Two news items concerning the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) point to the deep inconsistency of the U.S. government vis-à-vis militant Islamic groups.
- The mere presence of an ISNA business card in the possession of a visiting imam from Canada, Ahamad Kutty, was enough to get him detained for a day by the immigration authorities, held overnight in jail, and then refused entry to the United States.
- Yet ISNA enjoys the privilege of being one of two Islamic organizations that endorses Muslim (such as James J. "Yousef" Yee, recently arrested on suspicions of espionage) for employment as chaplains in the armed services.
Actually, this inconsistency represents progress, as organizations like ISNA were until a few months ago viewed uncritically; now, at least, some branches of the government realize the danger they present. (September 23, 2003)
Nov. 7, 2002 update: The contradictions continue: a Pakistani source reports today that although ISNA was not invited to the White House iftardinner on Oct. 28, it was invited on Nov. 5 to the Department of State's iftar. What exactly is going on?
Jan. 31, 2004 update: More inconsistencies:
- A Senate committee asked the tax authorities for ISNA's paperwork on January 14, 2004, as part of its investigation into groups that "finance terrorism and perpetuate violence."
- ISNA announced a signal success on January 31, 2004: it had convinced the Navy Chief of Chaplains, Rear Admiral Louis Iasiello, to remove from the Navy Chaplain Corps website an article by Salman Rushdie, "Yes, This is About Islam." The ISNA letter to Iasiello, a Franciscan father, condemned Rushdie as "a divisive person known for his efforts to distort Islam" and complained that "tens of articles and statements that aim at differentiating the perversion of Muslim extremists from the positions espoused by mainstream Islam" are left off of the website. When the offending article was withdrawn, ISNA responded with an appreciation of the Navy Chaplain Corps' "positive response" and commended Rear Admiral Iasiello "for taking this wise decision and recognizing the need to keep bigotry and divisive and defamatory speech out of the Naval Chaplain Corps website."
Comment: It boggles the imagination that an organization being probed by Congress for financing terrorism and perpetuating violence should have credibility enough serve as censor for the U.S. military. For anyone who wishes to protest this capitulation to militant Islamic dictates, Rear Admiral Iasiello can be reached at 703 693-5406 (no e-mail address available).
May 9, 2004 update: The beat of acceptance goes on:
- The Islamic Development Bank (IDB), a Saudi-dominated institution, announced a gift (reported in the Arab News today) of 1.03 million Saudi riyals for the expansion and renovation of an ISNA elementary school in Ontario.
- The White House has not just invited ISNA to attend the first National Conference on Faith-Based and Community Initiatives next month but, according to an ISNA press release, "has also requested ISNA to provide names of participants from the American Muslim community that would benefit from this conference." This follows on the Department of the Treasury a month earlier inviting ISNA (in ISNA's words) "to be a part of the Treasury Department's standing advisory group on charities and the best practices developed by the Treasury Department to assist U.S.-based charities in reducing the likelihood that charitable funds will be diverted for violent ends."
So, a Saudi-funded organization counsels the White House on U.S. domestic issues? How interesting.
June 8, 2004 update: It appears that the U.S. government is subsidizing an Islamist organization, judging by the news today (from WTHR, the NBC affiliate in Indianapolis, near where ISNA is based) that ISNA has received two grants from the Faith Based Community Initiative totaling about $70,000 "to help train religious leaders on how to apply for federal money for social programs."
Aug. 29, 2004 update: Further confirmation of ISNA's new-found acceptability: the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that the State Department assisted ISNA in planning a 10-person delegation to the Sudan this month.
March 5, 2005 update: In its wisdom the U.S. government has send another $50,000 to ISNA – read all about it at "Americans' Tax Dollars Fund the Wahhabi Lobby (ISNA)."
Aug. 24, 2005 update: Unbelieveably, Karen Hughes, the presidential confidante, is going to the ISNA meeting in a few days and delivering her maiden address as under-secretary of state for public diplomacy.
Sept. 1 2005 update: William A. Mayer and Beila Rabinowitz show why Hughes should not be going to ISNA in "The Bush Administration's Serious Missteps Regarding ISNA." Joel Mowbray adds other reasons at "Foggy Bottom misstep?"
Dec. 28, 2008 update: Is ISNA going soft? It issued a statement on the Israel-Hamas war that, despite its fraught title, "ISNA Condemns 'Disproportionate' Attacks on Gaza Strip," has a moderate content. In a statement, ISNA called for an
immediate stop to all military activities and rocket attacks from both sides of the Middle East conflict. We pray for the restoration of calm which will open the way for finding a political solution to the problems existing within the context of the Palestinian-Israeli settlement. There is no military solution for this conflict. Like other Muslim, Jewish and Christian organizations, we call for an immediate cease-fire on all sides of this tragic conflict. In addition to condemning the disproportionate retribution on the people of Gaza Strip, we condemn any and all attacks on any civilian populations from rocket attacks in the region as well. We hope that the United States and United Nations will take an active role in addressing the serious humanitarian and economic needs in Gaza and to take necessary measures, including re-opening of border crossings, to ensure that the 1.5 million Palestinians living there can get the food, fuel, medicine and other critical supplies that they so desperately need."
Comment: ISNA is now baffling me too.
Dec. 30, 2008 update: A rant today by Louay Safi, executive director of ISNA Leadership Development Center, makes clear the anomalous nature of the above. Safi drones on about Israel having "reduced Gaza to the largest concentration camp in world history" and other typical Islamist tropes.
Jan. 5, 2009 update: Another interesting press release from ISNA about Gaza, "Gaza Civilians Deserve the Protection of the American People." Mostly a presentation of the hardships in Gaza, replete with condemnations of Israel, it also includes these statements:
We are confident that even if Americans believe that Israel is justified in using force to stop Hamas rockets, they do not support the indiscriminate exercise of violence, including the killing, wounding and terrorizing of children. … The Islamic Society of North America has been clear in its rejection of terrorism, including when it is committed by Hamas. Suicide bombings and rocket attacks on Israeli civilian populations are unethical and unlawful. We believe that all force which kills or harms civilians is abhorrent. …
The Islamic Society of North America believes that the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians cannot and should not be solved with violence. Diplomacy, education, compromise and courageous action must be exercised by Israelis, Palestinians and Americans so that two proud people – Israelis and Palestinians, can live together with peace and dignity. The Islamic Society of North America is committed to continue exploring common ground with our partners in the American Jewish community and to continue to dialogue about the issues over which we disagree – including the best way to achieve peace and justice in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Jan. 7, 2009 update: In another press release, "ISNA Urges Special Prayers and Charity Collections for the Victims of War in Gaza," ISNA lists "a number of reputable charities that are working in Gaza" and then adds a noteworthy footnote:
The Islamic Society of North America reminds all donors that the US State Department has designated Hamas as an international terrorist organization. It is illegal to give money or goods to Hamas or to aid Hamas. Donors must exercise due diligence in their giving to determine that their donations will assist the victims of war in accordance with US law.
Mar. 20, 2013 update: Ryan Mauro finds ISNA in tight with the Obama White House: It
recently toured the White House and met with multiple officials. According to the group, Paul Monteiro, Associate Director of the Office of Public Engagement, "cited ISNA as his primary means of outreach to the American Muslim community." The Obama administration's close relationship with ISNA is about more than photo ops and press releases. It is about policy formulation. The input of ISNA is so treasured that the officials coached the organization on how to engage the White House.
The ISNA ad.
The ISNA ad.
Sep. 20, 2013 update: If the U.S. government is coddling ISNA, its Canadian counterpart is not. The Canada Revenue Agency announced today the revocation of the ISNA Development Foundation as a charity, as of tomorrow. Its reasons:
On the basis of our audit, we have concluded that the Organization has: ceased to comply with the requirements of the Act for its continued registration; failed to comply with or contravened any of sections 230 to 231.5 of the Act; issued a receipt for a gift or donation otherwise than in accordance with the Act and its Regulations; and failed to file an information return as required under the Act.
Our analysis of the information obtained during the course of the audit has led the CRA to believe that the Organization had entered into a funding arrangement with the Kashmiri Canadian Council/Kashmiri Relief Fund of Canada (KCC/KRFC), non-qualified donees under the Act, with the ultimate goal of sending the raised funds to a Pakistan-based non-governmental organization named the Relief Organization for Kashmiri Muslims (ROKM) without maintaining direction and control. Under the arrangement, KCC/KRFC raised funds for "relief work" in Kashmir, and the Organization supplied official donation receipts to the donors and disbursed over $281,696 to ROKM, either directly, or via KCC/KRFC.
Our research indicates that ROKM is the charitable arm of Jamaat-e-Islami, a political organization that actively contests the legitimacy of India's governance over the state of Jammu and Kashmir, including reportedly through the activities of its armed wing Hizbul Mujahideen. Hizbul Mujahideen is listed as a terrorist entity by the Council of the European Union and is declared a banned terrorist organization by the Government of India, Ministry of Home Affairs, under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act of 1967.
Given the commonalities in directorship between ROKM and Jamaat-e-Islami, concerns exist that the Organization's resources may have been used to support the political efforts of Jamaat-e-Islami and/or its armed wing, Hizbul Mujahideen.