In November, the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA) is hosting a conference in Hartford, Connecticut. Given the organization’s reputation as an incubator of extremism, the speakers addressing the conference are unsurprisingly problematic.
The ICNA has previously identified itself as the key American outpost of Jamaat-e-Islami, a genocidal South Asian Islamist movement, considered by many to be the South Asian cousin of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood. In 1971, Jamaat-e-Islami helped pro-Pakistani militias murder thousands of Bangladeshi intellectuals and independence activists. Bangladesh’s War Crimes Tribunal claim a total of 3 million was slaughtered by Pakistani and Islamist killing squads.
In 2013, Bangladesh tried a number of Jamaat-e-Islami officials living in the West on war crimes charges. Those convicted in absentia included Ashrafuzzaman Khan. According to court documents, Khan was a commander in the Al-Badr death squad, which “committed the criminal act of murder of 18 intellectuals including university professors, doctors, journalists constituting the offence of crimes against humanity.” Khan was named by prosecutors as the “chief executor,” whose victims were kidnapped and “taken to killing fields at the outskirts of the Dhaka city and were brutally killed.”
Khan became a senior ICNA official based in New York. He was listed, at various points, as the organization’s vice-president and secretary-general.
In 2014, the ICNA openly protested the convictions of senior Jamaat-e-Islami leaders in Bangaldesh, a fact that Jamaat-e-Islami reported on its own website. Furthermore, the ICNA recommends its supporters read the works of Abul A’la Maududi, the extremist Islamist ideologue and founder of Jamaat-e-Islami.
In the United States, 45 years later, Jamaat-e-Islami may not be conducting campaigns of mass-murder, but it is still, through organizations like the ICNA, promoting the extremist rhetoric and Islamist ideology that once justified such violence. The speakers at November’s conference include:
- Siraj Wahhaj — an American Islamist preacher with a long history of support for extreme Islamist movements and terror groups. In 1995, Wahhaj served as a character witness for terrorist Omar Abdel Rahman, the infamous “blind sheikh”. In addition, the US attorney for New York has named Wahaj as among the “unindicted persons who may be alleged as co-conspirators” in the 1993 World Trade Centre bombing.
Wahhaj has previously set forth his own vision of a United States subjugated by Islamist rule: in 1992, Wahhaj gave a sermon in which he declared: “If we were united, nobody could stop us. You wouldn’t have to vote for Bush or Clinton. No, you wouldn’t have to. If we were united and strong we’d elect our own emir and give allegiance to him. And the rest of the world, take my word, 6-8 million Muslims unite in America, the country will come to us.”
- Saad Tasleem – an instructor at the Al Maghrib Institute, one of the most extreme Salafist institutions in the United States. Tasleem, who studied at the Islamic University of Medinah – a leading Salafist institution – encourages boycotting companies linked to Israeli “terrorism,” and states that he only opposes blanket boycotts of Jewish companies on the grounds that it would be “unrealistic” because of the huge number of companies involved. He prefaces this advice by pointing out that Muslims living in a Muslim majority country are able to act differently.
Al Maghrib founder Muhammad Alshareef claims that “Jews were cursed” and that Muslims must not “imitate them” or “take them as allies.” Tasleem’s other colleagues at Al Maghrib include Said Rageah, a Canadian Islamist preacher who has preached that God should “destroy” the enemies of Islam and that the Christians and Jews are “damned”; Abdullah Hakim Quick, a preacher who has called upon God to “clean and purify Al-Aqsa from the ﬁlth of the Yahood [Jews]”; and Abu Eesa Niamatullah, who has said of Jews, “They find it so easy and natural to do what they do….Look at them today, look at the way they massacre. They blow up babies like as if it’s a computer game. They have no humanity, no morality, no ethics.”
- Dunia Shuaib — a popular speaker in Islamist circles. Shuaib claims that ISIS’s penchant for burning its prisoners alive is no worse than Israeli and American military actions, which she refers to as “terrorism.”Shuaib has promoted the videos of Neturei Karta, an extremist fringe-Jewish organization which claims that all Middle Eastern conflict is the fault of “Zionist Jews”. Shuaib writes that a Neturei Karta activist “exposes the truth about Zionism.” Neturei Karta is an ally of the Iranian regime and support a number of far-Right and neo-Nazi organisations across Europe.
Shuaib frequently shares platforms with a number of American’s most prominent extremist preachers, including Abdul Nasir Jangda, an apologist for sex slavery; Kamal El-Mekki, a preacher who instructs Muslims not to “resemble the kuffar [infidels],” and advocates killing apostates and adulterers; as well as Omar Suleiman, who describes homosexuality as a “disease” and a “repugnant, shameless sin.”
- Hamza Tzortzis – a Greek convert to Islam and a prominent Salafist based in the United Kingdom. Tzortzis works for the Islamic Education and Research Academy (iERA), one of Britain’s most notorious extremist organizations. Tzortzis is a former member of Hizb ut-Tahrir, the Islamist revolutionary group banned in most countries. Tzortzis advocates the death penalty for blasphemy and apostasy.He has said that “we as Muslims reject the idea of freedom of speech, and even the idea of freedom”, and that Muslims should strive to re-establish the Islamic caliphate, where “this idea of freedom was redundant, it was unnecessary”. Furthermore, Tzortzis wants to criminalize homosexuality, which he has likened to pedophilia and cannibalism.
The iERA is a British Salafist organization founded in 2009 by British convert Abdur Raheem Green, who remains its chairman today. During the 1980s, Green became a jihadist for Islamist groups fighting the Soviets in Afghanistan. But he was better known as an Islamist preacher in London, frequently to be found in London’s Hyde Park, complaining of the Jewish “stench”; or addressing mosque congregations, encouraging men to hit their wives in order to “bring them to goodness.” In 2014, five young members of an iERA-run youth group, named the “Portsmouth Dawah Team,” travelled to Syria to join the Islamic State. All five have since been killed.
- Yasir Fahmy – the imam of the Islamic Society of Boston, one of the largest mosques on the eastern seaboard and one of the most important Muslim Brotherhood institutions in the United States. Fahmy’s social media pages are littered with posts from Muslim Brotherhood pages and videos by prominent Muslim Brotherhood leaders. Fahmy has posted videos by the extremist cleric Sheikh Sadiq Al-Ghariani, the Libyan grand mufti accused by the Libyan parliament of supporting terrorism. In 2011, Fahmy posted an article condemning the killing of Bin Laden. He has also posted videos mocking the moderate Muslim speaker Usama Hasan for his support for evolutionary theory and his love for peaceful Sufi Islam; and has translated texts for Suhaib Webb (the previous ISB imam) written by the anti-Semitic, pro-terror, Hitler-supporter, and Muslim Brotherhood spiritual leader Yusuf Al Qaradawi.
The Islamic Society of Boston’s original trustees included Yusuf Al Qaradawi, and the mosque is today an important platform for extremist Islamic rhetoric.
- Mohammed Faqih – Faqih is another “instructor” at the notorious Al Maghrib Institute (profiled above). In December 2015, he commented on the controversial statement by Donald Trump that New Jersey Muslims celebrated the 9/11 attacks, by opining that it those celebrating were, in fact, “Israeli Jews” – alluding to a common 9/11 conspiracy theory promoted by the far-Right.
According to the ICNA, Faqih studied at the Institute of Islamic and Arabic Sciences in Virginia, which functioned as an overseas branch of the Imam Muhammad bin Saud University. In 2004, the Washington Times reports, “Federal agents shut down and searched an Islamic school in Fairfax County that is affiliated with a Saudi Arabian university and has been investigated by the Senate for links to terrorism.” The Foundation for the Defense of Democracies describes the Institute as “the largest source of Saudi hate literature in the Washington area. … The Institute practices gender segregation against its women students who are confined to a small part of the building and forced to use a back entrance. It also practices religious supremacy and bars Shi’a students, teachers, and books.” In 2008, the Saudi News Agency reported that “Intellectuals in Saudi Arabia have been calling for the closure of the main branch of the university in Saudi Arabia as well as of all its overseas branches due to its support for extremism and takfir.”
Faqih is currently the Imam at the Islamic Institute of Orange County. He succeeded the previous imam, Wagdy Ghoneim, who was arrested in 2004 for visa violations. But according to U.S. Immigration Customs Enforcement, he was held without bond after his arrest “based upon Department of Homeland Security concerns that his [Ghoneim’s] past speeches and participation in fund-raising activities could be supportive of terrorist organizations.” Banned from both Canada and the United Kingdom, Ghoneim is also the subject of an Interpol wanted notice after Egyptian authorities charged him with “participating with others in crimes of violence and murder” and “unlawful detention and torture.”
Along with its close links with Jamaat-e-Islami, the ICNA has a history of promoting extremist speakers and Islamist ideas. The Investigative Project reports that texts distributed by the ICNA encourage hatred of Jews and express support for terrorism. One required reading for ICNA members, ‘Islam in Focus,’ describes Christians as “enemies of God.”
One of ICNA’s most visible projects is a controversial PR campaign named “Why Islam?”, which is advertised on billboards across the United States. The WhyIslam website informs visitors about the correct method of stoning under sharia law, and states that non-Muslims are only “protected so long as they pay the annual tax, called jizya.” Homosexuality is condemned as “evil”, polygamy is encouraged and anti-Semitic ideologues are promoted.
ICNA conventions regularly include extremist clerics, such as Yusuf Islahi, a key leader of Jamaat-e-Islami’s Indian branch. Irfan Ahmad, a renowned academic and Islamism-expert explains:
“Islahi has the following position: the September 11 event is a well-planned conspiracy to defame Islam. Muslims are being blamed for it without any evidence. Everyone knows who is the real culprit: Jews. … The United States has unjustly and arrogantly ruled the world for too long. Allah has destroyed that ignorance on September 11. God willing, this will also inaugurate the age of Islam the world over.”
The ICNA’s convention in Connecticut is titled “Faith over Fear.” It seems that, for years, the ICNA has preferred to encourage the latter.