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In Search Of Friends Among The Foes

He named the Muslim Students Association (MSA), which was founded in 1963. Twenty years later, the MSA -- using $21 million raised in part from Qaradawi, banker Nada and the emir of Qatar -- opened a headquarters complex built on former farmland in suburban Indianapolis. With 150 chapters, the MSA is one of the nation's largest college groups.

The MSA Web site said the group's essential task "was always dawah." Nowadays, Muslim activists say, its members represent all schools of Islam and political leanings -- many are moderates, while others express anti-U.S. views or support violence against Israelis.

The Egyptian Ikhwan is opposed to violence against the nation's government but is still considered a terrorist front. (AP)

About This Series

Three years after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, the U.S. government has undertaken extensive efforts to root out Islamic terrorists around the world and to defend the U.S. homeland. Articles today and tomorrow are part of a series looking at the elusive nature of the threat and the problems authorities confront in battling it. Today's story examines a worldwide Islamic movement that has been linked to terrorist groups but also has produced some of the most influential and moderate Islamic institutions in the United States. Tomorrow's report looks at how a mosque that grew out of that movement fares in the world after Sept. 11. Previous parts of this series can be found at www.washingtonpost.com/nation.

_____From This Series_____
Impervious Shield Elusive Against Drive-By Terrorists (The Washington Post, Aug 8, 2004)
U.S. Eyes Money Trails of Saudi-Backed Charities (The Washington Post, Aug 19, 2004)

Some of the same Brotherhood people who started the MSA also launched the North American Islamic Trust (NAIT) in 1971. The trust is a financing arm that holds title to hundreds of U.S. mosques and manages bank accounts for Muslim groups using Islamic principles.

In 1981, some of the same people launched the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), which was also cited in Qaradawi's speech. It is an umbrella organization for Islamic groups that holds annual conventions drawing more than 25,000 people. Some U.S. officials praise its moderation, and its Islamic Horizons magazine covers such topics as Muslim Boy Scouts and Islamic investing principles.

People who helped set up the MSA, NAIT, ISNA and related groups say they are in no way anti-American -- they say they embrace American values while trying to strengthen their Muslim identities. They say their goal is not converting all Americans to Islam but constructing a vibrant Muslim community here.

The MSA, NAIT and ISNA did not respond to requests for comment. Officials from those organizations have said elsewhere they are not connected to foreign groups, such as the Brotherhood. But because the Brotherhood is a secret society, its precise links around the world are hard to determine, U.S. officials said.

In addition to the first generation of groups aimed at consolidating the U.S. Islamic community, a second generation arose to wield political and business clout.

One such group was the American Muslim Council (AMC), launched in 1990 to urge Muslims to get involved in politics and other civic activities. One of its founders was Mahmoud Abu Saud, who 58 years before helped Banna expand the Brotherhood, and who later became a top financial adviser to governments from Morocco to Kuwait, according to documents provided by the SITE Institute, a Washington terrorism research group that has written reports critical of the Brotherhood. The AMC folded in 2003, and a more moderate group has assumed that name.

One leader of the former AMC was Abdurahman Alamoudi, who U.S. officials and Islamic activists say is a Brotherhood associate. In July he pleaded guilty to moving funds from Libya, which was illegal because the United States at the time considered that country a sponsor of terrorism. Federal documents in the case say he is a Hamas supporter. Alamoudi also was identified by U.S. officials in June as a participant in a plot hatched by Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi to assassinate the Saudi head of state, Crown Prince Abdullah.

Another group in this generation is the Muslim American Society, based in Falls Church, which was co-founded in 1992 by Akef, the recently installed head of Egypt's Brotherhood, and other Ikhwanis, Akef told the Chicago Tribune in February. The group's goals include spreading Islam to Muslims and non-Muslims and building "a virtuous and moral society." Its officials deny ties to the Ikhwan.

Home in Northern Virginia

Since the mid-1990s, a Northern Virginia-based group of companies, charities and think tanks has also been under off-and-on scrutiny by U.S. officials looking into whether it has ties to anti-Israel terrorist financing. Lawyers for the informal network, centered on the Herndon-based International Institute of Islamic Thought (IIIT), deny impropriety.

Jordanian political figure Farhan, who was barred from this country in 2000 and then received U.S. diplomats' apologies in Amman, had been on his way to a Virginia board meeting of the IIIT, which he had helped lead for years.

Lawyer Nancy Luque said her clients embrace American values such as democracy and equality for women. "They love this country," she said. "Their kids are in school here becoming doctors and lawyers." In the 1980s and early 1990s, she said, her clients gave intelligence tips picked up by their global contacts to the State and Defense departments.

The IIIT network was set up in the 1980s largely by onetime Brotherhood sympathizers with money from wealthy Saudis, Muslim activists said. A number of its members ended their Brotherhood ties years ago after concluding it was too inflexible but still advocate some of its principles, the activists said.

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