Islamic Relief Worldwide, the largest Muslim charity in the world with a branch in America, has announced that an independent audit has cleared it of terrorism ties. The United Arab Emirates and Israel stand by their accusations, with the latter saying that IRW sends â€œmillionsâ€ to Hamas annually.
In July, Israel banned IRW from the West Bank for allegedly financing Hamas. IRWâ€™s local branches were accused of being led by Hamas members. In 2006, Israel arrested and deported IRWâ€™s Gaza director for financing Hamas. The Israelis said he confessed during his interrogation and that documentation from his computer confirmed the secret collaboration.
In November, the Muslim government of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) designated IRW and over 80 other groups as terrorist organizations. The UAE stood by the action and said the public blowback over the designations was orchestrated by Muslim Brotherhood affiliates.
Islamic Relief USA is holding its annual gala in Anaheim, California on December 20. One of the two speakers is radical cleric Zaid Shakir. Another fundraiserÂ for its Palestinian operations in Texas on January 11 features radical cleric Siraj Wahhaj.
IRW denied having any terror ties and said it would hire an independent auditor to review all of its charity work, financial transactions, employees and collaboration with other organizations.
Its December 12 press release states that the audit found â€œabsolutely no evidence of any links of terrorismâ€ and neither has dozens of independent audits conducted in countries around the world every year.
â€œIslamic Relief abhors terrorism in all its forms. We are an impartial, independent, purely humanitarian organization whose sole focus is to alleviate poverty and suffering,â€ it says.
IRW did not identify the independent auditor because of â€œsensitivities in the region.â€ An umbrella group of about a dozen British charities named the Disasters Emergency Committee said it has reviewed the auditorâ€™s study and has not seen evidence that IRW is improperly using funds.
The announcement coincided with IRWâ€™s release of footage showing damage to its office in the West Bank from an Israeli raid in June.
IRW CEO Mohamed Ashmawey said his organization conducted background checks of all 2,500 employees using software that utilizes hundreds of databases. He said they also examined 276 previous employees in the Palestinian Territories.
Israel responded by charging that IRW â€œfunnels millions of dollars a year to Hamas institutions. The decision to designate the charity as an â€˜unlawful associationâ€™ is part of Israelâ€™s action to curb Hamas terror activity.â€
Islamic Relief Deceives About Its Single â€œProblemâ€
The only â€œproblemâ€ Ashmawey said he found was that a single employee used to work for the Islamic University of Gaza, which Israel has designated as a terrorist front. Ashmawey said that no other countries agree with the assessment and the U.S. even has given it funding.
That description of the Islamic University of Gaza is not entirely accurate for multiple reasons.
First, the U.S. Justice Department designated the Islamic University of Gaza as an unindicted co-conspirator in the trial of the Holy Land Foundation, a U.S. Muslim Brotherhood front that financed Hamas. It was listed as an entity of Hamasâ€™ social infrastructure.
The school was founded by senior Hamas operative Mousa Abu Marzook and received money from the Holy Land Foundation. In August, Israel bombed a â€œweapons developmentâ€ facility inside the university.
In 2006, Islamic University of Gaza (IUG) Professor Jameela El-Shanty, who also is a Hamas member of parliament, said, â€œHamas built this institution. The university presents the philosophy of Hamas. If you want to know what Hamas is, you can know it from the university.â€
Secondly, the relationship between IRW and the Islamic University of Gaza is much more than sharing a former employee. Samuel Westrop discovered that IRW has likely financed the institution.
A now-deleted page from the schoolâ€™s website, last saved in July 2013, features a press release boasting of a delegation of IRWâ€™s British branch coming to the school. The statement thanks IRW for unspecified â€œsupport.â€ It very likely meant financial support based on who attended the event.
The IRW officials at the meeting included its board chairman, Middle East Department financial director, Middle East Department funding coordinator and its Gaza Office Director.
The Islamic University of Gaza officials present included its president, the IUG administrative affairs vice president, the IUG dean of faculty of medicine and the IUG director of public relations.
IRW Admits Muslim Brotherhood Links
IRW CEO Ashmawey admitted his groupâ€™s Muslim Brotherhood origins, saying there is â€œno point in denying history.â€
He confirmed that Essam El-Haddad, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt right now, is one of the organizationâ€™s founders. He was as a trustee for â€œmany yearsâ€ and was the chairman of the board until he resigned in 2012 to move to Egypt and serve with the Muslim Brotherhood.
El-Haddad was a top adviser to Egyptian President Morsi, the Brotherhoodâ€™s political leader. His title was alternatively described as â€œnational security adviserâ€ or â€œThe Egyptian Presidentâ€™s Assistant for Foreign Relations and External Cooperation.â€
He seemed to act as the manager of the Egyptian-Iranian relationship and was reportedly working with the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corpsâ€™ Al-Quds Force to develop the Egyptian security forces. El-Haddad also met with Iranian President Ahmadinejad and pledged closer ties.
Contrary to the assertions of the Brotherhood and its supporters, the Brotherhood is a violent organization. Hamas is its official Palestinian wing. Egyptian President El-Sisi explained to the Washington Post last year, â€œHamas is part of the Muslim Brotherhood.â€
CEO Ashmawey also made an insightful comment about the Brotherhoodâ€™s influence in the West.
â€œIf this is a crime to have someone as a founder as a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, they will have to close 50 percent of the mosques in the West because they also had founders from this group,â€ he said.
The Clarion Project has closely documented the Brotherhood links of Islamic Relief USA, IRWâ€™s American branch.
IRWâ€™s Links to Hamas Affiliate in Turkey
The unnamed independent auditor hired by IRW apparently saw no problem with IRWâ€™s partnership with the Humanitarian Relief Foundation (IHH) in Istanbul, Turkey.
A bipartisan coalition of 87 members of Congress asked the U.S. government to designate IHH as a terrorist group. Germany, Israel and the Netherlands have already done so.
IHH has direct links to Hamas and is openly supportive of the terrorist group. It has strong ties to the Turkish government and even registered human shields for Gaza during the latest round of Israel-Hamas fighting.
One of the founders of IRW is Dr. Hany Al-Banna, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt who is a fan of Sayyid Qutb, the Brotherhood preacher credited with inspiring legions of violent jihadists including Osama Bin Laden.
Al-Banna and an IHH founder together established the Humanitarian Forum in the U.K, along with current IRW official Abdul-Wahab Noorwali.
The website lists Huseyin Oruc as a trustee and founder. His bio says he managed IHHâ€™s â€œFreedom Flotillaâ€ that provoked a violent clash with Israeli forces by violating the blockade on the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip.
Another trustee of the IRW/IHH-linked Humanitarian Forum is Ibrahim Hassaballa. He used to be the Director-General of the International Islamic Charitable Organization in Kuwait.
This group has strong Muslim Brotherhood links, including having Brotherhood spiritual leader Yousef al-Qaradawi as a member of the board of directors. The U.S. government has accused him of overseeing a network of Hamas financiers.
The Humanitarian Forumâ€™s advisory group includes IRW, IHH, the International Islamic Charitable Organization, the World Assembly of Muslim Youth (known for promoting Wahhabism) and the Imam Khomeini Relief Foundation in Iran.
It was recently discovered that three IRW offices–U.K., Germany and Australia– work closely with IHH, thanks to the Money Jihad blog. The IHH website has a page describing the two groupsâ€™ collaboration in delivering aid to earthquake survivors.
In addition, Islamic Relief USA says it delivers aid to Syria â€œthrough partner offices in Turkey.â€ IRW does not have a branch in Turkey. It is almost certainly referring to IHH and chose to leave its name out.
Israel and the United Arab Emirates donâ€™t just consider any Muslim charity to be linked to terrorism. There was evidence that led them to that decision. Even IRWâ€™s admitted Muslim Brotherhood origins is incriminating because it is a violent Islamist movement inseparable from Hamas.
If the independent audit commissioned by IRW didnâ€™t point out these other â€œproblems,â€ then it wasnâ€™t a real audit.
Ryan Mauro is ClarionProject.orgâ€™s national security analyst, a fellow with Clarion Project and an adjunct professor of homeland security. Mauro is frequently interviewed on top-tier television and radio.