frequently asked questions
Does ICNA Support Terrorist Organizations?
ICNA does not, nor has it ever, supported organizations that use violence, intimidation, threats, harassment or any other harmful behavior to further their objectives. To the contrary, ICNA sees each of these traits as anathema to the core message of Islam and the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). Terrorism is not Islam and any so-called “Islamic” organizations that promote violence as the solution to political, social, or religious conflict have nothing in common with our faith. Al Qaeda, ISIS, Boko Haram, the Taliban and other such groups dishonor our religion, culture and values every time they invoke the name of Allah (SWT). Whatever they claim to be, members of these organizations are not true Muslims and have no place in religious or secular society, period.
Does ICNA support Jemaah Islamiyah?
ICNA has never supported Jemaah Islamiyah (AKA Jemaah Islamiah), a Southeast Asian terrorist organization with ties to ISIS and Al Qaeda. Sometimes confused with Jemaah Islamiyah is Jamaat-e-Islami, a group of independent political, legal and social movements that operate throughout the Indian subcontinent. While the former appears on the US State Department’s list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations, the latter does not. Regardless, ICNA has no structural, collaborative, organizational or any other ties with any of the aforementioned organizations.
Did one of ICNA Relief USA’s beneficiaries, Al-Khidmat Foundation, donate six million rupees to Hamas leader Khaled Mashal?
Over the years, ICNA and its affiliates such as Helping Hand USA have funded the disaster relief efforts in Pakistan often through Al-Khidmat Foundation which is considered the largest humanitarian organization in that country. All donations to Al-Khidmat are and always have been restricted to fully legal charitable causes within Pakistan’s borders. Regardless, it is worth noting that ICNA and its affiliates share no material, financial, leadership, or other type of connection to any organizations outside of North America. Our relationship with Al-Khidmat Foundation is project by project basis.
Hamas is a Palestinian group classified as a Foreign Terrorist Organization by the US State Department in 1997. We have never been made aware by the US or Pakistani Governments, any agency, reputable body or any media outlet that it has received funds from Al-Khidmat. Rumors to this end were fabricated and spread by a radical American blogger known for his extremist, Islamophobic views. Furthermore, this person is particularly notable for supporting the JDL, an organization designated as a right-wing terrorist group by the FBI and hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. In any case since our relationship with Al-Khidmat Foundation is on project by project basis, we have no say nor do we have any legal or moral responsibility on how Al-Khidmat raises and spends its funds. See “Al-Khidmat and ICNA”.
Is ICNA connected to the Muslim Brotherhood?
In 2013, the Center for Security Policy, an influential American think-tank that routinely promotes far-right and Islamophobic views, published An Explanatory Memorandum: From the Archives of the Muslim Brotherhood in America. The 36-page document centers on an “Exploratory Memorandum” seized by the FBI in a 2004 raid on the home of a person with suspected ties to Hamas fundraising. The memorandum, dated 1991, outlines a mission statement and strategic plan for the United States allegedly written by representatives of the Muslim Brotherhood. In it, ICNA is listed among 29 American Islamic groups considered by the Muslim Brotherhood to be “our organizations and the organizations of our friends (imagine if they all march according to one plan!!!)”.
Despite the fervent wishes of the memorandum’s author(s), ICNA remains unaffiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood in any way, shape, or form. Moreover, we will never march according to any plan other than that of our faith, which emphasizes peace above all else. Any proposal for “eliminating and destroying the Western civilization from within” runs counter to our values and beliefs. See “What is the infamous Brotherhood Memo?”
Was alleged Bangladesh liberation war criminal Ashrafuz Zaman Khan president of ICNA’s New York chapter?
A dark and horrific chapter of the 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War, more than 1,000 professors, artists, journalists, politicians and other public intellectuals were systematically murdered over a nine-month period. Among the numerous military and paramilitary groups that fought in the war, Al-Badr has been accused of perpetrating some of these executions. In 2013, Bangladesh’s International Crimes Tribunal (ICT) tried and convicted (in absentia) Ashrafuz Zaman Khan for his alleged role as Al-Badr’s “chief executor” and the deaths of 18 Bangladesh intellectuals. Before this trial, Khan did indeed serve as president of ICNA New York. The case, however, presents a host of problems, beginning with the ICT itself.
Assembled in 2009, the ICT was established by current Bangladesh ruling party, the Awami League (AL), to investigate and prosecute suspected perpetrators of genocide from the Bangladesh Liberation War. While initially supported by the international community, the ICT was quickly denounced by Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, The Economist, the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, and other organizations. The criticism ranges from rampant corruption and conflicts of interest within the Bangladesh government to blatant violations of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Even a leaked US State Department cable noted: “hard-line elements within the ruling party [AL] believe that the time is right to crush Jamaat and other Islamic parties.” In addition, none of those indicted by the ICT appears on the original 1973 list of alleged war criminals and their collaborators, raising further suspicion that the ICT is simply removing opposition leaders from power. The ICT’s reputation for integrity, due process and justice holds very little credence on the world stage.
Do ICNA and its affiliates support jihad and sharia law?
Sometimes the concept of jihad is misconstrued as “holy war”, or, more perniciously, a violent conflict in which armies massacre those who refuse to convert to Islam. In truth, jihad is far deeper in meaning and open to broad interpretation by all those who study and/or practice the Muslim faith. Put simply, jihad means “struggle” and it signifies the constantly evolving relationships all Muslims have with their faith. Whether it’s a desire to live according to strict principles of Islam or build a peaceful society for Muslims and non-Muslims alike, jihad is what you make of it. Just like the vast majority of Muslims around the world, ICNA members pursue nonviolent jihads.
Like jihad, sharia is frequently mistaken for a set of excessively cruel Islamist laws, with harsh, outsized punishments for any infraction. To the contrary, sharia constitutes a moral and religious code that helps Muslims understand their faith and live in harmony with others, both in a spiritual and secular context. By comparison with the codes of ethics prescribed in the Christian Canon Law or Jewish Halacha law, sharia is no more severe and no less dynamic. And sharia varies greatly around the world. Like all citizens and residents of our great nation, members of ICNA and its affiliates accept the laws of the United States as law of the land. We do not see a conflict between being a good citizen and being a good Muslim.
To any practicing Muslim Sharia is a moral compass to guide their actions ranging from personal hygiene to performing prayers to managing interpersonal relationships.
Does ICNA invite terrorists and their supporters to speak at conventions?
ICNA and its affiliates have never invited and do not allow individuals with terrorist ties or sympathies to speak at our conventions. All invited speakers are thoroughly vetted for these criteria, as well as considered for their exceptional records of service to the community. They included Governor, cCongressmen, mayor, city council members, religious leaders from all faiths, law enforcement leadership, senior media persons, writers, and many others. Moreover, the viewpoints of these speakers do not necessarily reflect those of ICNA. For a better idea of our conventions, please see the following list of our themes from the past:
2005: “Family: The Foundation of Our Society”
2006: “Living Islam, Loving Humanity”
2007: “Muhammad (PBUH): Mercy to Humanity and Beyond…”
2008: “Islam, Key to Peace and Happiness”
2009: “Global Crisis – Islamic Solution”
2010: “Save Family-Save Society”,
2011: “Quran: Guidance Towards a Just and Balanced Way”
2012: “Defending Religious Freedom, Understanding Shariah”
2013: “Islam: the Pursuit of Happiness”
2014: “Islam: Faith, Submission, Service”
2015: “Prophet Muhammad (peace & blessings be upon him)”
2016: “Quran: Divine Guidance”
2017: “Quest for True Success: Divine Message of Moses, Jesus and Muhammad (peace be upon them)”
2018: “50 years of Sharing Islam Serving Humanity”
2019: “Healing Humanity: Lessons From Islam”
2020: “We the People” (cancelled due to the pandemic)
What is Al-Khidmat and its link with ICNA?
ICNA Relief USA in the past and its successor Helping Hand USA have a documented memorandum of understanding with various foreign charities who work on the ground in disaster stricken areas. ICNA Relief USA and any of ICNA’s divisions have absolutely no contact, link, or ties to Hamas or any other militant party or organization. Any funds provided for relief work during the flood of 2006, or during any other time to Al-Khidmat were restricted to usage within Pakistan borders to help disaster victims in the wake of the 2006 Earthquake which ravaged Northern Pakistan. This is a commitment ICNA Relief USA or Helping Hand USA make to its donor base and strictly adhere to. Their funding of local charities fully complies with both US and Pakistani laws and regulations.
Al-Khidmat is Pakistan’s largest social service organization complying with all the laws and regulations of the land. In 2006, Al-Khidmat had listed 20 donor charities from USA, Europe and elsewhere apart from ICNA Relief and Helping Hand, who were partnering with it in helping the victims of the major floods of that time. This listing was used to fabricate ICNA’s alleged ties to Hamas by a freshman “investigative journalist” who later became known as an ardent Islamophobe: Mr. Joe Kaufman. To know more about Mr. Kaufman, See FAQ #12: Who is Joe Kaufman
What is the infamous “Brotherhood Memo”?
An exhibit used in the 2008 trial US v. Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development, et al. (Case No. 3:04-CR-0240-P, ND-TX), Government Exhibit Elbarasse Search – 3, a document written by a leader in the Muslim Brotherhood for its Shura Council titled “An Explanatory Memorandum On the General Strategic Goal for the Group in North America” (English translation), dated May 22, 1991, lists 29 of “our organizations and the organizations of our friends,” including number “26-ICNA=Islamic Circle of North America.” The same document says that the Brotherhood’s mission in the U.S. 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.”
This document has nothing to do with the good work that ICNA is well known for. ICNA cannot be responsible for someone putting its name on their friends list or calling it “our organization”. The author of this document wishes for a long term, “grand”, “strategic” goal for American Muslim organizations, one of which is ICNA. Now why would anyone associate these thoughts to one of the largest and most active organizations in the nation, without a shred of official documentation, statement of an organization’s officer, or any evidence, even implied or assumed.
Taking a document authored by a complete outsider who has never been a member of ICNA, volunteered with ICNA, or with any of its partner organizations, or attended any meetings of ICNA at any level, while completely ignoring the hundreds of media reports, statements and awards by government officials, religious leaders of all faiths, and hundreds of organizational documents and certifications available to the public, can be termed as selective hearing at best and dishonest at worst. See below a detailed explanation of the issues related to the document.
Original text from the above document:
I ask Almighty God that you, your families and those whom you love around you are in the best of conditions, pleasing to God, glorified His name be. I send this letter of mine to you hoping that it would seize your attention and receive your good care as you are the people of responsibility and those to whom trust is given. Between your hands is an “Explanatory Memorandum” which I put effort in writing down so that it is not locked in the chest and the mind, and so that I can share with you a portion of the responsibility in leading the Group in this country.
What might have encouraged me to submit the memorandum in this time in particular is my feeling of a “glimpse of hope” and the beginning of good tidings which bring the good news that we have embarked on a new stage or Islamic activism stages in this continent. The papers which are between your hands are not abundant extravagance, imaginations or hallucinations which passed in the mind of one of your brothers, but they are rather hopes, ambitions and challenges that I hope that you share some or most of which with me. I do not claim their infallibility or absolute correctness, but they are an attempt which requires study, outlook, detailing and rooting from you.
In the 2nd paragraph, the sentence says: “…but they are an attempt which requires study, outlook, detailing and rooting from you.”
The word “attempt” is used to translate “ijtihad”. Ijtihad is a word that implies independent and sincere reasoning or effort. It is important to emphasize the “independent” nature of it.
The other word used was “outlook” to translate the word “Nazhar”. A better word describing the intended meaning is “review”. This is also important because it also implies that the author is clearly presenting his own ideas and is seeking other people’s review and feedback. These three words when translated correctly completely changes the basis of the allegations of right wing bloggers, from ICNA’s “grand Jihad against West” to an opinion piece of an individual unconnected with ICNA requesting feedback.
Who is Joe Kaufman?
A strong supporter if not a member of the JDL (Jewish Defense League) Mr. Kaufman expresses his views on the JDL founder here: http://radicalwatch.blogspot.com/2006/01/joe-kaufman-kahane-legacy-lost.html
In the past Mr. Kaufman was accused of contributing to this organization designated as terrorist by the FBI: http://www.fbi.gov/stats-services/publications/terror/terrorism-2000-2001/ and by the Southern Poverty Law Center: http://www.splcenter.org/get-informed/intelligence-files/groups/jewish-defense-league
On his accusation that ICNA has ties with terror, Mark Briskman, regional director of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) said his group would not classify ICNA as an anti-Semite organization let alone a terrorist supporting one, based on Mr. Kaufman’s allegations. He said “He made a lot of claims … without clear documentation of those claims. His statements are problematic.” Mr. Kaufman was the committeeman for ADL but is no longer working for them. He suggests that the best way to fight terror is to nuke countries that have terrorists: http://www.floridajewish.com/speakout_display.php?title=Making+Friends+with+the+Enemy…+The+Nuclear+Way
Adherents to the Kahanist ideology have engaged in terrorism against Muslims and Arabs, as was the case with Dr. Baruch Goldstein who massacred over 30 worshipers in Palestine. Mr. Kaufman’s writings are virulently Islamophobic and Anti-Muslim.
In KAUFMAN v. ISLAMIC SOCIETY OF ARLINGTON, Mr. Kaufman was sued by a group of local Muslim organizations in Dallas when he protested against an ICNA event. Though the suit was not successful, here is what the Court of Appeals of Texas has to say in the final verdict:
On Mr. Kaufman’s “investigative journalism”:
13. “…by juxtaposing statements in the article relating to the terrorist sponsorship of ICNA … the article conveys the false and defamatory message that the sponsors and participants are engaged in an event that promotes anti-Western hatred, terrorism, espionage, and sabotage.”
On Mr. Kaufman’s self-bestowed title of a member of the “media” and the internet site “Front Page Magazine” for which he writes, as a print or electronic magazine:
21. “(The Court) assert that Kaufman is not a media defendant under section 51.014(a) (6) because Front Page Magazine is not a “printed newspaper or magazine, or part of a radio or television broadcast.” They (the court) further contend that Kaufman “is asking this Court to make the unprecedented ruling that postings made solely to the internet by an individual should be accorded the same ‘media defendant’ protections as newspapers, magazines, and radio and television stations.”
On the qualification of Mr. Kaufman’s writings and the references he makes in his writings as “published facts”:
24. “the Court stated that the internet is comparable to a vast library including millions of readily available and indexed publications․ From the publishers’ point of view, it constitutes a vast platform from which to address and hear from a worldwide audience of millions of readers, viewers, researchers, and buyers. Any person or organization with a computer connected to the Internet can “publish” information.”
It is clear from the above legal judgments that Mr. Kaufman’s writings cannot stand the test of law, are not “investigative media” and cannot be taken seriously by anyone, let alone used by a government body to judge an organization’s legal or moral standing.
What is the Clarion Project?
This is the best funded and staffed anti-Muslim organization in North America. Apart from posting false allegations, its staff tries to get elected representatives, religious leaders and business that deal with Muslim organizations to severe their relationships.
Here is what credible unbiased experts say:
“The Clarion Project (previously the “Clarion Fund”) is a nonprofit organization led by U.S. neoconservatives and right wing Israelis that produces alarmist films and publications aimed at hyping the threat of “Radical Islam.”
“Clarion’s website operates as a clearinghouse for anti-Islamic news and rhetoric”
“…a tool of Israel’s rightist Likud Party because of its close association with many Likud figures and its espousal of views in line with the Israeli right wing.” Read the full article.
According to a Center for American Progress report, the Clarion Project is funded by three of the seven top anti-Islam and anti-Muslim think tanks and organizations in the United States, including the Donors Capital Fund, Newton D. & Rochelle F. Becker foundations and charitable trust, and Anchorage Charitable Foundation and William Rosenwald Family Fund. The Center for American Progress describes these donors as the “lifeblood of the Islamophobia network in America,” and the report tracks how these donors use their money to support groups like the Clarion Project to “spread a deliberately misleading messages about Islam and Muslims that is fundamentally antithetical to our nation’s foundation and principles of religious freedom.”
Clarion Fund is a highly disreputable organization funded by foreign interests bent on sowing the seeds of hatred in American society. See this well researched and unbiased report by the two-time Webby award-winning news site, AlterNet.org.
The Foreign Policy Journal states that the Clarion Project has Daniel Pipes on its advisory board. Daniel Pipes was not only an inspiration to the Norwegian mass murderer Anders Breivik who massacred 77 young students, but also his “ideological guru” by the Foreign Policy Journal
“In the heat of the 2008 presidential election, an obscure nonprofit group called the Clarion Fund made national news by distributing millions of DVDs about radical Islam in newspaper inserts in swing states. The DVDs, 28 million in all, were a boost to Republican candidates who were trying to paint Democrats as weak on terrorism — and they arguably helped fuel the anti-Muslim sentiment”
“It is a shadowy non-profit organization that does not publicize its officers, office location, or source of funding…”
The organization Hate Hurts America has urged the Federal Election Commission to investigate whether the Clarion Fund is really a front for an Israel-based group seeking to help Sen. John McCain win the U.S. presidential election:”
These sources are credible and reputed across the media and policy makers. This is the reason why none of the “allegations” and “proofs” by the Clarion Project have ever been investigated by any agencies or even referred to by the mainstream media.
Does ICNA’s Curriculum promote radicalism?
The “curriculum” referred to by some Islamophobes is a 2010 edition of the ICNA Women’s wing’s member handbook. Specifically the allegation by a known Islamophobe Mr. Steven Emerson is that this book promotes radicalization, hence ICNA is a radical and terror supporting organization. While the curriculum has been completely revised and has no such material anymore, here is an elaboration on how such material appeared there in the first place:
ICNA’s Curriculum consists of a wide array of works covering Islamic beliefs (theology), Spirituality, Self-development, History, Islamic thought and philosophy. As with any subject matter one must read with a critical eye. Works authored by writers from the Muslim world at the turn of the last century will contain language which reflects critique of the Western imperialism, hegemony and colonialism as the Muslim world was subjugated to its colonizers interests. This language belongs to a certain space and time. When some of these books were written these authors’ lenses were quite different than ours today. They did not know have knowledge of the future where Muslims would be living and thriving in the Western world not only economically (Muslim Americans generate $170 B of disposable income annually) but also on a religious level. Muslims living in America cannot be anti-Western, because in their essence they and especially their children and grandchildren are now Western in their sensibilities and acculturation.
ICNA regularly updates its curriculum with new works to enlighten its members’ thought process. ICNA also publishes books which we find to be suitable for our members. We acknowledge some of the phraseology can be misunderstood so we ground our members by engaging them in performing actual good works serving all of humanity regardless of religion, philosophy or ideological leanings. We are working on publishing books by our own authors to bring the discourse up to date with our times and challenges of the day which include how to be good citizens while maintaining our religious identity and practice.
When known Islamophobes like Steven Emerson cherry pick verses from the Qur’an, sayings of the prophet Muhammad or any other Islamic literature and texts they can very easily take things out of context and twist them to support their bigoted preconceived notions. With religion there is always nuance and deeper understandings which need to be attained by careful guidance from clergy. Our theological programs are implemented with oversight by well-regarded Islamic scholars that can help put things into proper perspective. This is the case with any religious studies in any religion. The layman can make mistakes that does not mean that they stop reading their religious scriptures and books. The Qur’an says when you do not know, ask those with knowledge.
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