By Steve Emerson
The charitable wing of a major American Muslim organization is promoting donations to extremist causes, undercutting a nationwide campaign to improve its image. The website link from the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA) Relief division hints at deeper connections to extremism and terror, both by the charitable branch and by its parent organization.
ICNA’s self-proclaimed goal is “to communicate the message of Islam to the society at large” and “also to initiate change in the social and political spheres [of American society] in light of the principles of the noble Qur’an,” according to the group’s 2020 Vision program.
“The future of Dawah [proselytizing] in this society is directly linked with the ability of ICNA’s membership to communicate the message of Islam to the society at large,” it explains. Over time, the group encourages “moving to the next level of Dawah, aimed towards the movers and shakers of the society.”
As that program outlines, that goal means more engagement with non-Muslims to promote Islam. ICNA is in the midst of a pro-Sharia campaign, which explains that Islamic law isn’t something threatening to American society or order.
A long history of extremism stands in the way. ICNA’s magazine, conferences, and ideology have promoted violent jihad and supremacy rhetoric for decades, and continue to emphasize Islam as a civilization alternative to secular society.
The group’s 2010 Member’s Hand Book illustrated how further acceptance of Islam would lead to an Islamic state in America and then to a global Caliphate. “With this work of propagation of Islam, social reform, and the truth is introduced to a large part of the society. A good part of the society’s thinking individuals join the movement. Then it may move to establish an Islamic society, obedient to Allah’s commands,” the hand book states.
To change beliefs about Islam and to further ICNA’s role in promoting it, the 2020 plan emphasizes social justice and charity issues. But the discovery of more extremist content on ICNA Relief’s website shows that although the group has initiated a new public image, an ideology of extremism prevails just under the surface.
The charity website links to a chapter about the giving of zakat, obligatory tithing, from Let Us Be Muslim, a text by Islamist preacher Abu Ala Maududi. He was the founder of Jamaat-e-Islami, a South Asian extremist organization that advocates the overthrow of secular governments and their replacement with a worldwide Islamic state.
The section from Let Us Be Muslim, a fundamental text used in many of ICNA’s education curricula teaching extremism, promotes giving “Fi-Sabili’llah: in the way of Allah.” Maududi defines this in the chapter as “giving help to a struggle for making Islam supreme on earth.”
In addition, the terminology of “making Islam supreme” is a constant theme throughout ICNA’s indoctrination programs. A 2008 presentation on the ICNA Southern California website explains the “goal of the Islamic Call” as the “extermination of pre-Islamic traditions or Jahaliya [ignorant ways of life]” and “mak[ing] Islam the predominant way of life” on earth.
The link on ICNA Relief’s page promotes these sentiments even further, explaining that charity should be spent to further violent causes.
“Thus, we are told, there are two ways we can lead our lives. One is the way of God. To walk on this path, you must generously help your brothers and support Jihad out of whatever resources God in His bounty and wisdom has given you,” Maududi wrote in the section ICNA Relief links readers. “The other is the Satanic way: apparently full of benefits, but in reality it leads to ruin. The hallmark of this way of life is worshipping money and amassing wealth at the expense of all other considerations.”
Theological justifications for supporting militancy aren’t new to ICNA or ICNA Relief. Currently, ICNA members proceed through a two-tiered system of membership, which requires an ideological commitment to the philosophy of political Islamism, as envisioned by thinkers like Maududi.
One leader, ICNA New York President Ashrafuz Zaman Khan, is alleged to have carried out war crimes in the name of Maududi’s violent pan-Islamist ideology.
Open support for terrorist causes was available on the websites of regional ICNA branches, even after 9/11. As late as November 2002, the ICNA Southeast Zone website linked to the websites of Hamas, Hizballah, and terrorist organizations fighting in Chechnya, Afghanistan, and the Pakistani-Indian disputed region of Kashmir. Among its short list of recommended Islamic charities was the Islamic Society in Gaza, which openly touted its connections to Hamas.
The group’s magazines and conferences similarly promote connections to violent jihad and terrorist organizations going back dozens of years.
An article in the October 1995 edition of ICNA’s The Message Magazine features an interview with ICNA Relief director Tariqur Rehman about the crisis in Bosnia. Rehman describes how he “witnessed first hand” the religious progress of Bosnian army and mujahideen, and notes how they needed “weapons, heavy weapons.” Although the United States fought against the Serbian genocide of the Bosnians, it cracked down on Islamic charity Benevolence International Foundation for supplying Islamist warriors fighting there. Al-Qaida-linked mujahideen used Bosnia as a training base, exporting fighters who would take bring jihad back to their home countries, including battling in Iraq against American forces…