The American Islamic Congress (AIC) is a controversial Muslim advocacy organization that claims to support "human and civil rights activists and programs in the Middle East and North Africa through its international bureaus and numerous programs, conferences, and training workshops." Founded in 2001 by Iraqi American activist Zainab Al-Suwaij, AIC was strongly endorsed by the Bush administration, which gave the organization $542,123 in 2004. The group has continued to receive government funding during the presidency of Barack Obama.
Headquartered in Washington, D.C., and with offices in Boston, Tunisia, Turkey, and Iraq, AIC has a number of different projects which, according to its website, focus on advocacy for "international religious freedom, civil rights, and democracy," Muslim-American civic engagement, education, and student outreach.
AIC has close associations with right-wing and anti-Islamic organizations, and some analysts have argued that it serves as "a faithful arm of soft American power in the Middle East." AIC receives substantial funding from the Donors Capital Fund, an organization that the Center for American Progress has described as "the lifeblood of the Islamophobia network in America." Among the numerous anti-Islamic groups the Donors Capital Fund has sponsored are Daniel Pipes'Middle East Forum, the David Horowitz Freedom Center, the Frank Gaffney-led Center for Security Policy, and Steven Emerson'sInvestigative Project on Terrorism.
AIC has also received financial support from hardline "pro-Israel" megadonor Sheldon Adelson. Seth Klarman, another billionaire who funds hawkish groups like The Israel Project, is also a generous backer of AIC, having given the group $425,000 between 2005 and 2011.
AIC's board members have included a number of rightist ideologues, such as Zuhdi Jasser, founder of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy. As of early 2015, AIC"s board included Hudson Institutefellow Hillel Fradkinand Khaleel Mohammad, a professor of religion at San Diego State University who has used the Qur'an to justify his support for the modern day state of Israel.
AIC's outreach director, Nasser Weddady, has received notoriety because of his ties to neoconservatives and promotion of hawkish policies. A website Weddady co-founded, "Free Arabs," has been described by one commentator as being a "self-proclaimed portal to 'Democracy, Secularism, [and] Fun' that eschews criticism of Western policies towards the Middle East while promoting U.S. military intervention in Syria."
In 2012, Weddady co-published Arab Spring Dreams with Sohrab Ahmari, a Wall Street Journal contributor who has been referred to as "one of the "neoconservative movement's rising stars." The book opens with the authors explaining that the Palestinian experience will be excluded because "a [Palestinian] state there, or a treaty here, are of little consequence to the Middle East's struggle for civil rights."
In 2013, Weddady garnered media attention when he was controversially chosen as the
replacement for a Muslim clergyman who was dropped as a featured speaker during a ceremony commemorating the Boston Marathon Bombings.