Frontpage, by Marilyn Stern,Sep. 28, 2015:
American interfaith groups are being infiltrated and undermined by the Muslim Brotherhood-affiliate, the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA). In their eagerness to find Muslim faith partners whom they want to believe share their values of religious tolerance and mutual respect, Jewish interfaith leaders allow themselves to be exploited. Under the guise of interfaith dialogue, Islamist organizations like ISNA that have ties to extremism, insinuate themselves into faith organizations while advancing their hidden agendas. Faith leaders who disregard ISNA’s ulterior motives place their congregations at risk.
In its June 2015 ruling in favor of Samantha Elauf, a Muslim woman who was denied employment for wearing a headscarf, the Supreme Court reaffirmed the American judiciary’s prohibition on workplace discrimination based upon religious practice. In the American melting pot, there are benefits to all faiths that successfully negotiate societal challenges between the secular and the religious, but these benefits are only guaranteed by a legal system that upholds a universal human rights standard. Blind spots in the interfaith movement, however, undermine common cause when religious leaders pursue interfaith outreach at any cost.
One such example was described in an article in a Jewish community paper written by a participant in a Christian/Jewish interfaith partnership with the Muslim organization, the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA). The current head of ISNA’s interfaith relations, Dr. Sayyid M. Syeed, a sociolinguist by training, is a founder and former executive of ISNA. At the invitation of its rabbi, Nancy Fuchs Kreimer, Syeed met with faith leaders of various denominations, professors of religion, and “interested citizens” at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College (RRC) in suburban Philadelphia. The rabbi presented Syeed “to guide our thinking about these issues.” Rabbi Kreimer is founding director of the Multifaith Studies Department of the RRC, the seminary of a branch of Judaism on the left side of the political spectrum and self-described as liberal progressive.
In Kreimer’s article, “Standing with American Muslims, Upholding American Values,” also the title of ISNA’s key interfaith program, the rabbi extolled the virtues of partnering with ISNA in its interfaith initiatives. She stated that ISNA is the largest membership organization of Muslims in America to support the RRC’s plan to engage in “relationship-building” retreats. Kreimer’s article was published in the March 10, 2015 issue of the Philadelphia Jewish Federation’s newspaper, the Jewish Exponent, under its editor at the time, Lisa Hostein, whose stated priority for the paper was “inclusiveness.” Kreimer’s endorsement of ISNA was disseminated to the Exponent’s circulation of 30,000 households.
ISNA’s website page, “About ISNA,” states that it works with various religious organizations on a range of public policy issues to “provide…outreach programs…with religious communities and civic organizations.” Touted among “ISNA Accomplishments,” is that it has “condemned and rejected the actions of terrorists and terrorism as being completely antithetical to the teachings of Islam.”
Among the “relationship building” ISNA initiatives Kreimer referenced are the program, Shoulder-to-Shoulder, part of an interfaith coalition “dedicated to ending anti-Muslim sentiment”; Walking the Walk, aimed at high school students as a project of the Interfaith Center of Philadelphia and Religions for Peace (USA); and ISNA’s online resource book, Sharing the Well: A Resource Guide for Jewish-Muslim Engagement. Shoulder-to-Shoulder hosted a leadership seminar for Jewish and Christian “emerging religious leaders” who attended ISNA’s annual convention earlier this month.
What do all these initiatives share in common? ISNA’s interfaith guide, Dr. Sayyid Syeed.
Who is Dr. Sayyid Syeed?
In 2003, prior to Syeed’s current role as ISNA’s interfaith guide, Syeed met with the editorial board of theDallas Morning News to discuss how reporters “needed to partner with ISNA to promote peace and tolerance.” Rod Dreher, an editorial writer and columnist at the paper who had looked into ISNA’s board members, asked Syeed why, if ISNA claims to promote peace and tolerance, were so many of its board members directly connected to Islamic extremism. Syeed’s mask of professorial demeanor abruptly dropped as he shook his fist at Dreher, comparing him to a Nazi inquisitor. Rather than answering Dreher’s question, Syeed accused Dreher of bigotry and persecution with the veiled threat that Dreher should “repent.”
In Dreher’s words:
I told him mine was a fair question, and that I would appreciate an answer. I didn’t get one. But I had learned an important lesson about how groups like his operate: by evading legitimate queries, and browbeating journalists into retreat by calling them bigots and persecutors.
Soon after reporting his experience in the paper, Dreher found himself labeled “The New Face of Hate” on an Islamic blog because of his paper’s investigative articles uncovering “alleged connections between the Holy Land Foundation (HLF) charity and Hamas.” HLF is a known affiliate of the Muslim Brotherhood, a supremacist Muslim organization with its origins in the Middle East, and Hamas, designated a foreign terrorist organization by the U.S. State Department since 1997.
The term “Islamophobia” is invoked by Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated organizations to avoid scrutiny from journalists like Dreher, enforce Islamic sharia anti-blasphemy laws and restrict freedom of speech. A mass media campaign to promote the use of the term was launched by the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in 2005 as the Ten Year Programme of Action. According to the OIC’s website, it is “the second largest inter-governmental organization after the United Nations which has membership of 57 Member States spread over four continents.” Since 1998, the OIC has pressed for a U.N. resolutionto counter what it calls discrimination against Islam. The OIC’s public relations campaign adopted the term “Islamophobia” from a 1997 report by the Runnymede Trust, a British think tank, to muzzle critics of sharia anti-blasphemy law.
The OIC Secretary General endorsed ISNA’s interfaith programs and Syeed attended a June 2013 OIC-hosted meeting in Geneva, Switzerland, held to “determine how best to implement ‘measures to criminalize incitement to imminent violence based on religion or belief.’” As a result of the OIC’s successful “Islamophobia” propaganda campaign, First Amendment-protected free speech in America has suffered, primarily through self-censorship. This censorship ranges from a largely complicit mainstream media to individuals intimidated by U.S. Islamist entities attempting to silence them through lawsuits, as part of an intimidation strategy that has come to be called lawfare. The “Islamophobia” label is a handy tactic employed by Brotherhood groups to shield Islamists from exposure as the OIC inches closer to their goal of criminalizing any perceived slight to Islam.
Dreher’s 2008 Hudson Institute article, “Reporting the Muslim Brotherhood,” included ISNA as one of the U.S. Muslim Brotherhood’s front group organizations. Challenging Syeed’s disingenuousness, Dreher concluded that while ISNA and other U.S. Muslim Brotherhood-related groups have the right to their beliefs as long as they don’t engage in violence, these groups deserve “informed opposition” to expose their hidden agendas and make them, and their apologists, accountable.