Islamic Relief USA (IRUSA), the U.S. branch of the charity group Islamic Relief Worldwide (IRW), is linked to a Hamas affiliate in Turkey named the Humanitarian Relief Foundation (IHH).
The Money Jihad blog discovered that three IRW offices have a working relationship with IHH. The U.S. branch based in Virginia is also likely directly linked to IHH. The blog points out how IRUSA’s website says it delivers aid to Syria “through Islamic Relief partner offices in Turkey.”
In July, the Clarion Project reported on how IHH was signing up human shields for Hamas during its recent fighting with Israel. IHH exalts Hamas as “the resistance,” talks about uniting the Muslim world into a caliphate and envisions a day when “Muslims may show up in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem one day unannounced and we will erect the flag of Islam everywhere.”
IHH is very close to the Turkish government of Prime Minister Erdogan, a top backer of Hamas. Last month, IHH signed a strategic cooperation agreement with the government of Qatar, a staunch sponsor of Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood.
Israel, Germany and the Netherlands have branded IHH as a terrorist entity. The U.S. has not formally done so, but a bipartisan group of 87 members of Congress including Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) have requested its designation as a Foreign Terrorist Organization by the State Department.
The State Department considered it but did not take action, even though a leaked State Department memo from 2009 shows that the U.S. government knows IHH is “providing material assistance to Hamas.” In 2008, the U.S. Treasury Department blacklisted a Muslim Brotherhood-led coalition of charities for financing Hamas that includes IHH.
IHH’s “humanitarian” work in Syria could be a front for supporting terrorists. The former U.S. ambassador to Turkey recently confirmed that the Erdogan government was assisting Jabhat al-Nusra, Al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria. As Clarion wrote about, Turkish police that investigated IHH’s suspected links to Al-Qaeda in Syria were retaliated against by the Erdogan government.
The involvement with IHH is just another addition to IRW/IRUSA’s history of Islamist extremism and suspected ties to terrorism.
The Clarion Project has extensively researched IRUSA’s ties to Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood and its involvement with the U.S. government, including having its CEO chosen as an advisor to the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development.
IRUSA’s headquarters is in Alexandria, Virginia. It has regional offices in New Jersey, northern and southern California, Illinois, Florida and Texas. It says it is “independent” and “legally separate” from Islamic Relief Worldwide (IRW), but it is clear they function as one and that this technical terminology is misleading.
The group’s 2013 financial report states, “The majority of Islamic Relief USA’s programs are administered through grants with Islamic Relief Worldwide (IRW), which is based in the United Kingdom.”
The leadership of the two organizations is interlocked. IRUSA CEO Anwar Khan’s website bio says he “began working with Islamic Relief Worldwide” in 1993. The chairman of the board, Mohamed Amr Attawia, “currently serves on the Islamic Relief Worldwide Board of Trustees.”
The Germany section of IRW lists IHH as an “implementation partner” in its ostensibly humanitarian work in Syria. IRW’s Australia branch states that IHH delivered resources into Syria on its behalf, as well. IRW in the United Kingdom, where it is based (and is Britain’s largest Muslim charity), collaborates with IHH in response to earthquakes.
Interestingly, IRW has offices around the world, but not in the major country of Turkey. This would make sense if IHH essentially acts as IRW’s branch in Turkey, as appears to be the case. Making a new Turkish office would duplicate efforts and potentially set up a competitive relationship.
In July, the Israeli government reportedly banned IRW operations because of the group’s links to Hamas. In 2006, Israel arrested and deported IRW’s Gaza director, Iyaz Ali, for allegedly financing Hamas.
The Israeli government said Ali admitted to channeling money to Hamas entities in Jordan and the Palestinian Territories. A search of his computer found additional relationships to Hamas financiers in Saudi Arabia and photos of Hamas terrorist activity, Osama Bin Laden and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.
The Israeli 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.”
A former Israeli intelligence official told the National Review that IRW’s Palestine director, Muneed Abugazaleh, met with the brother of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorist group in April 2012. This individual, Omar Shalah, is also a Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) leader and runs the Riyad al-Saleheen Charitable Society, a PIJ front.
IRW sent a statement to the Clarion Project denying that it has links to Hamas and claiming that it was still operating despite reports of a ban. IRW says it will not spend funds raised with other groups for the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip until it finishes an internal investigation.
The Clarion Project has identified nine current and former IRUSA officials with links to the Muslim Brotherhood, the parent organization of Hamas. The official charter of Hamas acknowledges it is a “wing” of the Brotherhood. U.S. Muslim Brotherhood entities are known to have supported Hamas politically and materially.
Last year, an Egyptian newspaper published a list of 30 Brotherhood operatives in the U.S., including five senior IRUSA leaders. Publicly available information about each of the five substantiated the newspaper’s claims.
A documentary on the Muslim Brotherhood by French director Michael Prazan says that IRW was founded by two members of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood. A Brotherhood leader denies that his organization has links to IRW, but a Brotherhood “militant in the field” named Hatem Atteya says differently.
IRUSA’s ties are suspicious enough to warrant concern from U.S. government officials involved in national security. A budget analyst for the National Geospatial Agency apparently had his security clearance revoked in 2011 because his wife, Bushra Nusairat, works 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.”
Despite all this information, IRUSA’s website says CEO Anwar Khan continues to serve on the State Department’s Religion and Foreign Policy Working Group. Islamic organizations and mosques across the country host IRUSA fundraisers.
Its corporate sponsors include the Gates Foundation, Cisco Foundation, GE [General Electric] Foundation, Hewlett-Packard, the JPMorgan Chase Foundation and the Pfizer Corporation.
Its alliances for humanitarian initiatives include : American Red Cross, Capital Area Asset Builders, CARE International, Catholic Charities USA, Catholic Relief Services, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, the International Red Cross, ONE, the Salvation Army, Save the Children USA, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, United Nations World Food Programme, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, World Vision and the Women, Faith and Development Alliance.
Many organizations and charities are swayed by the legitimate humanitarian work of IRUSA, but Islamists (especially Hamas) use social services for ideological and terrorist purposes. Average Americans have trouble envisioning aid workers as anything but moderate, but Islamists see no contradiction between their radical ideology and helping those in need.
Readers with contacts amongst IRUSA’s supporters should pass along this information and our profile of the group. The latest discovery of links to IHH is yet another addition to the mountain of unsettling information about the organization.
Ryan Mauro is ClarionProject.org’s national security analyst, a fellow with Clarion Project and an adjunct professor of homeland security. Mauro is frequently interviewed on Fox News.