This Saturday, Seattle, Washington will play host to an Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) conference. Titled "The Power of Faith," the conference—the second such event this year—promises to help Muslims "transform the self and society." Featuring such sessions as "Faith Beyond Words: Finding the Help of Allah," Being a Prophetic Voice in the Age of Trump," and "Enhancing Our Community in Challenging Times," the event ostensibly consists simply of a day of community building, introspection, and prayer.
Yet, the past behaviour of the conference speaker—and even the conference organizers—indicates that the peaceful veneer of the event belies a sinister agenda.
One session at the event is called "Transformative Personal Change: Looking in the Mirror." The session is led by Imam Siraj Wahhaj, who has advocated for the "transformation" of inner city populations by saying that Muslims should be converting gang members to Islam in order to train already violent people to become Islamist street fighters. Wahhaj has explained, "They [inner city populations] need to get out of the street and into the masjid, learn Islam and then get [back] in the street because these people have guts and courage that a lot of Muslims don't have. Some of these people are ready to stand in front of anyone and fight." He has even added, "I will never tell anyone, 'Don't be violent.' That's not the Islamic way."
Another session is called "Envisioning the Prophetic Community: The Future of Masjids in America." Though the panel summary promises to focus on building a "community that [is] vibrant with diverse personalities, talents, and customs," the conference organizer itself—the Saudi-backed ISNA— has a history instead of "focus[ing] on promoting Wahhabi theological indoctrination materials to a large percentage of the +2,500 mosques in North America." ISNA has little mandate from ordinary Muslims. Rather than encouraging diversity within Western Muslim society, ISNA promotes an exclusionary ideology.
In fact, previous ISNA conferences have featured Islamist speakers who express violent opposition to tolerance and pluralism in Muslims communities. Muzammil Siddiqi, ISNA's former president and frequent ISNA speaker, has stated that he supports laws in countries that mandate execution for homosexuality. In an archived interview on ISNA's website, Siddiqi asserted, "Homosexuality is a moral disorder. It is a moral disease, a sin and corruption...No person is born homosexual, just as no one is born a thief, a liar or a murderer."
Yasir Qadi, another ISNA speaker, has claimed that Shia Muslims are liars because lying is "their religion". And Imam Siraj Wahhaj, of this Saturday's conference, has warned his followers not to associate with non-Muslims.
ISNA itself, far from "enhancing the community," was named as an unindicted co-conspirator in the Holy Land Foundation trial, has personal ties to Hamas members, and was once described as "one of the chief conduits through which the radical Saudi form of Islam passes into the United States."
If expressing support for terrorism, violent bigotry and Sharia laws is the kind of "transformation" and "change" ISNA and its speakers advocate, Seattle may be safer (and remain more diverse) without an ISNA presence at all.