While it would be silly to believe that MSA students are engaging in any kind of conspiracy, Muslims typically have no alternative to the MSA when they first arrive on college campuses and become involved with this extreme organization. As an undergraduate student I recall several students who could have easily been described as moderates — and whom I was friendly with — joining the MSA during their first year. These students, who were initially amicable and reasonable, grew increasingly radical as they became more immersed in MSA activities.
It is crucial to recognize that the MSA was initially financed by Saudi Arabia. A New York Times piece says that the organization’s leaders, in return for the financing, “pushed the kingdom’s puritan, Wahhabi strain of Islam.” In the 1960s and 70s, adds the Times piece, MSA chapters “advocated theological and political positions derived from radical Islamist organizations and would brook no criticism of Saudi Arabia.”
Recent controversy surrounding the MSA shows a relationship between this student organization and the Holy Land Foundation fiasco in which money was allegedly being allocated to a Hamas front group. The MSA had apparently fundraised for the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development, whose assets the U.S. government seized in December 2001 because that organization was giving financial support to the terrorist group Hamas.
The MSA has also become increasingly influential. MSA has published the MSA Starter’s Guide: A Guide on How to Run a Successful MSA, which states: “It should be the long-term goal of every MSA to Islamicize the politics of their respective university. … The politicization of the MSA means to make the MSA more of a force on internal campus politics. The MSA needs to be a more ‘in-your-face’ association. … For example, the student body must be convinced that there is such a thing as a Muslim-bloc.” The MSA Starter’s Guide further advises: “Aim to rise within the ranks of the Union [student government] and to get on selected executive committees. … I cannot stress this enough, the Union has vast powers that Muslims need to control.”
Though the MSA often presents itself as a fairly innocuous religious organization catering to Muslims on campus, the behavior of student leaders and members of the MSA has been anything but innocent:
- October 22, 2000, Ahmed Shama, then-president of the UCLA Muslim Students Association, led a crowd of demonstrators at the Israeli consulate in chants of “Death to Israel!” and “Death to the Jews!” One guest speaker at the event was Hamid Ayloush, a member of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), which co-sponsored the rally. In his speech, Ayloush solicited contributions for the aforementioned Holy Land Foundation.
- In recent years, MSA members at UCLA raised money for Hamas and Hezbollah terrorists at their annual “Anti-Zionist Week.” In March 2003, speaker Muammad Faheed told an MSA meeting at Queensborough Community College in New York, “The only relationship you should have with America is to topple it!”
- At its annual conference in 2003, the Iowa Muslim Student Association invited, as a guest speaker, CAIR Executive Director Nihad Awad, who had told a college audience in 1994 that “I am a supporter of the Hamas movement.”
- The University of Southern California MSA invited Taliban ambassador Sayyid Hashimi to speak on campus six months before 9/11.
- The MSA chapter at California State University, Northridge, held a fundraiser for Islamic Relief Worldwide, an organization that received a $50,000 contribution from a pro-Osama bin Laden front group based in Canada.
- In 2002, James Madison University’s MSA sponsored a “jihad” panel that included Dr. Abdulrahman Hijazi, who had once extolled an Islamic suicide bomber as a “martyr” whose actions were animated by a hope of securing “the mercy of Allah” by means of “one of the greatest good deeds, which is jihad.”
- In 2003, University of Idaho MSA President Sami Omar Al-Hussayen was ordered deported because he worked for the Islamic Assembly of North America, which has ties to al-Qaeda. While on campus, Al-Hussayen had sought access to a chemical lab containing nuclear material.
- Alkalima, the newspaper of the Muslim Student Union (which is an MSA campus chapter) at the University of California, Irvine, once published a special report called “Zionism: The Forgotten Apartheid,” which glorified Hamas and Hezbollah as noble warriors fighting Israeli oppression. Alkalima‘s June 2004 edition contained an opinion piece praising Hamas, Hezbollah, and Islamic Jihad. It also described Hamas founder Ahmed Yassin and former Hamas senior leader Abdel Aziz Rantisi as “martyrs.”
- At the seventh annual MSA West Conference held at the University of Southern California in January 2005, former MSA UCLA member Ahmed Shama said: “We want to restore Islam to the leadership of society. … The goal … is the reestablishment of the Islamic form of government.” Shama praised Hamas and Hezbollah for being “uncompromising” on their principles, and for refusing to “shake hands with the other side.” He lauded the terrorist leader Muqtada al-Sadr for “legitimately fighting against [U.S.] occupation” in Iraq. He identified Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood as part of the “mainstream Islamic movement.” He praised Hamas’ resolve that “the only solution to the current occupation is military resistance. Not shaking hands. Not dialogue.” And he declared, “We have an obligation to make sure that our MSAs are part of the global Islamic movement.”
- At the February 2006 MSA West Conference at Sacramento State University, guest speaker Abdel Malik-Ali praised the late Hamas founder Ahmed Yassin and rejoiced at Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s poor health.
- MSA co-founder Ahmad Totonji was a major figure in the Virginia-based, Muslim Brotherhood-dominated SAAR network, which, according to federal investigators, had financing ties to al-Qaeda, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and Hamas.
Perhaps the most notable and shocking case concerning an MSA member is that of former member Asan Akbar, an American Muslim extremist who attended the MSA-controlled student mosque at the University of California, Davis. After college, Akbar joined the U.S. Army and, in the early hours of March 23, 2003, he intentionally detonated a grenade amidst sleeping members of his 1st Brigade of the 101st Airborne Division stationed in Kuwait — killing two and wounding fifteen.
Unfortunately, the MSA has refused to condemn terrorism and radical Islam. The group decided not to participate in or endorse a crucial rally on May 14, 2005, “Free Muslims March Against Terror,” an event with the purpose to “send a message to the terrorists and extremists that their days are numbered … [and to send] a message to the people of the Middle East, the Muslim world, and all people who seek freedom, democracy, and peaceful coexistence that we support them.”
Considering their other activities, the fact that MSA chapters refused to participate in or endorse a rally denouncing radical Islam suggests that their alliances are not innocent.
Despite the disturbing behavior that Muslim Students Associations have engaged in throughout North America, they are in good standing with universities across the United States. Various MSA chapters have brought anti-Semitic, anti-American, and even homophobic speakers to campus. While the MSA has the right to exercise their First Amendment rights, it is unwarranted that such a hateful organization abuses university resources and even solicits student government funding — paid for in part by tuition dollars — to engage in their vile behavior.
Related organizations include the Islamic Medical Association, the Muslim Arab Youth Association, the Association of Muslim Social Scientists, the Islamic Circle of North America, and the Islamic Society of North America. MSA also has strong ties to the World Assembly of Muslim Youth.