BY NAN RUBIN
**This profile is one in a small collection produced for PRA’s report Constructing Campus Conflict: Antisemitism and Islamophobia on U.S. College Campuses 2007-2011. Figures profiled played significant roles in campus controversies reviewed for that report. In the assessment of our authors, these figures’ campus appearances have done more to inflame existing divisions than to build towards positive alternatives. However, we imply no moral, ideological, or other equivalency. Individual profile authors decided what information was most useful for readers to evaluate their claims, rhetoric, and roles in campus controversies.
BACKGROUND: THE AS-SABIQUN MOVEMENT
Amir Abdul Malik Ali is a leader of the As-Sabiqun movement, an American-Muslim organization under the leadership of founder Imam Abdul Alim Musa. The name As-Sabiqun is translated from Arabic as “the vanguard.” It aims to “enable Islam to take complete control of … the lives of all human beings on Earth.” The group’s paramount goal is the establishment of a modern Islamic state, or Caliphate, governed by shariah (Islamic law).
Based on developing a model Islamic community with economic self-sufficiency, a major goal of the organization is to become “one of the main suppliers of Islamic books, media, fragrances, and other products in the United States.” Another organizational goal includes “uncompromising outspokenness against the injustices perpetrated locally and globally by Zionists and imperialistic governments.” The organization has branches in Oakland, Los Angeles, San Diego, Sacramento, and Philadelphia. Alim Musa, an African-American convert to Islam, is based in Washington. Although he is Sunni, he has been very visible and public in his support for the Islamic Republic of Iran and governance by their Shia supreme religious leaders.
MASJID AL-ISLAM—THE OAKLAND MOSQUE
Malik Ali is the head of Masjid Al-Islam, the organization’s mosque in Oakland. A devoted admirer of the late Malcolm X, Malik Ali strives to “direct the society toward Islamic revolution.” Malik Ali is also part of the Al-Masjid movement, which is dedicated to creating an Islamic revolution in the United States. “…We must implement Islam as a totality [in which] Allah controls every place—the home, the classroom, the science lab, the halls of Congress.”
Theologically, Malik Ali promotes the position of Islam as a non-religion, the underlying argument being that Muslims must be involved in political life because Islam is a “deen” or “way of life.” He shares this thesis with others who do not consider Islam to be a religion, but rather a kind of “political awakening movement,” a concept gaining acceptance in the Muslim world. He also focuses on distinctions and points of conflict between Islamic and Western world views.
The mosque itself has a small community associated with it. It operates a school and owns a few properties in the Oakland neighborhood, but it does not appear to be very well off financially and its building is in need of repair.
In June 2010, the Masjid sponsored a fundraiser for the Islamic Institute for Counter Zionist American Psychological Warfare, which seems to be a creation of Alim Musa, intended to “happily fight the Zionist American monster.” Imam Musa was also the featured speaker.
His talk that evening was on “The De-Israelization and Re-Africanization of the Islamic Movement in North America.” Alim Musa’s position, highly critical of moderate Muslims, is that mainstream Islam “has been taken over by the well-intentioned but naïve immigrant Muslim community.” Specifically that every Islamic group in the United States has been thoroughly infiltrated by the FBI, CIA, military intelligence, Mossad, Saudi intelligence, Egyptian intelligence, Jordanian intelligence, and Syrian intelligence.
This extreme analysis has resulted in the As-Sabiqun movement being isolated and removed from mainstream Islam, and Alim Musa being marginalized as a religious leader.
MALIK ALI ON CAMPUS
Malik Ali has been speaking to student groups on campuses around California for a number of years, notably University of California, Riverside and University of California, Irvine (UC Irvine), where he is almost a regular. The Muslim Student Union at UC Irvine has invited him on numerous occasions, apparently to speak specifically about the condition of Palestinians. His appearances on campus are seen as provocative and are often met with protests.
During his talks, Malik Ali describes the U.S. government, the economy and the media as being part of a corrupt global super-structure that is controlled by “Zionist Jews” and used against Muslims. He has praise for Hezbollah, Hamas, and the Iranian regime, and denounces the Palestinian national leadership as “Uncle Tom Palestinian leaders.” He also expresses support for the conspiracism that Israel was responsible for the 9/11 attacks. He encourages students to see their campus activism as part of a larger struggle against Israel, as well as against what he calls the “American empire.”
After attending one of his campus speeches, a local blogger (who is not a supporter) reported that he was an “excellent speaker, full of fire and passion,” but was disorganized and wandered a lot. The most serious critique was that he did not propose any solutions or concrete activities to address the litany of problems he raised. “It was a typical antiestablishment speech. (Israel was not discussed and Islam only briefly.)”
LIMITED PUBLIC VISIBILITY
Neither Malik Ali nor Masjid Al-Islam in Oakland has a web-site, but As-Sabiqun does have a blog. A number of videos of Malik Ali’s speeches are online, some supporting him but many posted by people opposing him. One can also hear an eight-part series of his sermons called “Thugs in the Masjid.”
The Anti-Defamation League keeps an eye on Malik Ali and monitors his campus appearances, as do Daniel Pipes, the Southern Poverty Law Center, and others like David Horowitz and his Jihad Watch group. His extreme rhetoric appears to make him an easy target for critics, who not only savage his positions but frequently ridicule them, such as when he wrongly cited Rupert Murdoch as an example of “Jewish control of the media.”