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Unsettling intentions and suspicious origins: D.C.-based Newlines Institute has more skeletons in its anti-China closet

By Chi Zao (People's Daily Online)    10:39, March 26, 2021

Newlines is not an "independent think tank" as it claims to be. 

A baffling controversy has unfolded around the Newlines Institute for Strategy and Policy (NISP), a self-proclaimed “think tank” based in Washington D.C. It turns out that the organization, which churns out “Uyghur genocide” reports to smear China, is an institute of doubtful origins and unsettling intentions, with abundant evidence tying it to the International Institute of Islamic Thought (IIIT), an alleged Muslim Brotherhood institution that has been accused of supporting terrorism and providing ideological material for Islamist groups worldwide.

Over the past two years, name changing and form shifting have been a major trademark of NISP. While the organization is elusive when it comes to its real identity and true intentions, it is clear in its goal to sabotage China’s efforts in promoting Xinjiang’s development, as well as hyping up global hatred towards China’s Uyghur policies.

Veneer of independence

Ever since its establishment in 2019, the Newlines Institute for Strategy and Policy (formerly the Center for Global Policy) has been constantly questioned over its claims to be “nonpartisan and independent.”

Ever since its establishment in 2019, NISP (formerly the Center for Global Policy) has been constantly questioned over its claim to be “nonpartisan and independent”, selling points that the institute has been exploiting to attract mainstream praise and attention.

The hidden connection between the organization and IIIT has always been a contested issue. In November 2020, David Reaboi, a Claremont Institute Lincoln Fellow, blasted the then Center for Global Policy (CGP) as a trade name for the IIIT, citing records from the Washington DC governmental database to support his claim. The accusation was rejected by Faysal Itani, CGP deputy director, who explained that the evidence provided by Reaboi referred to another Center for Global Policy that had been dissolved but maintained the trademark. Despite its denial of having any connection with IIIT, the Center for Global Policy changed its name into Newlines Institute for Strategy and Policy on Feb.20, 2021 on Twitter, a suspicious move for a “think tank” that has only existed for a year.

The change of name has not saved the “think tank” from becoming embroiled in the IIIT scandal. According to official information from Newlines’ website, NISP was founded by Ahmed Alwani and is a division of Fairfax University of America (FXUA).The new identity has, ironically, made its relationship with IIIT even more obvious, as Ahmed Alwani, President of FXUA, is also the vice President of IIIT and the son of IIIT founder Taha Jabir Al-Alwani, while Hisham Al-Talib, one of IIIT’s founding members, serves as the university’s chairman of the Board of Trustees.

As the parent institution of Newlines, FXUA’s connection with IIIT is not only limited to its personnel’s dual identities, but the two bodies also have intertwined financial ties. According to an open file issued by the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia on March 19, 2019, the university’s prior incarnation, the Virginia International University (VIU) was accused of “rampant plagiarism” and “grade inflation”, facing possible revocation of its certificate to operate. The VIU’s campus was sold to Mar-Jac Foundation, which, according to an investigation by the Center for Security Policy, contributes the majority of the IIIT’s budget and is run by Ahmed Alwani. In what appears to be an attempt to disassociate itself from its murky past, VIU changed its name into Fairfax University of America on January 1, 2020. But as an institution that has been plagued by constant academic scandals and violation of state educational standards, the quality of its division Newlines is debatable.

Constantly changing its names and forms, and at the same time claiming to be independent, the shadow behind the Newlines Institute for Strategy and Policy has always been the IIIT, an organization that many experts believe to be the Muslim Brotherhood’s bridgehead for waging a “civilization-jihadist process.”

Unsettling intentions, backstage manipulator

Formed in the US in 1981, IIIT has been accused of supporting terrorism several times. Its headquarters were raided by the FBI in 2002 for connections to terrorists, and the institute was cited in 2010 by the Justice Department as an unindicted co-conspirator in the Holy Land Foundation terrorism financing case.

Though the organization now describes itself as a “platform for the unique perspective of Muslim thinkers, scholars, and practitioners”, its previous tagline was “towards Islamization of Knowledge and reform of Islamic thought.”

Ian Johnson, a Muslim Brotherhood expert and journalist, noted in his publication in 2011 that IIIT was created with the purpose of serving as a Muslim Brotherhood “think tank” to support the spread of Islamism.

Johnson also claimed that “under the Bush and Obama administration, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has pushed for cooperation with the Muslim Brotherhood.” He cited 2006 analyses from the CIA that claimed the Muslim Brotherhood featured “impressive internal dynamism, organization and media savvy.” 

Former US President Donald Trump revealed the connection between US government and the Muslim Brotherhood and its offshoots in 2012.

Rumors regarding the US government’s connection with the Muslim Brotherhood and its offshoots have been partly backed up by Donald Trump, the former US President, who in February 2012 revealed on his Twitter account that “Barack Obama’s budget funds the ‘Arab Spring’ with 800 billion US dollars and the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt 1.3 billion US dollars in military aid.” In October 2012, Trump further slammed Obama for “wanting to give another 450 million US dollars to the Muslim Brotherhood.”

“It’s a common practice for the US government and the CIA to cooperate with organizations under the name of Islam to attack other nations. As long as those organizations can work for the benefit of the US, such as smearing China’s Xinjiang policy, the US will surely manipulate them,” Li Wei, a counter-terrorism expert at the China Institute of Contemporary International Relations in Beijing, told People’s Daily Online.

Li’s remarks are in line with a report released by the Grayzone on March 17, which claimed that Newlines is a “reliable repository of anti-China material,” and its leadership includes former US State Department officials, US military advisors, intelligence professionals and a collection of interventionist ideologues.

Though there is no direct evidence to indicate that the US government and Newlines are working together to smear China’s Xinjiang policies, it can hardly be a coincidence that the organization issued a so-called “Uyghur genocide” report one day before the US reiterated its stance that there is genocide taking place against Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities in Xinjiang, considering that the US does have a long tradition of bending the Muslim Brotherhood and its offshoots to its own goals.

According to Li, as many Muslim and developing nations have seen China’s success in containing extremism and terrorism in Xinjiang, as well as its remarkable local development, the US’ slanders against China’s Xinjiang policies have gradually lost their appeal and credibility.

On March 13, Cuba delivered a joint statement on behalf of 64 countries at the  46th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council, calling on some forces to stop making unfounded allegations against China out of political motivations, as well as stop interfering in China's internal affairs by manipulating Xinjiang related issues

“Under such circumstances, the US has tried even harder to use the so-called Islamic organizations and NGOs to attack China, bearing an evil intention of creating conflicts between China and the Islamic world,” said Li.

“Such despicable moves have revealed the US’ real intention of containing China’s development. Nevertheless, organizations such as Newlines are not the mainstream in the Islamic world, which means that the US’ conspiracy will not prevail,” Li added. 

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(Web editor: Kou Jie, Liang Jun)

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