MSA USC advocated the establishment of a worldwide Islamic empire, or caliphate, headed by a supreme leader, or caliph, who would rule according to the tenets of Sharia. In 1991-92, the Muslim scholar Gharm Allah Al-Ghamdy gave a series of lectures to MSA USC members, explaining that a caliph’s proper duties would be to “_s_afeguard Islam in its original form”; to “protect the physical boundaries of the [Islamic] state through the use of arms and other methods”; to “defend the rights of Muslims abroad, and to see to it that Islam can spread freely in non-Muslim lands (including [by] the use of force)”; to “organize jihad against any non-Muslim government which prevents Muslim da’wah [proselytization] from entering its land”; and to “collect and distribute zakat [tithes] and the spoils of war according to the Qur’an and Sunnah.”
MSA USC invited Taliban ambassador Sayyid Hashimi to speak at the University of Southern California campus on March 10, 2001, six months before 9/11. In that address, Hashimi asserted that Afghanistan’s ruling Taliban regime had been able to “reunify the fragmented country” and successfully orchestrate “the restoration of human rights,” particularly women’s rights. He blamed the American media for having “transformed” Osama bin Laden and other likeminded Muslims “into terrorists.” And he characterized the Bill Clinton administration’s 1998 attempt to kill bin Laden with cruise missiles as an act of American terrorism.
MSA USC minimized the Muslim world’s long history of complicity in slavery, an institution that persists in some Islamic nations to this day:
“As for slavery, Islam is unique among the ‘religions’ in its close attention to the peaceful removal of this practice. Before the advent of Islam, slavery was widespread all over the world. The Messenger of Islam taught us that freeing slaves was a great deed in the sight of Allah…. The condition of slavery is very different in Islam than the harsh conditions imposed by non-Muslims or disobedient Muslims. … As a result of the teachings of Islam, slavery was almost completely eradicated from many areas of the Muslim world, peacefully and without bloodshed.”
The MSA USC website featured several hagiographies of the Prophet Mohammad. According to one of those accounts, Mohammad brought “peace in place of the war of everybody against everybody else”; he “established a harmonious equilibrium between the spiritual and the temporal, between the mosque and the citadel”; and he “left a new system of law, which dispensed impartial justice … and in which religious tolerance was so great that non-Muslim inhabitants of Muslim countries equally enjoyed complete juridical, judicial and cultural autonomy.” Another account stated that Mohammad’s successes in life “had been effected by sheer moral force, without a stroke of sword”; that he engaged in military combat only “in pure self-defense, after repeated efforts of conciliation had utterly failed”; and that he invariably eschewed warfare except in those circumstances where he was literally “dragged … into the battlefield.”
Asserting that the phrase “Muslim terrorist” was “almost an oxymoron” that was “offensive and demeaning of Islam,” MSA USC expressed its hope that “as the general level of public awareness and understanding of Islam increases, people will keep [the terms] ‘terrorism’ and ‘Islam’ separate from each other, not to be used in the same phrase.”
In January 2005, MSA USC hosted the seventh annual MSA West Conference, featuring a speech by former MSA-UCLA member Ahmed Shama, who told his listeners: “In short, we want to make the word of Allah supreme in every single aspect of life…. The end goal of everything that we’re talking about is the reestablishment of the Islamic form of government.” “We have an obligation,” Shama added, “to make sure that our MSAs are part of the global Islamic Movement” whose ultimate objective is “reinstating the Islamic system of Khilafa [the caliphate] to the leadership … as required by Sharia, and renewing the obligation to sprea[d] the call of Islam.”
Shama went on to identify the terrorists (such as Muqtada al-Sadr) who were indiscriminately killing American troops and Iraqi civilians in post-Saddam Iraq, as fellow members of his (and MSA’s) “global Islamic Movement” that was “fighting against the occupation … for the sake of Allah.” Shama also listed the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas as constituents of the “mainstream Islamic Movement,” reserving special praise for the prominent Brotherhood figures Hasan al-Banna and Sayed Qutb.
From 1995 until July 2006, the “Compendium of Muslim Texts” section of the MSA USC website featured an essay titled “Becoming Muslim,” authored by Adam “Yahiye” Gadahn, a young Muslim convert who disappeared from California in 1999 at a time when he was wanted by the FBI for his possible connections to al Qaeda. While Gadahn’s whereabouts remained unknown, U.S. authorities identified him, with near certainty, as an individual who had appeared in several post-9/11 al Qaeda videos. Then in 2004, ABC reporter Brian Ross said that Gadahn was indeed the man who, in previous videos, had warned that forthcoming al Qaeda attacks would flood the United States with “rivers of blood.” Also in 2004, Attorney General John Ashcroft positively identified Gadahn as an al Qaeda operative. The following year, terrorism experts concluded that Gadahn was the speaker in a September 11, 2005 al Qaeda video marking the fourth anniversary of 9/11 and promising more attacks against Americans. Notwithstanding all this, MSA USC continued to feature Gadahn’s essay on its website.
In July 2006 Gadahn openly revealed his identity when he appeared, unmasked, in an al Qaeda video with Osama bin Laden and Ayman Al-Zawahiri. In that production, a bearded, turbaned Gadahn denounced U.S. soldiers in Iraq as “the real terrorists” who had murdered and raped innumerable Iraqi civilians, and he encouraged fellow Muslims to “go on a shooting spree at the Marines’ housing facilities at Camp Pendleton” in California. After this video was made public, MSA USC finally removed Gadahn’s essay from its website.
In July 2007, MSA USC sponsored an on-campus event organized by activist Cole Miller, founder of the Los Angeles-based NoMoreVictims.org, which condemns “the death and mutilation of children” at the hands of “the American empire” and its unrestrained “militarism.”
MSA USC participated several times — along with more than 250 fellow Muslim organizations (mostly chapters of the MSA) — in the annual “Ramadan Fast-a-Thon,” where students eat nothing from sunrise to sundown on one designated day each year. The purpose of this event — which was initiated shortly after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks — is twofold: to “raise money for the hungry and poor,” and to help Americans “increase” their “understanding” of Muslims’ good intentions. Such notables as Sheikh Muhammad Nur Abdullah, Sheikh Abdullah Idris Ali, Imam Zaid Shakir, and Sheikh Hamza Yusuf have endorsed the Fast-a-Thon.
For a number of years, the MSA USC website made available for its readers a host of ahadith (the plural form of hadith), or traditions of the Prophet Mohammad. One of these legitimized the genocide of Jews: “You will fight against the Jews and you will kill them until even a stone would say: Come here, Muslim, there is a Jew (hiding himself behind me); kill him.” In August 2008, the David Horowitz Freedom Center and the Simon Wiesenthal Center informed USC provost Chrysostomos Nikias of the presence of the objectionable passage on the MSA USC website. Nikias, in turn, ordered the campus MSA to remove what he termed the “truly despicable” hadith from the site. In 2009, however, that hadith reappeared on the USC website, this time put there by an organization called the Center for Muslim-Jewish Engagement (CMJE).