The Islamic Assembly of North America (IANA) was created in 1993 by American and Canadian representatives of various Muslim centers and organizations. (One of its more notable co-founders was Bassem Khafagi.) IANA’s mission is to “unify and coordinate the efforts of North America’s dawah-oriented organizations” [groups that perform missionary work for Islam]; to spread the “correct knowledge of Islam … and to assist its dissemination among Muslim Americans and immigrants”; to analyze current events in the Muslim world; to assist oppressed Muslim workers and scholars; to produce “a serious and effective media institute to serve the Islamic presence in North America”; and to “create a dawah program … that will protect the Islamic presence in North America.” To achieve these objectives, as well as its “final goal of reviving the Islamic nation to its proper state and condition,” IANA uses conventions, general meetings, dawah-oriented institutions and academies, books, magazines, and youth programs.
In February 2003, four individuals associated with IANA were indicted for illegally sending millions of dollars to Iraq through a Syracuse, New York charity called Help the Needy. In addition, a University of Idaho student named Sami Omar Al-Hussayen (who was a member of IANA’s Technical Committee) was arrested for knowingly failing to mention his affiliation with IANA on his visa application when he entered the United States. The Seattle Post-Intelligencer quotes one federal source saying that Al-Hussayen was “in touch with people who could pick up the phone, call UBL [Usama bin Laden], and he would take the call.”
According to court papers filed by Idaho prosecutors in 2003, IANA’s mission included the “dissemination of radical Islamic ideology, the purpose of which was indoctrination, recruitment of members, and the instigation of acts of violence and terrorism.” In National Review Online, IANA has been described as a “glorified al Qaeda recruitment center.”
U.S. law-enforcement officials state that IANA’s Arabic websites exhort readers to jihad, or holy war, against Jews and other “unbelievers.” According to Dore Gold’s book Hatred’s Kingdom, in May 2001 — four months before the 9/11 terrorist attacks — IANA’s Arabic website featured justifications for “martyrdom operations” such as crashing an airplane “on a crucial enemy target.”
On September 9, 2001, the Arabic version of the IANA website carried a posting in which the author advocated jihad as “the only means to eradicate all evil on a personal and general level,” according to an excerpt in an FBI court filing. “The only answer is to ignite and trigger an all out war, a world-wide jihad.” After 9/11, however, the English-language version of the same site condemned the killing of innocents in the U.S. terror attacks.
In 2003 the IANA website posted the fatwas, or religious rulings, of two radical Saudi sheiks who maintain close ties to al Qaeda and provide religious justification for acts of Islamic terrorism. Radical proselytization, both written and spoken, is a common theme on the website. Considerable attention is given, for instance, to the teachings of Osama bin Laden’s mentor Abdullah Azzam.
The IANA website also hosts recruitment videos for jihad, with clips displaying the corpses of mujahedeen warriors killed in terrorist operations. One such video shows deceased al Qaeda-funded “martyrs” from Chechnya, eulogizing them as heroes who gave their lives in service of Allah.
IANA has created additional websites to disseminate its message. One such site, Azzam.com, was named for the aforementioned Abdullah Azzam, and was shut down by the FBI in 2002.
Another IANA website, Islamway.com, promoted the Saudi charity Al-Haramain, whose Bosnia and Somalia branches supported al Qaeda and in 2002 were raided by American and Saudi government authorities. The link to al-Haramain never appeared on the English-language version of the website. As a rule, IANA has published its most radical content — glorifying suicide missions and jihad — solely in Arabic; its English products and publications do not contain terrorist propaganda.
From 2002 to 2007, IANA’s Inmates Program shipped at least 530 packages of Islamic indoctrination materials to prisons across the United States. Each package consists of seven different Islamic books, twelve audio cassettes, one copy of the Koran, and a videotape on Muslim prayers and rituals.
According to a New York Times interview with former IANA Director Mohammed al-Ahmari, approximately half of the organization’s funding derives from the Saudi government, and the other half from mostly Saudi private donors.
IANA’s Vice Chairman, Rafil Dhafir, in 2005 was convicted of illegally laundering money to Iraq. Moreover, Sami Omar Al-Hussayen was indicted for routing to IANA thousands of dollars he had received from overseas sources, and for providing computer expertise and website services to the organization.
IANA has since become all but defunct and many of the speakers have reorganized under the new Texas Dawah/Al-Maghrib Institute alliance.