The think tank in question, the International Institute of Islamic Thought (IIIT), twice has been the subject of law enforcement investigations, once during the 1980s and again starting in 2003. Its senior leaders were listed among “members and leaders of the IKHWAN [Muslim Brotherhood]” in the United States in records obtained by the IPT from a closed FBI investigation through a Freedom of Information Act request.
Georgetown professors John Voll and Jonathan Brown each are listed as faculty members at the Fairfax Institute, an IIIT school. Voll and Brown also occupy senior faculty positions at Georgetown’s Prince Alwaleed bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding (ACMCU).
The center received a $20 million gift from Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal in 2005.
The Fairfax Institute offers certificates in Imam and Muslim Community Leadership and in Islamic Thought. That may sound benign on its face, but the Institute’s parent, the IIIT, long has touted the “Islamization of Knowledge,” a program which makes Islam the key to solving society’s ills.
In implementation plans, IIIT co-founder Ismail al-Faruqi made it clear his institute’s outreach was not about teaching Westerners about Islam. Rather, its purpose is to infuse superior Islamic principles to add revelation to Western academic pursuits which are based solely on “reasoning.”
While the Muslim community in the undeveloped world “is in many respects backward,” Faruqi wrote in 1982, “…in the respect of possessing the truth, the ideological statement of it which is most conducive to religious, ethical, and material prosperity at the same time, the ummah is second to none. Because of Islam, the ummah alone possesses the vision required for the felicity of humankind, for history to be as Allah (SWT) has desired it to be.”
During a 2010 lecture, Voll described Faruqi, a Muslim Brotherhood luminary who was murdered in 1986, as “a good case of the modern intellectual who is a believer and provides a good example for thinking about what it means to be a ‘believing intellectual’ in the modern era.”
ACMCU founding director John Esposito was a student of Faruqi’s at Temple University.
IIIT, located about 22 miles from Washington, D.C. in Herndon, Va., also was investigated for possible terror financing. A 2003 search warrant affidavit alleged that the think tank was part of a network of up to 100 non-profit and for-profit organizations, inter-related through corporate officers and holding companies that facilitated terrorist funding. Financial records reviewed by law enforcement officials exhibited “a convoluted web of multiple transactions between related corporations and charities that made it virtually impossible for federal investigators to ascertain where the money … ultimately went.”
Some of the money that was clearly traceable included direct payments to a Florida think-tank which then was home to at least four members of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad‘s Shura Council, in effect, its governing board. One of those directors, Ramadan Shallah, has led the terrorist group since late 1995.
Sami Al-Arian, a former University of South Florida professor who created the World and Islam Studies Enterprise (WISE), self-identified as the PIJ board’s secretary. Al-Arian also ran a charity called the Islamic Committee for Palestine (ICP) which was described as “the active arm of the Islamic Jihad Movement Palestine” but was called ICP in America “for security reasons.” ICP rallies routinely featured PIJ spiritual leader Abdel Aziz Odeh and PIJ imagery.
IIIT President Taha Jaber Al-Alwani “spoke at ICP conferences with Al-Arian, Shallah, Sheik Odeh (spiritual leader and co-founder of PIJ) and Sheik Rahman (the ‘Blind Sheik’ convicted of conspiracy to blow up New York tunnels and the United Nations in New York in October 1995). Inasmuch as ICP conferences were, in essence, PIJ conferences, Alwani has long been a supporter of PIJ,” the 2003 affidavit said.
Despite its known radical ties, IIIT continues to operate ostensibly as a legitimate academic institution that seeks to “bridge the intellectual divide between the Islamic tradition and Western civilization” through various funding and outreach programs with mainstream American universities and colleges and government-funded institutions.
In 2005, in line with its funding of WISE at USF in the 1990s, the Virginia think tank offered to endow a chair in Islamic Studies at the University of Central Florida outside Orlando. IIIT also made a $1.5 million grant to George Mason University in 2008 to help expand its Islamic studies program.
IIIT tax records list similar grants, including $25,000 to Georgetown University in 2010; $597,000 to Nazareth College in Rochester, N.Y. between 2008-2012 as well as an additional $500,000 gift for Nazareth to fund the IIIT Chair of Interfaith Studies; $25,000 to Clarion University Foundation in 2009; $5,000 to Binghamton University (The State University of New York) in 2009; and $10,000 to the Eastern Mennonite University in 2010.
In addition, IIIT signed a memorandum of agreement with Shenandoah University in Winchester, Va., to promote academic exchanges that included hosting a program on Islam in collaboration with the radical Muslim Student Association and Student Life’s Intercultural Programs at Shenandoah University.
Not every university has taken IIIT’s money, however. In 2008, Temple University – where Faruqi once taught Esposito – refused $1.5 million in funding from IIIT for a chair in Islamic studies after concerns were raised about IIIT’s alleged ties to terrorist organizations.
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