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A Primer on the International Institute of Islamic Thought: The Terror-Supporting Intellectual Façade of the Muslim Brotherhood

Posted on January 28 2011 4:15 pm
Seth Mandel is the former managing editor of four New Jersey-based newspapers, where he won awards for his coverage of the Middle East and Russia. He has appeared on Shalom TV's current affairs roundtable. He is currently based in Washington, D.C. Twitter: @SethAMandel
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Anwar Ibrahim embraces radical Islamist leader Yusuf al-Qaradawi

In March 2007, the State Department funded an exchange program with the Virginia-based International Institute of Islamic Thought (IIIT). The following month, the State Department sponsored an IIIT delegation of Islamic scholars from Southeast Asia. Three months after that, it came to light that government agencies had known the whole time what should have made the IIIT toxic to any government cooperation: They were an affiliate of the Muslim Brotherhood.

What’s more, as Patrick Poole reported, “The State Department has sponsored these IIIT activities at the very same time that a federal grand jury continues to look into IIIT’s multiple ties to terrorism as part of the Department of Justice’s ongoing Operation Green Quest investigation.”

This sort of thing is maddening, but it only scratches the surface of the issue. We’ve mentioned the IIIT before in passing on this site, in the context of talking about one of its founders, Anwar Ibrahim.

Anwar is one of the most popular and widely accepted anti-Semites in the world. His level of access and legitimacy in the public sphere is startling when you consider who he is. Since the Wall Street Journal gave him a platform yet again this week, it’s worth reviewing what the IIIT has wrought since Anwar founded it almost thirty years ago.

While in prison in Malaysia in 1999 (where he currently serves as a faltering opposition leader), Anwar wrote the following letter to his IIIT co-founder, Dr. Abdul Hamid Sulayman:

“In the quiet solitude of prison, I’m able to recollect vividly our meetings in Riyadh beginning more than 20 years ago. In spite our shared ideals, we were always engaged in heated debates on the issues of wasilah (way of reform) and fiqh awlawiyyat (order of priorities.)


I’m trying to keep myself busy–with prayers and du’a, tadarrus and reading. My old copy of Abdullah Yusuf Ali’s translation of the Quran is most valuable because of my earlier short notes and references from Ibn Kathir, al-Qurtubi, Sayyid Qutb and Maulana Maududi’s tafsirs.”

Qutb, of course, was perhaps the most influential radical Islamist writer/thinker. Among his disciples was Ayman al-Zawahiri, Osama bin Laden’s mentor. This gives you a glimpse inside the minds of those who founded the IIIT.

Perhaps the most important story on the IIIT came from the Washington Post in 2004. Written by John Mintz and Douglas Farah, the article reports that:

“The IIIT network was set up in the 1980s largely by onetime Brotherhood sympathizers with money from wealthy Saudis, Muslim activists said. A number of its members ended their Brotherhood ties years ago after concluding it was too inflexible but still advocate some of its principles, the activists said.

Some network figures had dealings with activists who ran two vehemently anti-Israel groups out of the University of South Florida in Tampa, federal documents said. One of the activists, USF professor Sami al-Arian, was indicted last year on charges of conspiracy to commit murder via suicide attacks in Israel. Officials said he was secretly a top leader of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorist organization. Al-Arian denies the charges.”

The IIIT’s lawyers and those of the Brotherhood denied everything, and said they do not approve of violence against anyone. That is a difficult defense for them to make, when you consider the book published by the IIIT: Violence. As the Post reporters explain:

“But an IIIT book called ‘Violence,’ published in 2001, said Israel is a ‘foreign usurper’ that must be confronted with ‘fear, terror and lack of security.’ The book, by IIIT official AbdulHamid AbuSulayman, says, ‘Fighting is a duty of the oppressed people.’ Palestinian fighters must choose their targets ‘whether the targets are civilian or military,’ it said, adding that any such attacks should not be ‘excessive.’ The book said such attacks are justified acts of a liberation struggle, not terrorism.”

Outside of its connections to Sami al-Arian, the IIIT has other friends that should give pause to anyone considering working with Anwar or the IIIT. In 2006, Ilan Weinglass wrote a story for FrontPage Magazine on Anwar when Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) announced it was granting Anwar a visiting fellowship.

Here, according to Weinglass, is just one example of where the IIIT sends its money:

“IIIT’s 2003 tax-exempt IRS filing lists a $720 donation to the al-Haramain Islamic Foundation of Ashland, Oregon, which was designated as a terrorist funding organization by the U.S. government in 2004. Among the Treasury Department’s findings were that the Oregon branch of al-Haramain engaged in tax fraud, money laundering, supporting Chechen mujahideen affiliated with al Qaeda, and had ‘direct links between the U.S. branch and Usama bin Laden.’ In fact, many of al-Haramain’s offices around the world were closed for supporting terrorism.”

In his Wall Street Journal op-ed this week, Anwar celebrated the uprising in Tunisia and the protests elsewhere, and offered some criticism of U.S. support for Middle Eastern leaders:

“The bogeyman of Islamism, the oft-cited scapegoat of Middle Eastern dictators to justify their tyranny, must therefore be reconsidered or junked altogether. The U.S., too, should learn a lesson about the myth that secular tyrants and dictators are its best bet against Islamists.”

Anwar helped found and lead the organization that is at the forefront of giving radical Islamism’s quest to establish Shariah law in America an intellectual sheen. What he wants is for the West to look the other way as Islamism continues its rise through the network of the international Muslim Brotherhood.

We shouldn’t be fooled by “thoughtful” Islamism. The IIIT is just another branch of a transnational terror syndicate, and should be treated as such.

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