Newsletter #51 – “American Muslims” or “Muslims That Just Live in America”?

An article posted on the Kurdistan National Assembly website quotes MTSU’s Saleh Sbenaty – faculty advisor to the school’s Muslim Brotherhood’s Muslim Students Association (MSA), and member of Governor Haslam’s American Muslim Advisory Council (AMAC), as saying, “I considered myself an American the moment I placed a foot in this country”.  It seems, however, that his daughter Dimaa feels otherwise, or at the very least, finds living in Syria preferable:























Despite being American born and raised in the U.S Dimaa Sbenaty, self-titled “Dove of Damascus” seems like many Muslims of her generation who identify first as Muslims, then according to a parent’s country of origin (e.g., Palestinian, Kurdish, Syrian,), with the American adjective taking on a connotation more about physical location than identity.

According to both the current and proposed Syrian constitutions, the “religion” and “values” which Dimaa wants to be immersed in by living in Syria are defined in part, by Islam and Shariah law.  The Organisation for Economic Co-operation & Development’s (OECD), 2012 Social Institutions & Gender Index ranks Syria 75th out of 86 countries surveyed, down from 59th in 2009.  The report cites the following factors for this ranking:


  • Discriminatory Family Code – the status of Muslim women in Syria is governed by Shariah law which discriminates against women in matters of marriage, divorce and inheritance, all of which are decided by the religious Shariah courts with no option to be heard in the civil court system.
  • Polygamy is allowed if the husband satisfies the court that he can afford it; no consent from wife #1 needed.
  • Unilateral divorce by the husband is allowed (talaq); women have very narrow circumstances under which they can petition for divorce.
  • A child’s Syrian citizenship only passes through a Muslim father so children born of non-Muslim fathers cannot inherit, or access free healthcare and education.
  • Honor killings occur and “honor” is accepted as a mitigating factor for violent crimes.
  • Married women may only work outside the home if the husband permits.
  • All women are barred from working at night and in certain professions “deemed injurious to their health or morals.”

Dimaa, like her sister Lema from Newsletter #50, also participated in the MTSU Muslim Brotherhood Muslim Students Association.  Given her father’s commitment to that organization and all it stands for, the Sbenaty household seems steeped in the Brotherhood’s credo that “Islam is the solution”.


Reflected in any number of articles and even one college student’s thesis, Tariq Ramadam, the grandson of Hassan al-Banna, founder of the Muslim Brotherhood, claims a prized status among the West’s Muslim young adults. (see eg. Lema Sbenaty’s “Tariq Ramadannnnnnn omg”{can you link?}). Described in these circles as an “Islamic modernist leader”, others who have thoroughly studied his writings, tapes and interviews, demonstrate that his message to the children of Muslim immigrants living in non-Muslim countries, redefines what assimilation means.  His message is clear and consistent that “Muslims must bring ‘the overall philosophy of the Islamic message’ into Western education, assuming ‘their Islamic frame of reference as a starting point.’”


For this generation of Muslim young adults, Ramadan defines “citizenship” as simply a place to reside and “not a country to which one is bound.”  He says “contribution” is what counts because that is what makes one part of the country in which they reside.  He tells his young audiences to “Islamizie modernity rather than modernize Islam”;  “agree to integration, but it is up to us to determine the contents”, “accept the law, provided it does not force [you] to do something in contradiction with [your] religion”.

The core of what Ramadan professes is political by nature and action.

No different than his Islamist grandfather’s message of rigid insistence that Islam should dominate such that any and all “requested” accommodations are made.  No different than the Islamist message being advanced by Governor Haslam’s “American” Muslim Advisory Council and its lobbying organization the “American” Center for Outreach.





Newsletter #50 – More Muslim Brotherhood & the Governor’s Muslim Advisory Council

This is a recent photo posted on Lema Sbnaty’s facebook page.  Lema, past president of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Muslim Students Association (MSA) at Middle TN State University (MTSU), is now working in Washington, D.C.  She is pictured here with Tariq Ramadan at “Politics and Prose” bookstore on Connecticut Ave.  He seems to have greatly impressed her –


Lema is the daughter of TN American Muslim Advisory Council (AMAC) member Saleh Sbenaty.  He is a professor of Electrical Engineering at MTSU where he also serves as the advisor to the school’s MSA.  Dr. Sbenaty, a founding member and spokesman for the Murfreesboro Mosque (who emailed mosque “turncoat” Eric Allen Bell: “The lies you are spreading is a characteristic of a scumbag”), was an active and vocal opponent to Tennessee’s 2011 anti-terrorism bill.

Dr. Sbenaty may also be the reason that his daughter Lema has more in common with Tariq Ramadan than even she realizes.

Tariq Ramadan

Tariq Ramadan’s maternal grandfather, Hassan al-Banna founded the Muslim Brotherhood in 1928, and his father, Said Ramadan led the Brotherhood throughout the 1950’s.  Then as now, the Muslim Brotherhood’s motto recently repeated by Egypt’s President Morsi, states, “The Quran is our constitution, jihad is our path, and death for the sake of Allah is our most lofty aspiration”.  The only difference now is that the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt is out of hiding.

2006 article in the Weekly Standard, Counterrorism and Foreign Affairs consultant, Olivier Guitta notes that Gamal Nasser expelled Tariq’s father from Egypt because of his Islamist Muslim Brotherhood activity.  Before finally settling in Switzerland, Tariq’s father Said went to Saudi Arabia where he founded the World Islamic League funded by the Saudi government to promote the spread of Wahhabism, a conservative and fundamentalist form of Islam.

“Said Ramadan was one of the most important Islamist thinkers of the 20th century. He is probably the author of “The   Project”, a 14-page document dated 1982 found by the Swiss secret service in 2001.”

“The Project” is a 12 point strategy “that presents a global vision of a worldwide strategy for Islamic policy [“political Islam”].”  In other words, a plan for installing Islamic governments in the West.

In Switzerland, Tariq’s father founded the Geneva Islamic Centre which is reported to be the European headquarters for the Muslim Brotherhood.

Tarek Fatah, described as a liberal Muslim writer living in Canada wrote this in advance of Tariq’s 2009 appearance at the American Academy of Religion’s conference held in Montreal that year:

“Brother Tariq, your father Said Ramadan came to my birthplace Pakistan in 1948 as a Muslim Brotherhood emissary and was instrumental in turning a secular Muslim country into a hotbed of Islamic extremism.  I will not let the son of Said Ramadan come to my adopted home Canada and do the same, without a fight.  Your Islamist father ruined my birthplace; I will not let you ruin the place where I will die.”

Third generation Tariq has continued in the family tradition but with a focus on engaging Muslim youth.  After studying all of Tariq Ramadan’s books, interviews and tapes, Arabic-speaking French Islamic fundamentalism expert Caroline Fourest has labeled him “a war leader” and the “political heir of his grandfather.”

After attending the University of Geneva, Tariq studied Arabic and Islam at Al Azhar Islamic University in Cairo.  He subsequently returned to Switzerland and started the Movement of Swiss Muslims, the objective of which “was to reach Muslim youth by Islamizing modernity rather than modernizing Islam”.  He then moved on to the same type of activity with French Muslim youth, offering Islam as “the solution”, which “…partly explains the radicalization of this community.” (see the Weekly Standard article).

In 2008 this warning was sounded again with regard to Tariq’s appeal to Muslim youth, “…beneath the urbane liberal lurks a far more sinister ideologue, committed to some of the most backward fundamentalist repressions.  And because he comes over as so contemporary and convincing, he’s feted by a generation of young Muslims looking for a more hip hero.”

Guitta also notes that one of Tariq’s interfaith partners stated that Tariq “wants a total separation between Muslims and other communities”, a perspective consistent with the Muslim Brotherhood’s opposition to secularization for all Muslims regardless of where they reside.

Also in keeping with his Muslim Brotherhood heritage, it has been reported based on Tariq’s writings, tapes and interviews, that he supports eliminating Israel as a state.  The tribute to Tariq’s father posted on the Geneva Islamic Center website, acknowledges his father’s role in 1948 “declar[ing] jihad [to] defend Palestine.”

The attached articles provide plenty of detail about the 2004 revocation of Tariq’s U.S. work visa, barring him from coming to the U.S. to teach at Notre Dame, his subsequent appeal of that denial and the eventual order signed by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in 2010 lifting his ban.  On April 8, 2010 he made his first public appearance in the U.S. since 2004.

Saleh Sbenaty

According to Lema Sbenaty, her father Saleh, immigrated from Syria to the U.S. in 1982, almost 2 years after graduating from Damascus University with a degree in Electrical Engineering.

From 1976 to 1982, Sunni Islamists, (the Muslim Brotherhood in Syria), seated in the town of Hama, waged an insurgency against the Assad government because as Lema describes it, the minority Alawit sect to which the Assads belong, were controlling the majority Sunni Muslims – just as it is today.  In 1982, just one month after the Hama massacre began Dr. Sbenaty left Syria for the U.S.

In 1980, two years prior to what is now referred to as “the Hama massacre”, the Syrian government outlawed the Muslim Brotherhood, making membership punishable by death.

Lema comments in her interview that while she, her mother and her siblings “typically visit Syria every summer, her father has not been back in 30 years.”  She claims that if her father returns to Syria he would be subject to compulsory military service and that “If he goes back, he gets jailed instantly, even though he’s a citizen here.”

Does she mean that he gets jailed because he skipped out on his military service or that his political commitments are otherwise subject to punishment in Syria?

Dr. Sbenaty is the faculty advisor to the Muslim Brotherhood MSA at MTSU.  His mosque has been reported to provide reading material from the Muslim Brotherhood’s Muslim American Society and Institute of Islamic Information and Education.

And he is a member of Governor Haslam’s TN American Muslim Advisory Council.


Samar Ali and Lema Sbenaty – two Muslim girls born and raised in Tennessee, both connected to Governor Haslam’s administration; one through an appointed position, the other through her father’s position, and both by their own words, attached first to an identity that has nothing to do with having been born and raised in the U.S.

This is precisely what Tariq Ramadan has sought to achieve through his work with this generation of Muslims growing up in the West offering them Islam “…as the solution to all the problems of Muslim youth – in keeping with the slogan of the Muslim Brotherhood, ‘Islam is the solution.’”

“You are known by the company you keep.”  “Birds of a feather flock together.”

Look at the company chosen by Governor Haslam and Commissioner of Safety & Homeland Security, Bill Gibbons.