The Institute of Islamic and Arabic Sciences in America (IIASA) was established in 1988 as a nonprofit organization in Fairfax, Virginia. A satellite of Ibn Saud Islamic University in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, IIASA’s objectives are to: (a) “educate the American society about Islamic studies and Arabic language and culture”; (b) “provide continuing undergraduate and graduate education in Islamic Studies and diplomas in Arabic language”; (c) “conduct scholarly research in the filed of Islamic studies”; (d) “collaborate with American educational institutions interested in Islamic studies, and … assist them to spread (sic) the Arabic language and Islamic civilization”; (e) “promote public dialogue and education about Islamic teachings and Muslim culture”; and (f) “use all manner of legal communications to accomplish these goals.”
IIASA is funded by, and serves as an arm of, the Saudi embassy’s Religious Affairs Department. The Institute’s Board Chairman is the former Saudi ambassador to America (from 1983 to 2005), Prince Bandar Bin Sultan. Axis Information and Analysis (AIA), which specializes in information about Asia and Eastern Europe, rated Bin Sultan as the single most influential foreigner in America. With links to high-ranking officials in the State Department, Pentagon, and CIA, Bin Sultan was a key participant in many clandestine negotiations pertaining to U.S. interests in the Middle East. According to AIA, in 1990-91 it was he who pushed President George H.W. Bush to launch the military campaign to drive Iraqi forces out of Kuwait. Moreover, his father — Sultan Bin Abdul Aziz al Saud — was a leading figure in the ruling Saudi dynasty.
IIASA has been a major center for Saudi-sponsored Islamic outreach in America, training imams for local mosques in addition to at least 75 Muslim lay chaplains for service in the U.S. armed forces. Its 400 students pay no tuition. In late 2002, Ali al-Ahmed, a prominent Saudi dissident then based in Washington, DC, charged that IIASA, in its instruction on Islam, hewed to an ultra-radical line. Al-Ahmed analyzed literature produced by IIASA, including an Arabic-language textbook titled A Muslim’s Relations with Non-Muslims, Enmity or Friendship by Dr. Abdullah al-Tarekee, who wrote: “Unbelievers, idolaters and others like them must be hated and despised … Qur’an forbade taking Jews and Christians as friends, and that applies to every Jew and Christian, with no consideration as to whether they are at war with Islam or not.” Based on his findings vis a vis IIASA’s role as a distributor of extremist literature, al-Ahmed called on U.S. and Saudi authorities to close the school and repatriate its staff.
According to the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, “[IIASA] is the largest source of Saudi hate literature in the Washington area. The Institute is … managed and staffed by Saudi diplomats. [It] practices gender segregation against its women students who are confined to a small part of the building and forced to use a back entrance. It also practices religious supremacy and bars Shi’a students, teachers, and books. [It represents Shi’a beliefs] as Jewish manipulations, not as an Islamic tradition. The Institute teaches Wahhabi Islam to over 400 students, … training them to serve as imams in U.S. mosques, i.e. as community leaders infected with extremism.”
On December 22, 2003, Senator Charles Grassley of the Senate Finance Committee included IIASA in a list of U.S.-based, Saudi-established nonprofits and charities suspected of laundering funds used for terrorism. This move was prompted in part when American authorities revoked the diplomatic visa of Jaafar Idris, a Sudanese national with Saudi documents who was one of the most influential clerics in IIASA. Idris, who was eventually deported by the United States, is a proponent of Wahhabist Islam, which encourages jihad (holy war) against the West.
In July 2004, agents from the FBI, Internal Revenue Service, and Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement shut down and searched IIASA for evidence of links to terrorism. When they failed to turn up enough evidence to warrant the Institute’s permanent closure, IIASA reopened its doors.