It is widely understood that the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), a group recently named by the Justice Department a co-conspirator in a high profile Hamas financing trial, was founded in 1981. However, according to the organization, in word and activity, it was instead established nearly two decades earlier, in 1963. Question: Why the discrepancy, and should the group it claims as its 'self,' the Muslim Students Association (MSA), receive the same pro-terrorist label?
July 3, 2009, will mark the beginning of the 46th Annual ISNA Convention. The event will feature a number of prominent leaders of the radical Muslim community, including Mokhtar Maghraoui, imam of the Islamic Center of Boca Raton (ICBR); Muzammil Siddiqi, former National President of ISNA and current member of the North American Islamic Trust (NAIT) Board of Trustees; Safaa Zarzour, Program Chair for the ISNA Education Forum and Chairman of the Chicago office for the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-Chicago); Altaf Husain, the former National President of the MSA and current Executive Committee member of the Muslim Alliance in North America (MANA); and Abdul Malik Mujahid, the former National President of the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA) and the founder and current President of ICNA's multimedia wing, SoundVision (SV).
Calling the event the "46th Annual ISNA Convention" is slightly deceiving, as ISNA only came onto the scene less than 30 years ago. ISNA was the 1981 brainchild of alumni from the Muslim Students Association (MSA), a group founded by members of the violent Muslim Brotherhood, in coordination with Palestinian Islamic Jihad leader Sami Al-Arian. As stated in Al-Arian's bio, "In 1981, he helped establish the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), the largest Muslim grassroots organization in country." Yet, ISNA claims as its own the birthright of the MSA, which was created 46 years ago.
Within ISNA's 'Model Constitution for ISNA Affiliates,' the guidelines for membership of Islamic organizations into the group, the following is stated: "Since its establishment in 1963, ISNA became an umbrella organization for many Muslim communities across North America…"
This is reiterated by ISNA's President Ingrid Mattson, who in December of 2007, while addressing the attendees of the Reform Judaism Biennial Convention, stated, "We [ISNA] are an umbrella organization for Muslim individuals and organizations who wish to identify with and contribute to a larger vision of what it means to be a Muslim in North America, and who cooperate to develop strategies for achieving that vision. In the 44 years since we held our first convention, our umbrella has expanded and the voices included in dialogue have diversified…"
If what the President of ISNA and ISNA itself are saying is true, ISNA cannot be considered just a subsidiary of the MSA or even a sister organization to the student group. Indeed, the statements render the groups identical.
This oneness of groups no doubt has ramifications for the status of each, with regard to its/their alleged terrorist involvement. From the middle of 2007 through the end of 2008, ISNA was named by the United States Justice Department as being a co-conspirator for what was called the largest terrorism financing trial in the history of the U.S. The defendants were the Hamas charity, the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development (HLF), and its leaders, and at the conclusion of the trials (a mistrial and a retrial), all were found guilty on all counts.
While ISNA received the "co-conspirator" designation, it would seem the MSA should be stigmatized as such as well, since the organizations appear to be – at least from what ISNA says – the same.
Conversely, this would also make ISNA responsible for all of the bigoted and pro-terror actions of the MSA and all of its many chapters, from the time of the MSA's founding. This includes the annual anti-Semitic and anti-Israel forums sponsored by many if not all of the nation's MSAs, such as the events put on by the MSA West Zone chapters featuring pro-Hamas extremist Abdul Malik Ali. And this includes statements made in MSA publications supportive of Islamic militants, such as what was printed in the MSA-UCLA's July 1999 issue of Al-Talib referring to Osama bin Laden as a "freedom fighter," "philanthropist" and a "great Mujahid."
For ISNA's July convention, titled 'Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness,' the MSA is listed as having one of the main sessions. In reality, though, the MSA is not just a part of the event, it is the event – again, at least according to ISNA. The two groups are one and the same. As such, each must be held accountable and bear the consequences for the other's conduct.
Joe Kaufman is the Chairman of Americans Against Hate and the founder of CAIR Watch.