The United States, in the form of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) is providing $100,000 to an organization directly linked to financing terrorism.
According to USAspending.gov, a government website which tracks grant allocations, USAID provided the funds to the Islamic Relief Worldwide (IRW), for Fiscal Year 2016.
Islamic Relief Worldwide is a United Kingdom-based organization co-founded by known Muslim Brotherhood leader Essam El-Haddad, currently jailed in Egypt. El-Haddad is also a former Clinton Foundation employee.
Islamic Relief Worldwide is a designated terrorist entity in both Israel and the United Arab Emirates since 2014, due to its ties to the Global Muslim Brotherhood network that provides material support to Hamas. In 2006, the Israel security forces arrested IRW’s Gaza project coordinator for links to the terror group.
Following their 2014 designation by Israel, Islamic Relief Worldwide carried out an “independent investigation” and declared that it was not in violation. The independent watchdog group NGO Monitor has contested the quality and independence of that investigation.
Islamic Relief Worldwide has also been implicated in financial ties with al Qaeda-linked organizations as well, particularly in Yemen. Terrorism researcher Samuel Westrop writes, “In 2004, 2007 and 2009, IRW accounts revealed donations of tens of thousands of pounds from the Charitable Society for Social Welfare [CSSW], a charity founded by al Qaeda terrorist and ‘Bin Laden loyalist’ Abdul Majeed Al-Zindani. In 1998, the al Qaeda terrorist Anwar al-Awlaki, eventually killed by a U.S. drone strike, served as vice-president of CSSW’s San Diego branch.”
Al-Zindani is the leading member of the Hamas financing network known as the Union of the Good, which has been designated by the U.S. Treasury Department. Islamic Relief Worldwide is one of the founding organizations for the Union.
American law enforcement officers have also reported that the group is known to play a role in financing Hamas, taking the place of the convicted Holy Land Foundation. In 2011, a Department of Justice source told investigative reporter Patrick Poole, “We know that these Muslim leaders and groups are continuing to raise money for Hamas and other terrorist organizations. 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.”
Islamic Relief Worldwide is technically legally distinct from, although closely linked to their U.S.-based affiliate, Islamic Relief USA (IRUSA). The two groups share overlapping leadership. IRUSA has provided tens of millions of dollars for its parent organization to distribute.
Islamic Relief USA recently fundraised in response to a devastating October earthquake in Pakistan where according to Reuters jihadist-linked linked charities played a leading role in the response. According to the Pakistan Tribune, Islamic Relief worked side by side with Falah-e-Insaniyat Foundation, a charity foundation tied to Laskar-e-taiba, the group responsible for the Mumbai massacre. Also operating with Islamic Relief in the Earthquake response was the Alkhidmat Foundation, a charitable organization of the Muslim Brotherhood-linked Jamaat-e-Islami organization, known to have financed Hamas.
Despite that Islamic Relief is well known by U.S. law enforcement, the group has continued to share a close relationship with the State Department and USAID under the Obama Administration, including hosting shared annual “Iftar Dinners”. IRUSA’s CEO, who is also a leading Islamic Relief Worldwide board member, has served on USAID’s advisory committee beginning in 2010, according to Clarion Project’s Ryan Mauro. Islamic Relief USA described itself as a 2011 “partner” with USAID for operations in the Horn of Africa.
In addition to partnering with both the U.S. government and Terror-linked charities, one of Islamic Relief’s major projects involves support for Syrian refugees, including advocating for bringing Syrian refugees to “rich countries,” including presumably the United States.
Despite these long-running associations with Islamic Relief USA, the fund allocation directly to Islamic Relief Worldwide raises new questions. And while the U.S. government has previously been identified funding U.S. Muslim Brotherhood-linked organizations like the North American Islamic Trust, which once shared a bank account with the Holy Land Foundation, the allocation of funds directly to an entity that two U.S. allies consider a terrorist group may be a new low.
The revelations that the U.S. government is giving money to Muslim Brotherhood-linked groups that are closely tied to terrorism finance should raise serious oversight questions for the U.S. Congress, particularly as the last omnibus appropriations bill for the Obama administration’s second term is currently under discussion.
• Kyle Shideler is director of the Threat Information Office at the Center for Security Policy.