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June 03, 2015

Baltimore Sun Gives Islamic Circle a Free Pass

The Baltimore Sun’s “Muslims work to dispel myths about Islam” (May 26, 2015) omitted important details regarding the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA). Mentioning the organization’s laudatory work helping victims of Baltimore's April riots as well as its upcoming convention, the paper failed to give readers key ICNA background.

Omitted by The Sun were ICNA’s roots as a subsidiary of the Islamic Society of North America, itself a spin-off of the Muslim Brotherhood. The Egyptian-based, Sunni Brotherhood seeks to spread sharia (Islamic law) globally. Part of a network of groups stemming from the Brotherhood or its North American initiatives, ICNA originated in 1968 as an offshoot of the Islamist Muslim Student Association.

The Islamic Circle has a history of questionable associations and rhetoric (“Tablighi Jamaat: Jihad’s Stealthy Legions,” Middle East Quarterly, Winter, 2005). For example, in 2009, five young men from an ICNA Alexandria, Va. mosque were arrested in Pakistan for seeking to join the Pakistani Taliban. ICNA stated that “extremism has no place in Islam, and ICNA works tirelessly to oppose extremist and violent ideology.” But the Anti-Defamation League termed ICNA’s joint anti-extremism effort with MSA bogus.

If sincere, an ICNA anti-extremism campaign would have represented an about-face from the group’s 1997 Southeastern Conference, which honored Lawrence Nicholas Thomas (also known as Jibril Abu-Adam)—a U.S. citizen and convert to Islam—for traveling to Pakistan and dying while fighting for Lashkar-e-Taiba (“ICNA’s Search for Radicalism Should Start Within,” Dec. 15, 2009, The Investigative Project on Terrorism). Lashkar-e-Taiba later was designated by the U.S. government as an al Qaeda support organization.

ICNA’s rhetoric also has been troubling. A December, 1997 article in the group’s magazine, The Message, glorified Abu Adam’s decision to join the terrorist affiliate and exhorted others to follow his example. More recently, at a December 2010 joint conference with the Muslim American Society, ICNA featured several speakers who, according to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), “made anti-Semitic and conspiratorial remarks, portraying Jews as a privileged group with undue power.”

ADL also noted that a December, 2009 conference featured calls to destroy Israel (“Muslim-American Organizations’ Anti-Radical Effort ‘A Sham,’ ” Jan. 11, 2010, ADL). The writings of Anwar al-Awlaki—an American-born leader of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula later killed by a U.S. drone strike—were featured at that conference along with speeches by Rafiq Jaber, former president of the Islamic Association of Palestine—an affiliate of Hamas, another U.S.-listed terror organization. Ra’ed Salah, the leader of Israel’s Northern Branch of the Islamic Movement who served jail time in Israel for financing Hamas, was listed as a conference speaker although he apparently did not attend.

A convention of 20,000 people certainly was newsworthy. That being so, Sun coverage of the Islamic Circle of North America should have provided readers fuller disclosure of group’s activities, associations and rhetoric.—by Sean Durns

(A shorter version of this SNAPSHOT was submitted to The Baltimore Sun as a letter to the editor but neither posted online nor published in the print edition.)

Posted by ER at June 3, 2015 05:56 PM

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