used the web to promote terrorist groups, including Hamas, Hezbollah and the Taliban, and in December 2017, ICNA organized an event featuring Falah-e-Insaniat Foundation (FIF), a US-banned front for Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), the group responsible for the 2008 Mumbai attacks.
Syed Ammar Ahmed is the Public Relations and Government Affairs Coordinator of ICNA Relief USA, ICNA’s US-based social service division and the group leading ICNA’s school project. In February 2010, following a debate he participated in at a school, Ahmed wrote, “I hate white people”; he called himself a “terrorist”; and at the suggestion of an acquaintance, he joked that he “should have threatened to blow up the school.” Prior to ICNA, Ahmed was an Organizing Director for Emgage, an Islamist group attempting to disguise its agenda as political advocacy, whose founder and co-chair Khurrum Wahid was reportedly placed on a federal terror watch list.
On January 23rd, ICNA Relief announced, on its social media, the establishment of a grant – “EMPOWER Grant” – allowing ICNA the opportunity to assist Muslim schools and teachers. Accompanying the announcement was a video featuring Ahmed and a remote panel of individuals participating in and discussing the project.
One of the panelists was former President of ICNA Naeem Baig. Baig is currently the Outreach Director of Dar Al-Hijrah, a radical mosque located in Falls Church, Virginia that previously had, as its imam, future al-Qaeda leader Anwar al-Awlaki. Baig was with Dar Al-Hijrah, when its current imam, Shaker Elsayed, in May 2017, advocated for female genital mutilation (FGM). In June 2016, Baig proudly posted on his Facebook page a photo of himself with Mazen Mokhtar, a former admin for the now-defunct al-Qaeda recruitment site, qoqaz.net, who has called Hamas acts “heroic” and suicide bombings “an effective method of attacking the enemy.”
Another panelist was ICNA Spokesperson Saima Azfar. Azfar is a big fan of former Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi, a Muslim Brotherhood operative who died while in prison on charges of espionage. Azfar called his death a “murder,” and after he died, she used his image as her ‘profile picture’ on Facebook and posted a fiery video of him extolling jihad and death. Azfar mourned JI terrorist Mir Qasem Ali, who was hung in Bangladesh for war crimes he committed in 1971. Azfar has promoted a call for freedom for Kashmiri terrorist leaders, and in August 2019, Azfar was caught posting ‘fake’ anti-Indian propaganda on Facebook about Kashmir.
Another panelist was the General Counsel and Deputy Executive Director of the North American Islamic Trust (NAIT), Chicago attorney Azam Nizamuddin. NAIT controls the assets of hundreds of radical mosques throughout the US. Among NAIT-owned mosque alumni are: 9/11 hijacker Hani Hanjour, Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, and Chattanooga, Tennessee military center shooter Muhammad Abdulazeez. NAIT, along with its affiliate ISNA, was named by the US government a co-conspirator for two federal terrorism financing trials dealing with the Holy Land Foundation (HLF), a now-defunct US charity that raised millions of dollars for Hamas.
ICNA’s school project, which originally began as a giveaway of what appeared to be cheaply made backpacks and school supplies, may seem like an admirable endeavor, but given the terror-linked organization running it and the radicals involved in it, how can anyone see this as being worthy of praise? Indeed, events such as these are only meant to take the focus off of ICNA’s sinister background and camouflage it with a few select pictures of smiling children.
And on top of all this, ICNA chose, as the face of this school project, someone who joked about threatening to blow up a school! Yet, even more absurd is the fact that this same individual is associated with different colleges. According to Syed Ammar Ahmed’s LinkedIn page, he is presently an Adjunct Professor of Political Science at Indian River State College, in Fort Pierce, Florida, and Broward College, in Fort Lauderdale.
ICNA’s terrorism affiliations and its radical operatives are dangers to society and their jihadist activities are threats to our country’s national security. They should not be operating in America, permitted anywhere near an educational institution, nor involved in the lives of children in any way.
Beila Rabinowitz, Director of Militant Islam Monitor, contributed to this report.