Originally named the American Sufi Muslim Association, the American Society for Muslim Advancement (ASMA) is a New-York based nonprofit organization which was co-founded in 1997 by Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf and Faiz Khan. The latter is a 9/11 conspiracy-theory activist (believing that the U.S. government was somehow involved in the attacks) who led prayers at Imam Rauf’s mosque until December 2009.
ASMA has been run by Rauf’s wife, Daisy Khan, since 2005. The organization’s mission is to “elevate the discourse on Islam,” “foster environments in which Muslims thrive,” and “strengthe[n] an authentic expression of Islam based on cultural and religious harmony.” Toward those ends, ASMA has created five separate inter- and intra-faith programs:
1) The Muslim Leaders of Tomorrow program is designed to “cultivate and empower a global network of young Muslim leaders, creating a platform that can maximize their collective impacts as social change agents.” This initiative seeks to help young Muslims gain influential positions as social activists and political officials.
2) The Women’s Islamic Initiative in Spirituality and Equity aimsto “build a cohesive, global movement of Muslim women that will reclaim women’s rights in Islam, enabling them to make dignified choices and fully participate in creating just and flourishing societies.” This initiative is consistent with Imam Rauf’s claim that authentic Islam is highly respectful of women’s rights and freedoms.
3) The ASMA Media program works to “promote an accurate, contextual, and balanced portrayal of Islam and Muslims, providing responsive and reliable information to media outlets and the general public.” The objective is to whitewash the aggressive and bellicose teachings of Islam; to portray them as isolated excerpts that, when viewed in their proper context, are merely anomalies that are unrepresentative of Islam’s generally peaceful goals.
4) The Arts and Culture program seeks to “highlight the artistic contributions of Muslims to contemporary American culture and world civilizations, evoking the universal language of beauty and inspiring rich cultural exchanges.”
5) The Interfaith program aims to “collaborate with other faith-based organizations to build relationships of trust through dialogue and education, honoring the diversity of faiths, sharing commonalities, and celebrating differences.”
One of ASMA’s top ongoing priorities is its so-called Cordoba Initiative, which was established in Colorado in 2004 and was registered as a nonprofit in New York five years later. The Cordoba Initiative’s mission is “to achieve a tipping point in Muslim-West relations,… bringing back the atmosphere of interfaith tolerance and respect that we have longed for since Muslims, Christians and Jews lived together in harmony and prosperity eight hundred years ago.” The Initiative’s preferred means of attaining this goal is to build a 13-story, $100 million mosque and Islamic Center (to be called “Cordoba House”) in downtown Manhattan. For that purpose, in July 2009 ASMA spent $4.58 million in cash to purchase, from the heirs to New York’s Pomerantz family, a plot of real estate situated approximately 600 feet from Ground Zero.
The Cordoba Initiative has received funding from sources in Malaysia and many other countries that are members of the Organization of the Islamic Conference. Moreover, financial records show that in fiscal year 2009, ASMA collected a number of international donations that totaled, collectively, at least $1.3 million. The largest sum, $576,312, came from Qatar. ASMA also received $481,942 from Holland’s Millennial Development Goals Fund; $144,752 from the Carnegie Corporation of New York; and $53,664 from the United Nations Population Fund.
In addition, ASMA has been the beneficiary of financial backing from the following major sources: Carnegie Corporation of New York; Danny Kaye & Sylvia Fine Foundation; Deak Family Foundation; Elizabeth Foundation; Ford Foundation; Global Fund for Women; Graham Charitable Foundation; Henry Luce Foundation; Ms. Foundation; Rockefeller Brothers Fund (which gave ASMA $70,000 in 2006 and $100,000 in 2007); Rockefeller Foundation; Russell Family Foundation; The Sister Fund; and the William & Mary Greve Foundation.