Author’s note: Naresh Raghubeer of the Canadian Coalition for Democracies, the organization that opposed Qazi Hussein Ahmad’s entry into Canada for the ISNA conference last month, reports that Qazi was eventually denied a visa as a result of the public outcry and political pressure, preventing him from speaking at the ISNA conference. He also clarifies that despite the extensive ties of Qazi’s Jamaat-e-Islami to Al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups, Canada has not yet officially designated it a terrorist organization, as originally reported in the article. Another organization also operating in Southeastern Asia with the same name has been so designated. We appreciate Mr. Raghubeer’s update and correction.
Qazi Hussein Ahmad has been banned from more than 25 countries across Europe and the Middle East for the activities of the Pakistani Jamaat-e-Islami (JEI) organization that he heads. Terrorism analysts around the world have noted JEI’s close ties to al-Qaeda, and Qazi has publicly defended Osama bin Laden, admitting to meeting with him on several occasions and claiming that no definitive proof exists of bin Laden’s involvement in the 9/11 attacks. In an October 2002 interview with Der Speigel Qazi went so far as to deny al-Qaeda’s existence altogether and defended his group’s support of the Taliban, saying that “they were just and honorable men, who brought peace to Afghanistan.”
With that kind of extremist rhetoric and close associations with known terrorist organizations currently at war with the United States, it is troubling that the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) had Qazi Hussein Ahmad as one of its featured speakers at its annual Canadian conference last month. The ISNA-Canada conference was run jointly with the Muslim Students Association and Muslim Youth of North America, and endorsed by the Canadian Council on American-Islamic Relations, the Islamic Circle of North America, and the Muslim Association of Canada.
The program for the ISNA conference lists Qazi Hussein Ahmad speaking at their seventh session on Saturday, May 24, on the topic of “Religious Extremism: Fact or Fiction.” This was not his first time at an ISNA conference, however, as he was featured at the group’s 1998 35th annual convention held in St. Louis, where Qazi was one of two speakers on the topic of “Human Dignity in the Muslim World: The Case of Pakistan and Algeria.”
Qazi’s appearance at the ISNA-Canada conference was denounced by the Canadian Coalition for Democracies, which demanded that the government immediately review and reconsider his visa application, especially since Jamaat-e-Islami has been designated a terrorist organization by the Canadian government. ISNA’s decision to include the JEI leader in their event was strongly criticized by Calgary Herald columnist Rob Breakenridge, who used the occasion to question Canadians’ paradoxical “tolerant society.”
Just days before his appearance in Toronto at the ISNA-Canada conference, Qazi had been in Tehran as the keynote speaker at a three-day “Muslim Unity Conference” sponsored by the Iranian regime and presided over by former Iranian President Rafsanjani.
According to a press release issued by JEI, Qazi called on the Muslim ummah to unite against America and oppose the war on terror, hailing Iran’s “spirit to fight to the death” against the U.S.:
Qazi condemned the American threats being hurled against Pakistan and Iran, and said the unity of the Iranian nation and their spirit to fight till death against the colonists has actually become a symbol of Iran’s security, sovereignty, and independence, which should serve as a guiding principle for the whole Muslim world.
Qazi’s ties to the Iranian regime go back even before the Islamic Revolution brought Ayatollah Khomeini to power. In fact, one analyst attributes Qazi’s support of Khomeini as a primary factor in the revolution:
The JI’s Qazi Hussein Ahmad is well liked in Tehran, and whenever he visits the country he is treated like a head of state. He has had ties with the Islamic parties there since the early 1970s, and his party Jamaat Islami played an important role in the Ayatollah Khomeini-led Islamic revolution that swept the Shah out of power in 1979.
Prior to the revolution, and while Khomeini was in exile in Paris, Qazi Hussein Ahmad was instrumental in having his tapes and literature smuggled into Iran to stir the masses.
JEI’s connection to terrorism also extends to Afghanistan, with Qazi serving as mentor and longtime benefactor to Hizb-i-Islami warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, who as the Jamestown Foundation noted was behind an assassination attempt last month against Afghan President Hamid Karzai and has taken an active role in leading the insurgency against coalition forces. Hekmatyar’s Hizb-i-Islami has also helped to train JEI’s terrorist wing, the Hizbul Mujahideen of Jammu and Kashmir, which has been responsible for hundreds of terrorist activities in recent years. Hizbul Mujahideen has been designated a terrorist organization by the United States.
A number of sources have reported that the relationship between JEI and al-Qaeda is more than just moral support. As noted by the Christian Science Monitor in 2003, al-Qaeda operations chief Khalid Sheikh Mohammad was captured in Pakistan at the home of a prominent JEI parliamentary official, and other JEI members have been captured alongside other al-Qaeda officials hiding in Pakistan. Another report issued by the South Asia Analysis Group observed a number of direct connections between JEI and al-Qaeda.
And in 2006, terrorism correspondent Bill Roggio reported that Qazi himself had been caught by Pakistani authorities attempting to enter a restricted area after a U.S. strike on an al-Qaeda training compound. According to Roggio, Qazi made the blockade run to attempt to link up with al-Qaeda officials to coordinate their response to the U.S. attack:
By denying access to Qazi and others, Pakistan is preventing the jihadi political leadership such as Qazi from coordinating with al-Qaeda on a political message.
ISNA is not the only Islamic organization to embrace JEI’s extremism and Qazi’s open support for terror, however. ISNA’s sister organization, the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA), has even closer associations to Qazi.
A July 2005 article by CNS News investigative reporter Sherrie Gossett said that Qazi had been ICNA’s sole representative at a meeting held in 2000 in Woodside, NY. Gossett had obtained confidential meeting notes from that event identifying ICNA as the active arm of JEI in the U.S.
At that meeting, Qazi reportedly spoke on the topic of “Jihad Is a Comprehensive Concept,” saying that jihad was an essential part of Islam and that “Islam must be translated into political dominance,” as “the sword and the Koran go together.”
Coincidentally, ICNA announced last September a national radio campaign “to inform fellow Americans about the true teachings of Islam and to clear up any misunderstandings regarding Islam.”
Undoubtedly, ISNA and ICNA will respond that demanding the exclusion of the heads of foreign terrorist organizations from their conferences and events is yet another manifestation of how the war on terror is actually a war against Islam itself, and such criticisms will be cited as proof of rampant “Islamophobia.”
I must admit that I am far from a dispassionate observer concerning ISNA’s conference speakers, as my own hometown of Columbus, Ohio, will be the setting for ISNA’s 45th annual convention this coming August. A reported 25,000 attendees will be flocking to central Ohio. It should be noted that last year’s ISNA conference included an exhibitor’s booth manned by the extremist Hizb-ut-Tahrir — much like JEI, banned throughout Europe and the Middle East — situated right beside the Department of Homeland Security recruiting booth. That event was overshadowed by ISNA’s designation by federal prosecutors as an unindicted co-conspirator in last summer’s Holy Land Foundation terrorism financing trial.
And yet with Hamas operatives attempting to get on the Columbus Public School Board (a story first covered here exclusively at Pajamas Media); the guilty plea earlier this month of local al-Qaeda cell member Christopher Paul to charges of conspiring to use weapons of mass destruction against Americans at home and abroad (the third member of our local al-Qaeda cell to plead guilty); and local Islamic clerics speaking at conferences alongside designated terrorists, I would say that Columbus already has more radical Islam and terrorist support than we can handle without the added extremism that an ISNA convention invariably brings.