The Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA) was founded in 1971 as a "non-ethnic, non-sectarian, open-to-all, independent" grassroots organization. Its goal is “to seek the pleasure of Allah … through the … establishment of the Islamic system of life as spelled out in the Qur'an and the Sunnah of Prophet Muhammad.” Toward this end, ICNA endeavors to: “invite mankind to submit to the Creator by using all means of communications”; “motivate Muslims to perform their duty of being witnesses unto mankind by their words and deeds”; “organize those who agree to work for this cause in the discipline of ICNA”; offer educational and training opportunities to increase Islamic knowledge, to enhance character, and to develop skills for all those who are associated with ICNA”; “oppose immorality and oppression in all forms, and support efforts for civil liberties and socio-economic justice in the society”; “strengthen the bond of humanity by serving all those in need anywhere in the world, with special focus on our neighborhood across North America”; and “cooperate with other organizations for the implementation of this program and unity in the ummah [Muslim community].”
Based in Queens, New York, ICNA’s activities include training camps, study circles, speakers’ forums, night vigils, seminars, and retreats.
ICNA has established a reputation for bringing anti-American radicals to speak at its annual conferences. Moreover, experts have long documented the organization's ties to Islamic terrorist groups. Yehudit Barsky, a terrorism expert at the American Jewish Committee, has said that ICNA "is composed of members of Jamaat e-Islami, a Pakistani Islamic radical organization similar to the Muslim Brotherhood that helped to establish the Taliban." (Pakistani newspapers have reported that Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, a leading architect of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, was offered refuge in the home of Jamaat e-Islami's leader, Ahmed Quddoos.) On September 27, 1997, another Pakistani Islamist leader, Maulana Shafayat Mohamed, played host to an ICNA conference at his Florida-based fundamentalist madrassa (religious school), which served as a recruitment center for Taliban fighters.
In 2000, CNSNews.com made public a press release, originally posted on a Middle Eastern website, from a July 2000 ICNA meeting, which read: "Jamaat e-Islami's supporters have an organization in America known as ICNA …" The press release also recounted some of the views expressed at the aforementioned ICNA meeting. These included an exhortation that "Islam must be translated into political dominance"; pleas for support for "jihad" in "Chechnya, Kashmir, Palestine, Iraq [against U.S. forces], southern Sudan, and … in Bosnia/Kosova [sic]"; an appeal for unity among Pakistani Muslims against "Hindu Brahmins and Zionist Jews"; and an endorsement of Muslim women's inclusion in carrying out jihad. One Islamic leader present at the ICNA event complained about “human rights violations” being carried out by the U.S. government against the terrorist mastermind Omar Abdel Rahman, spiritual leader of Egypt's Islamic Group.
In part because of such revelations, ICNA is now under investigation by U.S. authorities for possible connections to terrorist groups. In December 2003, the U.S. Senate Finance Committee requested that the Internal Revenue Service provide detailed information on 25 U.S. Muslim organizations, including ICNA.
In March 1996, U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell stated, "One of the groups with Hamas ties is the Dallas-based Islamic Association for Palestine in North America, which, in turn, apparently is allied with the Islamic Circle of North America in New York." The New York Daily News reports that ICNA has been "probed by FBI counter-terrorism agents" for "terror ties."
Terrorism analyst Steven Emerson claims that ICNA has close ties to the Muslim Brotherhood, the ideological forebear of all radical Islamic movements -- including Hamas and al-Qaeda. Documents show that Hamas officials have participated in previous ICNA events. "The ICNA's hatred of the Jews is so fierce," writes Emerson, "that it taunted them with a repetition of what Hitler did to them." In his book American Jihad, Emerson expounds: "The ICNA openly supports militant Islamic fundamentalist organizations, praises terror attacks, issues incendiary attacks on western values and policies, and supports the imposition of Sharia [Islamic law]."
ICNA was named in a May 1991 Muslim Brotherhood document -- titled "An Explanatory Memorandum on the General Strategic Goal for the Group in North America" -- as one of the Brotherhood’s 29 likeminded "organizations of our friends" that shared the common goal of destroying America and turning it into a Muslim nation. These "friends" were identified by the Brotherhood as groups that could help teach Muslims "that their work in America is a kind of grand Jihad in eliminating and destroying the Western civilization from within and 'sabotaging' its miserable house by their hands ... so that ... God's religion [Islam] is made victorious over all other religions."
Also named in the Muslim Brotherhood document were:
ICNA's 2010 handbook laid out a five-level strategy towards achieving a “united Islamic state, governed by an elected khalifah in accordance with the laws of shari’ah (Islamic law),” right in line with the Muslim Brotherhood doctrine of gradualism.
On October 19, 2011, ICNA was one of 57 organizations to co-sign a letter that Farhana Khera, executive director of an Islamic organization called Muslim Advocates, wrote to Barack Obama’s then-Deputy National Security Advisor for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism (and later CIA director) John Brennan. The letter demanded that Obama officials “purge all federal government training materials of biased materials”—that is, materials that they claimed were biased against Islam—and “implement a mandatory re-training program for FBI agents, U.S. Army officers, and all federal, state and local law enforcement who have been subjected to biased training.” Joing ICNA as signatories were such groups as the Council on American-Islamic Relations, Islamic Relief USA, the Islamic Society of North America, the Muslim American Society, and the Muslim Public Affairs Council.
The Obama Administration immediately complied with the letter's demands. Dwight C. Holton, former U.S. Attorney for the District of Oregon, emphasized that same day that training materials for the FBI would be purged of everything that Islamic supremacists deemed offensive: “I want to be perfectly clear about this: training materials that portray Islam as a religion of violence or with a tendency towards violence are wrong, they are offensive, and they are contrary to everything that this president, this attorney general and Department of Justice stands for. They will not be tolerated.”
ICNA's 2012 national conference featured at least a dozen Islamist speakers, including some who have supported Hamas and have ties to the Muslim Brotherhood.
On March 5, 2012, ICNA launched an initiative known as Defending Religious Freedom, Understanding Shariah, for the purpose of combating “Islamophobia” and dispelling Americans' negative attitudes regarding Islamic law.