The Dawning of Dawa

By Alyssa A. Lappen | July 15, 2003

Search recent international news for the word, “Dawa,” and you’ll see it occurs rarely, usually in proper names — Iraq’s Shi’ite newspaper Al Dawa, its radical Dawa sect, and its Islamic Dawa Party, banned under Saddam Hussein, blamed for his war on Iran, and now, resurgent. It repeats in names of radical Pakistani groups linked to the banned Lashkar Tayyaba [Lashkar-e-Toiba] — Dawatul Irshad, Markaz Dawa al-Irshad, and the moniker-du-jour, Jamaat ud-Dawa.

In Saudi Arabia, in Ain Al Yaqeen‘s official news of 21 arrests for al-Qaeda’s Riyadh bombings in May, King Fahd Ibn Abdul Aziz and Crown Prince Naif Ibn Abdul Aziz offer simultaneous praise for the “Joint Islamic Work in the field of Dawa,” headed by Muslim World League chairman and Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdul Aziz Ibn Abdullah Al El-Sheikh.

Since September 11, Americans have learned, many groups with Dawa-derived names now operate and plot violence from bases in the U.S. But a greater danger may reside in Dawa’s largely invisible nationwide success.

What’s Dawa? Although a common Islamic proper noun, Dawa is actually a dynamic, an obligatory duty (fard) for Muslims of all sects and degrees of (im)moderation. Muslims call it “inviting others to Islam.” Really, it’s proselytizing, which Islam encourages the faithful to achieve at any cost. In fact, al-Qaeda lieutenant Abu ‘Ubeid Al-Qurashi boasted last year that September 11th gave Islam enormously effective publicity. It also marked the launch of a massive global Dawa campaign. Al-Qurashi called Dawa “integral to triumph in fourth-generation warfare.”

Of course, simply explaining one’s faith to prospective converts hardly constitutes an illegal or inherently dangerous act. Proselytizing for any faith, despite the negative connotations some attach to it, is not threatening. The freedom of faith guaranteed in the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights, however, rests on the Judeo-Christian concept that all individuals have the right to choose and follow any faith, or none at all.

But Islam essentially contradicts this Judeo-Christian principle. All people, it holds, are born Muslim. Converts actually “revert.” By its very nature, this belief denies faith as a personal choice–and minimizes freedom of will. [1] Learning Islam from a righteous teacher, Muslims avow, compels one to accept the faith, or suffer serious consequences. Moderates argue that no one today has the Islamic authority to impose such consequences. As a practical matter, the sharp debate within Islam remains irrelevant in the many Muslim states that do impose them. Moreover, even moderates admit, the authority is politically “not spiritually” derived. Few Muslims would question Islam’s stand as first and last among faiths, which renders it equally political and spiritual–and denigrates the position of non-Muslims.

Islam has had 1,400 years to develop political savvy, as Eastern Churches (but few Americans) recognize. That (partly) explains how Dawa has become a vibrant, political force throughout the U.S.–virtually undetected. In The Decline of Eastern Christendom under Islam: From Jihad to Dhimmitude, scholar Bat Ye’or isolates an 8th to 17th century Islamic phenomenon that resonates in our own age. To consolidate its formidable hold on Europe, the Muslim Ottoman empire “‘won hearts’ at Serbian, Bosnian, Bulgarian, and Greek princely courts.” Among Slav and Greek clergy, they financed “a Turcophile party which nourished pessimism, preached the inevitability of the triumph of Islam, and spoke highly of the economic advantages that Muslim markets offered.” Islam was stopped at Vienna’s gates in 1683. [2]

Today, foreign states have again invested huge sums to slickly market Islam’s supposedly gentle face to the West. In March, 2002, Saudi Arabia’s Ain-al-Yaqeen reported the fundamentalist Wahabbi crown had spent billions of dollars to build Islamic centers, mosques and schools, the world over. Post September 11, Council of American Islamic Relations Arab affairs director Alaa Bayumi claimed in London’s Arabic daily, Al-Hayat that U.S. libraries had run out of books on Islam and that English translations of the Qu’ran were bestsellers in the U.S. CAIR chairman Nahid Awad told Saudi Arabia’s ‘Ukaz that 34,000 Americans had converted.

Even if Awad inflated these numbers, mainstream America had already been primed. Islamic groups have long been spreading Dawa deep into U.S. society, donating tens of thousands of Qu’rans and other books, sponsoring Muslim speakers regularly at churches, and multi-cultural and multi-faith gatherings. They grab for interfaith grants. They’ve blanketed police departments and the media.

And most of all, Muslims have focused Dawa heavily where they can achieve the most leverage–in schools. Individuals and networks have written sophisticated public and private school marketing plans that attack the U.S. educational market on all fronts. Noted Middle East scholar Martin Kramer highlighted one such example in his July 2 Sandstorm, “Outreach” Outrage.

Since 1997, federal Title VI funds have helped Georgetown University’s Center for Contemporary Arab Studies sponsor events like its April 9 “Crisis with Iraq” teach-in, where speakers did’t promote Islam exactly, yet inveighed against the U.S. to 140 Washington area K-12 teachers. No wonder Title VI gets high marks from Arab American Anti-Discrimination Committee PR chief Hussein Ibish: it greases Islamic “Outreach,” — English for this religious “obligation.” Indeed, CAIR spokesman Ibrahim Hooper once said he’d “like the government of the United States to be Islamic sometime in the future.” To get there, he promised, “I’m going to do it through education.”

CAIR and the ADC are widely recognized as extremist organizations. Their events often feature rabidly anti-American and anti-Israel speakers. But they’re not alone in promoting Dawa in the U.S. Long before September 11, Islamic Supreme Council of America chairman Shaykh Muhammad Hisham Kabbani heroically and publicly warned of Islamic extremism and terrorism. Some 80 percent of American mosques and Islamic centers were dominated by extremists, he told the State Department. Naturally, such groups also proselytize.

Dawanet, for example, was founded in 1999 “to establish a network of Muslims…committed to inviting others to Islam.” At first glance, the website looks clean. Its guiding principles insist that operations be legal and financially sound. It claims to teach Muslims “appropriate and effective methods of dawa” through mosques, schools and Islamic centers. But like many sites suggesting effective Dawa methods, this one recommends less-than-complete-candor, “appropriate to the target audience.” Methods are neither completely straight forward nor above-board. Really, the goal is to make America an Islamic nation.

Not surprisingly, Dawanet links into sites run by Islamist groups like the Institute of Islamic Information and Education, whose Dawah page allies with the Islamist World Assembly of Muslim Youth, Islamic Society of North America and Islamic Circle of North America. Surfing Islamic Networks Group, one will soon land at a Dawa site based in Madinah, not exactly a seat of moderation. Meanwhile, you can learn how Muslims do Dawa under your nose, at school districts, among teachers and school administrators, and at your local grammar, middle and high-schools, often with civic or government funding.

But Islamists are not the only ones proselytizing. Several supposedly moderate groups recommend similar, equally slick techniques. Shaykh Kabbani’s Islamic Supreme Council, for example, defines modern jihad as primarily Dawa–“presenting the message of Islam.” Indeed, ISCA’s leaders contend that “the foundation of Jihad is Islamic propagation (da’wah).” Similarly, the Council on Islamic Education co-published, with the First Amendment Center, a slick Internet brochure called Teacher’s Guide to Religion in the Public Schools [first published by the Saudi-influenced CIE, with a branch in Nashville, but later moved to the “First Amendment Center’s Freedom Forum” to disguise its origin and true purpose]. It claims to seek public schools that neither “inculcate nor inhibit religion” (emphasis added).

That seems a doubtful interpretation of First Amendment guarantees. It’s still more doubtful, however, that Christian or Jewish groups backing the CIE brochure realized it effectively licenses chauvinist Islamic instruction in U.S. public schools. Far from safeguarding religious rights, false “liberties” have opened U.S. schools to Islamic exploitation. Indeed, several U.S. textbooks and curricula have already been rewritten, infringements of Constitutional protections that could take years to correct.

The Supreme Court may have ruled in 1960 that Bible or religious study could legally be “presented objectively as part of a secular program of education,” (emphasis added). Surely, that did not give schools or textbooks carte blanche to fudge distinctions of faith in place of history–or lower the bar between church and state. Surely textbooks cannot legally instruct: Mohammed’s God was the same as the “God of other monotheistic religions, Judaism and Christianity,” or created man “from a clot of congealed blood.”

Parents, teachers, are you listening? We have nefarious work to undo.


[1] The Cow: 31-40; see also Mark Durie, “Isa, the Muslim Jesus.” Islam regards itself, not as a subsequent faith to Judaism and Christianity, but as the primordial religion, the faith from which Judaism and Christianity are subsequent developments. In the Qur’an we read that Abraham “…was not a Jew nor a Christian, but he was a monotheist, a Muslim” (al ‘Imran 3:66). So it is Muslims, and not Christians or Jews, who are the true representatives of the faith of Abraham to the world today. (Al-Baqarah 2:135).”

[2] Bat Ye’or, The Decline of Eastern Christianity: From Jihad to Dhimmitude (1996), p. 67; The expression “won hearts” derives from “men whose hearts are to be won over,” a classical interpretation offered by renowned Hanbali jurist Ibn Taymiyya (d. 1328). He observes: “If they are infidels, it is hoped that by these gifts an advantage may be obtained: for example, to induce them to convert, or avoid some misfortune, on condition that it is impossible to act otherwise…These gifts, granted to the powerful and withheld from the lowly…are to serve the common interest of the Muslim religion and of Muslims…” Bat Ye’or, Decline, “Documents: I. 2. ‘The Theory of Jihad’,” p. 298.

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Alyssa A. Lappen is a U.S.-based investigative journalist. She is the former Managing Editor at the Leeb Group (2012-2017); a former Senior Fellow of the American Center for Democracy (2005-2008); and a former Senior Editor of Institutional Investor (1993-1999), Working Woman (1991-1993) and Corporate Finance (1991). She served six of her 12 years at Forbes (1978-1990) as an Associate Editor. Ms. Lappen was also a staff reporter at The New Haven Register (1975-1977). During a decade as a freelance, her work appeared in Big Peace, Pajamas Media, Front Page Magazine, American Thinker, Right Side News, Family Security Matters, the Washington Times and many other Internet and print journals. Ms. Lappen also contributed to the Terror Finance Blog, among others. She supports the right of journalists worldwide to write without fear or restriction on politics, governments, international affairs, terrorism, terror financing and religious support for terrorism, among other subjects. Ms. Lappen is also an accomplished poet. Her first full-length collection, The Minstrel's Song, was published by Cross-Cultural Communications in April 2015. Her poems have been published in the 2nd 2007 edition of Blood to Remember: American Poets on the Holocaust and both 2007 issues of Wales' award-winning Seventh Quarry: Swansea Poetry Magazine. Dozens of her poems have appeared in print and online literary journals and books. She won the 2000 annual Ruah: A Journal of Spiritual Poetry chapbook award and has received a Harvard Summer Poetry Prize and several honorable mentions.

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