If you were told that the NYPD wasn't investigating a known Muslim Brotherhood front, you'd probably be outraged. Instead, the NYPD has done just that with the Muslim Students Association, and it is again facing fierce criticism for doing its job.
It has been revealed that the NYPD used informants to infiltrate specific Muslim Students Association branches in New York whose members had suspected ties to terrorism and extremism. Public events organized by MSA chapters were secretly attended and websites and chat rooms were monitored. Seven MSA chapters were labeled as "MSAs of concern," specifically six branches of the City University of New York and St. John's University in Queens. The six CUNY MSAs that were listed were at Brooklyn College, Baruch College, City College, Hunter College, La Guardia Community College and Queens College.
The Muslim Students Association was directly founded by the Muslim Brotherhood in 1963 at the University of Illinois. The three main founders were Hisham al-Talib, Ahmad Totonji and Jamal Barzinji. All three have had senior roles in organizations investigated for possible involvement in terrorism. In 2003, Special Agent David Kane's sworn testimony said Barzinji is "not only closely associated with PIJ [Palestinian Islamic Jihad]…but also with Hamas."
Today, the MSA has over 150 chapters directly affiliated with it in the U.S. and Canada. The Investigative Project on Terrorism says, "Through conferences and events, publications, websites and other activities, MSA has disseminated and promoted militant Islamic ideologies on college and university campuses throughout North America." A 2007 NYPD document identified the MSA as an "incubator" of radicalism.
There's an extensive list of MSA leaders engaging in terrorism and chapters promoting extremism. Abdurahman Alamoudi, a Brotherhood member convicted for his ties to Al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups, used to be the national president of MSA. Anwar al-Awlaki was the president of the Colorado State University chapter. Omar Hammami, now with the Al-Qaeda affiliate in Somalia named al-Shabaab, was the president of the University of South Alabama's chapter. A University of Idaho chapter leader, Sami Omar al-Hussayen, was arrested in 2003 on suspicion of fundraising for terrorists. The president of MSA's Washington D.C. council was convicted for trying to join the Taliban. And the list goes on and on.
The NYPD investigation into the seven MSA chapters is being portrayed an abuse of student's rights rooted in anti-Muslim discrimination. The Brooklyn College Faculty Council passed a resolution condemning the NYPD's actions and 43 law professors at CUNY put out a joint statement saying that the rights of students may have been violated. One English professor at Brooklyn College, Moustafa Bayoumi, accused the government of systematically persecuting innocent Muslims for their faith.
"The government, through the police department, is working privately to destroy the private lives of Muslim citizens," Professor Bayoumi said. His book is required reading for all students transferring to the school. Dr. Ronald Radosh of the Hudson Institute says it promotes "the view that Americans and New Yorkers in particular are completely Islamophobic."
Investigations into some of these MSA chapters are justifiable based on information available in the public domain alone. A former Brooklyn College student, Syed Hashmi, pled guilty to providing material assistance to Al-Qaeda in 2010. In 1998, a Hamas front called the Islamic Association of Palestine hosted an event at Brooklyn College with the Council on American-Islamic Relations that featured a speaker who implored Muslims to engage in jihad. He even had the audience sing a song with the words, "No to the Jews, descendants of the apes." The NYPD was looking into "militant paintball trips" by MSA members at Brooklyn College, a practice used by aspiring terrorists in the past. The police were also concerned about a member who had said he wanted to carry out a suicide bombing in Israel.
According to the information in the press, the NYPD was concerned about City College because it ran a website adherent to the Salafi strain of Islam, which is among the most hardline. The Brooklyn and Baruch MSAs frequently brought in Salafist speakers with extremist beliefs, and an agent reported that Baruch MSA members were "politically active and are radicalizing." The chapter at Queens College was linked to a member of al-Muhajiroun, an Al-Qaeda affiliate. These are all good reasons for the NYPD to investigate these chapters.
Critics of the government's domestic counter-terrorism efforts are trying to say that the NYPD's investigation into the Muslim Students Associations chapters is a scandal. It should have been a scandal if the NYPD didn't investigate them after learning about their extremism, possible involvement in terrorism, and Muslim Brotherhood roots.
College campuses are not somehow immune from the breeding of radical Islam. There are countless stories about how the education system is seen by the Islamists as an ideological battleground. The NYPD was not targeting random Muslim-American students based on their faith alone. It was responding to the realities of the times that we live in and acting on solid intelligence about specific chapters and individuals. The NYPD should be commended.