ISLAMISM'S CAMPUS CLUB:
THE MUSLIM STUDENTS' ASSOCIATION
By Jonathan Dowd-Gailey
Today, over 150 MSA chapters exist on American university and college campuses (divided into five regional chapters), easily establishing this organization as the most extensive Muslim student organization in North America. A Washington, D.C.-based national office assists in the establishment of constituent chapters and oversees fundraising and conferences, while steering a plethora of special committees and "Political Action Task Forces."
Yet consider some of these recent activities of the MSA:
At a meeting in Queensborough Community College in New York in March, 2003, a guest speaker named Faheed declared, "We reject the U.N., reject America, reject all law and order. Don't lobby Congress or protest because we don't recognize Congress. The only relationship you should have with America is to topple it … Eventually there will be a Muslim in the White House dictating the laws of Shariah." 
During an October, 2000, anti-Israeli protest, former MSA president Ahmed Shama at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), stood before the Israeli consulate in Los Angeles, shouting "Victory to Islam! Death to the Jews!" MSA West president Sohail Shakr declared at the same rally, "the biggest impediment to peace [in the Middle East] has been the existence of the Zionist entity in the middle of the Muslim world." 
Prior to September 11, 2001, the MSA formally assisted three Islamic charities in fundraising: the Holy Land Foundation, Global Relief, and Benevolence Foundation. After that date, all three were accused by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) of having serious links to terrorism and were ordered closed. The MSA issued a formal statement of protest: "How three of the nation's largest Muslim charities could be made inoperable at the peak of the giving season of Ramadan seemed unbelievable." 
This is only the tip of the iceberg. There is overwhelming evidence that the MSA, far from being a benign student society, is an overtly political organization seeking to create a single Muslim voice on U.S. campuses — a voice espousing Wahhabism, anti-Americanism and anti-Semitism, agitating aggressively against U.S. Middle East policy, and expressing solidarity with militant Islamist ideologies, sometimes with criminal results.
In the United States, two leading Saudi-backed organizations were the MSA and the Islamic Society of North America (the MSA's adult counterpart), both of which received major funding, direction, and influence from Riyadh.
Personnel, money, and institutional linkages bound these organizations together from their inception, and all roads led eventually to Riyadh. Ahmad Totonji, an MSA co-founder, later served as vice-president for the notorious Saudi SAAR Foundation (a network of charities named after Saudi benefactor Sulayman ‘Abd al-‘Aziz ar-Rajhi), which closed down in 2001 after federal agents discovered links to terrorist groups.  Another MSA co-founder, Ahmad Sakr, served on a number of Saudi-affiliated organizations, such as the World Council of Mosques. The MSA is very much a result of Saudi "petro-Islam" diplomacy.
Current estimates suggest that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia spends $4 billion annually on international aid, with two-thirds of that sum devoted to strictly Islamic development. Much of this largesse has ended up at Islamist organizations like MSA. Funded through private donations or through foundations and charities (only some of which the MSA officially reports),  MSA offers its Saudi benefactors a powerful tool. However, until the MSA's tax records are made public (on January 14, 2004, the Senate Finance Committee publicized a list of Islamic organizations whose financial records are sought, including the MSA),  the exact extent of foreign funding for the organization cannot be known.
But even without the tax records, there is plenty of evidence for the MSA's strident advocacy of the Saudi-style Wahhabi interpretation of Islam. In "Wahhabism: A Critical Essay," Hamid Algar of the University of California-Berkeley writes:
The MSA has played a major role in spreading Wahhabism. "Its numerous local chapters," Algar explains, "would make available at every Friday prayer large stacks of the [Mecca-based] World Muslim League's publications, in both English and Arabic. Although the MSA progressively diversified its connections with Arab states, official approval of Wahhabism remained strong." 
Stephen Schwartz goes further, stating in his June, 2003, testimony to the U.S. Senate's Subcommittee on Terrorism and Homeland Security:
The MSA reflects a prime characteristic of militant Islamic groups: a refusal to acknowledge the legitimacy of secular society and personal spirituality. The MSA's Starters Guide contains an open call to Islamicize campus politics:
All of this, the guide explains, results from the MSA's duty "to bring morality back into the campus" and to convince students to practice Islam "as a complete way of life."
In the process, the MSA preaches a creed of "special treatment" and "self-segregation" that sounds reminiscent of, and may actually borrow from, Afro-centric campus politics of the 1990s. Demanding that universities be more "Muslim-friendly," the MSA's newly established National Religious Accommodations Task Force (RATF) directs local MSA chapters to insist that universities provide separate housing and meals for Muslims only. 
The politics of segregation practiced by the MSA has included blanket marginalization of its own female members. Shabana Mir, writing for the American Muslim, summarizes the plight of Muslim women on campus:
The USA Patriot Act:
The MSA categorically opposes this legislation, describing it as "infamous." Chapters across the country have agitated against it, as well as against virtually every other security initiative since 9/11. At an MSA rally at the University of Pennsylvania, the co-chair of Muslims for Justice declared, "the Patriot Act is sending us in a backwards spiral, where the destination is chaos." 
The MSA opposed the military intervention against the Taliban regime, instead calling for a "police investigation." MSA National further advised that the entire matter would be best addressed at the International Criminal Tribunal. MSA chapters organized rallies demanding a ceasefire and held "Solidarity Fasts" to honor Afghans who, the MSA charged, would face massive starvation as a result of the war.
Even before the crisis of 2003, the MSA opposed every U.S. policy towards Iraq over the last twelve years. It strongly opposed the United Nations (U.N.)-authorized sanctions, claiming that the sanctions were "nothing short of a systematic genocide being carried out against civilian people."  The MSA condemned former President Clinton's 1998 strike against Iraq following Saddam Hussein's ouster of U.N. weapons inspectors, declaring that its "brothers and sisters in Iraq are once again being terrorized by the self-appointed champions of democracy." 
MSA National consistently pledges support for the war on terror and claims to merely "represent" student views. But it maintains control of the political agenda, leaving the chapters simply to mobilize support. Its chapters pointedly ignored the New York Shi‘ites who held vigils for their Iraqi brethren and the Michigan Kurds who rallied for Saddam Hussein's ouster. The MSA's decision to mobilize against the Bush administration took place without public debate and with no attempt at representing diverse views within the MSA. This approach is in keeping with the MSA's goal, as its official literature states, that the student body "be convinced that there is such a thing as a Muslim-bloc." 
Muslim students who refuse to submit to the MSA's position often find themselves harassed by their MSA peers. Oubai Shahbandar, an Arizona State University (ASU) student, expressed support for the Iraqi invasion and suffered condemnation from MSA members. Shahbandar states:
Shahbandar also explains what the MSA preaches on his campus:
Ominously, an 'awareness' document describes post 9/11 Homeland Security policies in the same terms as do extremist Muslims abroad — that is, as an assault explicitly against Islam. America: Post 9/11, an MSA document, states:
Not surprisingly, the MSA has expressed resistance, outrage, and cynicism with virtually every high-profile arrest of Muslim Americans charged with conspiring with terrorists. When former University of South Florida (USF) professor Sami al-Arian was arrested for directing U.S. operations for the terrorist group, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, the Florida campus MSA chapter held a press conference and stated:
The problem is that the MSA has been unable or unwilling to recognize that some Muslims, including its members, have crossed the line between political advocacy and material support for jihadist activities. In fact, MSA members and activities have repeatedly surfaced in police investigations. Some of these arrests received national media coverage, including the following:
In February, 2003, former head of the MSA chapter at the University of Idaho, Sami Omar al-Hussayen, was arrested with an indictment that he raised over $300,000 for the Islamic Assembly of North America, a group under federal investigation for funding terrorist groups. FBI agents believed Hussayen was communicating with two radical clerics, nicknamed the "awakening sheikhs," known for inspiring young Muslims to pursue the path of jihad and credited as major ideological mentors to Osama bin Laden. 
In April, 2003, the home of Arizona State University MSA president Hassan Alrafea was raided by the FBI, whose agents confiscated his computer and unspecified documents. 
The same pattern is also emerging in the United States, with groups of the extreme Left forging bonds with specific Muslim organizations, and, here again, we find the MSA figures prominently. Given the MSA's propensity for radical politics in a campus environment, it is no surprise that it has become arguably the Muslim organization most enmeshed with American Leftists. Consider the following:
Perhaps as a reward for its total opposition to every U.S. policy since the September, 2001, attacks, the MSA has been given a seat on the steering committee for International ANSWER (Act Now to Stop War and End Racism). ANSWER is an organization dedicated to defending rogue states and fighting "U.S. imperialism," and has been distinguished by its ability to organize the largest peace demonstrations in North America. ANSWER was formed by International Action Center, a Communist organization that supports Stalinist regimes worldwide, including North Korea and Saddam Hussein's Iraq. 
In its aggressive protest activities against recent Middle East wars, the MSA has developed strong working ties with numerous activist groups of the extreme Left. Among them: Free Palestine Alliance, Nicaragua Network, Kensington Welfare Rights Union, Mexico Solidarity Network, Korea Truth Commission, Young Communist League, Young Peoples' Socialist League, and Black Radical Congress.
As these examples suggest, the MSA boasts institutional ties with a host of radical issue-specific activist groups, all of them vehemently opposed to U.S. policy, and many of them openly anti-American.
The Center for Security Policy's Alex Alexiev argues:
The following examples illustrate both the degree and pervasiveness of hate-America vitriol that characterize the MSA:
Taliban propaganda is featured on the website of the University of Southern California MSA chapter. 
One featured article in Al-Talib (a magazine developed by the UCLA chapter of the MSA and not affiliated with the Taliban of Afghanistan) entitled, "The Spirit of Jihad," praised Osama bin Laden as a "prominent Muslim activist." The article goes on to say:
Another Al-Talib article, entitled "Americanization," states:
At an Al-Talib event to offer support for Imam Jamil al-Amin, convicted of killing a policeman, guest speaker Imam Abdul-Alim Musa said:
This anti-Americanism blends together almost seamlessly with a virulent discourse against the Jews and Israel. Consider the following:
At the 2001 MSA West conference, hosted by UCLA, cleric Imam Muhammad al-Asi stated:
The MSA continues to celebrate violence against Israel on its websites. At the MSA Northwest site, for example, images of Hamas suicide squads and child soldiers are proudly displayed above jihadist poetry, whose verse (erratically capitalized) celebrates violence:
In 2002, the MSA at the University of Michigan helped host the Second National Student Conference for Palestine Solidarity Movement. At that conference, one of the guest speakers was ex-University of Florida professor Sami al-Arian, who is now awaiting trial on terrorism-related charges.
Universities that host student organizations have an obligation to enforce basic standards of conduct, standards that the MSA has clearly breached. At the very least, MSA's most egregious behavior must face censure from those responsible for monitoring student conduct. University administrators must unchain themselves from cultural relativism and the ideology of "validation" and deal squarely with such misdeeds.
More importantly, however, the problem of the Muslim Students' Association illustrates the great question that confronts the West today: how does it cultivate liberalism [meaning here: constitutional democratic political philosophy] in Muslim communities living at home and abroad? Just as the U.S. policy of détente with the Arab world collapsed after September 11, to be replaced by a "forward strategy of constitutional democracy," it may be time to adopt a "forward strategy" within U.S. borders, focused on promoting moderate voices in mosques and campuses. To improve campus life for Muslims and non-Muslims alike, universities should work with moderate students to inaugurate a new Muslim students' organization, one that eschews the radical politics of the "old world" in favor of authenticity, diversity, and integration. A new Muslim student organization would return to the primary mission of religiously-based campus groups — to celebrate and share in the fellowship of faith.
 "The Constitution of the Muslim Students' Association of the U.S. and Canada,"
Muslim Students' Association of the U.S. and Canada, Washington, D.C., at
 WorldNetDaily, March 18, 2003, at http://www.worldnetdaily.com/news/article.asp?ARTICLE_ID=31571.
 Frontpage Magazine, April 4, 2003, at http://www.frontpagemagazine.com/Articles/Printable.asp?ID=7098.
 Sakeena Mirza and Ameena Qazi, "Robbing the Poor," al-Talib, vol. 12, no. 3, at http://www.al-talib.com/articles/v12_i3_a04.htm.
 "A Little Taste of History," Muslim Students' Association of U.S. and Washington, D.C., at http://www.msa-national.org/about/history.html.
 Alex Alexiev, "The Missing Link in the War on Terror: Confronting Saudi Subversion," Center for Security Policy, at http://www.centerforsecuritypolicy.org/index.jsp?section=static&page=alexiev.
 FrontPage Magazine, April 23, 2003, at http://www.frontpagemag.com/Articles/ReadArticle.asp?ID=7395.
 "List of Organizations that Donate Islamic Books and Da'wah Materials," Muslim Students' Association of the U.S. and Canada, Washington, D.C., at http://www.msa-natl.org/resources/Donation_Books.html.
 "Senators Request Tax Information on Muslim Charities for Probe," Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State, Jan. 14, 2003, at http://usinfo.state.gov/xarchives/display.html?p=washfile-english&y=2004&m= January&x=20040114155543zemogb0.8868524&t= usinfo/wf-latest.html. For details, see http://www.danielpipes.org/blog/164.
 Hamid Algar, "Wahhabism: A Critical Essay," in Yvonne Yazbeck Haddad and Adair T. Lummis, eds., Islamic Values in the United States (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1987), p. 124.
 Stephen Schwartz, "Terrorism: Growing Wahhabi Influence in the United States," testimony before the U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary, June 26, 2003, at http://www.globalsecurity.org/security/library/congress/2003_h/030626-schwartz.htm.
 MSA Starter's Guide: A Guide on How to Run a Successful MSA, 1st ed. (Washington, D.C.: Muslim Students' Association of the U.S. and Canada, March 1996), at http://www.msa-natl.org/publications/startersguide.html.
 "Religious Accommodations Task Force," Muslim Students' Association of the U.S. and Canada, Washington, D.C., at http://www.msa-national.org/taskforces/religious.html.
 Shabana Mir, "Gender-based Exclusionism at a Muslim Student Association, Part I," The American Muslim, July/Aug. 2003, at http://www.theamericanmuslim.org/2003jul_comments.php?id=347_0_21_0_C.
 "Rally against the Patriot Act," University of Pennsylvania Muslim Students' Association, at http://www.upenn-msa.org/subcommittees/pmj/patriotact.html.
 "MSA National Demands an Immediate End to the Inhumane U.N. Sanctions," Muslim Students' Association of the U.S. and Canada, Washington, D.C., Apr. 6, 2001, at http://www.msa-national.org/media/pressreleases/040601.html.
 "Muslim Students Condemn U.S. Attack on Iraq," Muslim Students' Association of the U.S. and Canada, Washington, D.C., Dec. 17, 1998 at http://www.msa-national.org/media/pressreleases/121798.html.
 MSA Starter's Guide, at http://www.msa-natl.org/publications/startersguide.html.
 Oubai Mohammad Shahbandar, "Open Letter from an Arab-American Student," FrontPage Magazine, June 2, 2003, at http://www.frontpagemag.com/Articles/Printable.asp?ID=8143.
 "MSA National Political Action Task Force, America: Post 9/11," Muslim Students' Association of the U.S. and Canada, Washington, D.C., at http://www.msa-national.org/media/actionalerts/political.pdf.
 The Wall Street Journal, May 29, 2003.
 Oubai Shahbandar, "U.S. Muslims as Patriots," The Arizona Republic, Oct. 11, 2003.
 Quoted by Mark Strauss, "Anti-Globalism's Jewish Problem," Foreign Policy, Nov./Dec. 2003.
 "National Conference against War, Colonial Occupation and Imperialism, May 17-18, New York City," ANSWER, at http://www.internationalanswer.org/news/update/041203m17conf.html.
 Alexiev, "This Missing Link on the War on Terror," at http://www.centerforsecuritypolicy.org/index.jsp?section=static&page=alexiev.
 Syed Rahmatullah Hashimi, "Taliban in Afghanistan," University of Southern California, Los Angeles, March 10, 2001, at http://www.usc.edu/dept/MSA/Taliban/talebanlec.html.
 Al-Talib, July 1999, quoted in FrontPageMagazine.com, April 23, 2003, at http://www.frontpagemag.com/Articles/Printable.asp?ID=7113. Al-Talib is listed as an official MSA Project by the UCLA chapter of MSA, at http://www.msa-ucla.com/projects.htm.
 Ghaith Mahmood, "Americanization: Solutions for a Small Planet?" al-Talib, vol. 12, no. 3, at http://www.al-talib.com/articles/v12_i3_a05.htm.
 Erick Stakelbeck, "Islamic Radicals on Campus," FrontPage Magazine, April 23, 2003, at http://www.frontpagemag.com/Articles/ReadArticle.asp?ID=7395.
"UCLA Sponsors of Terrorism," FrontPage Magazine, April 4, 2003, at http://www.frontpagemag.com/Articles/ReadArticle.asp?ID=7098.
 Atlantiz Miztery, "Palestine in War," South Seattle Community College Muslim Students' Association, at http://sscc.msanw.org/forum.htm.
Terrorism & American Homeland Security
Islamism & Jihadism -- The Threat of Radical Islam
Page Three Page Two Page One
The Middle East & the Arabs
War & Peace in the Real World
Page Two Page One
Islamist Terrorist Attacks on the U.S.A.
Osama bin Laden & the Islamist Declaration of War
Against the U.S.A. & Western Civilization
Islamist International Terrorism &
U.S. Intelligence Agencies
U.S. National Security Strategy
Jonathan Dowd-Gailey is a writer in Washington State. The original version his article can be found on the Internet website maintained by the Middle East Forum.
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