To read Part I, click here.
In the previous installment of this short series on the recent 15th Annual Muslim Student Association (MSA) West Conference, which I attended at the University of California, Santa Barbara, I gave a general overview of the conference. The article summarized its pro-Palestinian political agenda, its preoccupation with hyping the threat of Islamophobia, its appeal to political activism in addition to its emphasis on strengthening one’s Muslim faith and community, and its support from some of the most influential Muslim Brotherhood front groups in America. Now let’s look at some of the principal individual speakers involved and their messages.
The conference featured a range of professors, imams, businesspeople, media representatives, linguists, and even engineers. The biggest names were Imam Siraj Wahhaj and Edina Lekovich, Director of Policy and Programming for MPAC, the Muslim Public Affairs Council. Lekovich, a prominent Islamic face in the mainstream media, has claimed in the past that Muslims are everywhere being slaughtered by “Zionists,” and she edited a UCLA Muslim student paper that cast doubt on Holocaust claims and praised Ayatollah Khomeini and bin Laden as freedom fighters. At the UCSB conference her topic was “Beyond the Muslim Bubble,” which emphasized the very innocuous-sounding aim of “integrating ourselves into American society” to “build bridges with non-Muslims”: “We weren’t made to sit on the sidelines and not play an active role in society.”
Siraj Wahhaj, the imam of the Al-Taqwa mosque in Brooklyn, spoke at two main sessions at the conference: “Messengers of the Messenger,” about committing oneself to carrying forth the message of Muhammad today, and “Cultivating Our Own Spring,” about “actualizing our potential” to create a concrete foundation and strategy for the future. Both of his presentations were very vague and rambling. In the program booklet’s biography of Wahhaj, it wasn’t mentioned that he had been named as a possible co-conspirator in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, and had invited the infamous Blind Sheikh to address his congregation several times. It neglects to point out that he advocates replacing the U.S. government with an Islamic caliphate, and has supported violent jihad. “You don’t get involved in politics because it’s the American thing to do,” Wahhaj said in 1991. “You get involved in politics because politics are a weapon to use in the cause of Islam.” A few years later he stated that “In time, democracy will crumble, and there will be nothing, and the only thing that will remain will be Islam.”
The cagey Wahhaj and Lekovich said nothing so controversial in the course of their MSA West conference sessions, however. After all, in addition to avoiding exposing their radical message to outsiders like myself, they are also keen to seduce into the Brotherhood fold any naïve Muslim students who might be in attendance. But the mere presence of Wahhaj and Lekovich, as well as the involvement of Brotherhood legacy groups, as I mentioned, confirm the radical underpinnings of the MSA West conference.
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