The Bridge Initiative, part of the Alwaleed Bin Talal Center for Muslim Christian Understanding at Georgetown University, delivered a broadside against what it described as a “Conspiracy Theory” around the piece of Muslim Brotherhood archival history known as the “Explanatory Memorandum”, by Mohammed Akram Adlouni, a senior U.S. Muslim Brotherhood member.
We have highlighted the ties the Bridge Initiative shares with the U.S. Muslim Brotherhood previously. In particular, we’ve noted that its head, Professor John Esposito, was an advisory board member for the Hamas-linked think tank the United Association of Studies and Research (UASR), along with a myriad of other Brotherhood associations. We’ve also previously highlighted their association with the International Institute of Islamic Thought, a group with ties to Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and even Al Qaeda.
The Bridge Initiative is anxious to debunk the Explanatory Memorandum perhaps because it was quoted last week by Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), as part of his opening statement supporting H.R. 3892, calling on the State Department to designate the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization.
The Bridge Initiative attempts to use guile, misdirection and ad hominem attack in its effort to protect the Muslim Brotherhood’s reputation, but fails miserably.
Firstly, the Bridge Initiative assertion dishonestly describes the Holy Land Foundation Trial in which the Explanatory Memorandum was submitted as evidence, as a “money laundering” trial. In fact it was a trial over a conspiracy to materially support the terrorist group Hamas. Every defendant was convicted on charges of conspiring to provide material support for terrorism, in addition to charges of money laundering. It is intentionally misleading to describe the HLF case as simply a “money laundering case”.
The Bridge Initiative attempts to cite the “opinion by the presiding Judge” that the Explanatory Memorandum did not provide “supporting evidence” of a conspiracy but fails to do so.
They instead link the “Government’s Amended Memorandum in Opposition to Petitioners Islamic Society of North America and North American Islamic Trust’s Motion for Equitable Relief,” not Judge Jorge Solis’ “Memorandum Opinion Order”, and in the linked document the words “supporting evidence” which the Bridge Initiative places in quotes, do not appear.
The words “supporting evidence” do appear in the Judge Solis’ opinion however, and assuming this is what the authors at Bridge Initiative intended to cite, it reads as follows,
“But a published list from the Government naming individuals or entities as co-conspirators without any supporting evidence is not subject to such scrutiny. Therefore, the Court finds it appropriate to seal the entire list of unindicted coconspirators but stops short of ordering CAIR, ISNA and NAIT’s names expunged from any documents filed or produced by the government.”
Just prior to this however, Solis had written,
“Evidence presented in a public trial is inherently different from the Government publishing a list of persons alleged to be co-conspirators. The public may make its own judgment from evidence presented at trial. The evidence may be examined and conclusions can be drawn as to whether the evidence establishes what the government claims it does.”
The “Explanatory Memorandum” falls into that category of evidence presented in a public trial. Elsewhere in the document however, Solis wrote specifically about the Explanatory Memorandum saying:
Government Exhibit 3-85 is titled “An Explanatory Memorandum on the General Strategic Goal for the Group in North America,” authored by Mohamed Akram of the Shura Council of the Muslim Brotherhood and dated May 22, 1991. (Gov’t Ex. 3-85 (Elbarasse 3) at 21.) The “Explanatory Memorandum” includes a section titled “Understanding the role of the Muslim Brother in North America,” which states that the work of the Ikhwan in the United States is “a kind of grand Jihad in eliminating and destroying the Western civilization from within and sabotaging its miserable house by their hands and the hands of the believers so that it is eliminated and God’s religion is made victorious over all other religions.” (Id.) Also contained in that document is a list of the Muslim Brotherhood’s “organizations and the organizations of our friends,” which includes ISNA, NAIT, the Occupied Land Fund (“OLF”) (HLF’s former name), and the United Association for Studies and Research (“UASR”). (Id. at 32.) Government Exhibit 3-64, titled “Preliminary vision for preparing future leadership” and dated December 18, 1988, further ties ISNA to the Muslim Brotherhood by listing it as an “apparatus” of the Brotherhood. (Gov’t Ex. 3-64 (Elbarasse 4) at 5.)
It can be seen that Solis notes that the groups mentioned by name in the Memorandum are also mentioned in other Brotherhood documents submitted at trial, and that this can be taken as authenticating the memorandum itself. You can also see that UASR is the same UASR that Bridge Initiative head Esposito was an advisor for.
The Bridge Initiative treats the Explanatory Memorandum as the aspirations of a single man, but ignores the fact that events described in the memorandum actually happened. Most notably, the merger of the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA) with the Muslim Brotherhood.
Akram makes reference in the Explanatory Memorandum to the discussed merger of the Group with the “Islamic Circle” (meaning the Islamic Circle of North America.) The “Shura Council Report” from 1991 also references two documents associated with the agreement between ICNA and the Muslim Brotherhood:
“Supp. #12: An Islamic work concept between the lkhwan and the ICNA (6/1991).
Supp. #13: A suggestion regarding the relationship with ICNA (6/1991).”
Additionally a Muslim Brotherhood document entitled, “Implementation Manual For the Group’s Plan for the year (1991-1992),” also references ICNA:
“5 – Arriving at a specific definition of the relationship with ICNA.”
It can in fact be shown that ICNA began to publicly identify with the Muslim American Society (MAS), which federal prosecutors have referred to as the “overt arm of the Muslim Brotherhood” by holding joint MAS-ICNA conventions beginning in 2001.
Far from one man’s “fantasy” Akram describes in the Memorandum proposals for events which do in fact take place. Similarly his views on elements of the Muslim Brotherhood’s apparatus in the United States, such as the creation of Islamic Centers, matches other descriptions of Brotherhood’s efforts in the United States, such as the historical description of the MB’s activities provided by then leading MB member Zaid Noman in an audiotape dated sometime in the 1980s, and entered into evidence as Elbarasse Search-2. In other words, Akram’s explanatory memorandum fits into a historical context of what the Brotherhood had done in the past, was proposing to do, and what it in fact can later be shown to have accomplished.
The Bridge Initiative Team goes on to attempt to disarm the public from worrying about Mohammed Akram’s chosen phrase, “civilization-jihad” by claiming that such language is entirely unknown among Muslim Brotherhood documents, and can’t be found in any of a number of document troves they claim to have searched through.
Realizing that Akram’s memorandum was never intended to be read by the public at large at all, but only by high level members of his own organization, and the Bridge Initiative’s insistence that “his [Akram’s] ideas are not widespread online” loses much of its impact.
Interestingly enough though, the Bridge Initiative seems to have missed at least one key document, available online, and published in English, by the very same IIIT which Bridge Initiative’s partners with. A document which seems to contain ideas and concepts comparable to that proposed by Akram’s use of the term “Civilization jihad”.
In 1989, IIIT published Islamization of Knowledge: General Principles and Work Plan, edited by IIIT co-founder Abdulhamid Abu Sulayman. That’s only two years before Mohammed Akram wrote his “explanatory memorandum”, and it contains an interesting reference:
Unlike the past, the civilizational forces contending in this century can reach and overtake anyone without invasion or military occupation of his land. They can subvert his mind, convert him to their world view, neutralize and contain him as a puppet whether he is aware of it or not. Certainly these forces are contending with one another to dominate the world. And it is the decision of Muslims today whether Islam will be the victor tomorrow, whether Muslims will be the makers of history or merely the objects. Indeed, a civilizational battle now in progress in the world scene will not leave anyone unscathed.
Now admittedly IIIT uses the word “battle” not “jihad” (holy war), but the comparison otherwise tracks. Islamization of Knowledge is describing “civilizational battle” as a conflict between ideas advanced through “stealthy techniques” such as subversion and conversion rather than violence. It appears to suggest the author’s view that Islamic civilization must also engage in such techniques in order to emerge triumphant.
But Bridge Initiative mocks those who interpret Mohammed Akram’s statement of “Civilization jihad” as representing an exhortation to engage in just this kind of conflict.
Given the Bridge Initiative’s ties to IIIT, one would have thought they’d have been familiar with IIIT’s seminal work on “Islamization”, and not missed this obviously compatible reference if they were doing their “debunking” in good faith.
The Bridge Initiative attempts to convince readers that the view of the Explanatory Memorandum as representing a seditious conspiracy against the United States is reserved solely for groups like the Center for Security Policy, and former presidential candidate Ben Carson. But the reality is that this view of the document represents the very view of federal law enforcement at the time the document was discovered, and submitted at trial.
The Explanatory Memorandum was taken extremely seriously by key U.S. counterterrorism officials at the time of its discovery. Former U.S. deputy chief for Counterterrorism at the Department of Justice Jeff Breinholt says the Memorandum made:
“Pretty clear as to how they viewed their own objective. And they’re talking about the United States here. For the first time that was almost direct proof of what we had long suspected about their true political goals in the United States…
“Something like the explanatory memo is a bonanza for the art of intelligence because it actually is the target or the subject speaking in their own words about what they intend. You don’t have to read too much into that.”
Former FBI Agent and federal prosecutor Nathan Garret concurred:
“The organizations that were on that list represented a huge segment of the Islamic voice in North America at the time. The Memorandum not only named names, it candidly revealed just how the Brotherhood viewed the United States- as a target of conquest.”
In the sworn affidavit of an FBI agent in the case of Nabil Sadoun, a Muslim Brotherhood member deported from the United States for lying on federal immigration forms about his association with the Hamas-linked UASR (The same UASR for which Esposito was an advisory board member) an FBI agent writes:
The FBI seized numerous documents from Elbarasse’s home, including “An Explanatory Memorandum,” dated May 22, 1991, concerning the strategic goal of the US-MB. This document outlined in detail the US-:MB’s plan for jihad and the elimination of Western civilization from within the United States. [Exhibit A12]
That the Explanatory Memorandum represents a piece of evidence in a conspiracy by the Muslim Brotherhood to wage jihad against the United States is not just the opinion of Frank Gaffney, the Center for Security Policy, or Dr. Ben Carson. It was the view of the United States Government, affirmed by a jury when it convicted the Holy Land Foundation defendants of 108 counts of conspiracy to provide material support for terrorism and money laundering.
The Explanatory Memorandum is not a stand-alone piece of evidence, and it should not be considered as such. Rather it is a particularly eloquent and demonstrative piece of evidence in a mosaic of documents and events which explain the nature and history of the Muslim Brotherhood’s activities in the United States. It has singular importance as a document which opens up for investigation a wider network of Brotherhood activity and concepts.
It has always been the goal of the Center for Security Policy to open up the field of inquiry into these activities and to make them accessible to a wider audience, so as to better inform the public about the national security threat posed by the Muslim Brotherhood and its activities in the United States. The haphazard effort by the Bridge Initiative to muddy the waters is an attempt to obfuscate and manipulate the historical record.
That the Bridge Initiative is tied directly to the very organizations exposed by the publication of the Explanatory Memorandum should be cause enough for skepticism about their charges, but the individual reader is encouraged to examine the record and documents on their own in order to form their own opinion. All publicly released Holy Land Foundation trial documents are available at the website of the United States District Court, Northern District of Texas.