Fort Hood: The Saudi Camel in the Room
by Stephen Schwartz
After the recent slaughter at Fort Hood, Texas, commentators and politicians have asked whether political correctness or fear of being criticized as Islamophobic discouraged his colleagues in the military from thoroughly examining the extremist beliefs of Major Nidal Malik Hasan, the accused killer in the military-base massacre. Some of the non-Muslims who knew him have said, probably correctly – and unfortunately – that they did not know enough about Islam, especially in its radical forms, to assess Hasan's views. But the weak outcome of a 2003 Senatorial appeal for an inquiry into Islamist financing in America – along with other curious lapses of attention – show that the military is not alone in cringing at the task of investigating Muslim radicals.
At the end of 2003, the U.S. Senate Finance Committee sent a letter to the Internal Revenue Service, signed by the committee's then-chairman, Senator Chuck Grassley, Republican of Iowa, and its then-ranking Democrat, Senator Max Baucus of Montana. (Baucus is now the committee's chairman.) The Senate Committee called on the IRS to collect financial information on 24 Islamist groups operating in the U.S.:
Most of these organizations are obscure for ordinary, non-Muslim Americans even today. But with the exception of the Iran-directed Alavi Foundation, which was the object of an assets seizure proceeding this month, and leaving aside the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the Muslim American Society (MAS), and a few other absent players, the list provides a map of the "Wahhabi lobby" of radical Muslim proponents in American. These organizations are financed by, and in some cases act as direct agencies of, powerful institutions in Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, in tandem with their allies in the Muslim Brotherhood.
Late in 2005, however, Senator Grassley first announced that investigation of the 24 groups had ended inconclusively, with no evidence of anything "alarming" beyond the capacity for ordinary response by law enforcement; he then reversed his posture and said that his committee would continue collecting information on them. But the Senate Finance Committee produced nothing new after that.
Of the 24 entities whose names were sent to the IRS in 2003, some were identified as terror financiers years before. (Readers, please forgive this trip down the rabbit hole – it is merely a basic accounting.) The Al-Haramain Foundation, Benevolence International, Human Appeal International, the International Islamic Relief Organization (IIRO) and the Islamic African Relief Agency were named in a 1996 Central Intelligence Agency report as extremist "charities" operating in Bosnia-Hercegovina. Of them, all were Saudi-based except the Islamic African Relief Agency, which originated in the Shariah-law country of Sudan.
After the atrocities of September 11, 2001, the same groups came under new scrutiny by the U.S. The Rabita Trust, which operated in Pakistan as an auxiliary to Al-Qaida, was designated by the U.S. Treasury as a terror financier in October 2001. U.S. legal action shut down the Holy Land Foundation (HLF), which served as a front for Hamas, in December 2001, and early this year two of its founders were sentenced to life prison terms for transmitting $12 million to the Palestinian terrorist movement. The Islamic Association for Palestine , the United Association for Studies and Research, the Muslim Arab Youth Association, and Solidarity International/USA were predecessors or satellites of HLF. Kind Hearts, a front for HLF to continue its questionable activities, remains an object of federal investigation. The pro-Hamas groups all ultimately owed ideological loyalty to the Muslim Brotherhood.
Federal agents raided the offices of the IIRO, the Muslim World League (MWL), and the SAAR Foundation, in northern Virginia in 2002, seeking evidence of links to Al-Qaida. The World Assembly of Muslim Youth, which is subordinate to the MWL, also maintained a branch in Northern Virginia, directed by Abdulah Bin Laden, brother of Osama, and dedicated to disseminating Wahhabi propaganda. Global Relief was designated a supporter of Al-Qaida by the U.S. Treasury in 2002, with Al-Haramain similarly designated through its branches around the world, from Afghanistan across Africa to America , in 2004.
Also in 2004, the Institute of Islamic and Arabic Sciences in America (IIASA), long known as a central institution for Wahhabi indoctrination in America, was shut down by federal agents. It had been charged in the abuse of Saudi diplomatic status by radical religious workers, 16 of whom were ordered back to the kingdom.
Of the other small groups on the Grassley-Baucus list, Help the Needy was exposed as a front for the Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein; the Islamic Assembly of North America was a subsidiary distributor of Saudi Wahhabi propaganda, and the Islamic Foundation of America was linked to IIASA.
So why complain? Couldn't we simply congratulate the federal authorities, in filing its recent complaint against the Iranian-controlled Alavi Foundation and its mosques, for efficiently tracking down radical Muslim funders and supporters in America ?
Unfortunately, the answer is no, and the real job has only begun, for there remains a Wahhabi elephant – or, shall we say, camel – in the room.
All of the Islamist groups that have been investigated, designated, or tried for terror financing originate offshore, and all represent foreign interests – Saudi, Palestinian, Sudanese, Pakistani, Iranian – that intrude into American Muslim life to raise money for radicals.
That is bad enough. But the Grassley-Baucus list also included the three most powerful Muslim leadership groups in the U.S., which dominate the lives of believers in mosques around the country: the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), the Muslim Students Association (MSA), and the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA). And about them, nothing has been done.
Why has no investigation or legal action examined the involvement of ISNA in promoting Wahhabism, the official Saudi ideology that was taught in the Virginia and Maryland mosques in which Nidal Malik Hasan prayed?
Today, ISNA is privileged by the Obama administration; its president, Ingrid Mattson, appeared at the Obama inauguration, and was invited to the White House iftar, or Ramadan fast-breaking meal. She was accompanied to the iftar by Imam Yahya Hendy, the Islamic chaplain at Georgetown University. Hendy, it turns out, knew Nidal Hasan when the latter served at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., where Hendy also officiates as a chaplain. Hendy was quick to describe Hasan to CNN as someone who "appeared to be a very loyal American." But Hendy has a radical past of his own, including associations with the terror-funding Benevolence International Foundation and an appearance as a witness on behalf of Sami Al-Arian, leader of Palestinian Islamic Jihad in the U.S., during Al-Arian's trial in 2003.
ICNA is a front for the jihadist Jamaat-e-Islami in Pakistan , which supports Talibanization of that country, and exercises a powerful hold over American Muslims of Pakistani origin, who form the plurality of born Muslims in this country. MSA, for its part, now has branches on nearly every college campus in the U.S., and is widely known among Muslims as an incubator of extremism.
None of this is new, and none of it has been dealt with appropriately.
Eight years after 9/11, American Muslims – and therefore America as a nation – still have a Wahhabi problem. The Saudi-backed sect continues to dominate ISNA, which is recognized by government and media as an intermediary with American Sunni Muslims, as well as MSA. ICNA's conspiratorial network extends into prisons, requiring complete obedience from its members and active recruitment of new followers. And the neglect into which the Senate Finance Committee's 2003 initiative fell has been repeated, about a full range of questions that were asked eight years ago and deserve to be asked again and again, until they are fully answered:
When will ISNA, MSA, and ICNA's ties to radical Islam be officially investigated?
When will radicals like Yahya Hendy in the military's Muslim chaplaincies be fully investigated?
When will the problem of Wahhabi chaplains in U.S. prisons be resolved, and their presence removed?
When will the Saudi-Wahhabi and Pakistani streams of radical agitation and money be cut off among American Muslims?
When, if ever, will American leaders recognize that the problem of radical Islam exists here at home as much as in faraway lands?
Some American Muslims recognize that Islam on these shores is more conformist, and therefore more susceptible to extremism, than Islam in such oppressed countries as Saudi Arabia and Iran. At least in those places, Muslims argue and even protest against the abuses of Islamist ideology.
We should be glad that the authorities have moved to shut down the financial dealings of the Iranian clerical dictatorship in the U.S., as represented by the Alavi Foundation. And we should be relieved that groups like HLF and the other terror supporters have been curbed. But until the real nature of ISNA, MSA, and ICNA is exposed, with their leaders fully investigated, and, where appropriate, charged and tried, Americans will remain disarmed in the face of the radical Islam – on our own soil.
Related Topics: American Muslims, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Terrorism, Wahhabism receive the latest by email: subscribe to the free center for islamic pluralism mailing list
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