The Muslim World League (MWL) is a non-governmental organization that was founded in 1962 by members of the Saudi government—most notably then-Prince (later King) Faisal bin 'Abd al-Aziz—to help globalize Wahhabism, the extremist form of Islam practiced in Saudi Arabia. Still controlled and funded by the Saudi government, the Mecca-based MWL today has 36 satellite offices on 5 continents (including offices in New York, the District of Columbia, and London, as well as 10 "external centers" in Europe and 10 "external offices" in Africa and the Middle East). The League's Charter states that MWL strives to:
“discharge our obligation towards God, by conveying and proclaiming His Message all over the world”;
“reaffirm our belief that there shall be no peace in the world without the application of the principles of Islam”;
“invite all communities to vie with one another for the common good and happiness of mankind, establish social justice and a better human society”;
“call upon God to bear witness that we do not intend to undermine, dominate or practice hegemony over anyone else”;
“unite the ranks of the Muslims, and remove all divisive forces from the midst of the Muslim communities around the world”;
“remove obstacles in the way of establishing the Muslim world union”;
“support all advocates of charitable deeds”;
“reject all the pretenses of ancient as well as contemporary Jahiliah [attitudes of the pre-Islamic era]”; and
“always reaffirm the fact that Islam has no place for either regionalism or racism.”
To advance these various aims, MWL, which is closely tied to the Muslim Brotherhood, “employs all means that are not at variance with the Sharia [Islamic Law].” Such methods include:
“calling on individuals, communities and state entities to abide by the rules of the Sharia”;
“coordinating the activities of Islamic activists in the world”;
“enhancing the methods of Islamic propagation in conformity with the Holy Qur'an and the Sunnah”;
“raising the standard and productivity of Muslims in the fields of media, education, Da'wah [invitation to the faith] and culture”;
“organizing seminars and refresher courses”;
“taking advantage of the Hajj seasons to bring Muslim intellectuals together, and encourage the exchange of views among them”;
“supervising the activities of the Fiqh [Islamic Jurisprudence] Council” (which interprets Islamic Law, establishes principles of jurisprudence, and disseminatesfatawa, or religious edicts, upholding a strict Wahhabi fundamentalist interpretation of Islam);
“supporting efforts to promote and raise the standard of the Arabic language”;
“establishing Islamic bureau and centers to further Islamic purposes”;
“providing people affected by war and natural disasters with emergency relief”; and
“helping activate the role and the maintenance of Mosques.”
MWL has “Category A” observer status with the United Nations, and consultative status with the UN Economic and Social Council. It is also a member of the UN Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO); the Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (ISESCO); and the UN International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF). Moreover, the League is a founding member of the International Supreme Council for Da'wah and Relief, an Islamic recruiting center based in Cairo.
MWL is composed of eight distinct bodies: (1) the Commission on Scientific Signs in the Qur'an and Sunnah; (2) the Al Haramain & Al-Aqsa Mosque Foundation; (3) the Fiqh Council; (4) the Holy Quran Memorization International Organization; (5) the International Islamic Organization for Education; (6) the International Islamic Relief Organization; (7) the Makkah Al-Mukarramah Charity Foundation for Orphans; and (8) the World Supreme Council for Mosques.
From 1976-1980, Muzammil Siddiqi chaired the Department of Religious Affairs at MWL's Office to the United Nations. Siddiqi has praised Islamic suicide bombers as “those who die on the part of justice” and thus reside “with the Lord” in a place of “the highest honor.”â€¨ He also has predicted “the victory of Islam in Palestine” by means of jihad, which he describes as “the path” and “the way [for Muslims] to receive the honor.”
In 1979, then-King Abdulaziz University president Abdullah Omar Naseef—an Islamic extremist with a significant history of ties to al Qaeda—founded the Institute of Muslim Minority Affairs (IMMA), which, according to former Assistant United States Attorney Andrew McCarthy, seeks to “grow an unassimilated, aggressive population of Islamic supremacists who will gradually but dramatically alter the character of the West,” and to “infiltrate Sharia principles in our law, our institutions, and our public policy.” In 1983 (four years after establishing IMMA), Naseef became MWL's secretary-general.
In addition, two members of a Boston-based al Qaeda sleeper cell worked at MWL’s Pakistan office. One of the two, Nabil al-Marabh—number 27 on the FBI's list of Most Wanted Terrorists—was arrested by federal agents in Detroit shortly after 9/11; it was reported that he “intended to martyr himself in an attack against the United States.” The other operative, Raed Hijazi, was apprehended and tried in Jordan on charges that he was planning to blow up a hotel filled with Americans and Israelis on New Year’s Eve 1999/2000.
MWL at one time oversaw Rabita Trust, a now-defunct (since 2001) charity whose professed purpose was to give aid to Afghani refugees in Pakistan. The Trust came under investigation by the U.S. Senate Finance Committee based on evidence that it had knowingly funded terrorist groups.
MWL's current secretary-general, Abdullah Al-Turki, has noteworthy ties to al Qaeda and likens “Israeli oppression against the Palestinian people” to terrorism.
Efforts to Outlaw Criticism of Islam
MWL is an observer member of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, an inter-governmental coalition dedicated to outlawing, everywhere in the world, any and all criticism of Islamic peoples, practices, legal codes, and governments, and considers any and all negative portrayals (whether real, perceived or alleged) of Islam as "Islamophobia."
In January 2006, MWL secretary-general Abdullah Al-Turki stated that Muslims around the world were offended by a derisive series of cartoons lampooning the Prophet Mohammed that had recently appeared in Danish and Norwegian newspapers (sparking protest riots in numerous places across the globe). In a letter to United Nations secretary general Kofi Annan, Al-Turki pressed Annan to enact laws barring negative portrayals of Islam by the media thenceforth, and to immediately and directly demand that the Danish and Norwegian governments apologize to Muslims everywhere for the offending cartoons. Al-Turki also exhorted the international community to adopt a clear law criminalizing individuals and institutions that disrespect religions.
Platform for Anti-Semitism
In recent years, MWL has tried to promote itself as a leader in interfaith dialogue, organizing a major international conference dedicated to that theme in 2008 and pledging to hold similar events thereafter. To advance this image, the League has aggressively publicized its own outreach efforts to Jews and Christians while placing heavy emphasis on Islam's tolerant aspects. Nevertheless, MWL has often provided a platform for hateful, inflammatory rhetoric directed against Jews and the state of Israel. For example:
In November 2000, MWL’s constitutional council issued a statement “stressing the importance of applying shari’a in all Muslim countries”; urging all Muslim countries to incorporate Islamic education in all academic curricula and to endow shari’a chairs “at universities worldwide”; and advocating “support of the Palestinian jihad” against Israel and its “Jewish war criminals.”
In 2001, MWL secretary-general Abdullah Al-Turki derided “the true nature of the Jewish people … particularly where it is shown how perfidious the Jews are.”
Taking issue with then-U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell’s reference to Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, MWL in March 2001 declared Jerusalem to be “an Arab and Islamic city, not a Jewish one.” Nineteen months later, the League again called Jerusalem “an Arab and Islamic and not a Hebrew city.”
Also in 2001, MWL condemned a Hebrew translation of the Qur’an as “an attempt to realize their [the Jews'] aims of enmity towards the religion of Islam and to plant the seeds of doubt in what the Prophet Mohammad revealed.” “The Jews’ distortion of the book of Allah,” said Abdullah Al-Turki, “... is not a new matter—it is the natural disposition of the Jews who inherited this deception from their forefathers and their ancestors who perverted the Torah and Zaboor and the Bible.... The new Hebrew translation of the meaning of the Holy Qur’an adds a new perfidy to the perfidies of the Jews ...”
In January 2002, MWL's Islamic Fiqh Academy convened an assembly of Muslim scholars in Mecca. Denouncing the “heinous terrorism currently perpetrated by Jews in Palestine,” these scholars characterized Palestinian violence against Israelis as a form of jihad and legitimate self-defense. They also charged that the post-9/11 era was rife with Zionist plots designed to “stir up prejudice, animosity, hatred and discrimination against Islam and Muslims by associating them with terrorism.”
Also in 2002, former MWL secretary-general Abdullah bin Saleh al-Obeid wrote a letter to the U.S. Congress stating that the land of Israel had always been an Arab territory, and that the Jews were merely invaders who had very little moral or historical connection to it.
In May 2004, the chairman of MWL's Commission on Scientific Signs in the Qur'an and Sunnah gave justification for suicide bombings against non-Muslim enemies: “There is nothing wrong with [martyrdom] if they cause great damage to the enemy. We can say that if it causes great damage to the enemy, this operation is a good thing..”
In November 2004, MWL's assistant secretary for mosques & da'wah affairs, Abdul Rahman Abdullah Al-Zaid, stated: “The MWL is of the opinion that the danger of Israel is not only confined to the boundaries of Palestine, but it also threatens the peace and security in the Arab region, and even in the world at large.”
That same month, MWL held a meeting where the executive director of the World Forum of Muslim Scholars delivered an address titled “The Dogmatic Roots of Zionist Terrorism.”
Each year, MWL commemorates a 1969 act of arson committed by an Australian Protestant against the Al-Aqsa Mosque (in Jerusalem) as part of an ongoing “Zionist” conspiracy. In August 2006, Abdullah Al-Turki issued a statement warning against “the Zionist plans to demolish” that mosque.
In the summer of 2008, MWL invited Muslim Brotherhood leader Yusuf al-Qaradawi, who openly advocates jihad against Jews and the West, to speak at the League's First International Islamic Conference on Dialogue. At that forum, Qaradawi said he would “never sit with Jews on one platform and never hold dialogue with those Jews who have committed injustice against us and support Israel.” Other speakers included: (a) former Populist Party chairman William Baker, who authored a conspiratorial anti-Semitic book titled Theft of a Nation; and (b) Saudi Arabian grand mufti Abdul Aziz Aal al-Sheikh, who declared it impossible to have dialogue with the Jews because “they seem to be against us in every way.” The only Jewish speaker whom MWL invited to the conference was Rabbi Yisrael Dovid Weiss of Neturei Karta, a group that vehemently rejects Israel's right to exist. Weiss's appearance was ultimately cancelled in response to protests by Jewish groups.
In a January 2009 letter to UN secretary-general Ban Ki Moon, Abdullah Al-Turki described Israel's then-active military operation in Gaza—which had been launched in order to stop the barrage of Hamas rockets that were being fired incessantly into Israeli towns and cities—as “the worst form of state-sponsored terrorism ever known to the [sic] mankind.” Al-Turki alleged, among other things, that Israel was deliberately attempting to destroy Islamic mosques for no legitimate reason. That same month, MWL released a statement denouncing the “Israeli Holocaust in Gaza.”
On February 27, 2009, Abdullah Al-Turki denounced Israel's “evil plan to disperse civil strife and incitement of hatred and struggle between the nations.”