The Islamic States of America?
by Daniel Pipes
September 23, 2004
* Spanish version of this item
The hardest thing for Westerners to understand is not that a war with
militant Islam is underway but that the nature of the enemy's ultimate
goal. That goal is to apply the Islamic law (the Shari`a) globally. In
U.S. terms, it intends to replace the Constitution with the Qur'an.
This aspiration is so remote and far-fetched to many non-Muslims, it
elicits more guffaws than apprehension. Of course, that used to be the
same reaction in Europe, and now it's become widely accepted that, in
Bernard Lewis' words, "Europe will be Islamic by the end of the century."
Because of the American skepticism about Islamist goals, I postponed
publishing an article on this subject until immediately after 9/11,
when I expected receptivity to the subject would be greater (it was
published in November 2001as "The Danger Within: Militant Islam in
America"). I argued there that
The Muslim population in this country is not like any other group,
for it includes within it a substantial body of people—many times more
numerous than the agents of Osama bin Ladin—who share with the suicide
hijackers a hatred of the United States and the desire, ultimately, to
transform it into a nation living under the strictures of militant Islam.
The receptivity indeed was greater, but still the idea of an Islamist
takeover remains unrecognized in establishment circles – the U.S.
government, the old media, the universities, the mainline churches.
Therefore, reading "A rare look at secretive Brotherhood in America,"
in the Chicago Tribune on Sept. 19 caused me to startle. It's a long
analysis that draws on an exclusive interview with Ahmed Elkadi, the
Muslim Brotherhood leader in the United States during 1984-94, plus
other interviews and documentation. In it, the authors (Noreen S.
Ahmed-Ullah, Sam Roe, and Laurie Cohen) warily but emphatically
acknowledge the Islamists' goal of turning the United States into an
Over the last 40 years, small groups of devout Muslim men have
gathered in homes in U.S. cities to pray, memorize the Koran and
discuss events of the day. But they also addressed their ultimate
goal, one so controversial that it is a key reason they have operated
in secrecy: to create Muslim states overseas and, they hope, someday
in America as well. …
Brotherhood members emphasize that they follow the laws of the
nations in which they operate. They stress that they do not believe in
overthrowing the U.S. government, but rather that they want as many
people as possible to convert to Islam so that one day—perhaps
generations from now—a majority of Americans will support a society
governed by Islamic law.
This Brotherhood approach is in keeping with my observation that the
greater Islamist threat to the West is not violence – flattening
buildings, bombing railroad stations and nightclubs, seizing theaters
and schools – but the peaceful, legal growth of power through
education, the law, the media, and the political system.
The Tribune article explains how, when recruiting new members, the
organization does not reveal its identity but invites candidates to
small prayer meetings where the prayer leaders focus on the primary
goal of the Brotherhood, namely "setting up the rule of God upon the
Earth" (i.e., achieving Islamic hegemony). Elkadi describes the
organization's strategic, long-term approach: "First you change the
person, then the family, then the community, then the nation."
His wife Iman is no less explicit; all who are associated with the
Brotherhood, she says, have the same goal, which is "to educate
everyone about Islam and to follow the teachings of Islam with the
hope of establishing an Islamic state."
In addition to Elkadi, the article features information from Mustafa
Saied (about whose Muslim Brotherhood experiences the Wall Street
Journal devoted a feature story in December 2003, without mentioning
the organization's Islamist goals). Saied, the Tribune informs us, says
he found out that the U.S. Brotherhood had a plan for achieving
Islamic rule in America: It would convert Americans to Islam and elect
like-minded Muslims to political office. "They're very smart. Everyone
else is gullible," Saied says. "If the Brotherhood puts up somebody
for an election, Muslims would vote for him not knowing he was with
Citing documents and interviews, the Tribune team notes that the
secretive Brotherhood, in an effort to acquire more influence, went
above ground in Illinois in 1993, incorporating itself as the Muslim
American Society. The MAS, headquartered in Alexandria, Va. and
claiming 53 chapters across the United States engages in a number of
activities. These include summer camps, a large annual conference,
websites, and the Islamic American University, a mainly correspondence
school in suburban Detroit that trains teachers and imams.
Of course, the MAS denies any intent to take over the country. One of
its top officials, Shaker Elsayed, insists that
MAS does not believe in creating an Islamic state in America but
supports the establishment of Islamic governments in Muslim lands. The
group's goal in the United States, he says, "is to serve and develop
the Muslim community and help Muslims to be the best citizens they can
be of this country." That includes preserving the Muslim identity,
particularly among youths.
Notwithstanding this denial, the Tribune finds MAS goals to be clear
Part of the Chicago chapter's Web site is devoted to teens. It
includes reading materials that say Muslims have a duty to help form
Islamic governments worldwide and should be prepared to take up arms
to do so. One passage states that "until the nations of the world have
functionally Islamic governments, every individual who is careless or
lazy in working for Islam is sinful." Another one says that Western
secularism and materialism are evil and that Muslims should "pursue
this evil force to its own lands" and "invade its Western heartland."
[links added by me, DP]
In suburban Rosemont, Ill., several thousand people attended MAS'
annual conference in 2002 at the village's convention center. One
speaker said, "We may all feel emotionally attached to the goal of an
Islamic state" in America, but it would have to wait because of the
modest Muslim population. "We mustn't cross hurdles we can't jump yet."
These revelations are particularly striking, coming as they do just
days after a Washington Post article titled "In Search Of Friends
Among The Foes," which reports how some U.S. diplomats and
intelligence officials believe the Muslim Brotherhood's influence
"offers an opportunity for political engagement that could help
isolate violent jihadists." Graham Fuller is quoted saying that "It is
the preeminent movement in the Muslim world. It's something we can
work with." Demonizing the Brotherhood, he warns, "would be foolhardy
in the extreme." Other analysts, such as Reuel Gerecht, Edward
Djerejian, and Leslie Campbell, are quoted as being in agreement with
But it is a deeply wrong and dangerous approach. Even if the Muslim
Brotherhood is not specifically associated with violence in the United
States (as it has been in other countries, including Egypt and Syria),
it is deeply hostile to the United States and must be treated as one
vital component of the enemy's assault force.