Islamic center in Maryland keeps ties to Iran

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Mr. Bahraini has sought to clarify the center’s status by hiring specialists on the Internal Revenue Service and U.S. tax law.

One of his predecessors, Hojatolislam Hejazi, had put a cloud over the center by reportedly disregarding U.S. tax rules. He was arrested at Washington Dulles International Airport in 2005while leaving the United States for Iran and carrying almost $100,000 in cash, said to have come from religious taxes paid by Shi’ite Muslims in the United States. Under Shi’ite Islam, believers are supposed to contribute a fifth of their yearly incomes to charity.

Since Mr. Bahraini took over in 2006, the center has posted revenues and expenses on its Web site to provide transparency to the IRS and community members.

Officials at the IEC told The Washington Times that the IEC board of trustees has sought to privatize the center to avoid controversy over links to Iran. However, the center has had trouble attracting more capital, and a plan to develop a shopping center is on hold.

Some members of the community expressed concern about the federal lawsuit.

An Iranian-American, who also asked to be identified only by her first name, Nadereh, because of fears of retribution, said the center should be turned over to “a council of Muslims” who come to a mosque to “practice religion, not a political agenda.”

Another Iranian-American who gave her first name, Tahereh, and worships at the center said, “Muslims are a part of this society, many of them doctors, journalists, business people, successful engineers and from different walks of life, come and pray, practice their Islam here and at this place. The seizure of this place is not a good solution.”

Federal prosecutors say the Alavi Foundation has largely been directed by Iran’s ambassadors to the United Nations.

The foundation has denied that it raises money for the Iranian government and is challenging the lawsuit.

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