Middle East studies in the News
Talking to (and about) the Muslim American Society [incl. Tarek ibn Ziyad Academy]
by Scott Johnson
The Muslim Brotherhood founded the Muslim American Society in 1993. In 2003 the Muslim American Society of Minnesota was incorporated as an affiliate of Muslim American Society. The MAS-MN puts it this way: "[A] number of activists of the Islamic movement launched the [MAS] in 1992 [sic] to complement the work that has been accomplished in the last four decades and to lay the ground for the Islamic work needed to face the challenges of the next century."
The Investigative Project on Terrorism has posted a useful account of the MAS here. The MAS-MN's use of the term "activists" in its canned history is illustrative of the MAS approach to public relations for an American audience.
As Andrew McCarthy explains in his invaluable 2010 book, the MAS is engaged in The Grand Jihad. Looking into the MAS here for the Weekly Standard, Daveed Gartenstein-Ross "found that MAS–except in its most public of statements–is quite open about its agenda and allegiances." Its agenda is the Islamization of the United States and its allegiance is to the Muslim Brotherhood. In his 2005 Weekly Standard article Gartenstein-Ross specifically discussed the MAS-MN.
Minnesota of course has its own growing core of "activists." The MAS-MN puts it this way: "In Minnesota, Islamic activists began gathering in 2001 to lay the ground for the Islamic work needed to face the challenges of the next century. In 2003 the [MAS-MN] was incorporated as an affiliate of Muslim American Society."
Readers with a long memory may recall the now shuttered Islamic charter (i.e., public) school known as the Tarek ibn Ziyad Academy in suburban St. Paul. Based on the explosive reporting of then Star Tribune metro columnist Katherine Kersten, the Minnesota chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union brought a lawsuit against TiZA for operating a religious school with public funds.
TiZA had been founded by a pair of imams who doubled as top leaders of MAS-MN. One of them served as principal of the school and proved himself to be a voluble liar in conventional Western terms. See, for example, Greg Pratt's excellent 2012 City Pages retrospective article "The truth about TiZA." I can't find the officers of MAS-MN on its site but I think the former TiZA principal in fact serves as the MAS-MN's executive director.
I mention this because one of the candidates contending for the GOP gubernatorial nomination (Keith Downey) recently spoke to the MAS-MN. Indeed, he was the only GOP candidate to accept the group's invitation to appear at the candidates' forum during MAS-MN recent Minneapolis convention. Downey's speech was quoted in the daily email newsletter on state politics written by Star Tribune reporter Patrick Coolican. The text of Downey's speech is posted in full on his campaign Facebook page and in the Note below. Coolican quoted Downey saying this:
Coolican commented, "That's the carrot. There was plenty of stick, too," quoting this:
Coolican commented favorably on the two excerpts he quoted: "All in all, it's admirable, for whatever you think of his message. He will win few if any Muslim votes at the GOP convention or in a GOP primary or in a general election — and yet he goes to the event and states his principles, even when they clash with the crowd's. We don't do much persuading in politics these days. Mostly, we just inflame our bases."
I had a different reaction. I wrote Coolican: "Speaking as a core Republican voter, I would like to mention this. The Muslim American Society is an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood. That Keith Downey went to speak to them and said what he said tells me he is an idiot."
Coolican asked for my permission to quote my email in his newsletter the next day. I gave him my permission, but I would revise my comment to say that Downey was on a fool's errand rather than that he is an idiot. It is nevertheless late in the day to have to make the necessary points.
Yesterday Downey called me to talk in a friendly spirit about what he was up to. He asked if I had read his speech in its entirety; I hadn't. I have done so now and I think Coolican fairly represented it. It is a speech expressing admirable sentiments in good faith, but it is apparent that the speaker doesn't understand whom he is talking to. That was my point.
Downey told me that the MAS-MN has disavowed the Muslim Brotherhood. I can't find the disavowal on its site. Maybe it's there, I just can't find it in a quick look around. I told Downey that the disavowal doesn't impress me. One can see it in the well-known 2004 Chicago Tribune article on the Muslim Brotherhood in the United States. It is a familiar part of the MAS public relations package.
Downey told me he received a chilly reception from the MAS-MN but that he viewed the group as a local organization whose members he would serve as constituents if he were governor. He distinguished MAS-MN from CAIR (which also has a Minnesota chapter) in this respect. He said he would not speak to CAIR Minnesota if invited.
I don't have a favorite among the declared GOP candidates for governor. I have nothing against Keith Downey. I appreciated his call. I would support him if he were nominated. In Minnesota, however, we have a serious problem that is aggravated by the Star Tribune. It is, moreover, a difficult problem even for knowledgeable and worthy candidates to discuss in a candid fashion. I think Downey misfired in this case by treating MAS-MN as a sectarian interest group like any other rather than by taking a pass or calling it out.
NOTE: This is the text of Keith Downey's speech to the Muslim American Society of Minnesota:
The text of the speech is posted here on Facebook.Note: Articles listed under "Middle East studies in the News" provide information on current developments concerning Middle East studies on North American campuses. These reports do not necessarily reflect the views of Campus Watch and do not necessarily correspond to Campus Watch's critique.
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