North American Islamic Trust
|Private; not-for-profit; tax-exempt organization under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code|
|Founded||Plainfield, Indiana, US (1973 )|
|Founder||Muslim Students Association|
|Headquarters||Oak Brook, IL, US|
|Parent||Islamic Society of North America|
|Subsidiaries||Allied Asset Advisors; American Trust Publications; Islamic Book Service|
The North American Islamic Trust (NAIT) is a Saudi-backed organization based in Plainfield, Indiana, that owns Islamic properties and promotes waqf (Islamic endowments) in North America. It is the financial arm of the Muslim Students Association.
NAIT finances and holds titles to mosques, Islamic schools, and other real estate to safeguard and pool the assets of the American Muslim community, develops financial vehicles and financial products that are compatible with both Shari'ah and American law, publishes and distributes Islamic literature, provides legal advice to Muslim organizations, and facilitates and coordinates Islamic community projects.
NAIT is a not-for-profit entity that qualifies as a tax-exempt organization under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. NAIT was established in 1973 in Indiana by the Muslim Students Association (MSA) of the United States and Canada, the predecessor of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), by some of the same Muslim Brotherhood members who started the MSA. ISNA's President, Dr. Ingrid Mattson Mattson, is a former member of the NAIT board of directors. A sister organization under the same name registered a few years later in the Canadian province of Ontario.
NAIT supports and provides services to ISNA, MSA, their affiliates, and other Islamic centers and institutions.
Financing mosques and Islamic schools
NAIT offers waqf protection to properties of mosques, safeguards these community assets, and ensures their conformity to Islamic purposes. According to a report by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), in 2000 NAIT funded an estimated 27% of the 1,209 mosques in the US. NAIT held title to over 320 properties as of June 2003. Title to about one in four mosques in the US are held by NAIT.
NAIT facilitates the establishment of mosques (such as the Dar Al Hijrah Islamic Center, the grounds of which were purchased on June 19, 1983, by NAIT) and Islamic schools by extending limited interest-free loans to needy communities from its investment venture called the Islamic Centers Cooperative Fund (ICCF). About 8% of this fund goes annually to support local communities acquiring and improving mosques. The remainder is placed in real estate and other investments.
The Islamic Academy of Florida in Hillsborough County, Florida, owned by NAIT and founded in 1992 by Sami Al-Arian, was described in a 2003 federal indictment as a base of operations and support for a terrorist cell of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, a group said to be responsible for the murders of more than 100 people. The indictment said the Academy's offices were used to communicate with Islamic Jihad operatives, and a woman seeking to support the Palestinian cause was told simply to write a check to the Academy. On March 2, 2006, Al-Arian entered a guilty plea to a charge of conspiracy to help the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, a "specially designated terrorist" organization. Al-Arian was sentenced to 57 months in prison, and ordered deported following his prison term.
In August 2004 Mohammed M. Hossain and Yassin M. Aref, two leaders of a mosque owned by NAIT in Albany, were arrested in a sting operation on charges that they took part in what they thought was a plot to import a shoulder-fired missile and assassinate a Pakistani diplomat in New York City. They were convicted and sentenced to 15 years in prison in 2007.
Financial products and services
NAIT develops Islamic financial products that comply with Shari'ah while addressing the investment and financial needs of Muslim organizations, individuals, and their businesses. Over the last two decades, NAIT has established and sponsored mutual funds that invest in companies which meet the universal ethical principles of Islam.
The Dow Jones Islamic Fund
The Dow Jones Islamic Fund (IMANX) is a no-load mutual fund launched in June 2000 and offered by Allied Asset Advisors, a subsidiary of NAIT, which in 2003 had over $35 million ($44,870,658 today) in assets. NAIT invests in Shari'ah-compliant companies. It includes, among others, shares of stocks from the Dow Jones Islamic Market Indexes, which consist solely of common stocks that meet universal Islamic principles, as advised by a Shari'ah Supervisory Board of six Islamic scholars from six countries.
NAIT says that the ever-increasing Muslim population in the US demands a variety of Islamic literature. Some publishers of certain Islamic literature believe, it maintains, that the media and others misrepresent Islam and Muslims. NAIT says these publishers believe that this alleged misrepresentation necessitates the development of authentic Islamic literature. NAIT believes it meets this need by publishing and distributing what it views as credible Islamic literature.
American Trust Publications
Islamic Book Service
Islamic Book Service (IBS), established in 1965, offers a comprehensive stock of books by Muslim scholars, titles for children, and multi-media products. IBS sells over 2,500 book titles (primarily in English and Arabic), CDs, DVDs, and audio and video tapes about Islam, and is one of the largest distributors of Islamic books in the West.
Saudi Arabia has funded NAIT in order to spread Wahhabism, the conservative fundamentalist Saudi Arabian version of Islam that views other versions as heretical, in the US. As NAIT has helped US communities build mosques, NAIT in turn has been dependent on Saudi funding. According to a September 30, 2002, Newsweek report, "NAIT money has helped the Saudi Arabian sect of Wahhabism—or Salafism, as the broader, pan-Islamic movement is called—to seize control of hundreds of mosques in the U.S. Muslim communities." US law enforcement officials have indicated that they feel the mosques supported by NAIT have especially radical agendas. Furthermore, NAIT's book service promotes the writings of the founder of Wahhabism, Muhammad ibn Abd-al-Wahhab.
The mosques built through NAIT often require continued maintenance support from NAIT, which keeps title to the mosques. The Constitution of Dar Al-Hijrah requires, for example, that the mosque at all times include on its 9-member Board of Directors the then-current General Manager of NAIT, Secretary General of ISNA, President of Muslim Arab Youth Association (MAYA), and President of Muslim American Society (MAS). Directors serve for 5-year terms, and new Directors are elected by the then-current Directors.
The effort to spread Wahhabism has led to conflict with more moderate and less fundamentalist Moslems as with Saudi backing NAIT has seized control of mosques in various states including Florida, California, Illinois, Texas, and Arizona. "We feel this is very much a war for the heart and soul of our religion," said Jamaluddin Hoffman of the Islamic Supreme Council of America, which represents Sufi Muslims. Khalid Durán, an Islamic scholar and author, said NAIT wants "all the mosques to be ideologically pure in their own Wahhabist line. They want to prevent others from having influence." Durán and others say NAIT often takes title to a mosque after extremists have seized control. Soon, Wahhabi literature shows up in the mosques and related Islamic schools, only Wahhabi-oriented speakers are allowed to speak, and women are often separated from men for services.
Links to terrorism
In 2007, federal prosecutors brought charges against Holy Land Foundation for allegedly funding terrorist activities of Hamas and other Islamic terrorist organizations. NAIT was named as an unindicted co-conspirator in the case, along with the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) and ISNA. The Al Ahram Weekly said "Muslims are witnessing a smear campaign", and said "these groups represent the viewpoints and interests of the mainstream American Muslim community."
In 2009, U.S. District Court Judge Jorge Solis found that the Justice Department violated the Fifth Amendment rights of the NAIT and CAIR in 2007 by including them on the publicly filed co-conspirator list.
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