‘Joint Venturers’ in Terror Support Trial Seek to Edit History

by STEVE EMERSON June 21, 2008

The Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) and the North American Islamic Trust (NAIT) want a Dallas federal judge to remove their names from a list of "unindicted co-conspirators and/or joint venturers" in the terror support trial of a charity accused of supporting Hamas.

The petition filed by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of NAIT and ISNA states that the designation violates Fifth Amendment protections by casting a smear on the organizations without proof, and without the opportunity for a defense. This, they claim, has deeply tarnished the groups' reputations with government agencies and other religious organizations.

But in making their case, the two groups ignore documented evidence that links them to the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development (HLF) and to their support for Hamas leader Mousa Abu Marzook. They insist they are law-abiding organizations and say law enforcement officials have assured them they are not the target of any investigation.

HLF and five of its former officials face a retrial in September on charge they conspired to provide material support to Hamas. A mistrial was declared in October after jurors could not reach unanimous decisions on most counts. An investigation by the Investigative Project on Terrorism found several jurors felt bullied when they argued for convictions.

ISNA and NAIT are related to each other. ISNA lists NAIT as a "constituent organization," while NAIT identifies its founders in the Muslim Students Association (MSA) as "the predecessor of the Islamic Society of North America." ISNA's president is an ex-officio NAIT board member and Muzammil Siddiqi, NAIT's chairman, serves on ISNA's governing board.

In a declaration submitted to the court, ISNA is described by President Ingrid Mattson as "an independent, non-profit membership organization by Muslims in North America" that seeks to support American Muslims and reach out to other religious and civic groups. While Siddiqi said his organization is an endowment holding titles to more than 300 mosques and related property in the U.S. providing them with advice and support.

Nowhere in the petition and accompanying declarations do the words "Muslim Brotherhood" appear. And that's the crux of their relevance to the HLF case. The prosecution's theory is that HLF was part of a Brotherhood-created Palestine Committee designed to support Hamas in the United States.

ISNA and NAIT are listed first and eighth among "A list of our organizations and the organizations of our friends" in a 1991 memorandum (see the last page) entitled "On the General Strategic Goal for the Group in North America."

This document has become infamous for its ominous description of the Brotherhood's long-range ambitions in the United States (see page 21 of the link):

The process of settlement is a "Civilization-Jihadist Process" with all the word means. The Ikhwan [Brotherhood] must understand that their work in America is a kind of grand Jihad in eliminating and destroying the Western civilization from within and "sabotaging" its miserable house by their hands and the hands of the believers so that it is eliminated and God's religion is made victorious over all other religions. Without this level of understanding, we are not up to this challenge and have not prepared ourselves for Jihad yet. It is a Muslim's destiny to perform Jihad and work wherever he is and wherever he lands until the final hour comes, and there is no escape from that destiny except for those who chose to slack.

ISNA is especially active in interfaith outreach programs, inviting Union of Reform Judaism President Eric Yoffie to speak at its 2007 convention and Mattson making a reciprocal appearance at the UJA conference a few months later. Mattson, in a declaration to the court, describes how ISNA's inclusion on the unindicted co-conspirator list triggered criticism toward Yoffie.

That criticism, however, precedes last year's release of the unindicted co-conspirator list and is predicated upon ISNA's roots and historic support for terrorists. It has never condemned terrorist groups like Hamas or Hizballah by name. It stood by Marzook after U.S. officials arrested him as part of an extradition effort to face terrorism charges in Israel. In 1997, Marzook issued a public thank you to ISNA and other U.S.-based Islamist groups for that support.

ISNA's magazine, Islamic Horizons, wrote about Marzook's case in its November/December 1995 in an article entitled "Muslim Leader Hostage to Israeli Interests." The article described Marzook as "[a] member of the political wing of Hamas, disliked by the Zionist entity for its Islamic orientation, continues to be held hostage in the U.S. at the whims of his Zionist accusers." It concludes with a solicitation for donations to Marzook's legal defense fund.

President Clinton signed an executive order designating Hamas a terrorist organization 10 months earlier.

Other Islamic Horizons issues devoted articles to Muslim Brotherhood luminaries and even a cover story to Muslim Brotherhood founder Hassan al-Banna. The cover caption of the March/April 1999 issue reads "Hassan al-Banna-A Martyr of Our Times." Islamic Horizons also publishes articles by key Brotherhood figures such as Yusuf al-Qaradawi and Hassan al-Turabi. In an interview published in the March/April 2001 edition of Islamic Horizons, Turabi stated, "I do not think that it is only a dream, but there is a possibility not only for America to be Islamized, but also in fact to develop as the role model of Islam."

Turabi was the de facto ruler of Sudan during the 1990s. The U.S. State Department designated Sudan as a state sponsor of international terrorism in 1993.

Taking NAIT at its word, its MSA founders were Muslim Brotherhood members who came to the United States to go to college with a goal of "spreading Islam as students in North America."

And in 1992, the year after the Muslim Brotherhood memo called for sabotaging America from within, Siddiqi sat with blind Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman, translating the sheik's remarks in a lecture at Siddiqi's mosque. Rahman later would be considered the spiritual guide to the conspirators in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. He is serving a life sentence for his role in a separate conspiracy to blow up New York landmarks and tunnels.

According to an account in the January 15, 2007 issue of the New Yorker, Rahman, "dismissed nonviolent definitions of jihad as weak" and said fighting the enemies of Islam was obligatory. "If you are not going to the jihad, then you are neglecting the rules of Allah," he said.

A red toolbox was passed around for donations, and tapes of the lecture later were sold at the mosque bookstore, the New Yorker reported.

Meanwhile, evidence from the first HLF trial shows that NAIT - an ISNA subsidiary, paid Marzook a $10,000 expense voucher in addition to a separate $10,000 check made out to Marzook. A third $10,000 payment went to Marzook's wife, Nadia Elashi. Another check for $30,000 was made out to the Islamic University of Gaza (and has Shukri Abu Baker/OLF written on the memo line), a school long known to be controlled by Hamas, and where deposed Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh is a former dean.

Beyond the evidence in the HLF trial, ISNA counts among its former leadership such luminaries as convicted Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) operative Sami Al-Arian. According to his own bio:

Dr. Al-Arian has also been an active community leader. He helped establish the largest grass roots organization in the U.S., the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) in 1981, and its many affiliates such as the Muslim Arab Youth Association (1977), the Islamic Association for Palestine (1981), Islamic Committee for Palestine (I.C.P), Islamic Community of Tampa (1987) and Islamic Academy of Florida (1992). (emphasis added)

Al-Arian was a frequent speaker at ISNA events. And ISNA board members attended conferences Al-Arian organized for his Islamic Committee for Palestine (ICP), which included leaders of the PIJ and other radicals such as Turabi. At the 1989 ICP conference, where then-ISNA President Ahmad Zakki Hammad is listed as a speaker, Al-Arian introduced the conference this way:

We came here also to talk about jihad in the path of Allah. Those who did not go to jihad or never talked about jihad and die are considered as non Muslims.

It would be one thing if, in appealing to clear its name, ISNA and NAIT argued that they had broken with their past - that a new generation of leadership is willing to do what its founders refused. It could build on that claim by denouncing terrorist groups Hamas and Hezbollah by name.

But you can't break from the past if you aren't willing to admit it exists.

Family Security Matters Contributing Editor Steven Emerson is an internationally recognized expert on terrorism and national security and heads the Investigative Project on Terrorism.

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