Established in January 1963 at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, the Muslim Students Association of the United States and Canada, or MSA (also known as MSA National) currently has chapters on nearly 600 college campuses (including more than 150 chapters affiliated with the national organization) across North America. (The relationship between MSA National and the individual university chapters is not a fixed hierarchy, but rather a loose connection. Thus the policies and views of the national organization may differ from those of some of the local chapters.) Stating that its mission is to serve the best interest of Islam and Muslims in the United States and Canada so as to enable them to practice Islam as a complete way of life, MSA is the most visible and influential Islamic student organization in North America.
Founded by members of the Muslim Brotherhood, MSA was named in a May 1991 Muslim Brotherhood memorandum as one of the Brotherhoods likeminded "organizations of our friends" who shared the common goal of destroying America and turning it into a Muslim nation. These "friends" were described by the Brotherhood as groups that could help teach Muslims "that their work in America is a kind of grand Jihad in eliminating and destroying the Western civilization from within and 'sabotaging' its miserable house by their hands ... so that ... God's religion [Islam] is made victorious over all other religions."
In its earliest days, MSA was financed largely by Saudi Arabia. In return, says a February 2008 New York Times piece, the organization's leaders "pushed the kingdom's puritan, Wahhabi strain of Islam." In the 1960s and 70s, adds the Times piece, MSA chapters "advocated theological and political positions derived from radical Islamist organizations and would brook no criticism of Saudi Arabia."
From its inception, MSA had close links with the extremist Muslim World League, whose chapters' websites have featured not only Osama bin Laden's propaganda, but also publicity-recruiting campaigns for Wahhabi subversion of the Chechen struggle in Russia. According to author and Islam expert Stephen Schwartz, MSA is a key lobbying organization for the Wahhabi sect of Islam.
MSA solicited donations for the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development, whose assets the U.S. government seized in December 2001 because that organization was giving financial support to the terrorist group Hamas. MSA also has strong ties to the World Assembly of Muslim Youth.
Charging that U.S. foreign policy is driven by militaristic imperialism, MSA steadfastly opposes the American military incursions into both Afghanistan and Iraq. The organization also follows the Arab propaganda line in the Middle East conflict and has condemned the anti-terrorist security fence that Israel has built in the West Bank as an illegal "apartheid wall" that violates the civil and human rights of Palestinians.
An influential member of the International ANSWER steering committee, MSA maintains a large presence at ANSWER-sponsored anti-war demonstrations. The pro-North Korea, pro-Saddam Hussein ANSWER is a front organization of the Marxist-Leninist Workers World Party.
Local chapters of MSA were signatories to a February 20, 2002 document, composed by the radical group Refuse & Resist (a creation of the Revolutionary Communist Party's C. Clark Kissinger), condemning military tribunals and the detention of immigrants apprehended in connection with post-9/11 terrorism investigations. The document read, in part: "[T]hey [the U.S. government] are coming for the Arab, Muslim and South Asian immigrants. The recent 'disappearances,' indefinite detention, the round-ups, the secret military tribunals, the denial of legal representation, evidence kept a secret from the accused, the denial of any due process for Arab, Muslim, South Asians and others, have chilling similarities to a police state.
MSA strongly opposes the Patriot Act, which it describes as an "infamous" piece of legislation. The organization's chapters across the United States have similarly denounced virtually every other national security initiative implemented by the U.S. government since the 9/11 attacks.
MSA chose not to endorse or participate in the May 14, 2005 "Free Muslims March Against Terror," an event whose stated purpose was to "send a message to the terrorists and extremists that their days are numbered ... [and to send] a message to the people of the Middle East, the Muslim world and all people who seek freedom, democracy and peaceful coexistence that we support them."
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