The Saudi-funded, al Qaeda propaganda machine is in full effect behind the Islamic Assembly of North America (IANA), an ostensibly mainstream organization that had five of its members arrested and indicted at the end of February. Four of the men were running an IANA spin-off charity, Help the Needy, and funneling money illegally through it to Iraq. The fifth, Samih Al-Hussayen, a student at the University Idaho, was arrested for knowingly neglecting to list his affiliation with IANA on his visa application when he entered the country. Al-Hussayen’s employment and activities at IANA should immediately be worrisome — one federal source stated to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, “He’s in touch with people who could pick up the phone, call UBL, and he would take the call.”
IANA receives half its funding from the Saudi government and the other half from mostly Saudi private donors, according to a New York Times interview with IANA’s director, Mohammed al-Ahmari. Al-Hussayen’s indictment notes that IANA’s proselytization activities included the “dissemination of radical Islamic ideology the purpose of which was indoctrination, recruitment of members, and the instigation of acts of violence and terrorism.” Backed by the Saudis, IANA has become a glorified al Qaeda recruitment center.
Two of the most radical sheiks in Saudi Arabia who provide religious justification for al-Qaeda, Salman Al-Awdah and Safar al-Hawali, have several fatwas (religious rulings) and statements plastered all over IANA’s websites. These fatwas legitimize suicide bombings, terrorist attacks, and spit hatred towards the West. Both Al-Awdah and al-Hawali received phone calls from Mounir Motassadeq, a member of the Hamburg-based September 11 cell who was recently convicted in Germany of aiding the hijackers and being an accessory to over 3,000 murders. U.S. officials maintain al-Hawali is linked to the al Qaeda cell that bombed the U.S. embassy in Kenya in 1998. In bin Laden’s 1996 declaration of war against the West, the terrorist commander “bemoaned” the arrests of the two sheikhs, who are frequently incarcerated in Saudi Arabia for their support of terrorism and for criticizing and condemning the royal family.
Paradoxically, however, it was Saudi Prince Nayef bin Abdelaziz who in 1999 released the two “religious scholars” from one of their stints in jail, and according to the Mideast Mirror, “warmly received” them and promised “there would be no official curbs on their activities.” Despite the two sheikhs hatred for the Saudi royal family and their radical fatwas, the Saudi government continues to fund their fanatical propaganda on IANA’s websites, but why? Any Arabic speaker familiar with the Arab world (which presumably those in the Saudi government are) can immediately recognize IANA’s lineup of radical “scholars” who support and legitimize al Qaeda’s activities.
The only conclusion is that elements within the Saudi government knowingly support IANA as a jihadist recruitment center — but the recruitment is clandestine to most Americans, including law enforcement. For the most part, IANA has attempted to mask its vitriolic propaganda, publishing its most radical content solely in Arabic. IANA’s English products and publications are conspicuously absent of the harshest al Qaeda and terrorist propaganda. Only in Arabic, on IANA’s several websites, can an individual read about the glory of suicide missions or navigate to audio clips religiously justifying terrorist attacks and calling for jihad.
One fatwa in particular appears to have given the justification to the hijackers to carry out the September 11 attacks. A government translation of a fatwa by a “radical Saudi sheikh” ominously published on one of IANA’s websites, Alasr.ws, in May 2001, stated, “[T]he mujahid must kill himself if he knows that this will lead to killing a great number of enemies…this can be accomplished with the modern means of bombing or bringing down an airplane on an important location that will cause the enemy great losses.”
Radical proselytization, both written and spoken by other prominent radical sheikhs, like bin Laden’s mentor and founder of al Qaeda, Abdullah Azzam, populates IANA’s websites. IANA also hosts recruitment videos for jihad, with clips displaying the dead bodies of mujahedeen from terrorist operations and glorifying them. To see one such video, one can visit (if it is taken down after this piece is published, please contact the SITE Institute for a copy). This clip is of martyrs from Chechnya, funded by al Qaeda, who have been killed in operations and are now being honored. (It is a very graphic clip, and only individuals who are strong of mind and stomach should view it.)
Backed with copious Saudi funding, IANA has created a series of websites respected by al Qaeda members from around the world. Azzam Publications, the English mouthpiece of al Qaeda named for Abdullah Azzam that was shut down by the FBI, had a direct link from its former website, Azzam.com, to IANA’s main website, Iananet.org. Another of IANA’s websites, Islamway.com, advertised for the Saudi charity, Al-Haramain, which had two of its branches raided in Bosnia and Somalia for supporting al Qaeda and is an entity being sued by the 9/11 Families United to Bankrupt Terrorism. The link to al-Haramain, taken off the website only very recently, always remained conspicuously absent from the English-language version of the website.
Once again, we see the Saudi government maintaining to be an ally of the United States, while at the same funding a rampant systematic radicalization of the worldwide Muslim population. Like IANA’s websites, the Saudis maintain one thing to the United States in English, while snickering behind America’s back in Arabic. With incredible hubris, Saudi Arabia utilizes North America as a base of global indoctrination. IANA is just one example, that even pervades into the U.S. prison system. According to IANA’s website, last year, the organization sent 106 packages of Islamic propaganda materials to prisons nationwide, at a cost of $100 a package. This year, the website maintains, IANA hopes to send 250 additional packages to prisons. Their goal, they say, is to reach 1,000 prisons.
If propaganda tools like IANA are legitimized and allowed to operate in the United States, we can expect the hatred towards the U.S. to balloon. Saudi Arabia succors the hatred of the West, and so long as the Kingdom continues to fund jihadists and their propaganda, our war on terror will have to overcome increasing burdens. The U.S. government is to be commended for its job in arresting several of the individuals behind IANA’s activities, but the victory is a hollow one. IANA and several other organizations like it are still active in the United States and will no doubt continue their propaganda programs and their incitement to drive individuals to commit terrorist attacks, unless concerned citizens refuse to legitimize these organizations and expose them.
— Rita Katz is the director of the SITE Institute, based in Washington, D.C. Josh Devon is an analyst at the SITE Institute. The SITE Institute is one of the investigation teams for the 9/11 Families United to Bankrupt Terrorism.