International Institute of Islamic Thought

International Institute
of Islamic Thought
Abbreviation IIIT
Formation 1981
Type non-profit
Purpose Working from an Islamic perspective to promote and support research projects, organize intellectual and cultural meetings, and publish scholarly works.
Headquarters 555 Grove Street, Herndon, Virginia

The International Institute of Islamic Thought (IIIT) is a privately held non-profit organization.

The Institution is concerned with issues of Islamic thought. It was founded in 1981 in Pennsylvania, and is headquartered in Herndon, Virginia, in the suburbs of Washington DC.

Controversy has surrounded Islamist radicalism at the Institute, which was founded with seed money from the Muslim Brotherhood. The FBI has raided the Institute seeking evidence of contributing terrorists, while members have been arrested and found to be active leaders of terrorist organizations. An Institute book justified jihad against Israel and as liberation struggle, not terrorism.[1]

The Executive Director and Director of Research at IIIT, Dr. Louay Safi, is currently professor at Qatar Faculty of Islamic Studies in Doha, Qatar[2] and political spokesman[3] for the Syrian National Council.[4]

History and mission

The Institute describes itself as an intellectual forum working from an Islamic perspective to promote and support research projects, organize intellectual and cultural meetings, and publish scholarly works.[5]

The Institute publishes works produced by its own research programs, as well as contributions from around the world, in Arabic, English, and other major languages. IIIT publications include over 400 titles, distributed in various series and topics, in addition to quarterly journals in English and Arabic.[6]

IIIT published Maqasid Al-Shariah: A Beginners Guide by Jasser Auda in 2008.[7] This book has two sections that promote violence against non-Muslims. On page 28, the book states it is examining bias when it discusses Sura 9:5, 'The Verse of the Sword' (ayah al-sayf). In doing so the subject of abrogation is brought up and explained. Abrogation is the Islamic method of interpreting the Quran in which what was said later in Mohammad's life takes precedence over things he stated earlier in his life. Auda states this verse was stated during the period of war between the Muslims and the pagans of Makkah. He also states, "the verse was taken out of its historical and thematic context and claimed to have the defined ruling between Muslims and non-Muslims." However, Auda continues and provides several sources that are in agreement that 9:5 abrogates approximately 200 other verses that could be seen as in conflict. In doing so, he lists both "Classic and neo-traditional commentators" as in agreement with this concept but lists no one in opposition to this belief.

On Page 52: Jasser Auda writes: [Q]: How can Islam be an ethical way of life if it encourages terrorism?

The question is answered on the following page (p. 53) by the following statement: "The maqasid-based definition of terrorism is the following: An act of terrorism is an act in which innocent people (civilians or non-civilians) are harmed in any way that goes against the principles of justice and human dignity."

It is important to note that Jasser Auda is closely following Al-Qaeda's Ayman Zawahiri, whose words that declare the innocent to be Muslims. “If there is any innocent [i.e., Muslim] who was killed in the mujahedeen’s operations, then it was either an unintentional error or out of necessity.[8]"

Another book by IIIT official Abdul Hamid AbuSulayman entitled "Violence," published in 2001, said Israel is a "foreign usurper" that must be confronted with "fear, terror and lack of security." The book maintained "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 were justified acts of a liberation struggle, not terrorism.[1]

Muslim Brotherhood Affiliations

The Institute was founded in 1981 by members of the Muslim brotherhood (i.e. Dr. Jamal Bazinji, Dr. Hisham Yahya Altalib, Dr. 'Abdul Hamid Ahmad Abu Sulayman, etc.) and with seed money from the Muslim Brotherhood.[1] It has branches and offices in a number of major cities worldwide.[9]

In 2003 a Muslim Brotherhood document was discovered that listed the International Institute of Islamic Thought as one its organizations in America.[10]

Basheer Nafi and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad and Hamas

In 1996 Basheer Nafi, who had been working as a top-level researcher and editor at the Institute, was arrested by federal Immigration and Naturalization Service agents and charged with immigration fraud. He was considered an active leader of the Islamic Jihad terrorist organization who was working for a network of academic front groups, and was linked as well to the Islamist militant group Hamas.[11][12][13] He pleaded guilty to a lesser violation of his visa status, and was deported and barred from entering the U.S. for five years.[14]

Sami Al-Arian and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad

On March 20, 2002, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) officials raided the Institute and closed the Institute temporarily. The agents were seeking evidence that the Institute was contributing to terrorists, and seized about 25 computers and documents that included financial records, mailing lists, and staff lists.[15] The search was part of a larger FBI-Customs Service series of raids that included 19 other business and non-profit entities known as Operation Green Quest. "Such a massive ream of documents came out of those search warrants," one law enforcement official said, "it takes incredibly lengthy investigative work."[15]

The raids led to the convictions of two people, including Abdurahman Alamoudi, who worked for the SAAR Foundation. Alamoudi admitted that he plotted with Libya to assassinate the Saudi ruler and was sentenced to 23 years in jail.[16][17][18]

A leader of the Institute, Iqbal Unus, his wife and daughter brought suit charging that their rights were violated and the government was guilty of assault, trespass, and false imprisonment when their home was searched in the raid. A federal judge dismissed the suit, however. The lawsuit had also named a terrorism researcher, Rita Katz, as a defendant, but the judge dismissed her from the case and awarded her $41,000 in legal fees.[17]

The Institute was a leading financier of Sami Al-Arian's now-defunct World and Islam Studies Enterprise, a "think tank" shut down after the FBI confiscated its files in 1995. That think tank raised money for the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, which the State Department labeled a terrorist group in 1995.[19][20] Al-Arian pleaded guilty in 2006 to helping a terrorist organization, and was sentenced to 57 months in prison. Taha Jaber Al- Awani, an officer of the Institute, was named an unindicted co-conspirator in Al-Arian's case.[21]

The Institute, whose money was believed to come from wealthy Saudi Arabians through the SAAR Foundation (a tightly connected Herndon-based network of more than 100 organizations; also known as the Safa Group), also funded other Al-Arian organizations, including the Tampa Bay Coalition for Justice and Peace, the Islamic Academy of Florida and the Islamic Committee for Palestine.[22][23] Two incorporators of the Islamic trust that owns the Islamic Academy of Florida were Jamal Barzinji and Hisham Al-Talib, both of whom also served as directors of the Institute.[24]

Attorneys for the Institute claimed that the raid violated its free speech and privacy rights, and asked U.S. Magistrate Judge Theresa C. Buchanan to order the boxes of records returned. But on May 4, 2002, the Judge found that the investigative agents had acted properly, and declined to lift her order sealing the affidavits, though she urged prosecutors to return seized property as soon as possible.[25]

In October 2002, Virginia Representative James P. Moran, Jr., said he was returning donations from the Institute, as: "I don't want any contributors to my campaign contributing to any individuals or organizations, even inadvertently, that might fund terrorism or organizations involved in terrorism."[26]

In 2007 he refused to answer questions to a grand jury about the Institute, he was found guilty of civil contempt and jailed for 13 months. On October 16, 2006, and on March 20, 2008, Al-Arian refused to answer questions about the Institute before a federal grand jury, asserting that he believed his life would be in danger if he testified. He was charged with criminal contempt the following month for unlawfully and willfully refusing court orders that he testify as a grand jury witness.[16][27][28][29] On September 2, 2008, he was released from custody and put under house arrest at his daughter Laila's residence in Northern Virginia, where he is being monitored electronically while he awaits trial on criminal contempt charges.[30] While under federal law, Al-Arian could not be jailed for more than 18 months for civil contempt, the law does not have a time limit for criminal contempt.[31]

The Institute canceled its $1.5 million offer to Temple University for an endowed chair in Islamic studies after concerns were raised about the Institute's possible funding of suspected terrorists, it was reported in January 2008. Negotiations between Temple and the Institute broke down after trustees and others pressed Temple to reject the gift. Temple president Ann Weaver Hart had said that “after much discussion and consideration, Temple decided to neither accept or reject this generous offer. The university indicated that no decision regarding this matter would be made until post-9/11 federal investigations of the IIIT are complete."[32]

Tarik A. Hamdi and al-Qaeda

Tarik Hamdi came to the United States and applied for citizenship providing false information.[33][34] Hamdi worked for Sami Al-Arian, who confessed to providing assistance to the PIJ (Palestinian Islamic Jihad) and later worked for IIIT.

In May 1998 ABC News in pursuit of an interview with Bin Laden had communicated with Mohammad Atef and were directed to Tarik Hamdi as a person who could connect them to Osama Bin Laden. ABC connected with Tarik Hamdi at his place of employment at IIIT. ABC was able to get the interview. Hamdi was able to deliver a Satellite phone battery pack that according to federal agents was used three months later in the bombing of American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.[35]

It took until 2005 for Tarik A. Hamdi, who was employed as a publisher at IIIT, to be charged in a federal affidavit of having been the "American contact" for one of Osama bin-Laden's front organisations.[36][37]

Contributions to Esam Omeish candidacy for state assemblyman

In 2009 Esam Omeish ran for State Assemblyman in the Democratic Party primary election in the 35th District of the Virginia House of Delegates.[38][39] Omeish raised $143,734 for his campaign the fourth-largest amount of fundraising statewide among all Virginia House of Delegates candidates.[40] His third-highest contributor was the International Institute of Islamic Thought.[41] Omeish had made controversial statements reflecting radical views, including "you have learned the way, that you have known that the jihad way is the way to liberate your land.",[38][42][43] Omeish also accused Israel of genocide and massacres against Palestinians, and said the "Israeli agenda" controls Congress.[44][45] Omeish also was the one who hired Anwar al-Awlaki to what would become known as the "9/11 mosque" in Virgnia. Awalki, who had previously been investigated for links to Al Queda, was linked to the 9/11 hijackers, and is now targeted for killing by the US government.

See also


  1. 1 2 3 Mintz, John, and Farah, Douglas, "In Search Of Friends Among The Foes; U.S. Hopes to Work With Diverse Group", The Washington Post, September 11, 2004, accessed January 27, 2010
  2. "Our Faculty | Qatar Faculty of Islamic Studies". Retrieved 2016-01-15.
  3. "'A good beginning,' Brahimi says of first day of Syria peace talks | The Back Channel". Retrieved 2016-01-15.
  4. Barnard, Anne (2012-03-14). "Syria Opposition Group Is Routed and Divided". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2016-01-15.
  5. "About IIIT". Retrieved 2016-01-15.
  6. "IIIT Publications," International Institute of Islamic Thought, accessed January 27, 2010
  7. Auda, J., 2008, Maqasid Al-Shariah: A Beginners Guide, International Institute of Islamic Thought
  8. Ibrahim, R.(2007) The Al Qaeda Reader: The Essential Texts of Osama Bin Laden's Terrorist Organization, p. 168
  9. About Us International Institute of Islamic Thought
  10. An Explanatory Memorandum, May 22, 1991
  11. Schmitt, Christopher H., and Kurlantzick, Joshua, "When charity goes awry; Islamic groups say they may lose control of money they send overseas," U.S. News and World Report, October 21, 2001, accessed January 26, 2010
  12. Fechter, Michael, "U.S. deports Jihad figure," Tampa Tribune, July 3, 1996, accessed January 26, 2010
  13. Branigan, William, "U.S. Cites Immigration Offense In Quickly Deporting Palestinian; Herndon Arrest Followed FBI Probe of Think Tank," The Washington Post, July 5, 1996, accessed January 26, 2010
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  15. 1 2 Markon, Jerry, "Muslim Anger Burns Over Lingering Probe of Charities", The Washington Post, October 11, 2006, accessed January 27, 2010
  16. 1 2 Markon, Jerry, "Witness Is Silent in Terror Probe; Ex-Professor Says Grand Jury Testimony Would Endanger Him," The Washington Post, November 14, 2006, accessed January 27, 2010
  17. 1 2 Gerstein, Josh, "Judge Dismisses Suit Questioning Federal Tactics," New York Sun, November 8, 2007, accessed January 27, 2010
  18. Gerstein, Josh, "A Prosecutor Is Called 'Relentless'," New York Sun, July 28, 2008, accessed January 27, 2010
  19. Jacoby, Mary, "Muslims denounce raids linked to Al-Arian," St. Petersburg Times, March 22, 2002, accessed January 26, 2010
  20. Miller, Judith, "A Nation Challenged: The Money Trail; U.S. Raids Continue, Prompting Protests," The New York Times, March 22, 2002, accessed January 26, 2010
  21. Fechter, Michael, "Affidavit Ties In Al-Arian", Tampa Tribune, October 18, 2003, accessed January 27, 2010
  22. "Islam", St. Petersburg Times, March 11, 2003, accessed January 27, 2010
  23. Jacoby, Mary, "Affidavit: Al-Arian's group got money from Saudi charity; The former USF professor's civil liberties group received $10,000 from a group linked to terrorism, a statement from a U.S. Customs Service agent says," St. Petersburg Times, August 1, 2003, accessed January 27, 2010
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  30. "Ex-Professor in Palestinian Case Is Freed After 5 Years", The Washington Post, September 3, 2008, accessed March 8, 2010
  31. Gerstein, Josh, "Al-Arian Indicted for Refusal To Testify in Charities Cases", New York Sun, June 27, 2008, accessed March 11, 2010
  32. "U.S. probe makes Islamic group drop university offer," China Post, January 7, 2008, accessed January 27, 2010
  33. USA vs. Tarik Hamdi, Superseding Indictment
  34. USA vs. Tarik Hamdi, Indictment
  35. USA vs. Tarik Hamdi, Affidavit of David Kane
  36. Sherman, Mark, "'Bin Laden contact' working for Iraq ministry", The Independent, August 12, 2005, accessed January 27, 2010
  37. "US man linked to al-Qaida works for Iraq", Bangor Daily News, August 12, 2005, accessed January 27, 2010
  38. 1 2 Osborne, James (June 8, 2009). "Clinton Invites Controversial Muslim Leader on Conference Call". Fox News. Retrieved December 31, 2009.
  39. ""2009 Elections > Virginia > House of Delegates (35) > Esam S. Omeish (D); About The Candidate", ''The Washington Post'', accessed January 18, 2010". Retrieved January 24, 2010.
  40. "O'Donoghue, Julia, "Lots of Cash Flowed Into 35th Delegate Primary," ''Vienna Connection'', June 10, 2009, accessed January 21, 2010". June 10, 2009. Retrieved January 24, 2010.
  41. "All Receipts Reported by Esam S Omeish Committees," VPAP, accessed January 26, 2010
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  45. Stealth jihad: how radical Islam is subverting America without guns or bombs, Robert Spencer, Regnery Publishing, 2008, ISBN 1-59698-556-9, 9781596985568, accessed December 9, 2009

External links

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