Charity Islamic Relief USA: strong ties to terrorism and US refugees

The largest U.S. Muslim Charity, which has been linked to terrorism finance, is now playing a role in helping to settle refugees from terror torn Syria.

Islamic Relief USA (IRUSA) is an affiliate of Islamic Relief Worldwide (IRW), the largest international Islamic charity in the world, with a $240 million operating budget, nearly 300 employees, chapters in more than 12 countries with their own multi-billion dollar budgets, and operations in over 30 countries, all based in Birmingham, England.

IRUSA specializes in refugee assistance and has a history of working with the United Nations and specifically the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), the aid agency for Palestinian refugees.

The IRUSA website specifies in detail its role in assisting incoming refugees saying:

“IRUSA assists refugees in starting their new life in the United States. Volunteers are trained to welcome refugee families to their new communities, help them access local services, and show them around their new communities. Volunteers also can help with resume building and job searches. In some instances, refugees may receive rent assistance so they have a place to stay while looking for employment.”

The IRUSA accepts Sadqah donations or a “voluntary charity donation” which it uses to support programs, providing patients with low socio-economics status gain access to therapy, medical devices and supplies. They will also accept Zakah (Zakat) donations.

This raises eyebrows because under Sharia law, Zakat donations are to be expended in a number of prescribed categories. One of those categories is Jihad, as described by chief Muslim Brotherhood jurist Yusuf Al Qaradawi:

“If war is waged anywhere to achieve this goal, namely to free the occupied lands of the laws and the tyranny of disbelievers, it is undoubtedly a case of Jihad for the sake of Allah. It thus needs to be financed from the money of Zakah, the amount of which is to be decided based on the total sum of the charity, the requirements of Jihad as well as the degree of the need of other potential recipients of charity. This is all to be decided by reliable scholars, if they are to be found.”

The website states that it is the Zakat donations that cover expenses for refugees for things such as “rent assistance, emergency medical expenses, employment training, food vouchers, utilities and other emergency needs.”

There are specific instances where the IRUSA has given refugees money in Detroit, Kentucky and Baltimore.

In the instance of Detroit, the IRUSA gave money to struggling refugees and residents in the area because of the “rich Muslim community found there.” Michigan has the largest Muslim community in the entire country. They’ve also provided funds to the Kentucky Refugee Ministry (KRM) to help settle the new Syrian refugees in Louisville.

In Baltimore, Maryland, the IRUSA reports that it is “working to financially empower refugees.” An example of that is shown in this story about the IRUSA helping a woman pay her rent in Silver Spring, Maryland. The group also created a program called Pathways Program located in D.C. to help refugees learn how to manage finances, as well as how to start a business and buy a home.

The charity is also a large advocate for bringing more refugees into the country. It was a part of a network calling for the settlement of thousands of Syrian refugees into “rich countries.”

It has participated in an event recently for Syrian refugees and wrote that its support calls on leaders to form a political solution to the problem.

All of this charity work would seem charitable except that the IRUSA and IRW have many ties to Islamist terrorist organizations.

In 1999, the IRW accepted a $50,000 check from Osama Bin Laden. In 2006, Israel arrested its project coordinator in its Gaza office, Iyaz Ali, for funneling money to Hamas. In November 2012, the British Bank UBS closed the IRW’s account and blocked its customers from donating to the charity. In June 2014, Israel officially declared the organization to be illegal and banned it from operating in Israel and the Palestinian territories due to its financing of Hamas. In November 2014, the United Arab Emirates declared the IRW to be a terrorist group.

Legally, the IRUSA as an institution and charity is separate and independent from the IRW. However, as an IRW affiliate, it has many links to the IRW, and therefore has many links to terrorism. The IRUSA’s CEO, Abed Ayoub, is an IRW governance committee member. Its president, Mohamed Amr Attaiwa, is on the IRW’s Board of Trustees. In addition to the relationship between the IRW and the IRUSA created through shared leadership, money flows between the two organizations. In 2007, 2008, and 2009, the IRUSA sent the IRW $5 million, $6 million, and $9.5 million, respectively. Most IRUSA programs are funded through IRW grants; in 2010, the IRUSA received approximately $22 billion from the IRW.

The IRUSA has multiple officials with direct ties to the Muslim Brotherhood (MB).

The IRUSA’s President and Board Chairman, Mohamed Amr Attaiwa, was listed as the MB’s New England Director in a phone directory from 1991. At one time, Attaiwa served as the Vice President of the Muslim American Society, which was once described by federal prosecutors as “the overt arm of the Muslim Brotherhood in America.” An admitted MB member and convicted terrorist, Abdurraham Alamoudi, has openly said that the Muslim American Society is a part of the MB.

The IRUSA’s Operations Manager (a point of contact and speaker at many IRUSA fundraisers) is Ahmed Shehata, who was one of the 21 Muslim brotherhood leaders arrested in Alexandria, Egypt in January 2009. Ahmed Shehata has liked at least eighteen pro-MB pages on Facebook as well.

Hamdy Radwan, who has served on the IRUSA’s Board of Directors since 2012 said in an interview in November 2006, that he views Hamas as a group of freedom fighters, rather than as a terrorist organization.

The IRUSA’s founder, chairman and CEO from 1993-1996, and current senior advisor to the board Ahmad Esmat El-Bendary was once the president of the Muslim American Society and currently serves on its Board of Trustees.

In addition to many of its leaders being affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood, the IRUSA often has Islamist speakers at its events such as Dr. Muzammil Siddiqi, Suhaib Webb, the former Imam of the Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center, and Imam Siraj Wahaj, an unindicted co-conspirator in the trial for the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center.

These connections between the IRUSA, the IRW, and terrorism raises red flags when one considers its influence on refugee resettlement both in the United States and worldwide, and brings up questions about the kinds of groups leading the push to resettle Syrian refugees in the United States.