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Islamic Society of North America

Islamic Society of North America logo
Abbreviation ISNA
Formation 1982
Purpose/focus To be unifying Islamic organization and to contribute to the betterment of the Muslim community
and society
Headquarters Plainfield, Indiana
Region served North America
President Ingrid Mattson
Affiliations Muslim Student Association; Muslim Brotherhood; Muslim Student Association (MSA); the North American Islamic Trust (NAIT); Canadian Islamic Trust (CIT); Muslim Community Association (MCA); American Muslim Social Scientists (AMSS); American Muslim Scientists and Engineers (AMSE); Islamic Medical Association (IMA); Islamic Teaching Center (ITC), and Foundation of International Development (FID).
Remarks Named an
unindicted co-conspirator and an entity that is or was a member of the
US Muslim Brotherhood
in the 2007 Holy Land Foundation terrorism trial.

The Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), based in Plainfield, Indiana, USA, is a Muslim umbrella group that describes itself as the largest Muslim organization in North America



ISNA traces its origins to a Muslim student organization in 1953, which emerged as the Muslim Student Association in January 1963. ISNA regards the MSA's 1963 convention as its first one. ISNA was founded in 1982 by individuals tied to the Muslim Brotherhood.[1][2][3] In 1983, ISNA completed a $21 million ($44,913,539 in current dollar terms) headquarters complex in suburban Indianapolis using funds raised in part from Muslim Brotherhood leader Youssef Nada and the Emir of Qatar.[4] In 2008, it claimed 400,000 members.[5]


Interior of ISNA building

ISNA's goal is "to be an exemplary and unifying Islamic organization in North America that contributes to the betterment of the Muslim community and society at large." ISNA is an association of Muslim organizations and individuals that provides a common platform for presenting Islam, supporting Muslim communities, developing educational, social and outreach programs and fostering good relations with other religious communities, and civic and service organizations.

ISNA includes under its umbrella: Muslim Student Association (MSA), the North American Islamic Trust (NAIT), Canadian Islamic Trust (CIT; NAIT's counterpart in Canada), Muslim Community Association (MCA), American Muslim Social Scientists (AMSS), American Muslim Scientists and Engineers (AMSE), Islamic Medical Association (IMA), Islamic Teaching Center (ITC), and Foundation of International Development (FID).[6]


ISNA provides various services for Muslim immigrants and Muslim communities in North America. It publishes information about Islam to be distributed with the intention of informing Muslims and non-Muslims about various issues in the religion. They provide a forum for discussing aging and mortality as well as domestic violence. ISNA also certifies food service and consumer products companies as Halal, and issues Islamic marriage certificates to couples with a marriage license who have performed the religious ceremony.

Although only a small percentage of mosques are official members, mosque membership in ISNA is an important step for many small communities trying to grow.

ISNA holds an annual national convention, typically on the Labor Day weekend in early September, which is generally the largest gathering of American Muslims in the United States. In the last few years, it has been held in Chicago, Illinois, with increasing numbers attending including people from outside of North America. The convention features Islamic lectures, discussions, debates, nasheeds, and Muslim comedy. A notable comedian who has repeatedly performed at ISNA is Azhar Usman.

Its President is Professor Ingrid Mattson, and its Secretary General is Muneer Fareed. Muzzamil Siddiqi was president until November 2001, and he and Imam Siraj Wahhaj (named as an unindicted co-conspirator in the case against Abdul Rahman) serve on ISNA's board of directors. Dr. Sayyid Syeed is the National Director for the Office of Interfaith & Community Alliances for ISNA.

Islamic Horizons is ISNA's bi-monthly publication.

ISNA is associated with the Islamic Society of North America Elementary School in Mississauga, Ontario, Canada.

Interfaith dialogue

ISNA building, Plainfield, Indiana

Dialogue with Jews

ISNA invited Rabbi Eric Yoffie, president of the Union for Reform Judaism, to speak before its 44th annual meeting. Reform Judaism is the largest Jewish denomination in the US. Yoffie denounced "opportunists" who demonise Islam, and called for an end to racial profiling and legal discrimination against Muslim Americans. Yoffie drew frequent applause, and a standing ovation. David Harris, executive director of the American Jewish Committee, criticized Yoffie.

Dialogue with Christians

ISNA has participated in interfaith dialogue with the U.S. Bishops' Committee for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs.

Legal issues

Funding sources investigated, 2003-05

ISNA was one of a number of Muslim groups investigated by US law enforcement for possible terrorist connections. Its tax records were requested in December 2003 by the Senate Finance Committee. However, the committee's investigation concluded in November 2005 with no action taken. Committee chairman Charles Grassley said, "We did not find anything alarming enough that required additional follow-up beyond what law enforcement is already doing."[7]

Unindicted co-conspirator/relationship with the Muslim Brotherhood, 2007-08

In the 2007 Holy Land Foundation terrorist financing case, the United States Department of Justice named ISNA, along with Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the North American Islamic Trust, as an unindicted co-conspirator and one of a number of "entities who are and/or were members of the US Muslim Brotherhood."[8][9][10] Court documents at the trial indicated that ISNA is "an integral part of the [Muslim] Brotherhood's efforts to wage jihad against America through non-violent means," reported the Dallas Morning News.[11]

The case ended in a November 2008 conviction of five Holy Land Foundation executives on 108 counts of supporting terrorism.[12]


View through ISNA window

Allegations of Wahhabism

In his testimony before the US Senate in October 2003, foreign propaganda expert Dr. Michael Waller told Senators:

“The Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) refers Muslim clerics to the U.S. Bureau of Prisons. The Islamic Society of North America is an influential front for the promotion of the Wahhabi political, ideological and theological infrastructure in the United States and Canada."[13][14]

Similarly, Muslim convert and terrorism expert Stephen Schwartz described ISNA in Senate hearing testimony as on of the chief conduits through which the radical Saudi form of Islam passes through to the US.[15] Professor Ali Assani of Harvard University has made the same assertions.[16]

Alleged link to Hamas and support for Islamic extremists

Senator Jon Kyl (R-AR) has asserted that ISNA is "accused of ties to Islamic extremists",[17] and Steven Emerson accused ISNA of ties to terrorism.[18]

Fox News reported that in 2007 and in July 2008, U.S. federal prosecutors filed court documents linking ISNA to Hamas, considered a terrorist organization by the U.S., and that they wrote in 2008 that they had "a wide array of testimonial and documentary evidence expressly linking" ISNA to Hamas and other radical groups.[19]

Fox News also reported that ISNA was suspected of ties to radical terrorism organizations worldwide, and that Frank Gaffney, president of the Center for Security Policy, said ISNA is associated with "The [Muslim] Brotherhood ... an instrument of what I call "soft jihad," as opposed to the "hard jihad" of terror. It's another way of accomplishing the common purpose of the Islamist, which is our destruction."[20] Critics also refer to ISNA's magazine and articles that quote individuals such as Sayyid Qutb, who according to the 9/11 Commission Report was a member of the Muslim Brotherhood whose writings inspired bin Laden. The magazine wrote that "Bin Laden shared Qutb's stark view, permitting him and his followers to rationalize -- even unprovoked -- mass murder as a righteous defense of an embattled faith."[21]

In addition, the American Muslim Congress, the Aafaq Foundation, the Center for Islamic Pluralism, the American Islamic Forum for Democracy, and the International Quranic Center charged in a letter in 2008 that ISNA:

"has a long history of association with extremist trends in Islam. ISNA has served as a front group for Wahhabism, the official sect in the kingdom of Saudi Arabia; the jihadist ideologies originating in Pakistan with the writings of a certain Mawdudi and the Deoband schools in that country - the latter of which produced the Afghan Taliban, and the Ikhwan al-Muslimun, or Muslim Brotherhood."

They claimed that ISNA promate a radicalism that, regardless of ISNA's rhetorical claims, is basically hostile to Jews and suppresses the intellectual and social development of Muslims."[22]


ISNA has been suspended from endorsing Muslim chaplains assigned to federal prisons, pending an FBI investigation into ISNA's activities.[23]

Antisemitic incident

A speaker at the 2009 national convention, Warith Deen Umar, a New York imam, asserted that the Holocaust happened to the Jews "because they were serially disobedient to Allah." He went on to allege that a group of Jews close to President Barack Obama "control the world."

ISNA immediately condemned the tenor of the comments.[24]

See also


  1. ^ "In Search Of Friends Among The Foes", The Washington Post
  2. ^ What You Need to Know about Islam and Muslims, p. 166, George W. Braswell, B&H Publishing Group, 2000, ISBN 0805418296, 9780805418293, accessed December 13, 2009
  3. ^ Transplanting religious traditions: Asian Indians in America, p. 166, John Y. Fenton, Greenwood Publishing Group, 1988, ISBN 0275926761, 9780275926762, accessed December 12, 2009
  4. ^ "In Search Of Friends Among The Foes", The Washington Post
  5. ^ The new encyclopedia of Islam, p. 251, Cyril Glassé, Rowman & Littlefield, 2008, ISBN 0742562964, 9780742562967, accessed December 12, 2009
  6. ^ The Muslims of America, pp. 16-17, Yvonne Yazbeck Haddad, Oxford University Press US, 1993, ISBN 0195085590, 9780195085594, accessed December 12, 2009
  7. ^ Indiana-based Islamic Society cleared in Senate investigation by King, Robert, Indianapolis Star, November 15, 2005
  8. ^ [1]
  9. ^ Muslim Groups Oppose a List of ‘Co-Conspirators’ - New York Times
  10. ^ Immigration policy and the terrorist threat in Canada and the United States, p. 147, A. Alexander Moens, Martin Collacott, The Fraser Institute, 2008, ISBN 0889752354, 9780889752351, accessed December 12, 2009
  11. ^ Surrender: Appeasing Islam, Sacrificing Freedom, p. 82, Bruce Bawer, Random House, Inc., 2009, ISBN 038552398X, 9780385523981, accessed December 12, 2009
  12. ^ [2]
  13. ^ J. Michael Waller (October 14, 2003). "Statement of J. Michael Waller (Annenberg Professor of International Communication Institute of World Politics) Before the Subcommittee on Terrorism, Technology and Homeland Security, Senate Committee on the Judiciary". US Senate Judiciary Committee. Archived from the original on February 12, 2008.  
  14. ^ Stupid Black men: how to play the race card-- and lose, p. 228, Larry Elder, Macmillan, 2008, ISBN 0312367333, 9780312367336, accessed December 12, 2009
  15. ^ Cancer In America: The Enemy Within - The Latent Islamic Invasion Into The New World And Its Adverse Affect On America, pp. 142-43, John U. Hanna, Trafford Publishing, 2004, ISBN 1412025834, 9781412025836, accessed December 12, 2009
  16. ^ Leadership Paradigms in Chaplaincy, p. 81, Joel Curtis Graves, Universal-Publishers, 2007, ISBN 1581123728, 9781581123722, accessed December 12, 2009
  17. ^ Infiltration: how Muslim spies and subversives have penetrated Washington, p. 200, Paul E. Sperry , Thomas Nelson Inc, 2005, ISBN 1595550038, 9781595550033, accessed December 12, 2009
  18. ^ "Top Reform Rabbi Gives Watershed Address to Largest U.S. Muslim Group," Marc Perelman, The Forward, September 5, 2007
  19. ^ "Feds Say Obama Prayer Leader Is From Group Linked to Hamas; Ingrid Mattson, president of the Islamic Society of North America, is the leader of a group that federal prosecutors say has ties to terrorists," Fox News, January 17, 2009, accessed December 29, 2009
  20. ^ "Critics Question DNC's Pick for Islamic Speaker at 'Interfaith' Gathering", Fox News, August 24, 2008, accessed December 24, 2009
  21. ^ "Critics Question DNC's Pick for Islamic Speaker at 'Interfaith' Gathering", Fox News, August 24, 2008, accessed December 24, 2009
  22. ^ Kopel, David, "Interfaith speakers raise questions", Rocky Mountain News, August 26, 2008, December 24, 2009
  23. ^ Infiltration: how Muslim spies and subversives have penetrated Washington, p. 200, Paul E. Sperry , Thomas Nelson Inc, 2005, ISBN 1595550038, 9781595550033, accessed December 12, 2009
  24. ^ Antisemitic Rant Causes Red Faces at Islamic Confab , Nathan Guttman, The Jewish Daily Forward, July 15, 2009 [3]

External links


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