This past October was the 35th anniversary of the national Domestic Violence Awareness Month (DVAM). One group in particular, the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA), curiously promoted the occasion on its social media – curious, because ICNA has been involved in fostering domestic violence, itself. In fact, this same month, the group hired a high-profile individual for fundraising, Muslim leader Hassan Shibly, whose wife had recently accused him of having beaten her for years and who resigned from his then-job over it. While ICNA attempts to ‘put on a good face’ for the public to see, the true nature of the group must be exposed.
Throughout the month of October, ICNA Relief, the social services division of ICNA, posted on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram colorful messages of hope and empowerment for female victims of domestic violence. Many of the messages contained DVAM written out and appended to the bottom of the ICNA Relief logo. They included: “I am not what happened to me. I am what I choose to become”; “You are not to blame for being abused and mistreated”; “You deserve to be treated with dignity, respect, and care”; and “Never forget that walking away from something unhealthy is brave even if you stumble on your way out the door.”
These messages, no doubt, would be considered thoughtful and compassionate had they not come from a group that is linked to hatred and violence, including violence against women.
ICNA is the American arm of Jamaat-e-Islami (JI), a South Asian Islamist group with terrorist affiliations. One of the affiliations is al-Badr, an entity that had significant participation in the 1971 massacres that took place in what is now referred to as Bangladesh. One of the main al-Badr death squad leaders, Ashrafuzzaman Khan, who was sentenced to death (in absentia) himself in 2013 for the murders of 18 individuals, has been associated with ICNA for over 30 years. Khan has served in top positions within ICNA, including ICNA national Vice President and ICNA-New York President.
ICNA is a partner/donor to JI’s own social services apparatus, the Al-Khidmat Foundation (AKF). ICNA has been affiliated with AKF, since November 2000, when the two “entered into” a “working agreement” together. This was the case, in August 2006, when AKF led a delegation to Damascus, Syria to hand deliver $100,000 to then-global head of Hamas, Khaled Mashal, at Mashal’s then-residence. Mashal thanked the group and said Hamas would continue to wage “jihad” (war) on the “Zionist yoke” (Israel). At the time of the money delivery, AKF showcased, on official AKF websites, ICNA as being its “partner” and top donor.
ICNA has a dawah (outreach) division called WhyIslam, an entity that, not long ago, featured a message board that had been used by its forum moderators to make posts deriding Jews and supporting Hamas and Israel’s destruction. On the WhyIslam site, one currently finds an essay, titled ‘Gender Equity in Islam,’ which sanctions domestic violence. According to the essay, men are superior to women, “righteous women” are “devoutly obedient” to their husbands, and if the husbands “fear disloyalty and ill conduct,” they must “admonish them (first), (next) refuse to share their beds (and last) beat them,” albeit “lightly.”
During DVAM, ICNA took the opportunity to hire the former Executive Director of the Florida chapter of CAIR, Hassan Shibly, to star in a series of fundraising videos. In December 2020, Shibly, who has spent time on the federal terrorism watch list and who, in May 2021, posted a viciously anti-Semitic video on Instagram telling Israeli Jews to “go back to Europe,” was accused by his then-wife, Imane Sadrati, of emotionally/physically abusing her, while she was pregnant and in front of their kids. During a 911 call to police, Sadrati confided that Shibly had been “beating” her “for 12 years.” Subsequent to the allegations, Shibly resigned from CAIR.
Also during DVAM, ICNA brought in another controversial figure to do a video for the group, Linda Sarsour, to promote the issue of emotional/physical abuse. The title for the video is the oft-heard Holocaust term, ‘Never Again,’ which is offensive, given Sarsour’s lengthy history of antisemitism. Sarsour has justified terrorist attacks on Israeli civilians and has repeated the anti-Semitic tropes of Jewish dual loyalty and what she refers to as “Jewish media.” In September 2019, she was forced to resign from her positions as National Organizer and Co-Chair of the organization Women’s March, due to her alleged embrace of bigotry against Jews and LGBTQ.
Beside the Sarsour video, ICNA attached to it the following message: “Many of the people who come to ICNA Relief have experienced either emotional or physical abuse as well as neglect.” While this may or may not be the case, what is ironic is that, because of ICNA’s sinister actions and relations, one can justifiably say that the Islamist group generated its own reality by sanctioning and thereby bringing about the abuse, in the first place.
The fact is that ICNA is a radical Muslim organization linked to terror that is attempting to repackage itself as an empathetic body that cares about those who have suffered abuse at the hands of others. Yet, it is ICNA that tells men to “beat” their “disobedient” wives, as it has done on its WhyIslam website; it is ICNA that hires someone, like Hassan Shibly, who allegedly physically and mentally abused his wife for over a decade and lost his job over it; and it is ICNA who uses a hateful icon, such as Linda Sarsour, to be the face of its domestic violence awareness video/campaign, along with its inappropriate and offensive title.
Once you scratch away at the colorful and deceptive messages of hope and empowerment of women that are found on ICNA’s surface, you discover nothing but misogyny, fanaticism and bigotry.
Beila Rabinowitz, Director of Militant Islam Monitor, contributed to this report.