International Institute of Islamic Thought

International Institute
of Islamic Thought
Headquarters555 Grove Street, Herndon, Virginia

The International Institute of Islamic Thought (IIIT) is a privately held non-profit organization. It was founded in 1981 in Pennsylvania, and is headquartered in Herndon, Virginia, in the suburbs of Washington, DC. Their main interest is carrying out evidence-based research in advancing education in Muslim societies and the dissemination of this research through publication and translation, teaching, policy recommendations, and strategic engagements all with "the objectives of revival and reform of Islamic thought."[1] The International Institute of Islamic Thought was established as a non-profit 501(c)(3) non-denominational organization in the United States in 1981. The headquarters are in Herndon, Virginia.[2]

Core approach[edit]

IIIT's two chief co-founders in 1981 were Ismail al-Faruqi and Anwar Ibrahim. IIIT hosts scholars from throughout the Islamic world to work on the 'Islamization of knowledge,' an examination of each main academic discipline in light of Islam. IIIT publishes a research monograph series and The American Journal of Islamic Social Sciences and offers a master's degree in Islamic Studies along with a master's program for imams. According to Faruqi, "Islamization of knowledge' does not mean subordination of knowledge to dogmatic principles, but rather in the words of The Oxford Dictionary of Islam, "testing every truth claim by internal coherence, correspondence with reality, and enhancement of human life and morality."[3]

IIIT's founders maintain that the global Muslim community is experiencing "an intellectual crisis." IIIT's approach is to address this crisis "through critical examination of Muslim heritage" along with an effort to integrate the study of Islamic scriptures—the Qur’an and Sunnah (Prophet Muhammad's examples)—and human knowledge acquired through the humanities, social and natural sciences. To that end, the IIIT advocates "reform of education in Muslim societies (and elsewhere) that takes into account these integrated approaches to knowledge." This also includes constructive engagement with Jewish and Christian faith traditions, which was pioneered by IIIT founder al-Faruqi who in 1979 convened a gathering of Jewish, Christian, and Muslim scholars described as "a Trialogue of Abrahamic Faiths." In 1981, IIIT published a book with this title.[1]

According to the Wake Forest University School of Divinity, one of IIIT's other main remits is to address "Islamic thought and education to revive and promote appropriate knowledge of Islamic tradition to bridge the divides and counter misunderstandings currently present in communities."[4]


IIIT undertakes a range of activities encompassing research, education, training, strategic engagement and policy development.

Publications and translations[edit]

IIIT offers many publications in English, Arabic, and other translations. They have a Books-in-Brief series as well as journals.[5] The IIIT Publication and Translation program is the Institute's flagship portal to address core intellectual, topical and epistemological issues, through books and research papers.

Since 1981 IIIT has published over six hundred titles in English and Arabic, and translated and published more than 400 titles in over 35 languages. The subject matter has covered Islamic studies, intellectual development in Islamic thought, humanities, social sciences, maqasid al-Shariah, apostasy, parenting, and the advancement of education in Muslim societies. In addition, the underlying ethical, faith-based prescriptions that mark out IIIT publications embody a universal moral code that aims at the general welfare and betterment of humanity. Taking these factors into account, IIIT seeks and welcomes new ideas and encourages critical thinking.[5]

Advancing Education in Muslim Societies (AEMS)[edit]

IIIT's core research programme is Advancing Education in Muslim Societies (AEMS), focusing on educational research in areas of curriculum, pedagogy, leadership, policy, and monitoring and evaluation. Its vision is to promote "thriving Muslim societies in which individuals achieve their fullest potential through transformative learning, social development and personal growth." This is achieved by conducting and disseminating "theoretical and empirical research to empower Muslim societies with data-driven policy recommendations while fostering societal and individual development through transformative learning." AEMS aims to "empower a new generation of Muslim intellectuals, educators and academics."[6] IIIT has partnered with American University's International Training and Education Program to offer a master's degree program toward AEMS focusing on social emotional learning as a means for "educational reform in Muslim societies."[7] IIIT has also partnered with Indiana University Press to publish a peer-reviewed academic journal and book series.[6]

Although AEMS is focused on enhancing Muslim societies, this also geared toward enhancing Muslim contributions to civilization and humanity at large. AEMS aims to "transform education systems and enhance people's well-being so they can proactively help build both their societies and a civilization of peace and prosperity for all."[8]

Strategic Engagement Unit[edit]

IIIT runs a Strategic Engagement Unit designed to help governments, school systems, higher education institutions, and private educational foundations implement programs to "improve educational outcomes in the third space... defined as education for meaningful living which offers psychological and emotional stability, social and relational fulfilment along with purposeful and impactful economic, community, and political engagement."[9]

Policy Department[edit]

IIIT's Policy Department seeks to identify gaps in current policies and aims to offer potential solutions for educational practices to be transformative, so that "education is a means for advancing holistic human development." Its focus is on modernizing and reforming education policy in the Muslim world, and works with education policy reform experts and stakeholders, including policy advisors, governmental officials, academics, teachers, and parents.[10]

The Fairfax Institute (TFI)[edit]

The IIIT runs The Fairfax Institute as its principal training arm. Its main aims are "continued education, community outreach, and inter-faith dialogue". TFI provides enrichment courses, training workshops, seminars, and career development programs to achieve these goals.[11]

Sami Al-Arian and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad[edit]

Just like many Islamic organizations after 9/11, On March 20, 2002, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) officials raided the Institute and closed the Institute temporarily. The agents were seeking evidence that the Institute was contributing to terrorists, and seized about 25 computers and documents that included financial records, mailing lists, and staff lists .[12] The search was part of a larger FBI-Customs Service series of raids that included 19 other business and non-profit entities known as Operation Green Quest. "Such a massive ream of documents came out of those search warrants," one law enforcement official said, "it takes incredibly lengthy investigative work."[12] The lawsuit was finally dismissed against IIIT, as nothing was found.

The raids led to the convictions of two people, including Abdurahman Alamoudi, who worked for the SAAR Foundation. Alamoudi admitted that he plotted with Libya to assassinate the Saudi ruler and was sentenced to 23 years in jail But no link of his work to IIIT was found.[13][14][15]

A leader of the Institute, Iqbal Unus, his wife and daughter brought suit charging that their rights were violated and the government was guilty of assault, trespass, and false imprisonment when their home was searched in the raid. A federal judge dismissed the suit, however. The lawsuit had also named a terrorism researcher, Rita Katz, as a defendant, but the judge dismissed her from the case and awarded her $41,000 in legal fees.[14]

The Institute was a one time donor to Sami Al-Arian's now-defunct World and Islam Studies Enterprise, a "think tank" shut down after the FBI confiscated its files in 1995. That think tank raised money for the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, which the State Department labeled a terrorist group in 1995.[16][17] Al-Arian pleaded guilty in 2006 to helping a terrorist organization, and was sentenced to 57 months in prison. Taha Jaber Al- Awani, an officer of the Institute, was named an unindicted co-conspirator in Al-Arian's case.[18]

The Institute, whose money was believed to come from wealthy Saudi Arabians through the SAAR Foundation (a tightly connected Herndon-based network of more than 100 organizations; also known as the Safa Group), also funded other Al-Arian organizations, including the Tampa Bay Coalition for Justice and Peace, the Islamic Academy of Florida and the Islamic Committee for Palestine.[19][20] Two incorporators of the Islamic trust that owns the Islamic Academy of Florida were Jamal Barzinji and Hisham Al-Talib, both of whom also served as directors of the Institute.[21]

Attorneys for the Institute claimed that the raid violated its free speech and privacy rights, and asked U.S. Magistrate Judge Theresa C. Buchanan to order the boxes of records returned. But on May 4, 2002, the Judge found that the investigative agents had acted properly, and declined to lift her order sealing the affidavits, though she urged prosecutors to return seized property as soon as possible.[22]

In October 2002, Virginia Representative James P. Moran, Jr., said he was returning donations from the Institute, as: "I don't want any contributors to my campaign contributing to any individuals or organizations, even inadvertently, that might fund terrorism or organizations involved in terrorism."[23]

In 2007 he refused to answer questions to a grand jury about the Institute, he was found guilty of civil contempt and jailed for 13 months. On October 16, 2006, and on March 20, 2008, Al-Arian refused to answer questions about the Institute before a federal grand jury, asserting that he believed his life would be in danger if he testified. He was charged with criminal contempt the following month for unlawfully and willfully refusing court orders that he testify as a grand jury witness.[13][24][25][26] On September 2, 2008, he was released from custody and put under house arrest at his daughter Laila's residence in Northern Virginia, where he is being monitored electronically while he awaits trial on criminal contempt charges.[27] While under federal law, Al-Arian could not be jailed for more than 18 months for civil contempt, the law does not have a time limit for criminal contempt.[28]

The Institute canceled its $1.5 million offer to Temple University for an endowed chair in Islamic studies after concerns were raised about the Institute's possible funding of suspected terrorists, it was reported in January 2008. Negotiations between Temple and the Institute broke down after trustees and others pressed Temple to reject the gift. Temple president Ann Weaver Hart had said that "after much discussion and consideration, Temple decided to neither accept or reject this generous offer. The university indicated that no decision regarding this matter would be made until post-9/11 federal investigations of the IIIT are complete."[29]

Tarik A. Hamdi and al-Qaeda[edit]

Tarik Hamdi came to the United States and applied for citizenship providing false information.[30][31] Hamdi worked for Sami Al-Arian, who confessed to providing assistance to the PIJ (Palestinian Islamic Jihad) and later worked for IIIT.

In May 1998 ABC News, in pursuit of an interview with Bin Laden, had communicated with Mohammad Atef and were directed to Tarik Hamdi as a person who could connect them to Osama Bin Laden. ABC connected with Tarik Hamdi at his place of employment at IIIT. ABC was able to get the interview. Hamdi was able to deliver a satellite phone battery pack that according to federal agents was used three months later in the bombing of American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.[32]

It took until 2005 for Tarik A. Hamdi, who was employed as a publisher at IIIT, to be charged in a federal affidavit of having been the "American contact" for one of Osama bin-Laden's front organisations.[33][34]

Contributions to Esam Omeish candidacy for state assemblyman[edit]

In 2009 Esam Omeish ran for State Assemblyman in the Democratic Party primary election in the 35th District of the Virginia House of Delegates.[35][36] Omeish raised $143,734 for his campaign the fourth-largest amount of fundraising statewide among all Virginia House of Delegates candidates.[37] His third-highest contributor was the International Institute of Islamic Thought.[38] Omeish had made controversial statements reflecting radical views, including "you have learned the way, that you have known that the jihad way is the way to liberate your land."[35][39][40] Omeish also accused Israel of genocide and massacres against Palestinians, and said the "Israeli agenda" controls Congress.[41][42] Omeish also was the one who hired Anwar al-Awlaki to what would become known as the "9/11 mosque" in Virgnia. Awlaki, who had previously been investigated for links to Al Queda, was linked to the 9/11 hijacker. Awlaki was the first United States citizen targeted and killed by a hellfire drone strike carried out by the US government.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "International Institute of Islamic Thought and Its Role in Promoting Islamic Studies at Theological Seminaries - Religious Studies News".
  2. ^
  3. ^ "International Institute of Islamic Thought". Oxford University Press: Oxford Islamic Studies Online. 2019. Retrieved August 20, 2019.
  4. ^ Batten, C. Mark (May 9, 2018). "First-year student admitted to International Institute of Islamic Thought Summer Program". Wake Forest University: School of Divinity.
  5. ^ a b
  6. ^ a b IIIT (2019). "Research". Retrieved August 20, 2019.
  7. ^ IIIT (2019). "AEMS Masters Degree Partnership Program". Retrieved August 21, 2019.
  8. ^ IIIT (2019). "Advancing Education in Muslim Societies initiative". Retrieved August 20, 2019.
  9. ^ IIIT. "Strategic Engagement". Retrieved August 21, 2019.
  10. ^ IIIT. "Education". Retrieved August 21, 2019.
  11. ^ IIIT (2019). "The Fairfax Institute". Retrieved August 21, 2019.
  12. ^ a b Markon, Jerry, "Muslim Anger Burns Over Lingering Probe of Charities", The Washington Post, October 11, 2006, accessed January 27, 2010
  13. ^ a b Markon, Jerry, "Witness Is Silent in Terror Probe; Ex-Professor Says Grand Jury Testimony Would Endanger Him," The Washington Post, November 14, 2006, accessed January 27, 2010
  14. ^ a b Gerstein, Josh, "Judge Dismisses Suit Questioning Federal Tactics," New York Sun, November 8, 2007, accessed January 27, 2010
  15. ^ Gerstein, Josh, "A Prosecutor Is Called 'Relentless'," New York Sun, July 28, 2008, accessed January 27, 2010
  16. ^ Jacoby, Mary, "Muslims denounce raids linked to Al-Arian," St. Petersburg Times, March 22, 2002, accessed January 26, 2010
  17. ^ Miller, Judith, "A Nation Challenged: The Money Trail; U.S. Raids Continue, Prompting Protests," The New York Times, March 22, 2002, accessed January 26, 2010
  18. ^ Fechter, Michael, "Affidavit Ties In Al-Arian", Tampa Tribune, October 18, 2003, accessed January 27, 2010
  19. ^ "Islam", St. Petersburg Times, March 11, 2003, accessed January 27, 2010
  20. ^ Jacoby, Mary, "Affidavit: Al-Arian's group got money from Saudi charity; The former USF professor's civil liberties group received $10,000 from a group linked to terrorism, a statement from a U.S. Customs Service agent says," St. Petersburg Times, August 1, 2003, accessed January 27, 2010
  21. ^ "Jacoby, Mary, and Brink, Graham, "Saudi form of Islam wars with moderates," St. Petersburg Times, March 11, 2003, accessed January 27, 2010".
  22. ^ Masters, Brooke A., "U.S. Magistrate Denies Muslim Groups' Request; Return Sought of Property Seized in Va.", The Washington Post, May 4, 2002, accessed January 27, 2010
  23. ^ "Rep. James P. Moran Jr. returns contributions from Muslim groups targeted in terrorism probe," AP, November 1, 2002, accessed January 26, 2010
  24. ^ "U.S. v. Al-Arian, Indictment, U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, June 26, 2008, accessed March 8, 2010" (PDF).
  25. ^ "Prof Accused of Terror Link in Contempt," Fox News, November 17, 2006, accessed January 27, 2010
  26. ^ Markon, Jerry, "Former Professor Indicted In Muslim Charities Case," The Washington Post, June 27, 2008, accessed January 27, 2010
  27. ^ "Ex-Professor in Palestinian Case Is Freed After 5 Years", The Washington Post, September 3, 2008, accessed March 8, 2010
  28. ^ Gerstein, Josh, "Al-Arian Indicted for Refusal To Testify in Charities Cases", New York Sun, June 27, 2008, accessed March 11, 2010
  29. ^ "U.S. probe makes Islamic group drop university offer," China Post, January 7, 2008, accessed January 27, 2010
  30. ^ "USA vs. Tarik Hamdi, Superseding Indictment" (PDF).
  31. ^ "USA vs. Tarik Hamdi, Indictment" (PDF).
  32. ^ "USA vs. Tarik Hamdi, Affidavit of David Kane" (PDF).
  33. ^ Sherman, Mark, "'Bin Laden contact' working for Iraq ministry", The Independent, August 12, 2005, accessed January 27, 2010
  34. ^ "US man linked to al-Qaida works for Iraq", Bangor Daily News, August 12, 2005, accessed January 27, 2010
  35. ^ a b Osborne, James (June 8, 2009). "Clinton Invites Controversial Muslim Leader on Conference Call". Fox News. Retrieved December 31, 2009.
  36. ^ ""2009 Elections > Virginia > House of Delegates (35) > Esam S. Omeish (D); About The Candidate", ''The Washington Post'', accessed January 18, 2010". Archived from the original on September 29, 2012. Retrieved January 24, 2010.
  37. ^ "O'Donoghue, Julia, "Lots of Cash Flowed Into 35th Delegate Primary," ''Vienna Connection'', June 10, 2009, accessed January 21, 2010". June 10, 2009. Retrieved January 24, 2010.[permanent dead link]
  38. ^ "Omeish, Esam S: Overview - VPAP".
  39. ^ Fisher, Marc (April 29, 2009). "From Fairfax To Richmond, "The Jihad Way?"". The Washington Post. Retrieved January 18, 2010.
  40. ^ "Controversial Muslim Resigns from Virginia Commission - Hannity & Colmes (FOX News) - HighBeam Research". 3 November 2012.
  41. ^ "Virginia Governor Tim Kaine Accepts Resignation of Controversial Appointee", FOX News, September 27, 2007, accessed December 9, 2009
  42. ^ Spencer, Robert (28 October 2008). "Stealth Jihad: How Radical Islam Is Subverting America without Guns or Bombs". Simon and Schuster – via Google Books.

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