History of Islamism in Boston - Origins


The Islamic Society of Boston was organized in 1981 and officially incorporated in 1982 by members of the Muslim Students Associations of Harvard University, Boston University, MIT, Northeastern University, Wentworth Institute, Suffolk University, and Tufts University.[1] These members first met in a reserved hall at MIT and then purchased a building in Cambridge situated roughly between the MIT and Harvard campuses.[2] The founding director of the ISB was Abdulrahman Alamoudi – an MIT graduate and a prominent leader in the US Muslim Brotherhood[3] convicted of terrorism-related charges in 2003, currently serving 23 years in federal prison.[4]

Muslim Student Associations across the United States were founded and dominated by Muslim Brotherhood activists coming to study in the US in the 1960s. The MSAs functioned as the organizational beachheads of Ikhwan [Muslim Brotherhood] activism in the U.S. and are the progenitors of the majority of the expansive Ikhwan-influenced American Muslim organizational landscape.[5]

In the early 1980s, American MSAs were undergoing an evolution into community Islamic centers. This process was centrally directed by the Ikhwan leadership and paralleled the formation of the ISB from Boston-area MSAs. In a 1982 talk at a national Muslim Brotherhood conference that was secretly recorded by the FBI and entered as evidence at the Holy Land Foundation trial, US MB Executive Council member Zeid al Noman described the process:

“The reality of the Movement is that it is a students’ Movement. What the movement should be is to become a Movement for the residents…In the years ’80 and ’81, we started to work on a new kind of plans which is planning at the regions’ level…The first change was moving the Ikhwans from working at the branches of the MSA and the [Muslim Arab Youth] Association as branches whose activities are based on universities…to what is called at that time “The Muslim House…a house near the university with Ikhwans living in a part of it and the rest of it becoming a mosque…We notice that during the past two or three years that many of the students’ gathering started to establish Islamic centers. This was also another healthy move for settling the Dawa’a, as the presence of the Islamic center means the presence of residents…means permanent foundations in these cities.”[6]

Like university MSAs, the Muslim Arab Youth Association was active in Boston in the 1980s. According to a 1991 American Muslim Brotherhood Executive Council internal work paper on the history and future of the Ikhwan in America:

“Muslim Arab Youths Association and its work centered around the Muslim Students coming to America from all the Arab countries. It developed significantly during the eighties and the Ikhwan play a fundamental role in leading and directing it at the leadership and the grassroots levels.”[7]

The evolution of university MSAs into regional Islamic centers was replicated on a national scale through the creation of the Islamic Society of North America by Ikhwani leaders within the MSA National umbrella organization. According to the work paper:

“In 1980, the Muslim Students [Association] was developed into the Islamic Society in North America (ISNA) to include all the Muslim congregation from immigrants and citizens, and to be a nucleus for the Islamic Movement in North America.”[8]

The ISB has had long-standing affiliations and leadership overlap (reviewed in detail below) with these Muslim Brotherhood entities. The ISB maintains its tax exempt status under the umbrella of ISNA.[9] ISB financial records indicate that the ISB actively funded several area MSAs during the years 2000-2003, giving the MSA of UMass Lowell $800, the Harvard Islamic Society $1500, the MIT MSA $3000, and the Islamic Society of Northeastern University a total of $9,816. (By way of comparison, in 2006, Harvard distributed a student activity budget of $20,518.16 among over 350 student groups.) In 2000, the ISB donated $1,500 to MAYA. Until 2004, when public scrutiny caused the ISB to take several steps to obfuscate its controversial affiliations, its constitution stated: “The organization shall be affiliated with the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), the Muslim Arab Youth Association (MAYA), the North American Islamic Trust (NAIT, the financial arm of ISNA), and the Muslim Student Association (MSA).”[10]All of these organizations are identified as Ikhwan-affiliated in internal American MB documents presented at the Holy Land Foundation trial; [11] and the Islamist nature of the ideology promoted by their leaders is well-documented.


[1] Wells, Tracy. “Islamic Society of Boston Center Profile.” The Pluralism Project at Harvard University Website. September 8. 2006. Accessed October 21, 2008. <http://www.pluralism.org/research/profiles/display.php?profile=69268>.

[2] “History of the ISB.” Islamic Society of Boston Website. 2002. Accessed October 21, 2008. <http://www.isboston.org/v3.1/aboutisb.asp>.

[3] Hosenball, Mark and Isikoff, Mike. “America At a Crossroads – The Brotherhood.” PBS Series. 20007

[4] Justice Department Press Release. “U.S. Annouces Plea in Terrorism Financing Case.” Federal Bureau of Investigations Website. July 30, 2004. Accessed September 27, 2008. <http://www.fbi.gov/dojpressrel/pressrel04/alamoudi073004.htm>.

[5] “Muslim Students Association Dossier.” Investigative Project on Terrorism. January 1, 2008. Accessed October 21, 2008. <http://www.investigativeproject.org/documents/misc/84.pdf>.

[6] “Ikhwan in America. Zeid.” U.S. Government vs. Holy Land Foundation et al. No. 3:04-C12-240-G. North Texas District Court. August 2007. Government Exhibit No. 003-0069.

[7] “Shura council report on the future of the group.” U.S. Government vs. Holy Land Foundation et al. No. 3:04-C12-240-G. North Texas District Court. August 2007. Government Exhibit No. 003-0003.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Non- Profit Report on Islamic Society of Boston. GuideStar Website. Accessed September 27, 2008. <http://www.guidestar.org/pqShowGsReport.do?partner=guidestar&npoId=336328>.

[10] ISB Original Constitution. Undated, 1993?

[11] “American Muslim Brotherhood General Strategic Goal for the Group in North America.” U.S. Government vs. Holy Land Foundation et al. No. 3:04-C12-240-G. North Texas District Court. August 2007. Government Exhibit No. 003-0085.

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