Most, if not all, of the Muslim movements and networks with a significant presence in Western Europe can also be found in North America.55 The Gülen movement, for example, has several affiliates in the United States, including the Rumi Forum in Washington, D.C.; the Niagara Foundation, which has branches in several Midwestern states; and the Pacifica Institute, which has branches in Los Angeles, San Francisco and other cities in California. These organizations host conferences and seminars on intercultural and interfaith issues as a means of reaching out to non-Muslim organizations and institutions in their communities. The movement recently opened the Assembly of Turkic American Federations in Washington, D.C., an umbrella organization founded for the purpose of connecting and coordinating the work of various state and local Gülen-linked associations in the U.S.
The movement also funds a handful of Gülen-inspired private schools in the U.S., including Pinnacle Academy in Oakton, Va. (a Washington, D.C., suburb). These private schools are aimed primarily at the Turkish-American community. In addition, followers of the movement have established several dozen publicly funded charter schools in the U.S. that cater primarily to non-Muslims.56 The movement also runs a satellite and local-access cable television station, Ebru TV, based in New Jersey, that broadcasts a wide range of family-oriented educational and lifestyle programs, as well as Turkish programs dubbed in English.
Muslim Brotherhood supporters were involved in the founding of several groups in North America, including the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) and the Muslim American Society (MAS). But these organizations have since diversified their memberships and activities. ISNA is now a broad-based organization whose annual conventions are attended by Muslims of varied backgrounds and sectarian orientations. CAIR focuses on advocacy and civil rights issues involving Muslim Americans. MAS, which has dozens of local chapters across the U.S., was the organization most closely associated with the Brotherhood when it was founded in the early 1990s, but its current leadership disavows ongoing ties to the movement and emphasizes the group’s civil rights and social justice agenda.57
The Muslim World League, which undertakes a wide range of activities focused on the propagation of Islam, has offices in New York City and Falls Church, Va. (a Washington suburb), as well as one near Toronto. The World Assembly of Muslim Youth, which focuses primarily on promoting Islamic solidarity among Muslim teenagers and young adults in their early 20s, also has an office in Falls Church, Va.
Radical Islamist groups generally have less of a public profile in North America than they have in Europe. While it is likely that groups such as al-Qaeda have tried to recruit in the U.S., their influence is mostly inspirational. For example, the alleged perpetrator of the 2009 Fort Hood shootings in Texas, Nidal Malik Hasan, had e-mail contact with Anwar al-Awlaki, a dual U.S.-Yemeni citizen, thought to be living in Yemen, who is on a U.S. government list of terrorists. U.S. officials also have accused al-Awlaki of playing a “direct operational role” in an attempt by Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the son of a prominent Nigerian banker, to blow up an airliner en route to Detroit on Christmas Day 2009.58 Al-Shabab, a militant movement based in Somalia that has close ties to al-Qaeda, is reported to have sought recruits from the Somali-American community.
The radical but officially nonviolent Islamist group known as Hizb ut-Tahrir is thought to have a small presence in North America. The group sponsors conferences and online seminars to help promote its agenda, which is to establish a new era of Islamic rule through political means.
Traditional Sufi orders also maintain regional centers in the U.S., such as the Islamic Supreme Council of America and the As-Sunnah Foundation of America, both based in a suburb of Flint, Mich. These two organizations serve as the U.S. outreach and publishing wings of the Naqshbandi Haqqani Sufi order.
The Tablighi Jama’at has a sizeable presence in North America, including a U.S. coordinating center, Al Falah Mosque in Queens, N.Y., which organizes trips by small groups of missionary preachers across the U.S. The primary purpose of these missionary groups is to encourage Muslims in the U.S. to be more devout rather than to convert non-Muslims to Islam. U.S. law enforcement personnel have raised concerns from time to time that some of the group’s followers in the U.S. might have ties to radical groups such as al-Qaeda.59
Networks of religious scholars also extend into North America. The al-Khoei Foundation, for example, has an office in Queens, N.Y. Another prominent network is the Fiqh Council of North America, an affiliate of ISNA, which describes itself as a group of Islamic scholars from the U.S. and Canada that offers advice on the application of Islamic legal principles. The views of religious scholar Yusuf al-Qaradawi feature prominently in the Council’s deliberations by virtue of the fact that many of the group’s senior figures are his close followers or former students.
55 For information on Muslims in America, see “Muslim Americans: Middle Class and Mostly Mainstream,” Pew Research Center, May 22, 2007. (return to text)
56 See Greg Toppo, “Objectives of Charter Schools with Turkish Ties Questioned,” USA Today, Aug. 17, 2010. (return to text)
57 See MAS Freedom, “Muslim American Society Official Statement Concerning the Muslim Brotherhood as Approved by its Board of Trustees.” (return to text)
58 See, for example, Kimberly Dozier, “NCTC’s Leiter says U.S. Yemeni cleric helped Christmas Day bomber attack Americans,” The Associated Press, July 1, 2010. (return to text)
59 See, for example, Susan Sachs, “A Muslim Missionary Group Draws New Scrutiny in U.S.” The New York Times, July 14, 2003. (return to text)
Photo credit: Gérard Degeorge/CORBIS