Article 3 in a Series
by Dan Wolf (see full lnterfaith list here)
The last two articles (Inter-Faith Myths and Islam: Part 1 and Part 2 A Christian Perspective) focused on ideas and material presented at several inter-faith events occurring at Richmond area churches and a mosque. These next few articles will explore some of the written material that is held out by Islam’s supporters proclaiming what it is and is not. The definition of propaganda is “A systematic effort to persuade a body of people to support or adopt a particular opinion, attitude, or course of action.” These materials are generally intended to portray an image that Judeo-Christian principles are not so different from Islam, and that Islam accommodates those principles within its tenets. We have fourteen hundred years of history, from both Islamic and non-Islamic sources, that contradict the ideas put forth in these writings. All we need to do is educate ourselves.
There are so many booklets, pamphlets, and texts on this topic that one could never respond to each in turn, but we don’t have to. Underlying all of these materials are just a few basic ideas, and those are what really need to be addressed. However, one must have a true understanding of their own faith in addition to a basic understanding of Islam to be in a position to discern the truth. Just accepting another’s word is not enough. That is one reason why I encourage you to do your own work. Study. Do not even accept what I say as truth, but put in the work to find the truth for yourself. That is a reason why I try to use original sources as much as possible, and frequently use footnotes so that you can make your own judgment.
Within these Islamic materials, we will see many of the same words we use to describe our own society and culture. But in some respects the Arab culture absorbed by Islam is very different. Not only do words matter, but their meaning does as well. While we often use the same words, they do not necessarily have the same meaning. Take freedom for example. The freedom within Islam is very different from the freedom underlying Christianity, as has been discussed before. This difference stems from the difference in man’s nature and the relationship that exists between man and creator within Christianity and Islam.
Islam Is …
I’ll use some of the material presented in the book Islam Is … An Introduction to Islam & Its Principles by Pete Seda.[i] It has recently resurfaced and is being recirculated within Virginia. I encourage you to read it, but also to read a book on the meaning of the Qur’an, a sirat,[ii] and the Bible so that you understand what you are reading. So that you can discern the truth. Many of the arguments put forth in Islam Is … are also cited in other Islamic materials that share the same purpose.
But before we begin, an introduction to this book’s author is in order. Pete Seda is the name used by Iranian-born Pirouz Sedaghaty. He was the head within the U.S. of the Al-Haramain Islamic Foundation, Inc., a Saudi Arabian charity. He was convicted in 2010 in a tax fraud case. As part of his plea arrangement, the government agreed to drop pursuing criminal charges into Mr. Seda’s aiding terrorists. His sentence was overturned in 2013 by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco, not because he was not guilty, but because of the government’s improper handling of the case.
About the Charity
As to the Al-Haramain Foundation, the U.S. government “declared it to be a terrorist organization and froze its assets.”  A payment of $150,000 was transferred to Saudi Arabia in Mr. Seda’s words as ‘humanitarian aid.’ The tax return indicated that some of this money was used to purchase a building. However, the payment was intended to fund Islamic fighters in Chechnya – and the judge in the original court case said there was no doubt as to the intent of the funding.
The U.S. Department of the Treasury declared the Al-Haramain Foundation to be a terrorist organization in 2008 “for having provided financial and material support to al Qaida, as well as a wide range of designated terrorists and terrorist organizations.” It had operations in thirteen different countries, and the known connections to terrorism went back as far as 2002. The Al-Haramain Foundation was also listed by the U.N.’s ISIL (Da’esh) & Al-Qaida Sanctions Committee for its associations with Al-Qaida and Usama bin Laden.
Mr. Seda’s actions, however, should come as no surprise. He was just following Islamic principles. Islamic charities are different from their Western counterparts. They are to provide aid only to Islam’s followers. In addition, Islamic charities can expend funds on;
- those collecting charitable donations
- the disadvantaged, the poor, the widow, the orphan
- those Islamic followers who are in debt
- Islamic travelers, particularly those on the pilgrimage to Mecca
- the spreading of Islam, jihad, by either peaceful means or war
One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter. What matters is the principles that the person upholds. That is where we will start in the next article.
Dan Wolf is a researcher, analyst, and author. He has written three books examining the relationship between faith, freedom, virtue, and charity. Together these form the cornerstone of our purpose, and our society’s foundational principles derived from those relationships. Links to his work can be found at the Living Rightly website.
 Associated Press, Oregon Islamic charity pleads guilty to tax fraud, July 29, 2014. http://koin.com/2014/07/29/oregon-islamic-charity-pleads-guilty-to-tax-fraud/. Accessed June, 2017.
 U.S. Dept. of the Treasury, HP-1043, Issued June 19, 2008. https://www.treasury.gov/press-center/press-releases/Pages/hp1043.aspx. Accessed June, 2017.
[i] An electronic copy of this text is available at http://mccmd.org/wp-content/uploads/2009/01/islam-is.pdf. Accessed June, 2017.
[ii] I recommend M. Pickthall’s The Meaning of the Glorious Qur’an (amana publications, 1999) and A. Guillaume’s translation of The Life of Muhammad (Oxford University Press, 2006).