via Discover the Networks: The Muslim Students Association of the US and Canada (MSA)
- Was the first Muslim Brotherhood affiliate to gain a foothold in the United States
- A key lobbying organization for the Wahhabi sect of Islam
- The flagship of some 600 campus MSA chapters nationwide, of which approximately 150 are affiliated with MSA National (while the rest are independent)
The Muslim Students Association of the United States and Canada, or MSA (also known as MSA National), was established mainly by members of the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) in January 1963 at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. Nyack College theologian Larry A. Poston writes that “many of the founding members of this agency [MSA] were members of, or had connections to,” the Muslim Brotherhood or Jamaat-i-Islami. The three most significant founders of MSA wereHisham al Talib, Jamal Barzinji, and Ahmed Totanji, and all of whom were MB leaders of Iraqi descent. Other noteworthy individuals who served as early co-founders of MSA were Mahboob Khan and Malika Khan.
The creation of MSA resulted from Saudi-backed efforts to establish Islamic organizations internationally in the 1960s, for the purpose of spreading its Wahhabist ideology across the globe. According to Alex Alexiev of the Center for Security Policy: “The Saudis over the years set up a number of large front organizations, such as theAl Haramain Foundation, the Muslim World League, the World Assembly of Muslim Youth, and a great number of Islamic ‘charities.’ While invariably claiming that they were private, all of these groups were tightly controlled and financed by the Saudi government and the Wahhabi clergy.” Moreover, these organizations commonlyshared personnel, money, and institutional affiliations.
The Saudis’ first foray into the United States came in the form of MSA, which, like the aforementioned Saudi-based groups, received its major funding and direction from Riyadh. According to a February 2008 New York Times report, MSA, from its earliest days, “pushed the [Saudi] kingdom’s puritan, Wahhabi strain of Islam.” In the 1960s and 70s, adds the Times piece, MSA chapters “advocated theological and political positions derived from radical Islamist organizations and would brook no criticism of Saudi Arabia.” In subsequent years, a number of additional Islamist organizations would grow out of MSA, whose own website states: “MSA National was the precursor of ISNA [the Islamic Society of North America], ICNA [the Islamic Circle of North America], MAYA [the Muslim Arab Youth Association], IMA [the Islamic Medical Association of North America], AMSS [the Association of Muslim Social Scientists], AMSE [the Association of Muslim Scientists and Engineers], MYNA [Muslim Youth of North America], Islamic Book Service, and the North American Islamic Trust.”
Stating that its mission is “to serve the best interest of Islam and Muslims in the United States and Canada so as to enable them to practice Islam as a complete way of life,” MSA presents itself as an apolitical, religious and cultural organization. In reality it is a radical political force and a key lobbying organization for the Wahhabi sect of Islam, telling students that America is an imperialist power and Israel an oppressor nation. MSA speakers routinely spew anti-Semitic libels and justify the genocide against the Jews which is promoted by Islamic terrorist organizations likeHamas and Hezbollah and by the government of Iran. The Center for Security Policy’s Alex Alexiev states:
“The majority of Muslim Student Associations at U.S. colleges are dominated by Islamist and anti-American agendas, as are most of the numerous Islamic centers and schools financed by the Saudis. Intolerance and outright rejection of American values and democratic ideals are often taught also in the growing number of Deobandi schools that are frequently subsidized by the Saudis.”
Hamid Algar, a faculty member at UC Berkeley, is the biographer of the late Ayatollah Khomeini and one of the world’s leading historians of Islamic spirituality. In his 2000 publication, Wahhabism: A Critical Essay, Algar candidly acknowledged MSA’s historical ties to radical Islam:
“Some Muslim student organizations have… functioned at times as Saudi-supported channels for the propagation of Wahhabism abroad, especially in the United States. The [MSA] was established in 1963, one year after the Muslim World League [MWL] with which it had close links. Particularly in the 1960s and 1970s, no criticism of Saudi Arabia would be tolerated at the annual conventions of the MSA … The organization has, in fact, consistently advocated theological and political positions derived from radical Islamist organizations, including the Muslim Brotherhood and Jamaati Islam…. Although the MSA progressively diversified its connections with Arab states, official approval of Wahhabism remained strong.”
Since its founding, MSA has grown into the most influential Islamic student organization in North America. It currently has chapters on nearly 600 college campuses; just over 150 of these chapters are affiliated with the national organization, while the remainder are independent entities whose policies and views may differ from those of MSA National.
MSA’s activities are guided at all times by a set of Islamist agendas that emphasize the importance of gaining power in the U.S., one campus at a time. Toward that end, the organization has published an MSA Starter’s Guide: A Guide on How to Run a Successful MSA, which states:
“It should be the long-term goal of every MSA to Islamicize the politics of their respective university … the politicization of the MSA means to make the MSA more of a force on internal campus politics. The MSA needs to be a more ‘In-your-face’ association … For example, the student body must be convinced that there is such a thing as a Muslim-bloc.” TheGuide further advises: “Aim to rise within the ranks of the Union [student government] and to get on selected executive committees … I cannot stress this enough, the Union has vast powers that Muslims need to control.”
In its quest for increased influence, MSA devotes many of its efforts and resources to the practice of da’wa — i.e., proselytization which consists of “inviting” non-Muslims, or “infidels,” to join the Islamic faith. Nyack College theologian Larry A. Postoncharacterizes MSA as “undoubtedly the most activist of the da’wa organizations in America.” In January 2005, former MSA UCLA member Ahmed Shama said:
“The only justification … that Muslims have to live in this country is da’wa…. [I]f we are not doing something to invite people to Islam, Muslims and non-Muslims, then we are missing the point what Islamic Movement is about…. The end goal of everything I was talking about is the establishment of, the reestablishment of, Islamic form of government.”
In 2007, MSA National’s website featured a document entitled, “Da’wa: Time to Come Out of Our Boxes,” advising MSA members to strategically adapt their da’wa to the particular cultural sensibilities of North Americans. For example: “Instead of using ‘Holy War’ to translate the word Jihad, use a more comprehensive and proper term like, ‘struggle’ or ‘striving’… Try to use language that is more appealing to North Americans.”