The Prayer Center of Orland Park (OPPC), Illinois, recently declared the establishment of an Islamic university at its premises, the Universal Islamic College of Chicago (UICC) that will provide "higher Islamic education to the American Muslim community as well as serve as a seminary that would prepare imams for mosques" in North America.
The foundation of this four-year university is a joint effort between the OPPC and the Universal School in Bridgeview, Illinois.
The identities of the founders and faculty of the university are deeply concerning and suggest the seminary will be promoting an Islamist ideology to Muslim students in Illinois and throughout the United States.
In the video announcing the college's founding, Universal School is represented by its Superintendent Safaa Zarzour.
Zarzour has extensive ties to Islamist groups linked to the Muslim Brotherhood, including serving as a board member and president of the Chicago chapter of the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), and currently vice-president and formerly Secretary General of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA). Zarzour also served as operations officer for the Zakat Foundation.
CAIR has its origins in the Muslim Brotherhood's establishment of infrastructure to support Hamas, according to documents released as evidence during the Holy Land Foundation (HLF) trial, in 2008, when HLF, the largest Islamic charity in the U.S. at the time, was blacklisted by Washington for supporting Hamas in 2001, and eventually convicted of financing the terrorist group in 2008.
ISNA itself has a long history of fundamentalism, anti-Semitism, and support for terrorism. Named as an unindicted co-conspirator during the HLF trial, evidence presented against ISNA led federal judge Jorge Solis to write, "the Government has produced ample evidence to establish the associations of CAIR, ISNA and NAIT with HLF, the Islamic Association for Palestine ("IAP"), and with Hamas."
Also closely associated with the Universal School is Bassam Osman, Former ISNA Shura council member and chairman of NAIT. Osman was described as the "representative of NAIT" on the Universal School board, according to older versions of the school's website. Osman was also listed as a member of the U.S. Muslim Brotherhood Shura Council, according to a copy of a phone directory submitted as evidence during the Holy Land Foundation Trial.
According to Sabith Khan and Sharqi Siddiqui in their book, Islamic Education in the United States, Universal School began in 1990 as "The Universal School: ISNA Model Learning Center" and ISNA raised $2 million for the project.
Another Universal School founder, Dr. Abdul R. Amine served as a board member for the Mosque Foundation, a Bridgeview, Illinois mosque directly across from the Universal School. Also known as the Bridgeview Mosque, the Mosque Foundation was identified as have close ties to the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas, according to the Chicago Tribune. Despite their close proximity, Universal School denies any connection to the Mosque Foundation.
Representing the Orlando Park mosque was Imam Kifah Mustapha. Mustapha has a history of supporting violent Anti-Semitism. In 2015, the same year he was hired as the imam of the center, Mustapha was caught supporting the "stabbing intifada" against Israelis on Facebook, writing, "An uprising in the blessed land will reflect blessings on all the Arab Revolutions God Willing."
Long before he was appointed Imam of OPPC, Mustapha was a member of the Islamic Association of Palestine (IAP), where he performed in its Al Sakhra band which chanted jihadi songs at fundraising events for HLF. Mustapha was named as an unindicted co-conspirator by federal prosecutors in the HLF terror trial because of his fundraising activities.
In one of the videos entered into evidence during the trial, Mustapha wears a Palestinian garb and Kufiyah and chants in Arabic:
"O mother, Hamas for Jihad. Over mosques' loudspeakers, with freedom. Every day it resists with stones and the dagger. Tomorrow, with God's help, it will be with a machine gun and a rifle."
Currently, Mustapha teaches one course at the UICC, while courses offered in Arabic are taught by his assistant Imam at OPPC, Dr. Haitham Alzamareeh (also spelled Zamara) who acts as the registrar for the college as well. Alzamareeh was hired by OPPC in January as assistant director to the mosque.
Previously, Alzamareeh taught online at Refugee Studies Academy (RSA), an Islamic institute based in London, U.K, that offers graduate degrees. RSA offers a diploma in Palestinian Studies, where the Academy lists as one of the goals of that degree is to provide the students with the "ability to refute the slander and lies: The student will have the scientific background and the necessary knowledge of the Zionist slander and their [Zionists] lies against them [Palestinians] in the land of Palestine."
Alzamareeh's online lectures feature rank anti-Semitism and concerning supremacist language. In one of his online lectures published on YouTube on November 27, 2016, Alzamareeh says: "Our [Palestinian] cause is an Islamic cause and our struggle against the Jews is not because they are Jews, but because they transgressed against our sacred places and occupied our land. They [Zionists] are trying to give this a religious dimension, which makes our struggle against them a creedal [religious] struggle."
"For us [Muslims] this cause is first religious before it is a national [Palestinian] cause," he added. "But to be clear," Alzamareeh said, "Muslims hate any creed other than Islam."
With founders and faculty Mustapha, and Alzamareeh and its connection to the Universal School and Safaa Zarzour, there is every reason to believe that UICC's curriculum will include radical Islam, victimhood, conspiracy theories, anti-Western ideologies, and anti-Semitism.
The partnership with Universal School seems intended to speed the college towards accreditation, since the Universal School is already accredited by the Illinois board of education and the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools (NCA), despite the fact that the Universal School's corporate status was involuntarily dissolved in May of this year, according to records from the Illinois Secretary of State's office.
When the first Islamic university — Zaytuna College — was founded in Berkeley, California, in 2010, Mahmoud Ayoub, a retired professor of Islamic studies from Temple University did not support the idea. Ayoub, who had worked with the U.S. State Department representing America to the Muslim world, said: "I don't know that I would send my child to go to a college where they can only learn tradition. Young people have to live (...) I like mixing people. I don't like ghettos."
UICC would seem to be a college that would fulfill Ayoub's worst suspicions, one that perpetuates a ghetto mentality of supremacist Islamism.
Hesham Shehab is the Illinois Associate of the Counter Islamist Grid (CIG).