The Muslim Students Association- Should it be Cleared?
Some questions and ideas by Mark Silinsky
As winter sets in, many college seniors hoping to land careers in the national security community will send their resumes to an alphabet soup of government agencies. They will apply for positions at the CIA, DIA, FBI, NSA, DNI, NGIC, OSC, INR, which are in need of specific skills and academic backgrounds Some will join the US armed forces, and a few may become foreign area officers. And many military recruiters and personnel offices will compete for candidates who can speak Arabic, have lived in the Middle East, and are conversant on issues involving Islamism, or political Islam. But they should be careful. Some of these students, who look so promising, will have had connections to the Muslim Students Association (MSA). And these connections bring danger.
I have been concerned for many years about the status of the MSA, the student arm of Islamist Brotherhood, IB, (sometimes referred to as Muslim Brotherhood), which is an international Islamic supremacist organization.[i] The casual reader would not know about these ties by reading the website of MSA chapters across America. On the surface, the MSA is, in some ways, indistinguishable from other religious student organizations. Campus religious associations generally profess harmony, tolerance, and diversity. The MSA is no exception.
But there is another, hidden face to the MSA, and it is one of subversion. This face showed itself at the 7th annual MSA West Conference, which was held at the University of Southern California, in 2005. A former MSA-UCLA member, Ahmed Shama, boasted, “We want to restore Islam to the leadership of society…We are trying to establish that system of government, of Islamic governance, and to the helm of life in all walks of life…”[ii] Few Americans, other than the Taliban inclined, would enjoy the world offered by Mr. Shama.
Repeatedly and sometimes with the tacit connivance of university administrators, MSA students have intimidated and bullied critics of aggressive Islam scheduled to speak on campus. For example, Robert Spencer, David Horowitz, and officials or supporters of Israel are regularly heckled or threatened[iii] by the MSA on campuses[iv] across America.[v] MSA students have also intimidated their co-religionists whom they deem insufficiently Islamic. MSA members heckled Muslim students who rallied behind the US efforts to depose Saddam Hussein. [vi] Soon after the Islamist-hijacked airlines were plowed into US skyscrapers and the Pentagon, an MSA student in Arizona staged a fake “hate crime.”[vii] And the litany of abuses continues.
Beyond its thuggery, the MSA is a corruptive element on campus for three reasons. First, it draws young, often liberally inclined, Muslims to its ranks and offers them the most aggressive, totalitarian, Wahhabi-driven elements of Islam. Young Muslims who might serve patriotically in the US armed forces are discouraged from doing so. This is because the primary identity of many MSA members is their Islamist and not their American identity. Generations of college students are given Sayid Qutb and Hassan al Banna as their heros. Second, the MSA is engaged in dawa, or conversion. College students or anybody else have the right to become Muslims. But they should understand that this group represents the most narrow, repressive, and Saudi-like strain of Islam. Third, the MSA contaminates the campus debate about Islam with deceitful tactics. On the MSA’s national website a document advises MSA members to hide their true intentions and tone-down the agenda of Islamists in the US. The document suggests, “Instead of using “Holy War” to translate the world Jihad, use a more comprehensive and proper term like, “struggle” or “striving”…Try to use language that is more appealing to North Americans.” [viii] This definition is not honest. Jihad is not spiritual yoga, it is war.
The MSA came to recent, if only temporary, public scrutiny when a member, jumanah imad albahri, endorsed hizballah leader hassan nasrallah’s stated desire for a second holocaust.[ix] Those who have followed the MSA would be surprised only by Jumanah’s candor and not by her homicidal anti-Semitism, which is characteristic of the MSA.
Why does the MSA still enjoy credibility? There are several reasons. First, many universities are inundated with petro-dollars and have no intention jeopardizing this flow of money. For this reason, administrators have trivialized the MSA’s hate-based propaganda and restricted honest and open debate among critics of the MSA. Many universities have vast and confusing speech codes that intimidate critics of the MSA. Untenured or aspiring academics are reluctant go against an academic grain that sees Muslims as a discriminated class in an “Islamophobic”[x] America.
But many university administrators choose to ignore the problem. Despite my repeated attempts to begin a dialogue with the Vice President of Student Affairs Michael L. Jackson, at the University of Southern California, my alma mater, I received only silence. I asked Dr. Jackson by what right and by whose authority did he silence campus criticism of the MSA, and I did not receive a reply. USC’s Hillel did not seem interested in the issue. But, to its credit, the student newspaper, the Daily Trojan, did print my letter. And at another Southern California university, University of California, Irvine, the MSA was suspended from campus after repeated warnings did not dissuade students from heckling the Israeli ambassador. [xi] This decision was noteworthy because it is so rare.
As a national security professional, I have long advocated that college graduates and interns with strong ties to the MSA, particularly those desiring to serve in US government or military positions, be subjected to very high levels of scrutiny when applying for security clearances required of government positions. This is because the totalitarian, stridently aggressive, and often subversive sentiments of the IB are incompatible with America’s democratic norms. Those who rally behind the IB’s student arm should not be placed in positions of trust. Unlike campus Jewish and Christian communities of faith, the MSA has openly and repeatedly advocated violence, if often in Koranic text and metaphor. It should not be surprising, then, that several chapters of the MSA, UC Irvine and Ohio State, have raised money for Hamas, which is illegal.
There is omerta about the MSA and there shouldn’t be. From a national security perspective, the MSA is a dangerous organization and needs to be treated like one. For this reason, US government officials charged with granting security clearances for positions of trust need to reorient their policies. The MSA should be given a status similar to that of former leftist student organizations with dubious and often subversive political agendas. For example, the 1970’s-era group, Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) was hostile to American norms, despite its confusing and pseudo-patriotic babble of “participatory democracy.” The SDS grew out of the Student League for Industrial Democracy (SLID), a Marxist organization. Certainly, some students joined the SDS, didn’t like what they saw, and left. But others stayed and advocated violence in Chicago, 1968; at Columbia University; and elsewhere.
Some college kids have joined the MSA, and like the some SDS members of their parents’ generation, left because they could not associate themselves with the organization’s agenda. These students should not automatically be denied a security clearance. They can explain their cases to background investigators, who may or may not be sympathetic to their explanations. But a security clearance is a privilege and not a right. As it stands, students can join the MSA and participate in its activities. But before they do so they should understand the organization’s history, connections, and agenda. And after they graduate from college and apply for positions in the national security community, they should not be surprised to hear from a personnel officer, “Sorry, you have great qualifications, but we just can’t clear you.” And, what is more, many should not be cleared.
Mark Silinsky is a 28-year veteran of the defense intelligence community specializing in counterintelligence. The article represents the views of the author only and is not the position of the US Army or any agency or department of the United States.
[i] Joe Kaufman MSA, the Missing Co-Conspirator, FrontPageMagazine.com, July 11, 2007 notes that “The Muslim Students Association (MSA) was founded by members of the radical Muslim Brotherhood, al-Ikhwan al-Muslimun, at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, in January of 1963. It was the first major project of the newly arrived Brotherhood immigrants, who numbered in the hundreds. Today, MSA chapters are found in most, if not all, of the leading universities throughout the United States and Canada.”
[ii] Ahamd Shama, Speech “Global Islamic Movements,” Striving for Revival: Student Activism for Global Reformation: 7th Annual MSA Wes Conference. University of Southern California, January 14-17, 2005
[iii] When Daniel Pipes and Robert Spencer speak before student audiences, they usually need armed guards.
[iv] Pamela Geller, Atlas Shrugged, “Ambassador Oren Heckled at UCI” http://atlasshrugs2000.typepad.com/atlas_shrugs/2010/06/muslim-student-association-msa-banned-from-college-campus-ooorah.html
[v] Robert Spencer, “Enemies of Free Speech yet Again: Muslim Students at Temple University Attempt to Shut Down Wilders Event,” Jihad Watch, October 18, 2009.
[ix] Robert Spencer, “Theology for a Holocaust,” http://frontpagemag.com/2010/05/14/theology-for-a-holocaust.
[x] The term “Islamophobia” is a contrived and dishonest term designed to divert attention from the militant elements of Islam and to label honest critics of Islam as bigots and morons. See Mark Silinsky, “Three Cheers for Islamophobia,” http://righttruth.typepad.com/right_truth/mark-silinsky.