The World Assembly of Muslim Youth (WAMY) is the world’s largest Muslim youth organization. It was founded in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia in 1972 by longtime Muslim Brotherhood member Kamal Helwabi, who went on to serve as WAMY’s executive director until 1982. Apart from its international headquarters in Saudi Arabia, WAMY also maintains satellite chapters in 56 additional countries and is affiliated with some 500 other Muslim youth groups on five continents. The U.S. branch of WAMY was incorporated in 1992—in Falls Church, Virginia—by Abdullah bin Laden, nephew of al Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden.
WAMY’s stated mission is to: “preserve the identity of Muslim youth and help overcome the problems they face in modern society”; “educate and train them in order for them to become active and positive citizens in their countries”; “introduce Islam to non-Muslims in its purest form as a comprehensive system and way of life”; “establish a relationship of dialogue, understanding and appreciation between Muslim organizations and the other societies”; and “provide assistance to Muslim and non-Muslim organizations to fulfill these goals through training and co-operation.”
Toward the foregoing ends, WAMY, which the United Nations has designated as a “humanitarian and relief-works organization,” administers regional and local Muslim youth and student camps; provides training and support to Muslim youth groups around the world; helps to establish Muslim scout groups; organizes conferences, symposia, workshops and research circles “to address youth and students issues”; and produces—sometimes in conjunction with the Saudi government—books brochures, reports, and exhibition material to “introduce Islam to non-Muslims.”
While telling Western audiences that it seeks to promote harmonious coexistence with the West, WAMY in fact supports the Islamic Jihad‘s quest for Muslim dominion over all the world. To cultivate new leaders capable of bringing that goal to fruition, the organization pays for promising students to be educated at radical madrassas in Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.
A Saudi opposition group reports that WAMY disseminates literature encouraging “religious hatred and violence against Jews, Christians, Shi’a and Ashaari Muslims.” As WAMY itself once acknowledged in a moment of candor, this literature is expressly designed “to teach our children to love taking revenge on the Jews and the oppressors, and teach them that our youngsters will liberate Palestine and Jerusalem when they go back to Islam and make Jihad for the sake of Allah.”
One WAMY pamphlet, titled Islam at a Glance, states that the Assembly’s primary goal is to “arm the Muslim youth with full confidence in the supremacy of the Islamic system over other systems.” A WAMY manual from the early 1990s, titled Military Lessons in the Jihad Against the Tyrants, refers repeatedly to the role that young people must play in restoring Muslim dominance by any means necessary. In late 1998, British authorities found another version of that same manual in the London apartment of Khalid al-Fawwaz, who had recently participated in al Qaeda‘s deadly bombings of two U.S. embassies in Africa. Emphasizing the need to eliminate “people who stand in the way of the Islamic Call” for the establishment of a worldwide caliphate, the manual declares: “An Islamic state has not and will not be formed through peaceful solutions or through the Assemblies of Polytheism. It will be formed as it did through the written words and the gun, through the word and the bullet.” Calling on “the military organization” to “overthrow the atheist regimes and replace them with Islamic ones,” the manual also endorses such strategies as kidnapping enemy soldiers, assassinating personnel and foreign tourists, spreading false rumors, and blowing up or sabotaging places of entertainment.
Islamic Views, an Arabic-language book written by WAMY personnel and produced by the Saudi Government’s Armed Forces Printing Press, states that Islam “is a religion of Jihad.” Disparaging Jews and Christians as contemptible “infidels,” this publication exhorts Muslims to wage “Jihad against the Satan”; to teach their children “to love taking revenge on the Jews and the oppressors”; and to teach “our youngsters” that they “will liberate Palestine and al-Quds when they go back to Islam and make Jihad for the sake of Allah.”
WAMY has also produced A Handy Encyclopedia of Contemporary Religions and Sects, an anti-Semitic tract depicting Jews as schemers who “took part in undermining the Ottoman state and caliphate”; who now “dominate the economy, education, and the media”; and who seek, ultimately, to “dominate the world.” “Every tragedy that [afflicts] the Muslims is caused by the Jews,” the Encyclopedia informs. In a section titled “Animosity toward the Jews,” this publication exhorts Muslims to despise Jews because the latter “are humanity’s enemies”; “are enemies of the faithful, God and the angels”; “foment immorality in this world”; “are deceitful”; have caused “the disintegration of family life and values”; have “stirred up hate and turned [people] against their Muslim governments in the Arab peninsula”; “planted” the “seed of the Gulf War”; and “promoted Atheism and made the countries thrive on Muslims’ blood.”
Some WAMY publications feature interviews with radical clerics. In a 2003 interview, for instance, one such individual—Ayed al-Qarni, an adviser to Prince Fahd of Saudi Arabia—stated that he prayed daily for America’s destruction; that Saudi subjects should go to Iraq to fight against the U.S. military forces who were deployed there; and that any Muslims who could not participate personally in the jihad should at least contribute money to the cause.
WAMY, as an organization, heeded al-Qarni’s instructions most dutifully. In 2004 alone, the Assembly’s donations to the Iraqi insurgency (fighting against American forces) totaled over $200,000. Further, WAMY formed close ties to the Ansar al-Islam terrorist organization of northern Iraq. In late 2002, an Internet website affiliated with Ansar al-Islam released a photo showing one of that organization’s commanders, Ali Bapir, attending a public event sponsored by WAMY.
In 2004 another WAMY publication lauded Islamic jihadists—including a man who had killed 14 Israeli Jews by intentionally driving a bus off a cliff—as “Heroes from Palestine.”
To further inject the spirit of Jihad into the hearts of young people, WAMY also runs camps for Muslim youth on six continents. A handbook outlining various activities that such camps should provide for their attendees suggests that children should be taught chants like this one: “Bring back the glory to its lions, and restore the zeal to its soldiers. Flatten evil in its cradle, and unsheath[e] the swords… Hail! Hail! O sacrificing soldiers! To us! To us! So we may defend the flag. On this Day of Jihad …”
Islam scholar Stephen Schwartz calls WAMY “the Saudi equivalent of the Hitler Youth: a hate-mongering, ultra-extremist group preaching, among other niceties, that Shia Muslims are not real Muslims, but products of a Jewish conspiracy.”
Over the years, WAMY has given a great deal of tangible aid to Islamic extremist and terrorist entities in various parts of the globe. In April 2002, for instance, the Assembly decided to raise its monthly contribution to the Palestinian Intifada from $800,000 to $2.7 million; much of this money made its way into the coffers of Hamas. Also in 2002, WAMY invited Hamas leader Khaled Mash’al to serve as the keynote speaker of its October 29 “Muslim Youth and Globalization” conference in Riyadh, where he was hugged and kissed by hundreds of attendees. In 2004 the Washington Post reported that an affidavit signed by U.S. Customs Senior Special Agent David Kane “lays out what it calls ties between WAMY and … Hamas, which has been designated a terrorist organization by the U.S. government.”
WAMY has also helped finance the Kashmir insurgency against India, characterizing it as a “liberation” movement. The Indian government, which once accused WAMY assistant secretary-general Nazir Qureshi of supplying money to Kashmiri terrorist groups, maintains that “90 percent of the funding [for Kashmir militants] is from other countries and Islamic organizations like the World Association of Muslim Youth.” The Indian magazine Frontline once reported that Mohammed Ayyub Thukar, the World Kashmir Freedom Movement president who was a financier of a Kashmiri terror organization called Hizbul Mujahideen, has been affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood, the Muslim World League, and WAMY.
According to the Washington Quarterly, WAMY and four other “charitable” organizations—including the International Islamic Relief Organization—have been suspected of financing terrorism in the Philippines. In February 1999, a classified Philippine military report claimed that Osama bin Laden was funding Muslim militants in that country through known charity fronts including the International Islamic Relief Organization, the Islamic Wisdom Worldwide Mission, and WAMY.
On March 25, 2001, a Pakistani newspaper reported that WAMY was “involved in religious and Jihadi training for its member organizations,” and that Jamiat Taleba Arabia—WAMY’s only Pakistan-based member group—had likewise made Jihad “the focus” of its activities “in the last two decades.” In November 2001, WAMY’s Peshawar office was raided in a joint FBI-Pakistan intelligence operation. The following year, a WAMY employee was questioned for having personally provided local media outlets with a recorded message from Osama bin Laden. In that recording, the al Qaeda kingpin praised the Bali nightclub bombings (that killed over 200 people) and the Chechen takeover of a Moscow theater (which led to more than 150 deaths)—both events that had taken place in October 2002. At one time, WAMY’s Pakistan branch shared the same Peshawar mailing address as the Benevolence International Foundation, which the U.S. government shut down because of its terrorist ties in 2001.
Prior to September 11, 2001, four of the 9/11 hijackers resided briefly in the town of Falls Church, Virginia, just three blocks from the WAMY office headed by Abdullah bin Laden. The FBI began to closely scrutinize WAMY after 9/11, when investigators learned that Dr. Al Badr al-Hamzi, a radiologist whose credit card was found among the possessions of the hijackers, had been receiving funding from the Assembly.
In August 2002, more than 600 relatives of victims who had died in the 9/11 al Qaeda attacks filed a 15-count, $116 trillion lawsuit against various parties they accused of having financed and abetted not only al Qaeda, but also Afghanistan’s Taliban regime, which had provided safe haven for Osama bin Laden and his organization. Among the defendants in the lawsuit were the Benevolence International Foundation; the International Islamic Relief Organization; the Muslim World League; the National Commercial Bank (one of Saudi Arabia’s largest financial institutions); the SAAR Foundation; the Saudi Binladin Group (a conglomerate owned by the bin Laden family); the government of Sudan (which had permitted Osama bin Laden to live in that country until 1996); and WAMY.
Between 2002-2004, the 9/11 Commission heard testimony stating that WAMY “has openly supported Islamic terrorism”; that “there are ties between WAMY and 9/11 hijackers”; that WAMY “has openly endorsed the notion that Jews must be killed”; that WAMY “has consistently portrayed the United States, Jews, Christians, and other infidels as enemies who have to be defeated or killed”; and that “there is no doubt, according to U.S. intelligence, that WAMY has been tied directly to terrorist attacks.” A security official who would later serve under President George W. Bush added: “WAMY was involved in terrorist-support activity. There’s no doubt about it.”
In May 2004, federal agents of the FBI, the U.S. Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and the Joint Terrorism Task Force raided WAMY’s Alexandria, Virginia office, seizing all of its computers and hard drives and arresting a volunteer board member, Ibrahim Abdullah, on immigration charges. At the time, WAMY had been operating out of the office of Jamal Barzinji, who was involved with numerous organizations that were raided by federal agents in connection with terrorist financing. After the raid on its Virginia office, WAMY likened itself to the YMCA, saying that it was interested only in “youth education, youth development, and serving the Muslim community.”
Though WAMY’s activities in the United States were derailed at that point, its operations elsewhere in the world continued unabated—sometimes with the help of other, likeminded organizations. For example, WAMY’s efforts in Somalia have been supported by the “Christian charities” Novib and Oxfam.
Most notably, WAMY has flourished in the United Kingdom, where its London offices are situated in the heart of the city. In 2005, WAMY’s UK website featured the image of a “clean-cut Muslim” holding a Koran; in the background, the tower of Big Ben—situated at the north end of the Palace of Westminster, the very symbol of British parliamentary democracy—was overshadowed by a mosque dome with a minaret.
In August 2006, WAMY in the UK organized a one-day seminar that focused, in large measure, on blaming British society itself for most of the problems that Muslims therein faced. Guest speakers included such notables as: (a) Sheikh Rashid Gannouchi, who has denounced “the bacillus of Israel,” blessed the mothers of Palestinian suicide bombers, defended Hamas’s “martyrdom operations” and rocket attacks against Israeli civilians, and exhorted Muslims to provide logistical and financial support for Hamas; (b) Tariq Ramadan (the Muslim professor who favors the legal dissolution of Israel); and (c) Sir Iqbal Sakrani, who contends that “the Islamophobes, neo-cons, fascists and the Zionists have been trying very hard to take [over] the Muslim community.”
Among WAMY’s closest affiliates are the Al Haramain Islamic Foundation (AHIF), the European Council for Fatwa and Research, and the Muslim Students Association of the U.S. and Canada. As of 2002, Saudi minister and WAMY president Sheikh Saleh al-Sheikh was also “superintendent of all foundation activities” for AHIF. Moreover, at least 4 WAMY trustees have also served as directors of the International Institute of Islamic Thought. And on February 12, 2002, the Romanian newspaper Bucharest Ziua reported that “the Muslim Brotherhood organization” was heavily funded by WAMY.
WAMY also has noteworthy ties to the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR). At a December 1999 press conference in Saudi Arabia, for instance, WAMY announced that it was extending both moral and financial support to help CAIR construct its $3.5 million headquarters in Washington, DC. Further, WAMY pledged to introduce CAIR officials to Saudi philanthropists and to recommend their (the philanthropists’) financial support for the headquarters project. In 2002, WAMY and CAIR jointly announced, again from Saudi Arabia, their collaboration on a $1 million public-relations campaign.