US Islamists Claim Win Over Legislation Banning Funding to Terror-Tied Charity
In August, Congressman Ron DeSantis, R-Fla, introduced an amendment to the State and Foreign Operations Appropriations Act to block taxpayer dollars from going to Islamic Relief Worldwide (IRW) or Islamic Relief UK. According to the Washington Free Beacon, the Islamist charity allegedly funneled money to Hamas.
IRW received $370,000 in US federal funding for the fiscal years 2015 and 2016, government records show.
But national Islamist groups and their allies rallied to the charity’s defense.
“Islamic Relief Worldwide is a valued partner of numerous governments and the United Nations bodies globally, and exists as a humanitarian organization dedicated to the alleviation of poverty and suffering internationally,” the Council of American-Islamic Relations Chicago chapter (CAIR-Chicago) said in a press release, which urged American Muslims to pressure Congress to reject the legislation.
The announcement also claimed that “IRW has been awarded $704,662 worth of funding from US federal sources for its work in Kenya, Ethiopia, and Central African Republic.”
Israel banned IRW from operating in the West Bank in 2014, saying the charity funneled money to Hamas. Iyaz Ali, a British national of Pakistani origin — who worked for IRW’s Gaza office — allegedly transferred money to Hamas institutions outlawed in Israel. This fact was revealed by a 2006 communique issued by the Israeli prime minister’s office
Files found on Ali’s computer tied IRW to illegal Hamas-affiliates in the UK, Saudi Arabia, and Nablus the Israeli statement said. Israeli investigators also found “photographs of swastikas superimposed on IDF symbols, of senior Nazi German officials, of Osama Bin Laden and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, as well as many photographs of Hamas military activities.”
The UAE designated IRW as a terrorist organization last year. Britain’s largest bank, HSBC, also declined to do further business with Islamic Relief UK in January 2016, citing the charity’s alleged terror ties.
In the United States, the DeSantis amendment also drew calls from Islamic Relief USA (IRUSA) and the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) asking supporters to contact their representatives to voice their opposition.
Islamic Relief USA labeled the amendment as “malicious and misguided,” and claimed that it “seeks to denigrate and undermine this widely respected civil society organization.”
“If passed it could cause substantial material damage to IRW’s life-saving work around the world. Lives and livelihoods in some of the world’s poorest and most disadvantaged countries are at stake,” Islamic Relief USA claimed.
The organization has had close ties with IRW since its inception. The Internal Revenue Service underscored the connections in IRUSA’s 1993 articles of incorporation: “Your case is being transferred to National Office for further review due to your close association with Islamic Relief, United Kingdom, an organization that does … not have tax exempt status in the United States. As stated in your application, Islamic Relief, United Kingdom will administer the operation of your numerous, diverse programs.”
The ties between IRUSA and Islamic Relief UK continue to this day.
On its “Affiliates and Alliances” page, IRUSA’s website describes itself as one of “16 Islamic Relief legally separate and independent affiliates (also referred to as ‘partner offices’) around the world.” The website states that, “Islamic Relief Worldwide (IRW), a United Kingdom charity, serves as a catalyst, coordinator and implementer of the Islamic Relief family’s relief and development projects around the globe.”
Senior IRW officials have also had close ties to the global Muslim Brotherhood movement. Among them:
- Mohamed Ashmawey, former chief executive officer of IRW’s board of directors, served on the executive committee of the Muslim Arab Youth Association (MAYA). MAYA is an umbrella group of militant Islamist groups that hosted conferences featuring radical extremists. Ashmawey also served as CEO of Islamic Relief USA, and as an ISNA board member.
- Ibrahim El-Zayat, former chair of IRW’s board of trustees, was a representative of the World Assembly of Muslim Youth (WAMY) in Europe, a Saudi nongovernmental organization that seeks to spread the conservative Saudi brand of Islam known as Wahhabism. He also is connected to the Turkish Islamist organization, Milli Gorus. He is reported to have told a meeting of Islamists in Germany: “It is still premature to strike against the Jews and infidels in this country.”
- Abdul Wahab Nourwali, a member of IRW’s board of trustees, served as “a trustee of WAMY for 12 years, administering and operating the WAMY offices in three major cities in Saudi Arabia with a strength of 300 employees, as well as running and supervision of 23 overseas bureaus some of which have more than 200 employees,” his biography said.
- Essam El-Haddad, who quit his position as an IRW trustee in September 2012, became an advisor to Muslim Brotherhood leader and former Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi. El-Haddad also served on the Muslim Brotherhood’s Guidance Bureau.
- Issam Al-Bashir, a former director of Islamic Relief Worldwide, was the minister of Guidance and Religious Endowments for the Muslim Brotherhood in Sudan.
IRW’s annual reports, which are available on its website, list donations from terror-tied charities, including:
- Qatar Charity — formerly the Qatar Charitable Society. The group collaborated with the Hamas Ministry of Education in 2009 to build schools to indoctrinate children with pro-jihadist propaganda. Osama bin Laden discussed Qatar Charity in 1993 as an important fundraising source for Al Qaeda.
- Charitable Society for Social Welfare’s. The group’s tax records list American-born Al Qaeda cleric Anwar al-Awlaki as vice president (before he was killed by US forces). The charity is believed to have been founded by Shaykh Abd-al-Majid al-Zindani, who was designated in 2004 by the Treasury Department as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist.
- International Islamic Charitable Organization. This group is a Kuwait-based Islamist charity tied to global Muslim Brotherhood spiritual leader, Yusuf Qaradawi. The charity allegedly sent money to “trusted zakat committees” in the Palestinian territories, many of which have ties to Hamas.
- Al Eslah Yemen. Yemen’s second largest political party, founded in 1990, is affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood. Saudi Arabia placed it on a terrorist blacklist in 2014. Saudi Arabia is now fighting a proxy war in Yemen. Senior Al Eslah party leaders reportedly have close ties to terrorist groups, such as Al Qaeda.
Islamist groups have succeeded in blocking the DeSantis amendment, and Islamic Relief USA can continue to receive government grants. But the group’s history and terror connections are well documented. Those facts cannot be changed by political pressure campaigns.