The Israeli government has banned Islamic Relief Worldwide (IRW), a U.K.-based charity, for financing Hamas. Its American branch, Islamic Relief USA (IRUSA), is based in Virginia and, shockingly, its current CEO, Anwar Khan, is an advisor to the State Department as was its former CEO Abed Ayoub.
The Shin Bet, Israel’s equivalent of the FBI, provided intelligence to the Israeli government that prompted Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon to sign a decree banning the charity. He described IRW as “another source of funds for Hamas.” Its branches in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip and the West Bank are reportedly run by Hamas members.
In May 2006, Israel arrested IRW’s Gaza project director, Iyaz Ali, because he funneled money to banned Hamas fronts. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs says he admitted to working with Hamas entities and members in the Palestinian Authority and Jordan. He was deported back to the U.K. and banned from returning.
The authorities searched his computer and found photos of Hamas terrorist activities, Osama Bin Laden, former Al-Qaeda in Iraq leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and propaganda that placed a swastika over the Israeli flag. The Israelis also found documents linking IRW to Hamas financiers in Nablus, Jordan and Saudi Arabia. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs said:
“The IRW provides support and assistance to Hamas’s infrastructure. 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.”
IRW denied working with Hamas in a June 19 statement and pointed to its financial support from Western governments, the European Commission and the United Nations. According to NGO Monitor, IRW gets funding from the governments of the U.K., European Union, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland.
IRUSA’s current CEO, Anwar Khan, was originally with IRW and was one of the founders of IRUSA in 1993. According to his bio, he is an advisor to the State Department’s Religion and Foreign Policy Working Group and has been appointed to the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Advisory Committee of Voluntary Foreign Aid.
IRUSA’s previous CEO, Abed Ayoub, was reappointed by the Obama Administration in May 2013 to another two-year term as an advisor to the State Department’s Religion and Foreign Policy Working Group. He is on the sub-group Faith-Based Groups and Development in Humanitarian Assistance. He is no longer listed on the IRUSA website.
The Clarion Project broke the story that Ayoub was advising the State Department and USAID (the U.S. Agency for International Development), in October 2012. He was originally appointed as a State Department advisor in November 2011. Prior to leading IRUSA, he was a governance committee member for IRW.
In January 2013, the Clarion Project discovered further links between four IRUSA officials and the Muslim Brotherhood. Hamas is the Palestinian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood. Last year, an Egyptian newspaper published a list of 30 Brotherhood operatives in the U.S., including five senior IRUSA leaders. Its fundraisers often utilize radical guest speakers and venues.
A review of the current and former IRUSA leadership shows links that should disqualify it as a government partner and bring it under scrutiny, especially in light of Israel’s ban of its parent organization.
Ahmad Esmat El-Bendary is the founder of IRUSA and was its chairman and CEO from 1993 to March 2006. He remained a senior advisor to the board until 2009 and no longer appears on the IRUSA website. He then became the president of the Muslim American Society (MAS) from 2008 to 2012; a group that federal prosecutors say was “founded as the overt arm of the Muslim Brotherhood in America.”
Azhar Azeez is the Director of Fund Development. He has been a member of the Executive Council of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), a U.S. Muslim Brotherhood entity and unindicted co-conspirator in the trial of the Holy Land Foundation, another Brotherhood front that was prosecuted for financing Hamas. He became Vice President of ISNA in 2010.
Azeez’s bio says he is a founder and past president of the Dallas/Fort Worth chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), another U.S. Muslim Brotherhood entity and unindicted co-conspirator.
It also says he is president of the North Texas Islamic Council, presumably another name for the Islamic Association of North Texas. As Clarion explains here, the association has Islamist radical ties and was linked to the Holy Land Foundation.
Mohamed Amr Attawia is the chairman of the IRUSA board of directors and the IRW board of trustees. His name appears on a 1991 U.S. Muslim Brotherhood phone directory as its New England director. He is a former Vice President of MAS.
Khalid Lamada is the Vice Chairman of the IRUSA board. His bio states that he’s served as a board member of the Islamic Society of Bay Ridge, a mosque with an extremist history including pro-Hamas leadership. He was also co-chairman of the annual joint conference of the MAS and the Islamic Circle of North America. The events bring in Islamist speakers from across the country.
Lamada was the outreach director of the New Brunswick Islamic Center. He is an Egyptian and endorsed the Muslim Brotherhood’s candidate, Mohammed Morsi, in the 2012 presidential election. He is one of the 30 alleged Muslim Brotherhood members in America named by an Egyptian newspaper.
Hamdy Radwan has been a member of the IRUSA board since November 2012. He previously was the outreach director of MAS. He has “liked” at least six pro-Muslim Brotherhood pages on Facebook and said Hamas is not a terrorist group in 2006, instead deeming them “freedom fighters.”
He also stated his support for a non-violent “revolution with the law of the land” but claimed that instituting sharia “never came to anyone’s mind” at MAS. However, he does approve of sharia in Muslim-majority countries if it happens through elections.
Ahmed Shehata has been IRUSA’s Operations Manager since 2004, according to his LinkedIn profile. His name does not appear on IRUSA’s staff page but he is listed as a contact and speaker for several fundraisers.
His LinkedIn page also says he is Vice President of Egyptian Americans for Democracy and Human Rights, a pro-Muslim Brotherhood activist group. It says that he was a planning committee member for an annual conference of MAS.
He is from Alexandria, Egypt and has “liked” at least 18 pro-Muslim Brotherhood pages on Facebook and three for Egyptian Salafists. He also said on his Facebook that Sheikh Yousef al-Qaradawi, the Brotherhood’s spiritual leader who is linked to Hamas financing, is the preacher he most trusts.
In January 2009, Egypt arrested 21 Brotherhood leaders in Alexandria, including one with his name. He “liked” a page for the Brotherhood’s Alexandria branch and a page for the Brotherhood students of Alexandria University, indicating that he was the one arrested. Shehata did not respond to an email last year asking if he was the one arrested.
He is one of the 30 alleged Muslim Brotherhood members in America named by an Egyptian newspaper.
Kazbek Soobzokov was the Registered Agent of IRUSA in 2007. He was the attorney for a radical imam named Wagdy Ghoneim, who was arrested in 2004 because of evidence that he was financing Hamas. He left the U.S. and joined the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, where he continues to preach extremism.
Seyed Rizwan Mowlana was the Director of Policy and Institutional Affairs in 2006. He is a founder and former executive director of the Maryland-Virginia chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR).
Sheikh Omar Shahin identified himself as IRUSA’s Public Relations Director in 2010 and a bio stated he held the position in 2007. He was the imam of the Brotherhood-connected Islamic Center of Tucson in Arizona from 2000 to 2003. As explained here, at least a dozen people involved in terrorism have been linked to the mosque and it was central to Al-Qaeda operations in the U.S.
Shahin raised money for the Holy Land Foundation and also held a position with KindHearts, both charities shut down for funding Hamas. He also hosted events by the Islamic Association for Palestine, a Hamas-tied group that is now defunct.
In 2002, Shahin preached: “Prophet Mohammed peace be upon him said: ‘You will keep on fighting with the Jews until the fight reaches the east of Jordan river then the stones and trees will say: oh Muslim, oh (servant) slaves of Allah, there is a Jew behind me; come and kill him…’”
Fortunately, the intelligence community does appear to be aware of IRUSA’s links to extremism. It appears that a budget analyst for the National Geospatial Agency had his security clearance revoked because his wife, Bushra Nusairat, worked for IRUSA.
A high-level Justice Department official also anonymously said in 2011 that IRUSA is believed to be financing Hamas: “Ten years ago we shut down the Holy Land Foundation. It was the right thing to do. 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. Until we act decisively to cut off the financial pipeline to these terrorist groups by putting more of these people in prison, they are going to continue to raise money that will go into the hands of killers.”
As mentioned before, IRUSA’s revenue in 2012 was $60 million. This number does not include Islamic Relief Worldwide as a whole. The group has an enormous potential as a terrorism financier if it is linked to Hamas, as Israel alleges.
IRUSA is worthy of scrutiny. Based on the available information, Israel’s allegations seem credible. IRW/IRUSA’s embrace by the Obama Administration, international organizations like the U.N. and European governments is yet another case study in how the West is not taking Islamism seriously.
In a statement to Clarion Project, IRW said, ““We categorically deny any links with Hamas, and we stand by the integrity and independence of our humanitarian work in the Palestinian territories. Despite requests from us for information and clarification from both the Palestinian Authority and from Israel, we have yet to hear anything about this ban except what has appeared in the media. Our work in both the West Bank and Gaza continues.”
Ryan Mauro is the ClarionProject.org’s National Security Analyst, a fellow with the Clarion Project and is frequently interviewed on top-tier TV stations as an expert on counterterrorism and Islamic extremism.