Last weekend I attended the 15th Annual Muslim Student Association (MSA) West Conference at the University of California campus in the beautiful seaside town of Santa Barbara. A thousand Muslim students flocked to the school for a packed three-day weekend of speaker sessions and workshops on spiritual tools, campus activism, and “institution building,” all with the supervision and support of the American branches of the subversive Muslim Brotherhood.
The MSA is a fifty-year-old Muslim Brotherhood affiliate with chapters on many hundreds of college campuses (check out this report on the MSA from Steven Emerson’s Investigative Project on Terrorism). The Brotherhood, as I’m sure all FrontPage Mag readers know, is devoted to the elimination of Western civilization. They don’t officially exist in the United States, but of course they have operated here for many decades in the guise of powerful, well-funded legacy groups, the most prominent of which were intimately involved in the MSA West Conference.
The thrust of the annual conference, as its welcome letter stated, was “to inspire, empower, and provide attendees with a tangible plan” – “action items… to improve their personal lives, their MSAs, and their communities at large” – and to link spirituality and activism: “Spirituality is the foundation, providing roots for activism; activism is actualized when produced by a sound spiritual community.” “We weren’t made to sit on the sidelines and not play an active role in society,” reads the description of a workshop led by Edina Lekovic, Communications Director for the Muslim Public Affairs Council.
Toward that end, the MSA hosted nearly 1000 Muslim students, according to its website, for the intense conference. I can attest to the fact that the 860-seat Campbell Hall auditorium, where the main sessions of the conference took place, was always almost entirely full for the main sessions, with more young women than young men in the strictly segregated audience. Speaking of the young women: by my estimate, more than 90% of them were wearing the hijab.
Many of the program listings for the weekend sounded as innocuous and self-actualizing as a Deepak Chopra seminar: “Unlock Your Potential,” one was titled. “Rebirth of the Spiritual Warrior” was another. “Blueprint from the Divine.” “Finding the One.” “Green Your Deen.” Even “Time and Stress Management.” And indeed, there was much lecturing from the speakers about purely spiritual matters: how to be a better Muslim, how to more closely model one’s behavior after the Islamic prophet Muhammad and his companions (whom one speaker, Maryam Amirebrahimi, referred to as “the Prophet’s homeboys and homegirls”), how to redefine masculinity and womanhood, how to deal with campus temptations like drinking and gender relations, etc.
There were also, however, quite a few workshops and talks with an overtly political slant. One main session, called “Perennial Spring” (an echo of the Middle East’s “Arab Spring”), urged Muslim students to learn from the Third World Liberation Front and the civil rights, anti-war and anti-apartheid movements “to effectively organize on campus” and “empower all marginalized peoples.” A report on the “Campus Climate” given by one of the notorious Irvine 11 discussed the state of pro-Palestinian activism. There were workshops on the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement against Israel, ethical consumerism, assuming roles in student government, affecting immigration legislation, taking a stance in education, and building stronger institutions on campus. A workshop titled “Islamitics” stressed the necessity for Muslims to get involved in politics and posed the question, “How can we bridge the gaps between our religion and our votes?”
Combating the threat of “Islamophobia” was a concern frequently expressed throughout the conference. Remember that UC Santa Barbara proudly passed an anti-Islamophobia resolution nearly 2 years ago, affirming that the school would not tolerate the perpetuation of any “inaccurate and xenophobic views toward the culture and practice of Islam and the personification of its followers.” Those “inaccurate” views of Islam include viewing it as “monolithic,” as “a separate and ‘other’ culture that does not share common values,” as “inferior to the west,” as “violent, aggressive, and supportive of terrorism,” as “sexist and oppressive of women,” and as “a political ideology used for political advantage.” Attempting to link any of those characteristics to Islam is considered hate speech, and criminalizing it is the primary means by which Islamic fundamentalists intend to hamstring their Western critics.
The conference program this year is a slickly produced 40-page booklet, half of which details the schedule as well as the speakers’ biographies. The other half consists of ads from some telling sponsors, including the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA), which offers a 50th anniversary gift to MSA activists only: a downloadable guide to “Jumpstart Campus D’awah in One Weekend,” a tool with which to “spread the message of Islam.” Needless to say, ICNA is also a longtime Brotherhood spinoff. Young Muslims (YM) was another sponsor. A subsidiary of ICNA, it provides religious instruction for Muslims aged 14 to 25, hosts events featuring radical Islamic speakers, and has held numerous pre-9/11 “jihad camps” for Muslim youth.
The Muslim American Society (MAS) also took out a page. The MAS was founded by – you guessed it – members of the Muslim Brotherhood. And the American Muslims for Palestine (AMP) were also represented among the programs ads, asking MSA West Conference attendees to “help AMP bring the Palestinian narrative to Americans, one at a time!” AMP seeks to transform high school and university students into activists for the “just Palestinian cause” and to disseminate anti-Israel propaganda into libraries and campuses.
Predictably, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) sponsored a two-page spread as well. CAIR, of course, is the ubiquitous face of the Brotherhood in America, passing itself off as a civil rights advocacy group when in fact it exists to hype the chimeric threat of Islamophobia, to obstruct investigations into Islamic radicalization, to shake down publicity-conscious corporations like McDonalds and Nike, and to bully over-sensitive Americans into making special concessions, not equal rights, to Muslims. Their ad sought interns to do CAIR’s important work (“Not every hero wears tights”) and offered advice about the rights of Muslims, including the following: “Know what to do if/when you’re approached by FBI or law enforcement.” “Learn the most effective methods to get your narrative in the media.” “Increase your community’s influence and engagement through local and state government.”
The involvement of all these suspect organizations points to Muslim Brotherhood support for the conference’s aims. To be continued in Part 2.
Mark Tapson, a Hollywood-based writer and screenwriter, is a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the Freedom Center. He focuses on the politics of popular culture.