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Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
Strategic Alliances for a Secure, Connected, and Prosperous Region
Islamist Organizations

Islamist Organizations

Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) 

Council on American-Islamic Relations

Orientation: Islamist, Muslim Brotherhood

Fields of operation: pro-Hamas advocacy

The Council on American–Islamic Relations (CAIR) is a U.S. Muslim Brotherhood advocacy group that, as previously stated, was named in a list of co-conspirators and/or joint ventures in the Holy Land Foundation case.344 It is headquartered on Capitol Hill in Washington D.C., with regional offices nationwide.345 Since its founding in 1994, CAIR has grown into a large organization with a budget of over $2 million; it describes itself as “the nation’s leading Muslim organization in the civil rights and advocacy arenas.” Omar Ahmad and Nihad Awad, two of its original founders, continue to serve as leaders in the organization. CAIR maintains close relations with other U.S. Brotherhood outfits and, at least at one time, also had an advisory board.346 CAIR considers itself “the nation’s largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization.” In November 2017, for example, it submitted a written statement for the record for the U.S. House Committee on Homeland Security hearing on “World Wide Threats: Keeping America Secure in the New Age of Terror.”

CAIR followed a typical Islamist pattern which criticizes governments’ attempts to confront processes of radicalization, maintaining that “Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) programs actively surveil, profile, censor, and divide the American Muslim community.”347 CAIR members, inter alia, have been involved in the delegitimization campaign against Israel. This includes signing various petitions, publishing anti-Israeli press releases, and more. For example, in August 2014 Awad tweeted: “Israel is the greatest threat to world peace and security.”348

CAIR has been active in attempts to stop the U.S. Congress Protect Academic Freedom Act (H.R. 4009), which states that academic institutions will not receive federal or any other form of financial assistance by U.S. official bodies if:

[The] institution, any significant part of the institution, or any organization significantly funded by the institution adopts a policy or resolution, issues a statement, or otherwise formally establishes the restriction of discourse, cooperation, exchange, or any other involvement with academic institutions or scholars on the basis of the connection of such institutions or such scholars to the State of Israel.349

Nihad Awad
CAIR’s Executive Director Nihad Awad.350

The Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) 

The Islamic Society of North America

Orientation: Islamist, Muslim Brotherhood

Fields of operation: pro-Hamas advocacy

The Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) is another U.S. Muslim Brotherhood organization that emerged from the Brotherhood’s early structure in the country.351 Its origin had also been confirmed during the HLF trial.352 On its website, however, ISNA states that it is “not now, nor has it ever been, subject to the control of any other domestic or international organizations including the Muslim Brotherhood,” adding that it was

very disturbed … when the Department of Justice named ISNA on a list of “unindicted co-conspirators” in the federal terrorism prosecution of the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development. ISNA has engaged legal counsel to protect its rights and maintain its organizational integrity and credibility by immediate removal of ISNA from this list.353

ISNA’s current President Azhar Azeez, elected in 2014, has been previously involved in other U.S. Muslim Brotherhood- affiliated groups. Among his previous roles, he was a founding member and past president of the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) – Dallas/Fort Worth Chapter.354 Azeez also serves as director of Fund Development on the executive team of Islamic Relief USA,355 an independent and legally separated member of “a global family of collaborating relief organizations that share a common vision, mission, and family identity,”—connected through the use of the “Islamic Relief” name” via the UK-based charity Islamic Relief Worldwide (IRW),356 affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood.

Since its inception in the early 1980s, ISNA has grown to the point where it describes itself as “the largest and oldest umbrella organization for the estimated 6-8 million Muslims embracing over 300 community organizations and professional organizations in North America.”357 The organization is probably best known for its annual convention, which in the past hosted speakers who used pro-Islamist, anti-Israeli, and anti-Western rhetoric. In 2015, President Obama thanked ISNA in a video toward its annual convention, stating that:

…at a time when voices of intolerance and prejudice try to divide people along lines of faiths or sect or background, ISNA continues to be a voice for understanding and cooperation between faiths.358

ISNA addressed senior officials of the Obama administration a number of times to protest against Israel’s policy in Gaza. During Operation Cast Lead in July-August 2014, it protested against the “escalation of violence against the Palestinians” on Israel’s part and against Israeli bombings in Gaza which hurt, it claims, “mainly women and children.”359

The Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA) 

The Islamic Circle of North America

Orientation: Islamist, Muslim Brotherhood/Jamaat-e-Islami

Fields of operation: pro-Islamist advocacy, BDS promoting

The Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA) is a North-American umbrella organization considered close to the Southeast Asian Maududist Jamaat-e-Islami.360 It was founded by immigrants from the Indian subcontinent, and its members are primarily of South Asian descent. In the past few years, ICNA has been holding large conferences and conventions in cooperation with the Muslim American Society (MAS), which had hosted senior Islamist figures like Hatem Bazian and Tariq Ramadan,361 as well as the controversial scholar Suhaib Webb, who has been connected in the past with al-Qaeda’s American-Yemeni leader Anwar Al-Awlaki.362

ICNA focuses on a variety of Islamic issues around the world, including Palestinian issues. In July 2014, for example, during Operation Protective Edge, ICNA issued a press release addressed to President Obama, demanding the “end of Israeli aggression,” adding that –

The Obama Administration must demand that Israel end its ruthless assault against an occupied people who continuously undergo an illegal encroachment of their land.363

In September 2016, ICNA issued a press release, calling on the New York City Council “to reject Resolution 1058 and the limitations it places on free speech and peaceful civil protests,” adding that –

The resolution unfairly targets the peaceful and legitimate BDS (Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions) movement against Israel without mentioning that Israel has violated more international laws and United Nations resolutions than any other nation in history.364

Muslim American Society (MAS) 

Muslim American Society

Orientation: Islamist, Muslim Brotherhood

Fields of operation: “direct action” – anti-Israel demonstrations and rallies, BDS promoting

The Muslim American Society (MAS) is another U.S. Muslim Brotherhood organization that was registered in 1993, and it has grown into a national organization with over 50 local chapters.365 One of those who reportedly assisted with the foundation of MAS was the late Mohammed Mahdi Akef, who later served as the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood’s seventh general guide.366

A protocol of a July 1994 meeting of the Brotherhood’s Palestine Committee that was presented to court in the HLF trial refers to the role the MAS is expected to play within the United States, speaking about:

The activation of the role of [MAS] to educate the brothers in all work centers, mosques, and organizations on the necessity of stopping any contacts with Zionist organizations and the rejection of any future contacts.367

Jamal Badawi, one of the founding members of MAS and a senior Canada-based Islamist figure (who is also involved in many other Islamist outfits), was listed among those who participated in fundraising activities on behalf of the HLF on the list of unindicted co-conspirators presented during the trial.368

MAS had formed alliances with Left and far-left U.S. groups, notably the International A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition (see below). According to the ADL, MAS attracts sizable audiences to its anti-Israel demonstrations due in part to its affiliation with some of the largest mosques in the country. MAS-sponsored anti-Israel rallies in the United States regularly feature virulently anti-Jewish rhetoric and expressions of support for terrorist groups, including Hizbullah and Hamas.369

MAS is supportive of BDS. For example, in a Friday sermon delivered in New York on August 8, 2014, activist Rami Kawas, who according to his Facebook page is youth director at MAS’s Brooklyn and Staten Island subchapter, called for American Muslims to boycott companies that support Zionism. He enumerated Coca-Cola, Nestle, and the French company Danone, and said: “We will fight every corrupt leader and every corrupt government until the lands of the world are free.”370 A blog post from May 2015 by Aber Kawas, a youth leader and organizer from New York and previous intern at CAIR New-York,371 offers “10 Ways to Socially Prepare Your Community for Ramadan,” the first of which being the promotion of AMP’s “Boycott Israeli Occupation Dates” campaign.372

Islamist Activism on U.S. Campuses

  • Specifically when campus activism in the United States is discussed, one of the central figures is Dr. Hatem Bazian, a Palestinian-American academic, currently a senior lecturer at the University of California, Berkeley’s Department of Near Eastern and Ethnic Studies, and an adjunct professor of law at Boalt Hall School of Law. On his personal website, Bazian defines himself as a “de-colonial Islamic thinker.”373 In 2009, Bazian was a co-founder of Zaytuna College, a successor of the Zaytuna Institute in Hayward, California, which first opened in 1996. Zaytuna College refers to itself as “the first Muslim liberal arts college in the United States.”374 The two other co-founders are Hamza Yusuf, a popular preacher who serves as president of the College, and imam Zaid Shakir, both known to have made controversial statements about Jews and hint at unjust attitudes toward Muslims. Zaid Shakir is a frequent speaker at U.S. Muslim Brotherhood events and conventions, organized by the bodies previously covered, like CAIR and ISNA.375

A video is available of a 2004 anti-war rally, in which Bazian told the crowd:

Are you angry?… Are you angry?… Are you angry?… Well, we’ve been watching intifada in Palestine, we’ve been watching an uprising in Iraq, and the question is that what are we doing? How come we don’t have an intifada in this country? Because it seem[s]to me, that we are comfortable in where we are, watching CNN, ABC, NBC, Fox, and all these mainstream… giving us a window to the world while the world is being managed from Washington, from New York, from every other place in here in San Francisco: Chevron, Bechtel, [Carlyle?] Group, Halliburton; every one of those lying, cheating, stealing, deceiving individuals are in our country and we’re sitting here and watching the world pass by, people being bombed, and it’s about time that we have an intifada in this country that change[s] fundamentally the political dynamics in here. And we know every — They’re gonna say some Palestinian being too radical — well, you haven’t seen radicalism yet!”376

Bazian later claimed he was misunderstood and meant to call for a political “intifada” and not a violent one.

Hatem Bazian
Hatem Bazian377

American Muslims for Palestine (AMP) 

American Muslims for Palestine

Orientation: Islamist, Muslim Brotherhood

Fields of operation: campus activism, “direct action,” pro-Hamas advocacy, BDS promoting

American Muslims for Palestine (AMP) claims to be a grassroots organization that is “all about educating people about Palestine, its rich cultural and historical heritage, and about how the people of Palestine have been living under occupation for decades.”378 It works closely with Students for Justice for Palestine (SJP) (see below) and also organizes an annual, national Conference for Palestine in the United States.

AMP was established in 2005 by Hatem Bazian. Today, it runs several chapters in the United States, and Bazian serves as its national chair.379 AMP has its organizational roots in the now-defunct Islamic Association of Palestine (IAP), whose name was raised in the HLF trial documents.380 Several of AMP’s leading figures were previously connected to various U.S. Muslim Brotherhood outfits, including IAP – for example:

  • Osama Abu Irshaid – AMP’s national director who previously served on IAP’s board and today sits on the board of the U.S. Council of Muslim Organizations (USCMO),381 a coalition of U.S. Muslim organizations, most of which are affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood. According to the ADL, Abu Irshaid has a history of making anti-Semitic and conspiratorial remarks that portray Jews as a privileged group with undue power.382 In May 2016, for example, he maintained that:

As part of the Zionist movement’s cultural infiltration (into American society), it has managed to convince a large part of American public opinion that the two countries share the circumstances of their establishment. In fact, there is some truth to it. (In both countries), it was a process of ethnic cleansing even the term “American Indians” is a racist and discriminating term, which has to do with annihilation. They were not really Indians. (The Westerners) thought they had discovered Indians, so they called them “American Indians,” but they were, in fact, tribes living there, the original inhabitants. (The Zionists) managed to convince the (Americans) of the following: “We came to two undeveloped countries, and managed to establish two successful states.” This is one aspect of infiltrating American consciousness. The cultural infiltration also includes the Zionist influence in the media. They have a significant impact on the media, as well as on Hollywood. They have managed to endear Israelis and the Jews upon American public opinion.

  • Rafeeq Jaber – A co-founder of CAIR, former president of IAP,383 and a frequent speaker at AMP conferences. In May 2000, following Israel’s withdraw from Lebanon, Jaber reportedly stated:

I thank ALLAH for this victory, which was due to the tremendous efforts of the Islamic resistance movement, Hizbullah Maybe the PA [Palestinian Authority] will take a hard look at the slippery road it is now traveling and join the resistance to Zionist occupation in order to liberate the land of Palestine. I firmly believe that Palestine will never be liberated by any other means.384

During a presentation on the risks and rewards of working for Palestine at AMP’s 2011 conference, Jaber, who is banned by Israel from traveling to the West Bank, told the audience, “Israel is a terrorist state, a rogue state, and the whole world knows that.”385

  • Salah Sarsour – A Milwaukee-based member of AMP’s board, who had been arrested and imprisoned by Israel for eight months for supporting Hamas. Salah Sarsour’s involvement with Hamas and the HLF had been described by his brother Jamil, and highlighted in an action memorandum that was part of the legal documents connected to the trial.386
  • Amira Daoud – who acted as AMP’s National Operations Manager at least until the end of 2015,387 and in the past was also tied to the Chicago Mosque Foundation Community Center (Bridgeview Mosque).388 The mosque, originally founded by Palestinian immigrants in 1954,389 was described as being under the control of “hard-liners.”390 Two of the mosque’s imams, Jamal Said and Kifah Mustapha, were listed as unindicted co-conspirators in the HLF trial.391 Kifah Mustapha, also a former IAP activist, was named a member of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Palestine Committee. He also attended AMP’s annual conferences.

One of AMP’s main focuses has been campus activism. It also disseminates informational brochures on how to operate pro-Palestinian and anti-Israel “direct action” initiatives on campuses for the delegitimization campaign. A booklet titled Everybody Freeze – the art of public demonstrations for Palestine on college campuses maintains that while preparing visuals like banners and posters:

Concentrate always on international law and human rights and do not, under any circumstances, compare Israeli policies to the Holocaust or Nazi Germany, as that will only detract from your message.392

In October 2015, AMP organized several conventions across the United States under the common Islamist slogan “Our Aqsa is under threat.” At least some of these conventions were hosted by and organized in co-operation with Islamic centers that were previously tied to the U.S. Muslim Brotherhood, such as the Bridgeview Mosque.393

In the field of BDS specifically, AMP has been running its own campaign for the consumption of “Occupation-Free dates” during the month of Ramadan, promoting the call for BDS.394 The campaign’s talking points reflect the common Islamist narrative, stating that:

As Muslims, we are directed to fight injustice wherever we see it. All causes are important; But Muslims have a special obligation to Palestine because it is part of our faith.395

Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) 

Students for Justice in Palestine

Orientation: Islamist, Muslim Brotherhood

Fields of operation: campus activism, pro-Hamas advocacy, BDS promoting

SJP is a campus activism outfit founded in the early 2000s, by, among others, Hatem Bazian.396 SJP was widely covered in a recently dedicated paper by the Jerusalem Center.397 Its chapters (or clubs) make wide use of social media, but SJP has no official national website or Facebook page, only regional and local ones. For several years, there were independent chapters operating on campuses, but since 2010 SJP has become increasingly unified and its chapters have begun to collaborate more closely. SJP became a national organization with a steering committee that has organized national conferences for four years in a row on different campuses around the United States. Today, SJP operates over 100 chapters on U.S. and Canadian campuses. Some of these chapters operate under different names, such as Palestine Solidarity Committee, Students for Palestinian Equal Rights, Students Against Israeli Apartheid (SAIA), or Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights (SPHR).

According to the ADL, SJP’s “unification” efforts are partially a result of the influence on college campuses of American Muslims for Palestine (AMP), which increased its focus on anti-Israel advocacy on college campuses and specifically targeted SJP for this effort.398

SJP chapters routinely initiate BDS campaigns against corporations and individuals that do business with Israel and frequently organize events, many of which accuse Israel of war crimes, ethnic cleansing, and genocide.

  • Husam Zakharia, head of Berkeley University’s SJP, rammed a Jewish student with a shopping cart in March 2010, when she was holding a sign stating “Israel wants peace” during a pro-Israeli event. A year later, the student and her colleague filed a lawsuit against the university, contending it violated her civil rights when it did not protect her against attacks and adding that “SJP and Zakharia have been involved in other incidents on campus to incite violence against and intimidate Jewish and other students.”399 In July 2012, the lawsuit had been dropped by the plaintiffs and a settlement had been reached that UC Berkeley will consider potential changes to its policies regarding campus protests after collecting campus opinion.400
  • In several campuses, such as Harvard, Yale, The University of Chicago and NYU, SJP activists hung false eviction notices in student residence halls saying that the rooms were to be evicted and demolished in three days, similarly to what they claimed to be the Israeli attitude toward Palestinians. At least at NYU, SJP denied that these notices were aimed at Jewish students in particular.401

The Muslim Students Association (MSA National) 

The Muslim Students Association

Orientation: Islamist, Muslim Brotherhood

Fields of operation: campus activism, pro-Hamas advocacy

MSA is a key U.S. Muslim Brotherhood student front group established in 1963 and today claims to operate over 250 chapters.402 MSA has been playing a major role in organizing the annual Israeli Apartheid Week (IAW) on campuses. For many years, a frequent speaker at various MSA events has been Amir Abdel Malik Ali, a vocal supporter of Hamas and Hizbullah who also expressed his support for suicide attacks against Israelis.403

Amir Abdel Malik Ali
Amir Abdel Malik Ali404