In July 2007, seven key leaders of an Islamic charity known as the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development (HLF) went on trial for charges that they had: (a) provided “material support and resources” to a foreign terrorist organization (namely Hamas); (b) engaged in money laundering; and (c) breached the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, which prohibits transactions that threaten American national security. Along with the seven named defendants, the U.S. government released a list of approximately 300 “unindicted co-conspirators” and “joint venturers.” During the course of the HLF trial, many incriminating documents were entered into evidence. Perhaps the most significant of these was “An Explanatory Memorandum on the General Strategic Goal for the Group in North America,” by the Muslim Brotherhood operative Mohamed Akram.
Written sometime in 1987 but not formally published until May 22, 1991, this 18-page document listed the Brotherhood’s 29 likeminded “organizations of our friends” that shared the common goal of dismantling American institutions and turning the U.S. into a Muslim nation. These “friends” were identified by Akram and the Brotherhood as groups that could help convince Muslims “that their work in America is a kind of grand Jihad in eliminating and destroying the Western civilization from within and ‘sabotaging’ its miserable house by their hands … so that … God’s religion [Islam] is made victorious over all other religions.”
Akram was well aware that in the U.S., it would be extremely difficult to promote Islam by means of terror attacks. Thus the “grand jihad” that he and his Brotherhood comrades envisioned was not a violent one involving bombings and shootings, but rather a stealth (or “soft”) jihad aiming to impose Islamic law (Sharia) over every region of the earth by incremental, non-confrontational means, such as working to “expand the observant Muslim base”; to “unif[y] and direc[t] Muslims’ efforts”; and to “present Islam as a civilization alternative.” At its heart, Akram’s document details a plan to conquer and Islamize the United States – not as an ultimate objective, but merely as a stepping stone toward the larger goal of one day creating “the global Islamic state.”
In line with this objective, Akram and the Brotherhood resolved to “settle” Islam and the Islamic movement within the United States, so that the Muslim religion could be “enabled within the souls, minds and the lives of the people of the country.” Akram explained that this could be accomplished “through the establishment of firmly-rooted organizations on whose bases civilization, structure and testimony are built.” He urged Muslim leaders to make “a shift from the collision mentality to the absorption mentality,” meaning that they should abandon any tactics involving defiance or confrontation, and seek instead to implant into the larger society a host of seemingly benign Islamic groups with ostensibly unobjectionable motives; once those groups had gained a measure of public acceptance, they would be in a position to more effectively promote societal transformation by the old Communist technique of “boring from within.”
“The heart and the core” of this strategy, said Akram, was contingent upon these groups’ ability to develop “a mastery of the art of ‘coalitions.’” That is, by working synergistically they could complement, augment, and amplify one another’s efforts. Added Akram: “The big challenge that is ahead of us is how to turn these seeds or ‘scattered’ elements into comprehensive, stable, ‘settled’ organizations that are connected with our Movement and which fly in our orbit and take orders from our guidance.” The ultimate objective was not only an enlarged Muslim presence, but also implementation of the Brotherhood objectives of transforming pluralistic societies, particularly America, into Islamic states, and sweeping away Western notions of legal equality, freedom of conscience, freedom of religion, and freedom of speech.
Akram and the Brotherhood understood that in order to succeed in this endeavor, they needed to appeal to different strata of the American population in different ways; that whereas some people could be influenced by messages delivered from a religious perspective, others would be more responsive to messages delivered by educators, or bankers, or political figures, or journalists, etc. Thus, Akram’s blueprint for the advancement of the Islamic movement stressed the need to form a coalition of groups coming from the worlds of education; religious proselytization; political activism; audio and video production; print media; banking and finance; the physical sciences; the social sciences; professional and business networking; cultural affairs; the publishing and distribution of books; children and teenagers; women’s rights; vocational concerns; and jurisprudence.
By promoting the Islamic movement on such a wide variety of fronts, the Brotherhood and its allies could multiply exponentially their influence. Toward that end, the Akram/Brotherhood “Explanatory Memorandum” named the following 29 groups as the organizations they believed could collaborate effectively to destroy America from within – “if they all march according to one plan”:
- Islamic Society of North America (ISNA)
- ISNA Fiqh Committee (now known as the Fiqh Council of North America)
- ISNA Political Awareness Committee
- Muslim Youth of North America
- Muslim Students Association of the U.S. and Canada
- Association of Muslim Scientists and Engineers
- Islamic Medical Association (of North America)
- Islamic Teaching Center
- Malaysian Islamic Study Group
- Foundation for International Development
- North American Islamic Trust
- Islamic Centers Division
- American Trust Publications
- Audio-Visual Center
- Islamic Book Service
- Islamic Circle of North America
- Muslim Arab Youth Association
- Islamic Association for Palestine
- United Association for Studies and Research
- International Institute of Islamic Thought
- Muslim Communities Association
- Association of Muslim Social Scientists (of North America)
- Islamic Housing Cooperative
- Muslim Businessmen Association
- Islamic Education Department
- Occupied Land Fund (later known as the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development)
- Mercy International Association
- Baitul Mal Inc.
- Islamic Information Center (of America)
By setting up these many front groups, the Muslim Brotherhood was emulating the Communist Party tactic of creating interlocking front groups during the Cold War in order to confuse its enemies and make it more difficult to combat.