When five young Americans disappeared from the greater D.C. area last November, only to be arrested a week later in Pakistan where they allegedly sought to join the jihad against Americans, people wondered why.
How could reportedly supportive families generate radical Islamists like Ramy Zamzam? Emerging from court in January, he declared, "We are not terrorists. We are jihadists, and jihad is not terrorism."
Much of the initial focus was drawn to the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA), the organization to which all five young men belonged. This dissipated following assurances from ICNA
and its local chapter that it had not engaged in any form of radicalization and, in fact, would launch programs to combat it.
The local youth director Mustafa Abu Maryam, who had worked with Zamzam in leading fundraising for the new mosque in Virginia, pointedly declared: "Our group discussion never talked about politics, never talked about ongoing conflicts, never talked about fighting against anyone, indirectly or directly. On the contrary, we always promoted being compassionate toward others and good stewards of humanity."
However, the recommended reading list for ICNA's youth organization for boys, called "Young Muslims," shows the opposite. The book list
includes works by authors such as the Muslim Brotherhood founder Hasan Al-Banna, current spiritual leader Yusuf Al-Qaradawi, and Jamaat-e-Islami founder Abul 'Ala Maududi. These works are not countered by books or essays which offer a more passive, peaceful message.
The Muslim Brotherhood is the world's largest Islamist group, and its motto is, "Allah is our objective. The Prophet is our leader. The Qur'an is our law. Jihad is our way. Dying in the way of Allah is our highest hope."
Qaradawi's Priorities of the Islamic Movement in the Coming Phase, contained in its entirety on the Young Muslims website, includes a call for supporting violent jihad movements around the world: "This is why the faqihs of Islam have agreed that it is a duty to defend every land invaded by infidels, stating that such jihad is imperative for Muslims in this land as an individual obligation and that all Muslims must support them with money, arms and men as required until all their land has been liberated from any aggressor who usurps it."
Other books appearing on the website, like Maududi's Towards Understanding Islam, reinforce the need for violence. In this book, Maududi considers jihad a part of worship: "A man who exerts himself physically or mentally or spends his wealth in the way of Allah is indeed engaged in Jihad. But in the language of the Shari'ah [Islamic law] this word is used particularly for the war that is waged solely in the name of Allah and against those who perpetrate oppression as enemies of Islam.
“This supreme sacrifice of lives devolves on all Muslims . . . In all these cases Jihad is as much a primary duty of the Muslims concerned, as are the daily prayers or fasting. One who shirks it is a sinner. He is plainly a hypocrite who fails in the test of sincerity and all his 'Ibadat and prayers are a sham a worthless hollow show of devotion."
Dr. Zuhdi Jasser, founder of the anti-Islamist American Islamic Forum for Democracy, said books such as these form "a theo-political ideology that is the gateway drug toward violent Islamism for susceptible Muslims."
Groups like ICNA do not promote Islam, but rather Islamism, the linking of politics and religion, Jasser said. "Islamism and its efforts at youth indoctrination is a separatist movement which overwhelms youth in the guise of religion — Islam."
In 1997, ICNA's The Message [International] honored Jibril Abu Adam, a young man killed fighting in a jihad in circumstances that greatly resembled the attempts of the five men currently held in Pakistan.
The article, entitled "Actions Speak Louder than Words," celebrated the radicalization and eventual death of the young American convert who fought in Kashmir.
Aside from noting that "it is quite evident that Jibril's struggles were motivated by devotion to Allah," the article began by stating: "The Qur'an urges Muslims to seek knowledge and then to act on the knowledge they acquire. It also says that the person who merely obtains knowledge without taking actions is like a donkey carrying books, i.e., such knowledge becomes a burden that benefits no one. For one young man, knowledge became a source of inspiration that led him to take actions that can benefit everyone."
When Jibril was "questioned about the perils of Jihad," he asserted that a shaheed [martyr] is the best, and I want to be the best," the article said.
On Nov. 29, 1997, at ICNA's Southeastern Regional Convention in Atlanta, a plaque was presented to Jibril's family in celebration of his martyrdom. The plaque read: ". . . In recognition of Jibril Abu-Adam (also known as Lawrence Nicolas Thomas) for his devotion to His Creator and his ultimate sacrifice on behalf of his fellow Muslims in Kashmir."
The conflict between ICNA's message to youth and its declarations of innocence is palatable, Jasser said: "This organization [ICNA] is teaching Islamism as a dominant political movement . . . Basically this theo-political ideology is the gateway drug toward violent Islamism for susceptible Muslims. Those who are not susceptible Muslims are still part of a separatist movement which is not commensurate with our constitution and bill of rights."
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