Arnold Isaacs writes in the Tom Dispatch (in a piece picked up by the Huffington Post) that “anti-Muslim activists in the United States were operating in a ‘post-truth era’ and putting out ‘alternative facts’ long before those phrases entered the language. For the last decade they have been spreading provable falsehoods through their well-organized network of publications and websites.” Chief among these alleged falsehoods is the claim that “Muslims in this country have been engaged in a ‘stealth’ or ‘civilizational jihad’ ― a long-term, far-reaching conspiracy to infiltrate the U.S. legal system and other public institutions and bring America under Islamic law. The companion claim is that mainstream Muslim-American organizations are effectively ‘fronts’ for the Muslim Brotherhood and so secretly controlled by international terrorists.” Isaacs sets out to debunk this claim, and fails spectacularly.
Isaacs claims that “the Islamophobes offer only two pieces of supporting ‘evidence,’ one for each of those claims. Exhibit A is a document falsely called the Brotherhood’s ‘master plan’ for the clandestine effort to establish Muslim dominance in the United States….The Islamophobia network unfailingly refers to the memorandum as an official declaration of Muslim Brotherhood strategy. Frank Gaffney, head of the Center for Security Policy and perhaps the country’s most prominent Islamophobe, called it ‘the Muslim Brotherhood secret plan for taking down our country.’ Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer, two other leading voices in the anti-Muslim chorus, have written that ‘the Brotherhood lays out a plan [in the document] to do nothing less than conquer and Islamize the United States.’”
None of that is true, Isaacs says. “The document, dated May 1991 and titled ‘An Explanatory Memorandum on the General Strategic Goal for the Group in North America,’ is real, but there is no evidence that it represents the views of anyone other than the single Brotherhood member who wrote it. For that matter, no one has ever found any indication that anyone other than the author even saw the text, written in Arabic, until 13 years after it was completed, when it was coincidentally unearthed in a storage box during an FBI search of a home in Annandale, Virginia. No other copy is known to exist. Its wording makes it unmistakably clear that the writer was proposing a strategy to the Brotherhood’s leadership, not presenting a plan approved by any authority. No evidence has come to light that suggests his proposals were ever considered, let alone adopted, by the Muslim Brotherhood leadership.”
How does Isaacs know this? “After a careful search of available Brotherhood records, researchers at Georgetown University’s Bridge Initiative, which combats Islamophobia, determined that neither the memorandum nor its specific proposals appear in any documents they found. That includes records from the Brotherhood Shura Council’s 1991 meeting, where the memorandum’s author had specifically asked to have it put on the agenda. Other investigators have similarly failed to find any trace of the memorandum in other records. David Shipler, who wrote about it at length in his book Freedom of Speech, calls it an ‘orphan document’ ― and a childless orphan at that.”
The Saudi-funded Bridge Initiative and Shipler offered these claims years ago. So why is Isaacs rehashing them now? Because there is a real possibility that the Muslim Brotherhood could be declared a terrorist organization — a prospect that deeply frightens the Left and its Islamic supremacist allies. And so once again the evidence must be discredited, and once again this discrediting founders on the facts.
The first direct challenge to the authenticity and importance of the document came from Shipler in The New Yorker in May 2015, eight years after the memorandum came to light and began to be cited by foes of jihad terror. In a lengthy attack on foes of jihad terror entitled “Pamela Geller and the Anti-Islam Movement,” Shipler wrote derisively of the document’s “illusion of importance,” and claimed that it was “never subjected to an adversarial test of its authenticity or significance. Examined closely, it does not stand up as an authoritative prescription for action. Rather, it appears to have been written as a plea to the Muslim Brotherhood leadership for action, by an author we know little about, Mohamed Akram. He is listed elsewhere as a secretary in the Brotherhood, but he writes in the tone of an underling. Islam watchers do not quote his appeal that the recipients ‘not rush to throw these papers away due to your many occupations and worries. All that I’m asking of you is to read them and to comment on them.’ These lines reveal the memo as a mere proposal, now twenty-four years old. No other copies have come to light.”
Unfortunately for Shipler, the Justice Department took Akram’s memorandum quite seriously, and as much more than a “plea” from an “underling.” Federal prosecutors during the Holy Land Foundation trial stated that it “established that ISNA [the Islamic Society of North America] and NAIT [the North American Islamic Trust] were among those organizations created by the U.S.-Muslim Brotherhood,” and that it was written not by a little-known underling, but by “U.S.-Muslim Brotherhood Shura Council member Mohamed Akram Adlouni.” The Shura Council is the Muslim Brotherhood’s governing body. In a 1992 Muslim Brotherhood directory, Akram is listed as a member of the Brotherhood’s Board of Directors and Executive Office. He was also identified as “Office Secretary,” which didn’t mean a clerk, but a leading officer of the organization: Secretary-General would be a more precise translation of the Arabic term used in the directory.
The memorandum described, the federal prosecutors wrote, “the Brotherhood’s strategic goal as a kind of ‘grand Jihad.’” Not, in other words, one man’s wishful thinking.
Investigative journalist Patrick Poole also noted that a “federal court agreed in a published opinion with the Justice Department’s analysis of the document when Judge Jorge Solis ruled on motions from three separate organizations named as unindicted co-conspirators in the trial — ISNA, NAIT, and the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) — asking to be removed from the Justice Department’s co-conspirator list. The judge’s ruling against removing the groups from the unindicted co-conspirator list was unsealed in 2010.” Solis refused to remove the groups from the list because of their inclusion in Akram’s memorandum, which Solis quoted extensively.
Shipler quibbled on this point, claiming that Solis “accepted the government’s assertions by citing the seized Elbarasse documents, including the Explanatory Memorandum, without testing their accuracy in an adversarial proceeding.” Yet Shipler himself admitted that Akram’s memorandum was one of the documents that the Holy Land Foundation defense team had challenged. Poole points out that “by Shipler’s own admission, the Elbarasse documents, including the Explanatory Memorandum, were subject to challenges on both the trial court and appellate levels. Both sides briefed the court, and judge and the appeals court panel ruled on the merits of their arguments. These are what are generally known as ‘adversarial proceedings,’ much as Shipler claims never occurred.”
Shipler likewise claimed that Solis “did not distinguish between the memo’s list of ‘our organizations’ and ‘the organizations of our friends.’” In this, wrote Poole, Shipler “leaves the false impression that Solis ignored a distinction between two separate lists, erroneously lumping them in all together.” In reality, however, “the document itself made no such division between ‘our organizations’ and ‘the organizations of our friends.’ They are all included together.”
Amplifying Shipler’s dismissal of the document was the Bridge Initiative, a program of the Saudi-funded Alwaleed bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding at Georgetown University, which published a piece entitled “Civilization Jihad: Debunking the Conspiracy Theory,” on February 26, 2016.
The Bridge “debunking” centers upon the claim that the memorandum “was not a formal plan accepted by the Brotherhood, and it didn’t have influence in other Muslim circles,” and that claims to the contrary “unsurprisingly appeal to Americans who are already suspicious of Muslims.”
Bridge attempted to support these claims with the further assertion that “according to a 2009 opinion by the presiding judge, the memo was not considered ‘supporting evidence’ for that alleged money laundering scheme, nor any other conspiracy” – including, presumably, one aimed at “eliminating and destroying Western civilization from within.” Akram’s language, Bridge claimed, was “wishful, and does not reflect the Muslim Brotherhood’s agenda as outlined in documents obtained by the FBI. Asking that his memo be added ‘to the Council agenda in its coming meeting’ in 1991, Akram frames it as a ‘letter’ that contains his ‘hopes, ambitions and challenges.’ In listing a number of American Muslim organizations in the appendix, he even says: ‘Imagine if they all march according to one plan!!! [sic].’”
Akram’s “wish,” according to Bridge, “wasn’t taken up in an official way by the Brotherhood Council meeting of 1991. A report of the ‘most important issues’ addressed in the 1991 conference — the logical place for Akram’s memo to be mentioned if it were ever considered by the group— does not reference it. And importantly, nowhere else in the public collection of Muslim Brotherhood documents from the trial is it mentioned. It would seem that Akram’s pleas to the group to ‘not rush to throw these papers away,’ and to ‘read [the pages of his letter] and to comment on them’ went unheeded. There is no evidence that those whom he addressed ever took the time to ‘study’ or ‘comment’ on it. Akram may have been correct, then, to fear that his letter would be seen as ‘strange’ or a ‘new submission without an antecedent’ or ‘root.’”
What’s more, noted Bridge, “Akram’s arguments and phrasing in Arabic are rarely found on the web and not found in Islamic doctrine or literature…. Akram’s language doesn’t come up in mainstream Islamic literature, either before or after he penned the letter.” (Italics in the original.) The memorandum was, in short, one man’s “fantasy.”
No fantasy at all, however, was the fact that the Bridge Initiative was itself tied to the Muslim Brotherhood. Bridge’s Project Director, John Esposito, has called Muslim Brotherhood Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, who advocates jihad-martyrdom suicide bombings, a champion of a “reformist interpretation of Islam and its relationship to democracy, pluralism and human rights.” Esposito has praised the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), which has ties to Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood, as a “phenomenal organization.” He has spoken at CAIR fundraisers in order, he explained, to “show solidarity not only with the Holy Land Fund, but also with CAIR.”
Esposito was referring to the Holy Land Foundation, an Islamic charity that was shut down and prosecuted for funneling money to the jihad terror group Hamas. Esposito himself also refuses to condemn Hamas, as the Investigative Project notes: “In a 2000 interview in The United Association for Studies and Research’s (UASR) Middle East Affairs Journal, Esposito refused to condemn Hamas, which at the time was already designated a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) by the U.S. State Department.” Esposito has also co-edited a book, Islam and Secularism in the Middle East, with Azzam Tamimi. Palestinian political scientist Muhammad Muslih calls Tamimi “a Hamas member.” Tamimi has said: “I admire the Taliban; they are courageous,” and “I support Hamas.” In its Charter, Hamas styles itself the Muslim Brotherhood for Palestine.
In light of those and other ties to the Muslim Brotherhood, it is understandable that the Bridge Initiative would be anxious to discredit Akram’s memorandum and portray it as insignificant. Bridge’s case, however, founders on the facts. The Center for Security Policy (CSP) noted that “the Bridge Initiative treats the Explanatory Memorandum as the aspirations of a single man, but ignores the fact that events described in the memorandum actually happened. Most notably, the merger of the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA) with the Muslim Brotherhood. Akram makes reference in the Explanatory Memorandum to the discussed merger of the Group with the ‘Islamic Circle’ (meaning the Islamic Circle of North America.)…It can in fact be shown that ICNA began to publicly identify with the Muslim American Society (MAS), which federal prosecutors have referred to as the “overt arm of the Muslim Brotherhood” by holding joint MAS-ICNA conventions beginning in 2001.”
The Center for Security Policy adds that “far from one man’s ‘fantasy’ Akram describes in the Memorandum proposals for events which do in fact take place….Akram’s explanatory memorandum fits into a historical context of what the Brotherhood had done in the past, was proposing to do, and what it in fact can later be shown to have accomplished.”
As for Bridge’s claim that “Akram’s arguments and phrasing in Arabic are rarely found on the web and not found in Islamic doctrine or literature,” the CSP points out that “Akram’s memorandum was never intended to be read by the public at large at all, but only by high level members of his own organization” – thus there is no reason for anyone to be surprised that Akram’s “ideas are not widespread online.”
What’s more, counterterror experts took Akram’s memorandum quite seriously. The former U.S. deputy chief for Counterterrorism at the Department of Justice, Jeff Breinholt, remarked: “For the first time that was almost direct proof of what we had long suspected about their true political goals in the United States…Something like the explanatory memo is a bonanza for the art of intelligence because it actually is the target or the subject speaking in their own words about what they intend. You don’t have to read too much into that.”
Nathan Garret, a former FBI Agent and federal prosecutor, noted: “The organizations that were on that list represented a huge segment of the Islamic voice in North America at the time. The Memorandum not only named names, it candidly revealed just how the Brotherhood viewed the United States — as a target of conquest.”
Why would Arnold Isaacs and the Huffington Post be so avid to discredit this obviously authentic and important document? Could they actually support this subversion and Islamization of the U.S.? Whether they actually do or are just useful idiots, if they succeed in making the American public turn away from the evidence and the initiative to declare the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization is defeated, subversion and Islamization are exactly what Isaacs and the HuffPo are going to get.
Robert Spencer is the director of Jihad Watch and a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center. He is author of Stealth Jihad, as well as the New York Times bestsellers The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades) and The Truth About Muhammad. His new book is The History of Jihad From Muhammad to ISIS. Follow him on Twitter here. Like him on Facebook here.
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