- Mother of Huma Abedin and Hassan Abedin
- Longtime affiliate of the the Institute of Muslim Minority Affairs
- Board member of the International Islamic Council for Dawa and Relief
- Director of the International Islamic Committee for Woman and Child
- Founding member of the Muslim Sisterhood, the women’s division of the Muslim Brotherhood
Born in 1940 in what is now Pakistan, Saleha Mahmood Abedin is the widow of the late Syed Abedin, an Indian-born academic who taught at the prestigious King Abdulaziz University in Saudi Arabia during the early 1970s. In 1976 Saleha gave birth to a daughter, Huma Abedin, while she and her husband were living in the United States. The following year, Saleha earned a PhD in sociology from the University of Pennsylvania.
In 1978, the Abedin family relocated from Kalamazoo, Michigan to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. This move took place when Abdullah Omar Naseef, then-vice president of Abdulaziz University, recruited Syed Abedin, who had been his colleague at the University earlier in the decade, to work for the Institute of Muslim Minority Affairs (IMMA), a Saudi-based Islamic think tank that Naseef was preparing to launch. Both Syed and Saleha Abedin would serve as editorial-board members of IMMA’s in-house publication, the Journal of Muslim Minority Affairs (JMMA). It should be noted that Abdullah Omar Naseef was an Islamic extremist with a significant history of ties to al Qaeda. Moreover, in 1983 he became secretary-general of the Muslim World League (MWL), and in 1988 he created the Rabita Trust. In the 1990s, Saleha Abedin herself would serve as an agent of MWL.
After her husband died in 1993, Saleha Abedin became the director of IMMA; today she serves as editor-in-chief of its Journal. In one noteworthy article which she wrote in JMMA, Abedin blamed America for having brought the 9/11 attacks upon itself. Specifically, the article claimed that America’s “spiral of violence” was creating enormous levels of “anger and hostility” in the Muslim world, while “injustices” (such as economic sanctions) that the U.S. was imposing on certain Muslim countries were giving rise to a “time bomb” of Islamic rage.
In addition to her duties with IMMA, Abedin is a board member of the International Islamic Council for Dawa and Relief (IICDR), a Union of Good-affiliated organization that has long been banned in Israel because of its ties to the terrorist organization Hamas.
Abedin also directs the Amman, Jordan-based International Islamic Committee for Woman and Child (IICWC), a Muslim World League affiliate that identifies itself as part of the aforementioned IICDR. Abiding by a charter authored by Yusuf al-Qaradawi and several other leading Muslim Brotherhood members, IICWC advocates the implementation of strict Sharia Law and calls for the repeal of Egyptian statutes that currently ban female genital mutilation, child marriage, and marital rape. Because each of these practices find doctrinal support in Sharia, IICWC favors them.
Saleha Abedin is an influential founding member of the Muslim Sisterhood, a pro-Sharia entity composed of the wives of some of the highest-ranking leaders in the Muslim Brotherhood. A report by the Egyptian opposition newspaper Al-Liwa Al-Arabi says that these women are recruited to: “smuggle secret documents”; “spread the Brotherhood’s ideology by infiltrating universities, schools and homes”; “fulfill the interests of the Brotherhood”; and “organiz[e] projects which will penetrate [the Brotherhood’s] prohibited ideology into the decision-making in the West … under the guise of ‘general needs of women.’” One particularly noteworthy member of the Sisterhood is Nagla Ali Mahmoud, wife of Mohammed Morsi (the Islamist who was elected president of Egypt in June 2012).
Saleha Abedin is perhaps best-known for her efforts in editing and translating (into English) author Fatima Umar Naseef’s 1999 book, Women in Islam: A Discourse in Rights and Obligations, which quotes extensively from the writings of the eminent Muslim Brotherhood theorist Sayyid Qutb. Lauding Naseef as “a prominent Saudi scholar,” Abedin describes the book as “a comprehensive study of the rights and obligations of women in society from the Islamic perspective.” Specifically, the book asserts that all Muslim women must wear the hijab, or veil; that Sharia offers women “the only escape” possible from the tyranny of manmade laws that “enslave” them; that female genital mutilation is permissible; that stoning and lashing are appropriate punishments for adultery; that apostates should be executed for abandoning the Muslim faith; that those who kill apostates should not be subject to the death penalty; that women are not only permitted, but obliged, to participate in violent jihad; that social interaction between the sexes is forbidden; that women have no right to abstain from sex with their husbands; that a woman should not let anyone into her family’s house unless approved by her husband; and that free speech should not be permitted if it does not “benefit” Islam.
Emails obtained via a Freedom Of Information Act lawsuit by the conservative watchdog group Judicial Watch in 2017, showed that in 2010 Abedin had helped then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton formulate a speech which she gave at Dar Al Hekma, a women’s college in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia that Abedin herself had co-founded. Specifically, Abedin enumerated the following “IMPORTANT POINTS TO REMEMBER”:
“Do not use the political terms such as ‘democracy/ elections/ freedom.’ Do not use the term ‘empowerment of women’ instead say ‘enabling women’ and use other terms such as ‘partnership/participation’. Do not even mention driving for women! The last visitor received a torrent of rejoinders from the students who said they have more important challenges to contend with.
“Don’t sound sympathetic to ‘women’s plight’ or be ‘patronizing’ as other visitors have done and made the students extremely annoyed. They rightly consider these as in-house issues that they would like to address themselves and not for outsiders, no matter how well intentioned, to come in and tell them.”
In addition to her aforementioned activities and associations, Abedin has been a member of several interfaith organizations, including the Millennium World Peace Summit, the Vienna Round Table for Christian Muslim Dialogue, the Peace Council, the Parliament of World Religions, and the World Council of Muslims for Interfaith Relations. She is also a sociology lecturer at Dar Al-Hekma College, and a Professor of Sociology at the King Abdulaziz University Women’s College (also in Jeddah).
Saleha Abedin’s daughter, Huma Abedin, worked at IMMA for 12 years (1996-2008) and is closely affiliated with Hillary Rodham Clinton. Saleha’s other daughter, Heba Abedin (formerly known as “Heba A. Khaled”), worked alongside Huma an assistant editor with JMMA, and continues in that role to this day. And Saleha’s son, Hassan Abedin, has ties to the Muslim Brotherhood and is an associate editor of JMMA.
Further Reading: “Saleha Abedin and the Muslim Sisterhood” (Andrew Bostom, 7-22-2012); “Our Government and the Muslim Brotherhood” (Andrew C. McCarthy, 8-9-2012); “Huma Abedin and the Muslim Brotherhood: Closely Connected” (Andrew C. McCarthy, 7-24-2012); “Exclusive: Huma Abedin’s Sister (Heba) Also Connected to Muslim Brotherhood” ( 2012); “Abedin’s Mom Made Sure Clinton’s Saudi Speech Omitted ‘Freedom’ and ‘Driving for Women,’ Emails Show” (Fox News, 9-14-2017); “Meet Saleha Abedin, the Mother of Clinton’s Aide Huma Abedin” (Al Arabiya, 11-8-2016).