by Ryan Mauro
On Sunday, June 16, a widely-exalted charity embraced by the U.S. government called Islamic Relief USA is hosting a “Palestine Benefit Dinner” in Orlando. A second fundraiser will be held in Fort Lauderdale the following day. The events feature the chairman of Americans for Palestine and a former official of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. Islamic Relief USA says it belongs to the “family” of Islamic Relief Worldwide, a group tied to Hamas, but it has received little scrutiny.
Islamic Relief Worldwide (IRW) was birthed in the United Kingdom in 1984. Its creator is Hani Al-Banna, who previously served as a trustee in Muslim Aid. Joe Kaufman documents that one of Muslim Aid’s “partner organizations” was the Al-Salah Islamic Association, a group the U.S. government labeled a Hamas front. Al-Banna’s previous group was also involved with Muslim Brotherhood affiliates like Jamaat-e-Islami.
In 1999, IRW received a $50,000 donation from Human Concern International; a group the U.S. government says is linked to Al-Qaeda. IRW’s material continues to refer to HCI as a partner (page 18). The Global Muslim Brotherhood Daily Report has more data on how top IRW officials are involved with the Muslim Brotherhood. One IRW official even used to be Sudan’s Minister of Religious Affairs.
According to the NEFA Foundation, IRW is one of the founders of a network of charities called the Union of Good that was created in 2000. It was blacklisted by the U.S. Treasury Department in 2008 for its links to Hamas. The U.S. government said it was “created by Hamas leadership to transfer funds to the terrorist organization.” It is led by Sheikh Yousef al-Qaradawi, the top Muslim Brotherhood cleric who unequivocally supports Hamas and violent jihad.
In 2006, Israel arrested the project coordinator of IRW’s office in Gaza, Iyaz Ali for funneling money to Hamas. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs made it clear that Ali was not acting as a rogue employee. “The IRW’s activities in Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip are carried out by social welfare organizations controlled and staffed by Hamas operatives. The intensive activities of these associations are designed to further Hamas’s ideology among the Palestinian population,” it said.
Islamic Relief USA (IRUSA) was incorporated in California in 1993. Kaufman reports that its Registered Agent is the former attorney for Wagdy Ghoneim, an extremist involved with Hamas fundraising. IRUSA’s website says it and IRW are “legally separate and independent affiliates (also referred to as ‘partner offices’), but its Facebook page says that it is “a member of the Islamic Relief Worldwide family.” If you go to IRUSA’s website and click on “Affiliates” under the “About Us” tab, you are informed about IRW.
IRUSA gives millions of dollars to IRW. As the Money Jihad blog shows, it gave $4.8 million in 2007, $5.9 million in 2008 and $9.4 million in 2009. There is every reason to believe that a large amount of the funds raised on June 16-17 will go to IRW. After all, IRUSA’s consolidated financial report from December 31, 2010 states, “The majority of IRUSA’s programs are administered through grants with Islamic Relief Worldwide (IRW), which is based in the United Kingdom.” On page 12, it says, “During 2010, IRUSA incurred $21,849,599 in grant expenses in collaboration with IRW.”
A 2009 report by Americans for Peace and Tolerance states, “Islamic Relief USA has partnered in funding foreign projects with the Holy Land Foundation and Kind Hearts, both designated terrorist entities.” The IRUSA website lists Mohammed Amr Attawia as its chairman of the Board of Director and is also on IRW’s Board of Trustees. The same report points out that he was also Vice President of the Muslim American Society, a Muslim Brotherhood front and that “Holy Land Foundation trial exhibits identify Attawia as the American Muslim Brotherhood’s director for the New England region in the 1990s.”A high-level Justice Department source mentioned Islamic Relief in a conversation with counter-terrorism reporter Patrick Poole in April 2011 about U.S.-based Hamas fronts. He said, “Ten years ago we shut down the Holy Land Foundation…Then the money started going to KindHearts. We shut them down too. Now the money is going through groups like Islamic Relief and Viva Palestina.”
The National Geospatial Agency is being sued for cancelling the security clearance of Mahmoud M. Hegab, who says the agency declined it because his wife works for IRUSA. The agency was concerned about her “current affiliation with one or more organizations which consist of groups who are organized largely around their non-United States origin.”
These facts have not stopped the U.S. government from working with IRUSA under both parties. The current administration has been particularly friendly to the charity. In April 2010, its CEO, Abed Ayoub, was appointed to the U.S. Agency for International Development Advisory Committee on Voluntary Foreign Aid. He then was appointed to the State Department’s Religion and Foreign Policy Working Group in November 2011.
In August 2011, the White House’s website promoted an article about how the U.S. Department of Agriculture is working with IRUSA. The Department honored IRUSA that month during its third annual Iftar dinner, giving a Distinguished Community Award to Ayoub. During the National Prayer Breakfast in February 2012, President Obama boasted of how the administration included IRUSA in faith-based initiatives.
The June 16-17 fundraisers feature Dr. Hatem Bazian, chairman of American Muslims for Palestine. In a 2004 speech at an anti-war rally, Bazian said, “We’ve been watching intifada in Palestine, we’ve been watching an uprising in Iraq…How come we don’t have an intifada in this country? It’s about time that we have an intifada in this country that change[s] fundamentally the political dynamics here…They’re gonna say some Palestinian [is] being too radical—well, you haven’t seen radicalism yet.” Aside from this frightening sentiment, it should be noticed that he referred to those fighting U.S. forces in Iraq as being part of “an uprising.”
AMP’s leadership includes at least two fundraisers for the Holy Land Foundation, including a board member named Salah Sarsour. His brother was arrested in 1998 for his support to Hamas and, according to an FBI memo, disclosed how he was financing Hamas through the Holy Land Foundation. His brother said he was also using the Islamic Association for Palestine, a Muslim Brotherhood front, for the same purpose.
AMP’s conferences feature extremist rhetoric and the group helps Viva Palestina raise money. Viva Palestina’s support for Hamas is well-documented. At one event, AMP board member Osama Abu Irshaid said that Hamas’ firing of rockets into Israel indiscriminately is “legitimate resistance” under international law “because they are under occupation.” He referred to Hamas as “the resistance” in his speech.
The contact listed for the June 16-17 events is Ahmed Bedier, the former executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations’ branch in Tampa. He left in 2008 and founded his own group, United Voices for America. CAIR is a creation of the Muslim Brotherhood and was listed by the U.S. government as an “unindicted co-conspirator” in the Holy Land trial. A federal judge subsequently upheld the designation because there was “ample” evidence tying CAIR to Hamas.
Donors at the June 16-17 fundraisers may think they are just donating to a charity that will help Palestinians in need of humanitarian assistance but if history is any indication, there is a strong possibility that their money will pass from IRUSA to IRW and from there to the pro-Hamas Islamist cause.Ryan Mauro
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