Is radical Islam infiltrating American universities?

In 1988, an FBI source inside the Muslim Brotherhood revealed that the Islamist group’s proxies in America had a six-phase plan to “institute the Islamic Revolution in the United States.” [1] Among these front groups was The International Institute of Islamic Thought (IIIT), a think tank committed to the “Islamization of knowledge.”[2] This ideology, as Professor Vali Nasr writes, entails the subordination of scientific inquiry to “the mere implementation of the assorted teachings of the Shariʿa.”[3]

Over the last three decades, IIIT’s part in the Brotherhood’s plan has met remarkable success. The institute has made itself an indispensable resource for Islamic studies scholars: It has provided funding for over 70 active researchers based at institutions across America (see appendix); it has spent millions of dollars on endowing chairs in Islamic studies;[4] and it has publicized the research of hundreds of like-minded academics at its Summer Institute for Scholars.[5]

Female Muslim graduates at UNC Chapel Hill

IIIT’s activities are integral to the Brotherhood’s broader strategy of inciting an international Islamic revolution. As an official IIIT handbook notes:

At a time when we are forced to fight and defend ourselves on political, economic and military fronts … (these efforts) can be accomplished by developing (the Ummah’s, that is, the Muslim community’s) ideological power and the power of the “islamization of knowledge (sic)” to effectively harness its full potential.[6]

In other words, the long-term success of the Islamists’ revolution is dependent not only on success on the battlefield and at the ballot, but also on the cooptation of education in order to foment popular sympathy for the Brotherhood’s objectives.

While IIIT’s actions are ostensibly nonviolent, it has not hesitated to cultivate ties to international terrorists. In 2002, an anti-terrorism taskforce raided the IIIT’s office. Based on the evidence obtained in this investigation, U.S. Customs Service Special Agent David Kane said in a sworn affidavit that IIIT co-founder and former vice president for research, Jamal Barzinji, was “not only closely affiliated with PIJ [Palestinian Islamic Jihad] . . . but also with Hamas.”[7]

Furthermore, IIIT provided donations to the front organization of convicted Palestinian Islamic Jihad leader Sami al-Arian, formerly a professor at the University of South Florida. Al-Arian subsequently wrote a thank you note to IIIT, in which he emphasized that his organization and IIIT are essentially a single institution rooted in “an ideological and cultural concordance with mutual objectives.”[8]

While IIIT is unapologetic about its links to violent Islamism, it is less forthright about the sources of its generous revenue. It is clear that the Brotherhood provided the start-up money for IIIT in 1988, when the aforementioned FBI memo notes that the organization had almost “unlimited funds” at its disposal.[9] That was 30 years ago. Nevertheless, today, IIIT’s assets appear undiminished. Yet IIIT’s website does not solicit donations; indeed, a search for “donate” on the site returns no relevant information.

This raises the question: Who is supporting IIIT today?

We cannot know for sure. However, we do know that IIIT has never shirked its loyalty to its parent organization, the Muslim Brotherhood. IIIT’s website boasted—in a post that has now been removed—that two of its officials, Hisham Altalib and Abubaker Al-Shingieti, met with the leader of the Brotherhood and then-president of Egypt, Mohammed Morsi, in New York on September 24, 2012. Morsi “welcomed the participation of IIIT in the reform of higher education in Egypt.”[10]

Furthermore, IIIT has cultivated relations with the wealthy Qatar Foundation, an arm of the Qatari government.[11] Qatar is one of the world’s foremost state sponsors of international terrorism. Moreover, the state enforces its conception of the Shariʿa at home. Its laws prescribe death for apostates and Muslims who commit adultery with non-Muslims; uphold the incarceration of men found guilty of homosexual relations; and sanction one of the world’s most extensive and brutal human-trafficking systems.[12]

Qatar has sought to sanitize its illiberal reputation by constructing an “Education City” in the nation’s capital, Doha. Education City is a network of campuses including Islamic colleges and proxy estates for six major U.S. universities: Texas A&M, Virginia Commonwealth, Cornell, Carnegie Mellon, Northwestern and Georgetown. The Qatar Foundation covers the expenses for these institutions to maintain their campuses in the country. It has invested over $400 million in Education City.[13]

Qatar has portrayed Education City as a repression-free zone that respects Western norms in a kingdom that otherwise upholds the rule of Islamic law.[14] Yet Islamists with terrorist affiliations, including IIIT’s former director, Dr. Louay Safi, teach there.[15] Furthermore Professor Jasser Auda—an active associate of IIIT with extensive ties to the Muslim Brotherhood—is also based there.[16]

Yet the six U.S. universities listed above have shown no inclination to repudiate their Qatari sponsors. These institutions legitimize the Qatari regime, sanctioning the presence of violent Islamists in Education City. Their actions are reminiscent of IIIT-funded scholars’ complicity with their own sponsors’ illiberal, “revolutionary” agenda.

For too long, American universities have allowed IIIT to shape the development of Islamic Studies in this country. They have ignored IIIT’s anti-intellectualism expressed in its commitment to the “Islamization of knowledge,” meaning the suppression of scholarship not sympathetic to Islamists. Left-wing activists who censor campus discussions about radical Islamism provide cover for IIIT’s regressive ideology. They further its agenda to suffocate any scrutiny of Islamism and the broader Islamic tradition.

It is time to bring IIIT’s action to light. It is time for parents, students and policy makers to demand that IIIT ends its role in the radicalization of Islamic Studies—a discipline that has long showed itself predisposed to anti-Western agendas. – The Clarion Project

Ryan Mauro is the national security analyst and Shillman Fellow for the Clarion Project. This article was written with the assistance of Campus Watch, a project of the Middle East Forum.

 Appendix I: Selective List of Professors with Ties to IIIT

(The following list, while not exhaustive, demonstrates the extent of IIIT’s infiltration into American universities.)

George Mason University: Abdulaziz Sachedina: IIIT Chair in Islamic Studies. IIIT funded the position with a gift of $1.5 million.

Cemil Aydin: member of IIIT’s Council of Scholars (now at UNC-Chapel Hill).

Sumayya Al Shingieti: IIIT recognized Sumayya Al Shingieti for completing her Bachelors’ degree in film and video studies at George Mason University and receiving an award for the film she produced.

Shenandoah University: Calvin Allen Jr.: “Dr. Allen signed last year an agreement with IIIT to cooperate in ‘course development, educational programs, and research with a goal of promoting an understanding of Islam and Muslims in America, and Islamic civilization and culture,’ based on ‘the principles of equality and reciprocal benefit.”

Hartford Seminary: Heidi Hadsell: “Professor Hadsell praised the special relationship between the Harford Seminary and IIIT and the continued support that the seminary receives from IIIT, particularly in the area of Imam Training and education, and the study of Christian-Muslim relations in general.”

Mahmoud Ayoub: member of IIIT’s Council of Scholars whose teaching of courses about Shia Islam was sponsored by $35,000 from the Alavi Foundation in September 2012.

Huron University College: Ingrid Mattson: member of the IIIT’s Council of Scholars

United States Naval Academy (Formerly): Ermin Sinanovic: IIIT’s Director of Research and Academic Programs.

Binghamton University: Seifudein Adem is there, as was the late Ali Mazrui, a very radical preacher.

Howard University: Sulayman Nyang (retired from Howard): member of IIIT’s Council of Scholars.

Altaf Husain: IIIT recognized the academic achievements of Altaf Husain for receiving tenure at Howard University.

University of Notre Dame: Asma Afsaruddin: member of IIIT’s Council of Scholars

University of Delaware: Muqtedar Khan: member of IIIT’s Council of Scholars

American University: Mohammed Nimer: visited IIIT with American University students in 2013 to discuss the “Islamic revival and role of Islam in politics of the Muslim world.”

University of Southern California, College of Letters, Arts & Sciences: Mazen Hashem: member of IIIT’s Council of Scholars

University of Maryland: Ahmad Kazemi Moussavi: former Iranian diplomat, has spoken several times for IIIT about Iran. He is no longer listed in the faculty directory on the University of Maryland’s website (here).

Fatima Mirza: IIIT recognized the academic achievements of her for completing her Ph.D. in social work at the University of Maryland.

Charles Butterworth: participated in IIIT’s 2012 Summer Institute for Scholars and the 2011 Friends of IIIT/Iftar Dinner.

Manhattanville College: James Jones – has lectured at IIIT on the challenges of Islam to and in the U.S.

Georgetown University: Jonathan Brown – has lectured at IIIT multiple times and participated in many of its programs.

John Esposito – has lectured at IIIT multiple times and participated in many of its programs.

John Voll – has lectured at IIIT multiple times and participated in many of its programs.

University of Virginia: Rachel Mann – has lectured at IIIT about non-violent activism.

Firas Barzinji – IIIT has recognized his achievements for completing his Masters’ Degree in Business Administration, University of Virginia.

Middle Tennessee State University: Ron Messier – has lectured at IIIT about his book, Jesus, One man, Two Faiths; A Dialogue between Christians and Muslims.

Santa Clara University: Farid Senzai – IIIT recognized the academic achievements of Farid Senzai for receiving tenure at Santa Clara University

Union Theological Seminary: Serene Jones – has attended events with IIIT and has shared her thoughts about her relationship with IIIT (x)

George Washington University: Mohamad Faghfoory – has attended events with IIIT and has shared his thoughts about his relationship with IIIT (x)

Appendix II: IIIT Research Grant Recipients

Florian Pohl is an associate professor of religion at Emory University’s Oxford College and received a research grant from IIIT.

Madiha Tahseen recently completed the requirements for her doctorate in Applied Developmental Psychology at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC), and she received a research grant from IIIT.

Nazila Isgandarova is the spiritual and religious care coordinator at Ontario Multifaith Council and the spiritual care provider at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, and received a research grant from IIIT.

Nermeen Mouftah is a lecturer in the Departments of Anthropology and Religious Studies at the University of Illinois at Chicago, and received a research grant from IIIT.

Oliver Leaman is a professor of philosophy at the University of Kentucky, and received a research grant from IIIT.

Samy Ayoub is a postdoctoral faculty fellow at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and received a research grant from IIIT.

Aasim Padela is the director of the Initiative on Islam and Medicine and an assistant professor of medicine at the University of Chicago, and received a research grant from IIIT.

Emad Hamdeh earned his Ph.D. in Islamic and Arabic studies from the University of Exeter and is adjunct professor of Arabic and Islamic Studies at Montclair State University in Montclair, NJ; he received a research grant from IIIT.

Sameera Ahmed is director of the Family & Youth Institute (www.thefyi.org), a clinical assistant professor at Wayne State University, a scholar at the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding (ISPU), an associate editor for the Journal of Muslim Mental Health (JMMH), and a board-licensed psychologist in Ohio and Michigan. She received a research grant from IIIT.

IIIT Resident Scholars

Asaad Al-Saleh is an assistant professor of Arabic Literature, Comparative Literature and Cultural Studies in the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures at Indiana University.

SherAli Tareen is an assistant professor of religious studies at Franklin and Marshall College in Lancaster, PA.

Mustafa Gökçek is an associate professor of history at Niagara University in Niagara Falls, NY.

Abdulaziz Sachedina is a professor and IIIT chair in Islamic Studies at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia.

Nathan J. Brown, is a professor of political science and international affairs at George Washington University, former president of the Middle East Studies Association (MESA), and a scholar and author of six books on Arab politics.

Yahya M. Michot (Belgium, 1952) joined Hartford Seminary in 2008 as a professor of Islamic Studies and Christian-Muslim Relations and is editor of the journal Muslim World.

Najib George Awad is a Syrian-Arab Christian theologian and poet. He is an associate Ppofessor of Christian theology and the director of the international PhD program in Hartford Seminary, CT.

Syed Muhd Khairudin Aljunied is an assistant professor in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, National University of Singapore.

Mohamed Mosaad Abdelaziz Mohamed is an assistant professor of religious studies at Northern Arizona University.

Imad-ad-Dean Ahmad, Ph.D., is an internationally known interdisciplinary scientist of Palestinian descent, born at sea and raised in the United States.

Abadir M. Ibrahim is a J.S.D. candidate at St. Thomas University School of Law LL.M./J.S.D. program in Intercultural Human Rights and has two LL.M. degrees — one in international law and one in human rights law.

Seifudein Adem is an associate professor of political science and the associate director of the Institute of Global Cultural Studies, SUNY Binghamton.

Emin Poljarevic is a visiting scholar at the Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies Department at the University of Edinburgh.

Ahmad Najib Burhani is a PhD candidate in religious studies at University of California-Santa Barbara.

Ahmad Kazemi Moussavi is a professor of Islamic law and modern Islamic developments who currently teaches at George Washington University.

Mojtaba Mahdavi is an associate professor of political science and Middle East studies at the University of Alberta, Canada.

Peter Mandaville is the director of the Ali Vural Ak Center for Global Islamic Studies and a professor of government at George Mason University.

John O. Voll is a professor of Islamic history and past associate director of the Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding at Georgetown University in Washington, DC.

Abdullah Al-Arian is an assistant professor of history at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service in Qatar.

Jonathan Brown is the Alwaleed bin Talal chair of Islamic Civilization and director of the Prince Alwaleed bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding at Georgetown University.

Louay M. Safi is a professor at the Qatar Faculty of Islamic Studies.

Ali A. Mazrui, who died in 2015, was the Albert Schweitzer Professor in the Humanities and director of the Institute of Global Cultural Studies at Binghamton University, State University of New York.

Kamal Abu-Shamsieh was born in Ramallah and is currently a PhD student at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, CA in the area of the cultural and historical study of religion.

Jasser Auda is a professor teaching at the Qatar Faculty of Islamic Studies in Doha, a founding member and a member of the executive board of the International Union of Muslim Scholars, a member of the academic committee of the IIIT and a fellow of the International Institute of Advanced Systems in Canada.

Mahmoud M. Ayoub was born in South Lebanon. He received his education at the American University of Beirut (BA, Philosophy, 1964), the University of Pennsylvania (M.A., Religious Thought, 1966) and Harvard University (Ph.D., History of Religion, 1975).

Usaama al-Azami is a PhD candidate at Princeton University’s Department of Near Eastern Studies.

Jacquelene Brinton received her MA. and PhD. from the University of Virginia in August of 2009 in the Department of Religious Studies with a specialty in Islamic Studies.

Carl W. Ernst is the William R. Kenan, Jr. Distinguished Professor and co-director of the Carolina Center for the Study of the Middle East and Muslim Civilizations at the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill.

Katrin Jomaa is an assistant professor at the University of Rhode Island with a joint appointment in the Departments of Political Science and Philosophy.

Mouez Khalfaoui is a junior professor of Islamic Jurisprudence at the University of Tuebingen, Germany (since 2012).

Shahirah Mahmood is a PhD candidate in the Department of Political Science at the University of Wisconsin Madison.

Hamid Mavani obtained his MA and PhD from McGill University at the Institute of Islamic Studies.

Ebrahim Moosa is a professor of Islamic Studies at the University of Notre Dame.

Asaad Al-Saleh is an assistant professor of Arabic, comparative literature and cultural studies in the Department of Languages and Literature and the Middle East Center at the University of Utah.

Christopher B. Taylor is currently a visiting researcher at Georgetown University in the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs.

Sarra Tlili is an assistant professor at the University of Florida in the Department of Languages, Literatures and Cultures.

David Vishanoff is an associate professor in the Religious Studies Program at the University of Oklahoma, where he teaches courses on the Qur’an, Islamic law, Islamic theology and comparative religion.

Jamal Barzinji is the president of IIIT, USA. He was a founder and has served as president of the Muslim Students Association and is a founder of Islamic Society of North America.

Yaqub Mirza is the president and CEO of Sterling Management Group. He is also an advisor to the board of trustees of the Amana Mutual Funds, a member of the board of directors of the University Islamic Financial Corporation and a member of the Board of Trustees of George Mason University Foundation, Inc. He holds a MSc from University of Karachi, a PhD in physics and an MA in teaching science from the University of Texas at Dallas.

Abubaker Al Shingieti is the executive director of the IIIT, USA.

Ermin Sinanovic is the director of research and academic programs at IIIT.

Iqbal Unus is a former director of The Fairfax Institute (TFI), the instructional division of IIIT, where he has also served as director of human development and director of administration since 1989.

Asifa Quraishi-Landes is an associate professor of law at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Mohammad Fadel is an associate professor in the faculty of law at the University of Toronto.

Asma Afsaruddin is a professor of Near-Eastern languages and culture at Indiana University.

Andrew March is an associate professor of political science at Yale University.

Muqtedar Khan is a professor of political science and the director of Islamic studies at the University of Delaware.

Kenneth Honerkamp is a professor of religion at the University of Georgia.

Imad-ad-Dean Ahmed is a professor of religion and science at American University and Wesley Theological Seminary.

David Warren is a post-doctoral research fellow at the University of Edinburgh.

Abdallah El Sheikh Sidahmed is a professor of economics at El Neelain University in Khartoum, Sudan.

Charles Butterworth is a professor of government at the University of Maryland.

Abdallah Al Arian is an assistant professor of history at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service in Qatar.

Muhammad Faghfoory is a professor of religion at George Washington University.

Douglas Johnston is the president and founder of the International Center for Religion and Diplomacy.

Ahmed Kazemi Mousavi is an adjunct professor in the School of Languages, Literature and Cultures at the University of Maryland, Baltimore.

Norton Mezvinsky is the Distinguished University Professor, Emeritus, at Central Connecticut State University and president of the International Council for Middle East Studies.

Ali Mazrui who died in 2015, was Albert Schweitzer Professor in the Humanities and director of the Institute of Global Cultural Studies at Binghamton University, State University of New York.

Seifudein Adem is the associate director of the Institute for Global Studies at SUNY Binghamton.

Muhammad Nimer is a professor of International Relations at American University.

Marybeth Acac is a PhD candidate in the Department of Religion at Temple University.

Sherman A. Jackson is the King Faisal Chair of Islamic Thought and Culture at the University of Southern California.

Khaleel Mohammed is a professor of religious studies at San Diego State University.

Aisha Musa is an assistant professor of religion and Middle Eastern and Islamic civilization studies at Colgate University.

Imtiyaz Yusuf is the director of the Center for Buddhist-Muslim Understanding in the College of Religious Studies at Mahidol University in Thailand and a senior fellow at the Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding at Georgetown University.

 

[1] The website http://www.iiit.org/ provides The International Institute for Islamic Thought’s description of its own activities. For IIIT’s association with the Muslim Brotherhood, see FBI Memo, “An Analysis of Religious Divisions in the Muslim Community of Toronto,” 1988. The document was obtained through FIOA by The Investigative Project on Terrorism (www.investigativeproject.org).

[2] The International Institute of Islamic Thought, “Islamization of Knowledge: General Principles and Work Plan,” No.1 (1988).

[3] Seyyed Vali Reza Nasr, “Islamization of Knowledge: A Critical Review,” Islamic Studies, 30.3 (1991), 387-400.

[4] IIIT has established at least three chairs over the last six years at the cost of over 3.5 million dollars. These include The IIIT Chair in Islamic Studies at the Ali Vural Ak Center for Global Islamic Studies at George Mason University (GMU), which was endowed in 2012; The Faculty Chair in Islamic Chaplaincy at Hartford Seminary currently—endowed in 2013; and The IIIT Chair in Interfaith Studies at Nazareth College in Rochester, NY—endowed in 2012.

[5] See the list of scholars who have presented at IIIT conferences since 2009 at The Summer Institute of Scholars webpage on IIIT’s website.

[6] AbuSulayman ed., “Islamization of Knowledge,” International Institute of Islamic Thought, 1989, 3rd edition, 84-85; see Kyle Shideler and David Daoud, “International Institute of Islamic Thought (IIIT): The Muslim Brotherhood’s Think Tank,” Center for Security Policy Occasional Paper Series (July 28, 2014).

[7] “Proposed Redacted Affidavit in Support of Application for Search Warrant (October 2003),” United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, published at The Investigative Project on Terrorism (www.investigativeproject.org). For more on Barzinji, who passed away in 2015, see The Investigative Project on Terrorism’s biography.

[8] For the letter, see “Exhibit 325,” at the Investigative Project on Terrorism; on the indictment, see The US Department of Justice, “Sami Al-Arian Pleads Guilty To Conspiracy To Provide Services To Palestinian Islamic Jihad,” Press Release (April 17, 2006).

[9] See above, n. 1.

[10] Meira Svirsky, “Brotherhood Influence OP Inside US Academia Success,” Clarion Project (May 5, 2014).

[11] The direct relationship between the government of Qatar and the Qatar Foundation is noted at the Foundation’s official website.

[12] See the official report of Human Rights Watch, an organization that usually reserves such criticism for Israel and the West.

[13] Washington Post, “Texas university gets $76 million each year to operate in Qatar, contract says” (March 8, 2016). The money is paid to the Qatar Foundation, which then gives it to the school of the student.

[14] The Washington Post, “In Qatar’s Education City, U.S. colleges are building an academic oasis” (December 6, 2015)

[15] On Qatar’s Education City, see The Washington Post, “In Qatar’s Education City, U.S. colleges are building an academic oasis” (December 6, 2015); on Louay Safi’s position, see his faculty biography at the website of Qatar’s Hamad bin Khalifah University.

[16] On Auda’s role in institutions in Education City, specifically the new research Center for Islamic Legislation and Ethics (CILE), see the Qatar Foundation announcement concerning “Creating CILE”; on Auda’s ties to the brotherhood, see Ryan Mauro, “US Professors Participate in Brotherhood-Linked Program,” Clarion Project (October 10, 2013); for IIIT’s role in publishing Auda, see here.