Second Letter to NewsWeek for Publishing Defamatory Opinion Piece against IAMC and other Muslim American organizations
Global Editor in Chief, Newsweek
Deputy Editor in Chief, Newsweek
Managing Editor, Newsweek
Opinion Editor, Newsweek
This is our second letter to you in regards to the so-called “opinion” piece, “COVID Relief Funds Went to Violent Extremists”, authored by Sam Westrop of Middle East Forum, a known Islamophobic organization, that your website published online on December 7, 2020 at 6:30 AM EST (https://www.newsweek.com/covid-relief-funds-went-violent-extremists-opinion-1552485).
In our previous letter, sent to you on December 25 via your website, we had urged you to remove Mr. Westrop’s article or its claims that Indian American Muslim Council (IAMC), a bona fide US-registered nonprofit 501(c)3 organization, was anti-Hindu and Islamist and had ties to SIMI, an outfit the India’s Government has banned.
We now find that you have only removed “anti-Hindu” from Mr. Westrop’s piece but retained the claims that IAMC is Islamist and has ties to SIMI. I now write to demand that you either provide proof of IAMC being an Islamist organization and that it has ties to SIMI, or apologize for making the false allegations against IAMC and retract them.
In a clumsy attempt to justify this false allegation, you have added a hyperlink to the word “alleged” before the words “ties to SIMI”. It is obvious though that you did not bother to click on that link and read it for yourself.
Had you done so, you would have found that this hyperlink leads to a report not by any US or Indian law enforcement or prosecuting agency, but by the Hindu American Foundation (HAF), a US-based Islamophobic organization that is tied to the RSS, the Hindu supremacist organization to which Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his political party belong, and that endorses the Indian government’s persecution of India’s 280 million Muslims and Christians, including the brutal and undemocratic military crackdown on eight million Muslims in Kashmir.
But even this long-discredited HAF report mentions IAMC and SIMI together just once, on page 13, to say that IAMC “previously hosted Mohammad Siddiqi, the founder of Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI), a banned terrorist organization in India which carried out several bombings and seeks to create an Islamic state in India.” One footnote annotating this sentence leads to a page that literally says “page not found”. The other footnote mentions IAMC’s national convention in 2003 where Dr. Siddiqi was one of the guest speakers. The HAF report offers nothing else.
So who is Dr. Siddiqi and what is his stand on SIMI?
Dr. Mohammad Ahmadullah Siddiqi is a US citizen who retired in 2015 after 28 years as a tenured Professor of Journalism and Public Relations at the Western Illinois University, an institution he had joined after receiving his PhD from Temple University, Philadelphia, in 1987. A gold medalist from India’s prestigious Aligarh Muslim University (AMU), Dr. Siddiqi was pursuing a PhD in Physics at AMU when he founded SIMI in 1977. SIMI’s founding mission was to be an organization of Muslim students with the objective of combating negative attitudes towards and sectarian discrimination against Muslims, in the mainstream news media.
Because SIMI’s membership was open only to Muslims under age 30, Dr. Siddiqi left it in 1980 shortly before he turned 30. The very next year, he moved to the US, switching from Physics to Journalism and Public Relations. He stayed on in the US and subsequently became a citizen. Importantly, from 1977 to 2001 — nearly a quarter century — SIMI existed as a legitimate organization in India. India’s Government banned it for the first time in September 2001, two weeks after the 9/11 attacks in the US, and two decades after Dr. Siddiqi had left both SIMI and India.
Not once in the 44 years since SIMI was founded in 1977, or the 19 years since SIMI was banned in 2001, has any law enforcement agency or prosecution, either in the US or in India, named Dr. Siddiqi as an accused or as a person of interest. Dr. Siddiqi’s name has not featured as an accused or as being connected, even indirectly, to SIMI in the court filings India’s Government has submitted for each of the eight times it has banned SIMI, the last in 2019.
Dr. Siddiqi has never been accused by police in any part of India of even the smallest of crimes, much less terrorism. As a US citizen of Indian origin, he has traveled to India multiple times to meet with his extended family, including after SIMI’s ban in 2001, but not once have Indian law enforcement agencies even questioned him.
And what are Dr. Siddiqi’s views on SIMI?
In an interview headlined “The SIMI I founded was completely different” published by Rediff, a leading Indian news website, in 2003, Dr. Siddiqi said he believed that SIMI had been “hijacked by elements in other countries and other Muslim societies” and that “some of them at least have become misguided and radical in their beliefs.” (https://www.rediff.com/news/2003/sep/02inter.htm)
When Dr. Siddiqi once received an invitation to SIMI’s annual convention in the 1980s long after he had moved to the US, he wrote back to the organization’s then leadership turning down the invitation, arguing that SIMI was “departing from its basic objectives” because the invitation letter mailed him had the logo of a human fist on it.
The truth is that Dr. Siddiqi’s commitment to nonviolence and rejection of violence has been steadfast and unequivocal for decades. Indeed, Dr. Siddiqi’s credentials as a man of piety with deep and abiding involvement in global interfaith work is stellar. From 2009 to 2015, Dr. Siddiqi was a member of the Board of Trustees of the Parliament of the World’s Religions, history’s largest global body for people of different faiths, of which he has been a member since 1993. Dr. Siddiqi was the Chair of the Program Committee at the Parliament’s international conference held in October 2015 at Salt Lake City, that had more than 10,000 attendees from over 50 faiths and countries.
Dr. Siddiqi is a Board Member of the World Council of Muslims for Interfaith Relations set up in 2001 in London, UK. Dr. Siddiqi was involved in setting up an interfaith alliance in 2003 at the Western Illinois University. As part of the Macomb Interfaith Alliance, Dr. Siddiqi regularly visited churches, temples, synagogues and mosques to spread the gospel of interfaith harmony. From 2009 to 2015, Dr. Siddiqi served the State of Illinois as an honorary Interfaith Chaplain, in which role he visited the state’s various Correction Centers and spoke with inmates to help them along a path to redemption. Dr. Siddiqi has also spoken at the maximum security prison at Fort Madison, Iowa.
As for Islamism, suffice it to say that in its 18 years of existence, IAMC has never once advocated, supported or endorsed violence in the name of Islam. In fact, IAMC has on numerous occasions condemned violence perpetrated in the name of Islam against non-Muslims. When in April this year terrorists attacked and killed Sikhs at a gurdwara in Kabul, IAMC released a statement categorically saying that the “reprehensible violence violates the basic tenets of Islam and must be condemned in the strongest terms.” Since its founding, IAMC has dedicated its advocacy in the defense of India’s secular and pluralist Constitution, and consistently advocated for a separation of religion and state.
In fact, IAMC has robust and enduring relationships with civil society organizations of all faiths. IAMC has hosted the leadership of the Evangelical Fellowship of India, which represents thousands of Indian churches, and the All India Christian Council and the Jesuits. Notable Hindu, Dalit, Buddhist, Sikh and nonfaith leaders and organizations have long been IAMC’s partners.
IAMC works closely with globally renowned watchdog groups such as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, American Bar Association, The Advocates for Human Rights among others.
IAMC has a strong connection with the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), the independent federal US commission that advises the US President, the US Congress and the US Government on action to be taken against the world’s offenders of religious freedom. MEF and HAF, on the other hand, run campaigns to defund USCIRF because it exposes the Hindu extremist violence in India that MEF and HAF support.
In light of the irrefutable information provided above, we urge you to immediately withdraw the false allegations about IAMC being an Islamist organization with ties to SIMI.
Indian American Muslim Council