Hardline Islamist literature was on full display at this year’s Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) convention that took place outside Chicago in early September. The books were displayed by Furqaan Bookstore, an offshoot of the Furqaan Foundation, a Salafist-run nonprofit headquartered in Bolingbrook, Illinois.
Furqaan’s exhibit stretched across dozens of tables in the main convention hall. A few tables displayed stacks of ornate, mass-produced Qurans, but staffers stocked the remaining tables with colorful Islamic children’s books alongside texts by authors advocating for the creation of an Islamic State and supporting jihad.
The fact that these books are being sold by a subsidiary of a prominent Qatari-supported non-profit that sends Qur’ans into correctional facilities in an apparent effort to radicalize prisoners is of no surprise. But the open display of such texts at ISNA’s annual convention is something else. It indicates that anti-Western ideology is a persistent element of ISNA’s political culture despite its stated commitment to promoting harmonious relations with people of other faiths in the United States. (Neither the Furqaan Foundation nor ISNA responded to requests for comment.)
For example, books by the now-deceased Sheikh Yusuf Qaradawi, the spiritual leader of the Muslim Brotherhood featured prominently in Furqaan’s display. Qaradawi, who had a global reach by virtue of his appearances on Al Jazeera, supported the use of suicide bombers against Israeli civilians and American soldiers in Iraq, affirmed the execution of homosexuals, and declared that the Holocaust was God’s punishment for the Jews.
Similar extremism is evident in Qaradawi’s text, Priorities of the Islamic Movement in the Coming Phase which was for sale at Furqaan’s exhibit at the ISNA convention. In this text, Qaradawi spells out the ambitions of the Islamic Movement globally to resist and fight back against the “unjust Marxist Christian regime in Eritrea”; the “treacherous Christian racist rebellion” in Sudan; the “biased Christian regime” that seeks to “annihilate and enslave” Muslims in the Phillipines; the “tyrants who kill scholars […] and hunt down anyone with religious or intellectual tendencies” in Somalia, and against the “Indian imperialism which is trying to obliterate the province’s Muslim identity” in Kashmir. In Qaradawi’s narrative, Muslims are always the victims.
Also present in Furqaan’s display were over a dozen books by Tariq Ramadan, best known for being the grandson of the late Muslim Brotherhood founder, Hassan al Banna. In his published literature Ramadan fashions himself as a moderate Muslim academic. He wrote, for instance, that “A Muslim resident or citizen of a country must observe the laws of the country where he is established.”
But in private, Ramadan has distributed audio tapes to the Muslim community in which he declares that Muslims can only observe the laws of the country if they are not opposed in principle to Islam. Ramadan, who has been formally formally charged with violently sexually assaulting five women between 2017 and 2020, had his visa allowing him to work in the United States revoked because of his ties to the Islamist movement. Writing in The American Prospect in 2004, Lee Smith declared, “His cry of death to the West is a quieter and gentler jihad, but it’s still jihad.”
Overt anti-Western hostility was evident in the wide selection of used books Furqaan offered for sale at the ISNA convention. These booklets and leaflets, which ranged between $1 and $10, originated from Lahore and Jeddah and printed in the 1980s. One such book was “Islamic Culture in Theory and Practice” by Maryam Jameelah, in which she viciously tirades against the West, against atheists specifically.
In this text, she wrote that “The worst affliction of mankind is not poverty, disease, or illiteracy but Kufr (disbelief). Teen-age [sic] pregnant brides, unwed mothers, venereal disease, abortions, rapes, illegitimate children, drunken derelicts and chauvinistic nationalism – all reflect the consequences of Kufr.”
The text continues with an assault on Western art and culture, not sparing Michelangelo, Rembrandt, Beethoven, Mozart from her wrath before reminding readers that “instrumental music eventually leads to lewdness and that no respectable Muslim woman would sing in public.”
Jameelah also declared that dancing is prohibited completely except at weddings or at the two Eid festivals “to stir up enthusiasm for jihad.” She stipulates that “men dance with men and women with women only.”
Jameelah, born Margret Marcus, was the wife of Muhammad Yusuf Khan, a leader in the Jamaat-e-Islami political party that was largely responsible for carrying out the 1971 genocide against Bangladeshis in which 3 million were killed, and tens of thousands of women were subject to rape as a weapon of war.
While the incendiary literature on the used book table could be written off as gross negligence, Furqaan sells a number of books through its website that promote antisemitic conspiracy theories.
One such book is One Nation Under Israel, by Andrew J. Hurley, who makes a complete caricature Israel’s history, as though its only purpose has been to annihilate the Arab people rather than pursue its right to security and self-determination. Hurley takes an entire chapter in the book to explain plainly why the Jews have no right to a nation-state.
Also in stock, both online and at Furqaan’s ISNA display, are books peddling 9/11-truther conspiracy theories, including 9/11: The Great Illusion by George Humphrey, in which the author outrightly claims that the terrorist attacks of September 11th 2001 were carried out by the US government, the ‘Illuminati,’ and of course, Israel.
Distribution of this kind of literature might be par for the course in places like Lahore or Jeddah. That this sort of literature is being distributed openly to Muslims across America, by a U.S. publisher no less, should be a great cause for alarm – for Muslims and for non-Muslims alike.
Ahnaf Kalam is a writer for Islamist Watch, a project of the Middle East Forum.