ISNA’s Sayyid Syeed Hurts Ordinary Muslim Americans


As ISNA’s annual convention boots up with Bernie Sanders, Julian Castro and Trevor Noah, the group must be euphoric for scoring this line up. 

What ISNA Was Saying When Sayyid Syeed Created It

No one is likely happier than its president, Dr Sayyid Syeed. Four decades ago Syeed led the creation of ISNA out of the Muslims Students Association. Back then the annual convention’s headline speakers were folks like Hasan Al-Turabi, the extremist Sudanese cleric who helped bring genocidal dictator Omar al-Bashir to power. Today ISNA attracts leading American presidential candidates.

Reading The Archives

In the stash of old issues of Islamic Horizons (which Syeed chaired for years), there is a classic edition of the MSA-ISNA newsletter from the time Syeed formally took power. Let’s take a look at what Syeed and his ISNA co-founders were advocating in the name of Muslim Americans. Here is the cover of the January 1981 edition:


Clarity of Intent

The frontpage makes clear this is about “armed struggle.”

Sayyid Syeed Overtly Promoted Armed Jihad as a Moral Obligation

Just in case you miss the message and think this is about the jihad of self-improvement, page 12 of the issue sets you straight:

“The life and health of an Islamic country and society is directly related to Jihad. If Jihad is abandoned by a society, its decay and disintegration soon follows. However, Muslims, as well as non-Muslims, have growing misconceptions about Jihad. Some even think that Jihad with one’s self (Jihad bi an nafs) is superior to other kinds of struggle. Such misconceptions need clarification.”

Thank you for clarifying!

Sayeed Syeed’s Close Friend Yaqub Mirza Attends “Jihad Conference”

Then, Page 10 of the issue offers another clarifying moment for confused readers. An article proudly announces: “Professor Sayyaf Guest at Jihad Conference.” The article notes that Syeed’s mentor and former MSA president Yaqub Mirza was a guest at the Jihad Conference.

On Page 13, Syeed’s newsletter highlights the bestsellers from its “Islamic Book Service” bookstore. Top items: “Islam and Universal Peace” from Ikhwan leader Sayyed Qutb, “Towards Understanding Islam” from Deobandi godfather Sayyid Maududi, and an offering from Dr. Khurshid Ahmad, Zia’s key Islamist theorist.

Sayeed Syeed Has Never Apologized for These Views

The same issue on Page 8 announces that Syeed has been elected the new President of the MSA Executive Committee. 

The next page makes clear that Syeed’s Executive Committee is leading the creation of ISNA, which will be formally created at MSA’s convention a few months later:

So, It’s clear that Syeed was in charge and leading MSA-ISNA when the calls for armed Jihad were being promoted, along with books by hardcore founders of Islamist movements. And all this was being delivered to young Muslims studying in America. What a disaster! It’s like a fantasy a rightwing bigot would cook-up about Muslims… only sadly it is true and articulated overtly by Syeed’s own publication.

Never Held Accountable

Bernie Sanders, Julian Castro and Trevor Noah better understand who really they are dealing with. And the members of ISNA ought to ask Syeed about this nastiness. He owes Muslim Americans an apology. This kind of discourse is ugly and should never have taken root in our community. Syeed has never accounted for any of his reprehensible views, shady associations.

Syeed, never acknowledged any regrets, or repudiate any of this history. The proof? he’s still ISNA’s president!