Who is ICNA- the Group tied to Islamic State-inspired Bomb Plotter?

News is breaking today that Noelle Velentzas, one of the two women indicted in New York City court for an alleged bomb plot in support of Islamic State, had ties to the Islamic Circle of North America, a U.S. Islamic group. CNN reports ICNA admitting it’s connection to the woman saying:

“She stayed for a short period of time between 2008 and 2009,” the statement said. “While she was staying in our shelter, our staff helped her get on her feet. During this time she successfully completed studies to become a home health care provider after which she became gainfully employed. She left the facility when she married.”

Velentzas appeared to have experienced hardship in her life but was “working towards self-development and long-term stability,” the statement said.

“She also appeared to be someone who had greatly benefited from the assistance ICNA Relief provides through our shelter system, so we asked her to speak about the experience of our shelter. She appeared at several fundraisers and was the subject of videos as well.”

But who is ICNA, and why is it significant that they played a part in the life of Noelle Velentzas?

ICNA has described itself as being founded on the principles of massively influential Jihadist ideologue Abul Ala Maududi, founder of Jamaat-e-Islami (JeI).  Specifically they describe themselves as:

“using the organizational development methodology of [JI founder] Maulana Mawdudi and the Jamaat Al-Islami of Pakistan, which lays special emphasis on spiritual development, ICNA has developed a strong foundation.”

ICNA is widely considered JeI’s front in the United States, and ICNA Relief has been accused of soliciting funds for a Pakistani charity known to donate to Hamas. ICNA’s former Secretary General  Ashrafuzzaman Khan was convicted in Bangladesh of engaging in war crimes as part of a JeI militia operating on behalf of Pakistan during Bangladesh’s liberation war.

Maududi’s writings on the political nature of Islamic doctrine, and especially “On Jihad“, and was highly influential on a number of key Islamist figures, including Muslim Brotherhood founder Hassan Al Banna, MB ideologue Sayyid Qutb, as well as Al Qaeda and Hamas Co-Founder Abdullah Azzam, whom the two New York girls reportedly praised by name.) While relying on established Islamic sources, Maududi’s writing married Islamic doctrine with more a modern language of “world revolution.” Maududi wrote:

Muslims are in fact an international revolutionary party organised under the ideology of Islam to implement its revolutionary programme. Jihad is the term, denoting the revolutionary struggle to the utmost, of the Islamic revolutionary party to bring about Islamic revolution.”

ICNA’s 2010 “Tarbiyah Guide” for it’s “Sisters’ Wing” features heavy use of Maududi’s works, along with other ideologues including Muslim Brotherhood founder Hassan Al Banna, Chief MB Jurist Yusuf Al Qaradawi, and other  MB members, including Canadian Muslim Brotherhood Member Jamal Badawi, who was subject to the DHS “Hands Off” List current being investigated by Sen. Chuck Grassley. ICNA unified with the Muslim Brotherhood in North America in the 1990s, according to Muslim Brotherhood archival documents acquired by Federal law enforcement and submitted during the Holy Land Foundation Trial. The Tarbiyah guide does not shy away from commenting on Jihad, noting in a comment on regarding the As’hab us-Suffah (Men of the Platform, a group of men close to Muhammed who were homeless following the hijra to Medina and known for their learnedness and memory):

Their services to Islam were not limited to the Suffah and whenever the call for Jihad was made they were ever ready to sacrifice their lives on the battlefield despite being hungry, without proper provisions and with insufficient armor.

Ironically, Noelle Velentza was herself homeless when she encountered ICNA.

If it was ICNA that helped Noelle Velentza with her “Self-development” in the manner of Abul Ala Maududi and the JeI, then perhaps we should not be surprised by the outcome being a young woman enamored of jihadist violence and seeking to join the “Caliphate” as she has been taught is her obligation. Until we are prepared to address the actual role of groups like the Muslim Brotherhood and Jamaat-e-Islami in training and indoctrinating young people that they have an obligation to engage in jihad, Islamic State will continue to find potential recruits susceptible to their message.

About Kyle Shideler

Kyle Shideler is the Director of the Threat Information Office (TIO) at the Center for Security Policy. Kyle works to inject serious research and analysis on the subject of Islamic terrorism and Shariah law into the beltway policy discussion, by challenging false assumptions and providing fully documented resources, primary research and influential talking points to policymakers, journalists, and foreign relations professionals. Kyle has previously served as a Director of Research and Communications, Senior Researcher, and Public Information Officer for several organizations in the field of Middle East and terrorism policy since 2006. He is a contributing author to “Saudi Arabia and the Global Islamic Terrorist Network: America and the West’s Fatal Embrace,” and has written for numerous publications as well as briefed legislative aides, intelligence and law enforcement officials, and the general public on the threat posed by Islamist influence and penetration operations.