A partner organization to the Graduate School of Islamic and Social Sciences, the International Institute of Islamic Thought (IIIT) defines itself as “a private, non-profit, academic and cultural institution, concerned with general issues of Islamic thought.” Giving “special emphasis to the development of Islamic scholarship in contemporary social sciences,” it works “from an Islamic perspective to promote and support research projects, organize intellectual and cultural meetings and publish scholarly works” that will help “the Ummah [Muslim nation] to deal effectively with present challenges.” Established in 1981, IIIT is headquartered in Herndon, Virginia (near Washington, DC), and has set up branch offices in a number of capital cities worldwide.
The Institute seeks to achieve its objectives by: “directing research and studies to develop Islamic thought and the Islamization of knowledge”; “holding specialized scholarly, intellectual and cultural conferences, seminars and study circles”; supporting researchers and scholars in universities and research centers, and publishing selected scholarly, cultural and intellectual works, in English, Arabic and several other languages”; and signing agreements of cooperation with various universities, research centers and academic institutions throughout the world to carry out activities of mutual interest.”
IIIT 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:
In the early 1990s, IIIT invented and promoted the term “Islamophobia,” a term which implies that any societal fear associated with Islam is necessarily irrational, even if that fear stems from the fact that Islam’s prophet and its modern-day imams call on believers to kill infidels, or from the fact that the 9/11 attacks were carried out to implement those calls. Moreover, the term suggests that any negative societal reaction to such exhortations to violence reflects a bigotry that itself should be feared.
Former IIIT member Abdur-Rahman Muhammad — who was with that organization when the word was formally created, and who has since rejected IIIT’s ideology and terminated his membership in disgust — now reveals the original intent behind the concept of Islamophobia: “This loathsome term is nothing more than a thought-terminating cliche conceived in the bowels of Muslim think tanks for the purpose of beating down critics.” In short, in its very origins, “Islamophobia” was a term designed as a weapon to advance a totalitarian cause by stigmatizing critics and silencing them. This plan was an outgrowth of the Muslim Brotherhood’s deceptive “General Strategic Goal for North America.”
Although the term was coined in the early 1990s, “Islamophobia” did not become the focus of an active Brotherhood campaign until after 9/11.
Controlled by the extremist, Saudi-based Wahhabi movement, IIIT maintains that reports about mosques distributing hate-filled literature are untrue, and claims that the concept of jihad in no way condones or connotes violence. As an IIIT public-relations flyer puts it: “Jihad does not mean ‘holy war.’ Literally, jihad in Arabic means to strive, struggle and exert effort. It is a central and broad Islamic concept that includes struggle against evil inclinations within oneself, struggle to improve the quality of life in society, struggle in the battlefield for self-defense or fighting against tyranny or oppression.” The back of the flyer contains a list of recommended websites and books on Islam. Among the authors of these books are such apologists for extremism as John Esposito, Karen Armstrong, Hassan Hathout, and Bill Baker.
IIIT has numerous documented links to terrorism. According to court documents, in the early 1990s the organization donated at least $50,000 to a think tank run by Sami al-Arian, the World Islam Study Enterprise, which served as a front group for Palestinian Islamic Jihad. IIIT is also named as a defendant in two class-action lawsuits brought by victims of the 9/11 attacks. One alleges that the Institute received the bulk of its operating expenses from the SAAR network, whose component groups are accused in another class-action suit of being “fronts for the sponsor of al Qaeda and international terror.” The same suit lists IIIT and nearly all of its officers as supporters of the SAAR network.
Moreover, IIIT’s 2003 tax-exempt IRS filing lists a $720 donation to the al-Haramain Islamic Foundation of Ashland, Oregon, which in 2004 was designated by the U.S. government as a terrorist-funding entity guilty of tax fraud, money laundering, supporting Chechen mujahideen affiliated with al Qaeda, and maintaining “direct links between [its] U.S. branch and Usama bin Laden.”
Matthew Levitt (of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy) testified before Congress in August of 2002 that IIIT employee Tarik Hamdi had personally provided batteries for Osama bin Laden’s satellite phone, keeping the wandering terrorist mastermind connected to his scattered ground troops. According to an Operation Green Quest affidavit, IIIT had also sponsored Basheer Nafi, “an active directing member of (Palestinian Islamic Jihad) front organizations.”
Customs agent David Kane also uncovered a monetary tie between IIIT and terrorism. Kane claims that, during a raid in Tampa, he found letters that prove IIIT sent at least $50,000 to the World Islam Studies Enterprise (WISE), a front for Palestinian Islamic Jihad. The same affidavit states that Ahmad Totonji personally signed an IIIT check in the amount of $10,000 to Sami al-Arian‘s Tampa Bay Coalition for Justice and Peace on November 1, 2001.
In 2003, IIIT co-founder Anwar Ibrahim and his family were the beneficiaries of an apparent tax fraud perpetrated by IIIT. According to its own tax filings for that year, IIIT made $92,200 in contributions to Ibrahim’s daughter, Nurul Izzah. Where it listed the donations to Izzah on the tax forms, IIIT violated U.S. law by indicating “none” under the heading “Donee’s Relationship.” The group would have lost its tax-exempt status had it been known that it was sending money to the family member of a director. Ibrahim never disavowed this act when given the chance and even stated explicitly that these contributions were made for the education of his six children.
IIIT is a prominent endorser of the book Reliance of the Traveller: A Classic Manual of Islamic Sacred Law, an authoritative compendium of sharia written by an eminent 14th-century Islamic jurist. By IIIT’s reckoning, the English translation by Umdat al-Salik is “a valuable and important work” that is highly successful in “its aim to imbue the consciousness of the non-Arabic-speaking Muslim with a sound understanding of Sacred Law.” According to Andrew McCarthy, Reliance “denies freedom of conscience, explaining that apostasy from Islam is a death-penalty offense”; contends that “a Muslim apostatizes not only by clearly renouncing Islam but by doing so implicitly — such as by deviating from the ‘consensus of Muslims,’ or making statements that could be taken as insolence toward Allah or the prophet Mohammed”; “approves a legal caste system in which the rights and privileges of Muslims and men are superior to those of non-Muslims and women”; “penalizes extramarital fornication by stoning or scourging”; endorses the death penalty for homosexuals and for people who make interest-bearing loans; venerates jihad; and exhorts Muslims “to strive to establish an Islamic government, ruled by a caliph.”