By Arab News
By Dalia Al-Aqidi *
After its miserable failure in the Middle East and the beginning of the end in Turkey as Ankara seeks to mend its ties with Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood has begun to cut its losses and turn to the West, taking advantage of its freedom of religion and human rights laws.
In the US, several active Islamist organizations would be willing to welcome Brotherhood members with open arms. Most of these entities promote Islamism, an authoritarian concept that seeks to impose controversial laws in Western democracies. Such doctrines are widely rejected by America’s vast majority, including Muslims. However, that has not stopped US politicians from participating in events organized by Islamist organizations.
The Muslim American Society, like several other such groups, knows how the political game should be played in the Western world. Slogans of combating racism, anti-discrimination and religious freedom get them closer to liberal politicians, officials, decision-makers and progressive voters.
At a recent Ramadan event in Minnesota, two of the keynote speakers were well-known Islamists. One was the imam of Dar Al-Farooq Islamic Center, Abdirahman Kariye, a son of refugees who came to the US from Somalia and who studied under senior Islamist scholars from Egypt and Somalia. “Dar Al-Farooq mosque has been a conduit for terrorism recruitment, with at least six congregants leaving or attempting to join (Daesh) and Al-Shabaab, the Al-Qaeda affiliate in Somalia,” said Benjamin Baird, deputy director of the Middle East Forum’s Islamism in Politics project.
The other controversial speaker was Asad Zaman, who is executive director and imam of the Muslim American Society of Minnesota. In March, when a bill was presented by two Democratic members of the Minnesota House of Representatives to form a new “task force on the consequences of Islamophobia and anti-Semitism,” it proposed including anti-Semitic Islamist organizations as members, with Zaman one of the nominees. “Zaman is not shy about his views on Jews and Islamism. His Facebook account is replete with anti-Semitism, apologism for Hamas, and support for convicted war criminals,” wrote Sam Westrop, director of Islamist Watch. In one of his Facebook posts, the future member of the proposed task force on the consequences of Islamophobia and anti-Semitism linked to a neo-Nazi Holocaust denial website, which promotes viciously anti-Semitic conspiracy theories.
Several political Islam organizations have close ties with the Muslim Brotherhood, which is a dangerous group that is designated as a terrorist organization in several countries in the Middle East, including Egypt, where it was founded by Hassan Al-Banna in 1928. The Muslim American Society of Minnesota’s Muslim Brotherhood pedigree is simply undeniable, and here is why and how.
In 2004, the Chicago Tribune newspaper proved that the American chapter of the Muslim Brotherhood operated under the name of the Muslim American Society, which was incorporated in Illinois in 1993 after a contentious debate among Brotherhood members. The incorporation papers showed that the director of the society until 1994 was a prominent leader of the US Muslim Brotherhood named Ahmed Elkadi, an Egyptian-born surgeon who moved to America in 1967.
But why is it alarming? In “Message of the Teachings,” Al-Banna flatly states that violence is an acceptable means for spreading Islamic ideology: “Always intend to… desire martyrdom. Prepare for it as much as you can.” In 2005, Daveed Gartenstein-Ross of the Foundation of Defense of Democracies revealed that the Muslim American Society’s adjunct members must read Sayyid Qutb’s “Milestones,” which refutes claims that so-called jihad encompasses only defensive warfare. He added that the society’s curriculum advocates the promotion of Islam through violence.
Although the society portrays itself as an independent American organization with no affiliation to the Brotherhood, a statement on its website describes the terrorist group as a “grassroots Islamic movement for reform and revival.” The statement stresses that most of Al-Banna’s writings could be categorized as “foundational thought (e.g., balanced understanding of Islam, societal reform, peaceful change, etc.).” The Muslim American Society sought to distance itself from part of what he wrote, claiming that it does not apply to Muslims in America. However, the Islamist organization claimed that it would continue to include Al-Banna’s “applicable” writings in its “curricula, which aid our efforts to move people to strive for God-consciousness, liberty, justice and contribute to a virtuous and just American society.”
American politicians do not comprehend that the targets of Islamist activism are secular Muslims who stand against the bigotry and threats of political Islamism. For years, this community has been canceled, fought and accused of being Islamophobic and anti-Arab by Islamist groups and their politicians.
In a conversation with my friend, Sarah Idan, a former Miss Universe Iraq and the founder of Humanity Forward, an interfaith nongovernmental organization, she reiterated that groups like the Muslim American Society do not represent her as a moderate Muslim. The Iraqi-American activist expressed concerns about the organization’s affiliation with radical groups.
“Islamists’ interest in funding and endorsing anti-Semitic lawmakers like Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib demonstrates their goal (political Islam), the same issue that caused us to flee to the West. If Americans understood the history and complications of the Middle East, they would have been as alert and concerned as we are, witnessing these groups adopting the same strategy they used to destroy our homelands and communities,” Idan stressed.
None of these organizations or Islamist lawmakers represent thousands of American Muslims like myself and Idan. However, there is no ready solution to the dilemma of political Islamism in the US as long as we are afraid to call things by their correct names.
Led by the Muslim Brotherhood, these organizations bully anyone who stands against the Islamist ideology and manipulate our system and government using the magical term “Islamophobia.” We ought to remember that they are proud of being anti-Semitic and anti-American and that they sympathize with radical groups, and act accordingly.
- Dalia Al-Aqidi is a senior fellow at the Center for Security Policy. Twitter: @DaliaAlAqidi