Over time, an obvious rift has formed between members of the Islamic and Jewish faiths, mostly due to an intense hatred of Israel and not-so-subtle anti-Semitism emanating from the Muslim community. One fairly large group of Jews, the Reform Jewish Movement, has sought to change this, by extending an olive branch to its enemies. The result has been a strange partnership between the Jewish group and the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), an organization with a dangerous past – and present.
On the top of the "Interfaith" section of the ISNA website, one finds a picture of the National Director of ISNA, Sayyid Mohammad Syeed, shaking the hand of the President of the Union of Reform Judaism (URJ), Eric Yoffie. It's no different than the handshake that took place between Yasser Arafat, the deceased ex-terrorist leader of the PLO, and Yitzhak Rabin, the deceased former Israeli Prime Minister, on the White House Lawn, in September of 1993. And like the '93 handshake, its purported show of friendship is meaningless, if not offensive and dangerous.
In July of 1981, the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) was incorporated in the state of Indiana. At the time, it shared its incorporating address with the Muslim Students Association (MSA), a group created by members of the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) in 1963, and the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development (HLF), a Hamas financing center.
ISNA's founders included a group of MSA alumni, who were looking for a social habitat following graduation. One of those founders was Sayyid Syeed, a former National President of the MSA.
Besides the MSA and ISNA, Syeed has been involved in a number of other radical Muslim organizations. He was Director of Academic Outreach for the International Institute of Islamic Thought (IIIT) and Editor-in-Chief of IIIT's quarterly publication, the American Journal of Islamic Social Sciences (AJISS). He sat on the National Board of Advisors of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the Executive Board of the American Muslim Council (AMC), and the Board of Advisory Editors of the Middle East Affairs Journal, a publication of the United Association for Studies and Research (UASR).
Also helping to found ISNA was a teaching assistant from North Carolina State University (NCSU) named Sami Al-Arian, who, two years prior, assisted in the creation of the violent Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ).
As stated on MB scholar Yusuf Qaradawi's Islam Online, Al-Arian "helped establish the largest grass roots organization in the U.S., the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) in 1981, and its many affiliates such as the Muslim Arab Youth Association (1977), the Islamic Association for Palestine (1981), Islamic Committee for Palestine (I.C.P), Islamic Community of Tampa (1987) and Islamic Academy of Florida (1992)." [The Islamic Association for Palestine (IAP) that is spoken of later became the American propaganda wing of Hamas, and the Islamic Committee for Palestine (ICP) and Islamic Academy of Florida (IAF) that are mentioned were PIJ fronts.]
The website Free Sami Al-Arian, which is run by Al-Arian's wife, Nahla, echoes this, stating, "In 1981, he [Al-Arian] helped establish the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), the largest Muslim grassroots organization in [the] country."
Nearly 25 years later, in April of 2006, Al-Arian would plead guilty to conspiring to provide services to PIJ.
On August 31, 2007, Reform Rabbi Eric Yoffie spoke at ISNA's 44th Annual Conference, held in Chicago, Illinois. The presence of such a high level Jewish leader speaking at one of ISNA's functions was unprecedented.
During his speech, Yoffie stated, "Anti-Semitism is not native to Islamic tradition, but a virulent form of it is found today in a number of Islamic societies, and we urgently require your assistance in mobilizing Muslims here and abroad to delegitimize and combat it." But while the rabbi stated these words, ISNA was spreading the same anti-Semitism he was calling on the group to denounce, right on its website.
Some quotes from ISNA National's website, which are still found on it today, include:
- "The Hour will not be established until you fight with the Jews, and the stone behind which a Jew will be hiding will say. ‘O Muslim! There is a Jew hiding behind me, so kill him.'"
- "May Allah fight the jews and the christians. They took the graves of their Prophets as places of prostration. Two deens [religions] shall not co-exist in the land of the Arabs."
- "I will expel the Jews and Christians from the Arabian Peninsula and will not leave any but Muslim."
- "The Dajjal [Devil, Antichrist] would be followed by seventy thousand Jews of Isfahan wearing Persian shawls."
- "Ibn Umar reported that Allah's Messnger (may peace be upon him) stoned to death the Jews, both male and female, who had committed adultery."
The conference had taken place at the same time a federal trial concerning Hamas fundraising was being conducted in Texas, in which ISNA and its sister organization, the North American Islamic Trust (NAIT), were named as "unindicted co-conspirators." During the trial, a Muslim Brotherhood document was entered into evidence that included a list of organizations said to be involved in the future destruction of the United States. The first name on the list was ISNA.
The document, which was dated May of 1991, stated, "The Ikhwan must understand that their work in America is a kind of grand Jihad in eliminating and destroying the Western civilization from within and ‘sabotaging' its miserable house by their hands and the hands of the believers so that it is eliminated and G-d's religion is made victorious over all other religions."
ISNA had previously been investigated for possible financing of terrorism abroad. The investigation was launched in January of 2004 by the U.S. Senate Finance Committee, headed by Senator Charles Grassley, who stated in a letter to the IRS: "Many of these groups not only enjoy tax-exempt status, but their reputations as charities and foundations often allows them to escape scrutiny, making it easier to hide and move their funds to other groups and individuals who threaten our national security."
Before the ISNA conference began, two United States Representatives, Peter Hoekstra of Michigan and Sue Myrick of North Carolina, called on the U.S. Justice Department to cancel its participation in the conference. In a letter signed by both legislators, they stated, "[W]e believe it is a grave mistake to provide legitimacy to an organization with extremist origins, leadership and a radical agenda."
On December 16, 2007, President of ISNA, Ingrid Mattson, repaid Yoffie's legitimization of her Islamist group by speaking at his Union for Reform Judaism Biennial Convention. A copy of her speech is found on URJ's Biennial Blog. There, she stated, "Of course, it is our responsibility to reclaim Islam from the extremists and terrorists." As demonstrated above, this was nothing more than empty rhetoric.
According to Mattson, in the summer of 1987, around the time of her Muslim conversion, she came across a book entitled Islam, by Fazlur Rahman. In it, Rahman wrote of an attack on a Jewish tribe that, in his estimation, was "occupying Medina" and that, as punishment for their "Jewish treachery," they were "ruthlessly massacred." He wrote that the "most sinister and heartless role was played by the ‘Hypocrites' [Muslim traitors] who were no doubt in league with the Jews." Of the book, Mattson stated, "His book sparked in me a keen desire to study the classical heritage of Islamic theology and law."
Evidently, Rahman's book had "sparked" much more in her, as she soon after would leave for Peshawar, Pakistan to do "relief" work. Peshawar, at the time, was the home base of the organization that would later become Al-Qaeda. For one year, from 1987 thru 1988, Mattson was the Director of Projects for Afghan Refugee Women. She operated out of Akora Khattak, a small town where dozens of Taliban leaders, including Taliban Commander Mullah Mohammed Omar, were educated at Darul Uloom Haqqania a.k.a. "University of Jihad."
Today, Mattson continues to surround herself with radicals. Aside from her current role as President of a group tied to the extremist Muslim Brotherhood, in December of 2006 and January of 2007, Mattson participated in ‘Live Dialogues' on Islam Online, a website that supports suicide bombings, mandates attacks against American troops, prescribes murder for homosexuals, and discusses how to behead human beings.
Besides speaking at each others' functions, ISNA and URJ seem to have forged a close bond with one another. URJ is listed on ISNA's website as a "Partner" organization. As well, both groups have created a forum together, titled ‘Children of Abraham: Muslims and Jews in Conversation.' Information about the function, including introductory letters from Mattson and Yoffie, is found on ISNA's site. According to Yoffie, the two groups "must share equally the costs of the program."
On the same web pages as these, one also discovers a link to information for ISNA's 2008 Annual Convention. Speakers for the event, whose pictures don the top of the convention page, include:
- Jamal Badawi. Like ISNA, Badawi was named by the U.S. government as an "unindicted co-conspirator" for the Holy Land Foundation (HLF) trial that began in July 2007, which dealt with millions of dollars in fundraising for Hamas. Badawi has authored a book entitled Gender Equity in Islam, in which he justifies the beating of women by their husbands.
- Siraj Wahhaj. Wahhaj was named by the U.S. government as an "unindicted co-conspirator" for the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center. During the bombing trial, Wahhaj served as a witness for the spiritual leader of the attack, "The Blind Sheikh," Omar Abdel-Rahman.
- Muzammil Siddiqi. Siddiqi stated shortly after the 9/11 attacks, regarding the United States' relationship with Israel, "America has to learn. If you remain on the side of injustice, the wrath of G-d will come." As a Sharia Scholar for Islam Online, Siddiqi has advocated wife beatings and polygamy and has said that Muslims should not befriend homosexuals.
Also appearing on every ISNA web page concerning URJ is a graphic advertisement for Guidance Residential, containing the slogan, "Home Ownership the Sharia Way." The "Sharia" or Islamic law that is alluded to, here, is the same Sharia that would render Jews and other non-Muslims as second-class citizens or worse.
As stated by Ingrid Mattson, in her speech to URJ, "By confronting the differences, we became aware that sometimes the Islam that was been taught in Muslim societies was not in harmony with the ethical teachings of the Qur'an and the Prophet Muhammad, but were, in fact, misogynistic, authoritarian or extremist views antithetical to true Islam." Yet, these troublesome behaviors are the very things that are being portrayed and propagated by Mattson's ISNA and those associated with it.
The Union of Reform Judaism prides itself on its liberal attitude of inclusiveness and diversity – the direct opposite of that of the Islamic Society of North America. And while ISNA's top leader is female, she clearly does not represent the best interests of women or anyone else who is not a radical Muslim.
If URJ wishes to do anything with respect to ISNA, it should only be to denounce the group – a group that is working towards its destruction – not legitimize it by speaking at its functions or seeking its approval. The handshake between Eric Yoffie and Sayyid Syeed can never be removed from the annals of history, but the false premise upon which it is based should be repudiated immediately and abandoned forever – or at least until ISNA is finally shut down.
Beila Rabinowitz, Director of Militant Islam Monitor, assisted with this report.