In the name of Allah, the Most Compassionate, the Most Merciful. All praise belongs to Allah, the Lord of the Worlds. May peace and blessings be upon Prophet Muhammad and his family.
May 26, 2021
Dear Community Members and Friends,
As salaamu alaikum wa rahmatullahi wabarakaatuh.
We, the undersigned Muslim activists, organizers, and scholars, write to call upon our brothers and sisters at the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) to end their partnership with the American Jewish Committee (AJC), an Islamophobic and anti-Palestinian organization that has caused untold harm to Muslim Americans and Muslims around the world.
Among other things, the AJC has praised anti-Muslim bigots like Daniel Pipes, Steve Emerson and Ayaan Hirsi Ali; since 2018, it has smeared Rep. Rashida Tlaib, Ilhan Omar and other Muslim Americans who support Palestinian freedom, spread Islamophobic tropes (including blaming the Quran for anti-Semitism), and repeatedly defended war crimes committed by the Israeli government against the Palestinian people, including recent attacks on Gaza that killed over 200 Palestinians, including at least 60 children.
Despite this long history of anti-Muslim bigotry and anti-Palestinian advocacy, ISNA partnered with the AJC in 2016 to establish a national Muslim-Jewish Advisory Council (MJAC). Since then, the AJC has continued to spread Islamophobia and justify the murder of Palestinians while using the pretense of “interfaith dialogue” with ISNA to obscure its true identity as a harmful and hateful anti-Muslim organization.
Over the past five years, various Muslim American community members have privately and respectfully urged ISNA to end this harmful partnership. Although ISNA leaders have privately promised to do so on numerous occasions, they have failed to fulfill that promise time and time again. ISNA is still clearly listed as a co-sponsor and partner of the AJC on the anti-Muslim organization’s website. Although we have literally given ISNA years to do the right thing, we can no longer maintain our public silence—especially given the horrific violence that the AJC supported against our Palestinian brothers and sisters over the past few weeks.
Given ISNA’s ongoing failure to end its harmful partnership with the AJC, the signatories to this statement have resolved to do the following: we will not speak at the ISNA convention or any other ISNA events, support their efforts, or collaborate with them until they change course.
We once again urge ISNA leadership to clearly, immediately and publicly end their partnership with those who seek to harm our community so that we can once again work together for the betterment of our nation and people around the world. We urge our community to contact ISNA and encourage them to officially end their partnership with the AJC.
For additional details and background about this issue, please read the detailed fact sheet at the end of this document.
Sameera Ahmed Md
Ehsan Ali Baig
Salah Eddin Elbakri
ISNA announced the launch of a Muslim Jewish Advisory Council (MJAC), co-convened by ISNA and AJC in late 2016. The AJC is not an ally of Muslims. Among other things, the AJC has praised anti-Muslim bigots like Daniel Pipes, Steve Emerson, and Ayaan Hirsi Ali, targeted Rep. Rashida Tlaib, Ilhan Omar and other Muslim Americans who support Palestinian freedom, trafficked in Islamophobic tropes (including blaming the Quran for anti-Semitism in the Muslim community), and repeatedly defended war crimes committed by the Israeli government, including its recent attacks on Gaza that killed at least 60 Palestinian children.
Due to the AJC’s terrible track record of promoting anti-Islamic bigotry and even giving awards to Islamophobes, numerous Muslim community members—including multiple signatories to this statement—privately urged ISNA in 2016 to reconsider the partnership with AJC. Azhar Azeez, president at the time, and other board members eventually pledged that ISNA would not continue working with AJC and that ISNA funds would not be used to support the work of MJAC.
Efforts to Advise ISNA Privately to Break Ties with AJC
Regrettably, there was no change in the partnership. ISNA continued to be actively involved with MJAC, with Azhar Azeez sharing pictures on social media of meetings with MJAC and even of a meeting of MJAC Dallas, that he hosted at his home. Again, out of respect for ISNA leadership, several community leaders continued to urge them privately in 2017 and 2018 to break off formal ties with MJAC/AJC. In response, we continued receiving assurances that ISNA was no longer involved.
In 2019, ISNA leadership directly met with several signatories to this message to discuss this issue. Once again, we were assured ISNA was no longer involved in MJAC and that former ISNA leaders continued to serve on MJAC in their personal capacity. ISNA, for its part, told us it asked AJC explicitly to remove the ISNA name and logo from the MJAC website, but that the AJC had not carried out ISNA's request.
Safa Zarzour became ISNA president in 2020 and engaged in private talks, regarding this issue, led by Dr. Hatem Bazian. Safa was on the ISNA Board in 2016 when MJAC was launched, then became Vice President in 2018 and was elected as President in 2020. Each time, he promised to pull ISNA out of the partnership with the AJC.
In the midst of the recent slaughter of Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank, AJC staff who serve MJAC commemorated the 5-year partnership with ISNA via targeted ads on social media and promoted a “bonus video" to tout the partnership with ISNA and Muslim members of MJAC. AJC simultaneously continued to send messages on social media fully supporting the Israeli slaughter of Palestinians as a part of Israel defending itself.
When confronted with this evidence by Dr. Bazian and Dr. Osama Abuirshaid days ago, Safa again stated unequivocally that ISNA is not in a partnership with AJC and does not have any connection to MJAC. In fact, he and Azhar reiterated to a few Muslim leaders that ISNA has asked AJC repeatedly to remove its name/logo from the MJAC website and that AJC has refused to do so
Enough is Enough
Our community has tolerated ISNA's failure to decisively address the matter of the AJC since November of 2016. We have operated in good faith, expecting that the private assurances would result in an actual end to the partnership with AJC. However, even as we write this letter, ISNA leadership has failed to live up to its own promises regarding the end of its partnership with AJC.
Every day that goes by during which ISNA normalizes collaboration with the AJC, this anti-Muslim Zionist organization can continue to spread Islamophobia and justify the murder of Palestinians while using MJAC and the pretense of “interfaith dialogue” to obscure its true identity as a harmful and hateful organization.
Because there is no evidence that ISNA is ending or has ended its partnership with AJC, we are now addressing the matter publicly. We urge our community to join us in this call to hold ISNA accountable.