Ilhan Tanir
Jul 26 2019

Erdoğan's 'Uniting Ummah' event in New York divides U.S. Muslim leaders

This story has been updated by expert's comments in the eighth, ninth and the final paragraphs.

Two leaders of the American Muslim community said on Friday that their names had been added as guests to a flier printed for the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s planned event in New York City in September, although they had rejected the invitation more than a month ago.

According to the flier, an event organised by the Turkish American Steering Committee (TASC) along with Presidency for Turks Abroad and Related Communities (YTB) will be held in Brooklyn, New York on Sept. 22, around the time Erdoğan is expected to visit the city for the United Nations General Assembly’s annual meeting.

Siraj Wahhaj, Yasir Qadhi, Abdullah Hakim Quick and Oussame Jamal are listed as invited speakers in the flier, along with Omar Suleiman and Dalia Mougahed.

Ms. Dalia Mougahed, the director of research at the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding (ISPU), said on Twitter that she and Omar Suleiman, a scholar at the Southern Methodist University in Dallas, had not accepted the invitation. “We have asked for a correction to the flier to avoid confusion,” she said.

Mougahed also said that she did not know if other “invited guests” on the flier were indeed going to attend the event, titled, “Uniting the Ummah.”

Calls to ISPU’s Washington and Chicago offices went unanswered.

“PSA: I noticed a flyer going around with my name on it as an “invited speaker.” I declined the invite a month ago so requesting no more tweets at me about it,” said Suleiman in a tweet, without mentioning the event specifically. Suleiman is also the president of Yaqeen Institute for Islamic Research.

Lorenzo Vidino, the director of the George Washington University Center for Cyber and Homeland Security’s Program on Extremism, told Ahval that the names who have publicly come and rejected the invitations are also close to the Muslim Brotherhood milieu and second generation Muslim leaders.

Vidino said all the speakers advertised on the flier also are known to be close to the Muslim Brotherhood environment and linked U.S. organisations. Vidino said it is surprising that AKP's "lobbying arms in the U.S. chosen such a massive venue for the event" and it is unclear to him if all other "invited speakers" will attend or reject the invitations.

Vidino said Dalia Mougahed are known to have a more polished position in the Muslim Brotherhood movement. Omar Suleiman is also "close" to the Muslim Brotherhood venues.

Vidino told Ahval in May that some segments of the Muslim Brotherhood affiliated in the United States had been dissatisfied with the increasing influence of Turkey, due to Erdoğan’s increasingly poor reputation regarding human rights.

Vidino also said that Turkish names were increasingly appearing on the boards of Brotherhood-linked non-governmental organisations and the influence of Turkish Islamists was growing in the United States.

Invitation page on TASC's website by Friday appeared "not found."

Third American Muslim who is written as 'invited speaker' on the flier, Dr. Yasir Qadhi also rejected the invitation in later hours on Friday.