Calling for an Islamic State: ISNA Whopper under Sayyid Syeed


Bernie Sanders, Julian Castro and Trevor Noah are surely excited to be at ISNA’s annual convention this weekend. But what they don’t realize is that they are playing into the hands of Islamophobes out to delegitimize all Muslim Americans. 

The Way To Hell Is Paved With The Best Intentions

Islamophobia of course isn’t their fault, and they’re likely coming with the best intentions in the world. They probable even see their presence at ISNA’s convention in Houston as an act of defiance to confront rightwing bigots. 

Early Theorizing of the “Islamic State”

The same can’t be said of ISNA Chairman Sayyid Syeed. He is an Islamophobe’s dream come true. An earlier post showed MSA-ISNA overtly advocating for armed jihad (their words) just as Sayyid Syeed became the organization’s president.

A year later, Syeed organized ISNA’s second annual conference and invited Hassan Turabi (the mentor of Omar Bashir) to be a keynote speaker on the topic of… “An Islamic State.”

This is from the July 1982 issue of Islamic Horizons – published while Syeed was chairman of the publication and president of ISNA. This is his baby. It offers a summary of Turabi’s speech advocating for an Islamic State.

What a freaking disaster! If you were a rightwing Islamophobe creating the ultimate Muslim bogeyman in a lab, you could not do better than this. It’s almost unreal, yet sadly it’s all too real.

A Generation of Muslim Youth Poisoned

Turabi would put his destructive theory of an Islamic State into practice in Sudan, turning it to the hub for the likes of Usama Bin Laden and spreading the ideology globally. He caused immense suffering and agony. It also sowed the seeds of ISIS.

Sayyid Syeed enthusiastically hosted Turabi. You can see him in the photo on stage. The Islamic Horizons photo caption identifies him, sitting near former MSA head Yaqub Mirza (who had attended what MSA called a “Jihad Conference” the year before).

The damage of all of this is incalculable. It makes Muslim Americans look just like the far-right stereotype we are supposed to be. And Syeed was also giving young Muslims a terrible message: armed jihad toward an Islamic State. The seeds Syeed helped plant have consumed a generation of Muslim youth and directed them down a path that ISIS exploited.

Paling Up With The Far-Right

Syeed is our own Muslim far-right. And in case it wasn’t clear, ISNA actually made common cause with the far-right. Check out this Islamic Horizons story from 1996 blasting President Clinton for “Making Homosexuality Acceptable” and talking about “sexual deviants.” The author: Robert Maginnis of the far-right Family Research Council.

ISNA was printing articles by far-right extremists because, hey, kindred spirits. Lovely cross-pollination. Back in 1996, Syeed helped align ISNA with the far-right. Now he is hoping the left (Bernie and Castro) will be the answer.

But either way, for our community, Sayyid Syeed is a disaster. He embodies all the hateful clichés of the Islamophobes. My children pay the price for his extremism and failed leadership.

Syeed is an enabler who has never been accountable for his actions. He is long overdue, having messed with our community for 40 years now. If people like Harvey Weinstein and Jeffrey Epstein are finally being held accountable, why not our abusive leaders?