Islamic Relief Worldwide [IRW] is the poster-child of an exemplary Islamic charity. Headquartered in the UK, and given tens of millions of dollars by Western governments, the United Nations and the European Union, IRW consists of a "family of fifteen aid agencies" which "aim to alleviate the suffering of the world's poorest people." New information, however, indicates that IRW -- which counts Islamic Relief UK and Islamic Relief USA as its most important branches -- is an extremist organization with a pro-terror agenda. IRW has worked with a significant number of organizations linked to terrorism.
IRW's accounts show that it has partnered with a number of organizations linked to terrorism and that some of charity's trustees are personally affiliated with extreme Islamist groups that have connections to terror.
In 2006, the Israeli Ministry for Foreign Affairs designated IRW itself a terrorist front, and claimed that:
"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."
In May of 2006, Israeli police arrested IRW's Gaza coordinator, Ayaz Ali. The Israeli government stated Ali had assisted Hamas-related institutions and groups such as Al Wafa and Al Tzalah, both of which are designated terror organizations in Israel. According to the Israeli government, Ali also said that he had cooperated with local Hamas operatives in Jordan:
"Incriminating files were found on Ali's computer, including documents that attested to the organization's ties with illegal Hamas funds abroad (in the UK and in Saudi Arabia) and in Nablus. Also found were photographs of swastikas superimposed on IDF symbols, of senior Nazi German officials, of Osama Bin Laden and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, as well as many photographs of Hamas military activities … Ali admitted that he was aware that several of the organizations supported by the IRW in Judea, Samaria and Gaza were indeed identified with Hamas." [Author's emphasis]
For several years, IRW has supported the Islamic University of Gaza, where, during 2008, rockets and explosives were produced for use by Hamas. One of the most senior Hamas leaders, Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, founded the university in 1978, and sixteen of the university's lecturers and teachers are elected Hamas members of the Palestinian legislature.
In 2002, the Russian Federal Security Service also accused Islamic Relief of being part of a radical Islamist network, providing support to terrorists in Chechnya.
Islamic Relief has denied the charges against them. These denials would be more convincing, however, were it not that IRW appears to be a hub for donations from charities accused of links to Al Qaeda and other terror groups.
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.
During a terrorism trial in 2004 in the U.S., Federal Bureau of Investigation agent Brian Murphy testified that CSSW was a "front organization to funnel money to terrorists."
In 1999, Human Concern International, a charity that Osama bin Laden told an Egyptian interviewer in 1995 was funding an al-Qaeda charitable front called Blessed Relief, gave IRW a $50,000 donation. IRW continues to refer to Human Concern as a partner. In 2008, Human Concern granted IRW a further £25,000.
Human Concern has also funded the Global Relief Foundation, an organization shut down by the American government on the grounds that it had been laundering money for al-Qaeda and was linked to the Taliban. Similarly, in 2009 another funder of the Global Relief Foundation, the International Development and Relief Foundation, gave IRW just under £200,000.
Further, in 2008, IRW's accounts revealed a donation of £13,437 from the Yemeni Al-Eslah organization -- a branch of the Muslim Brotherhood whose leaders include Sheikh al-Zindani, whom the US Government has designated a "Global Terrorist."
The same year, the UK-based charity Human Appeal International gave IRW £34,081. A 1996 CIA report claimed Human Appeal International was one of a number of Islamic charities used as conduits for funds to terrorist organizations, and tied it to the Saudi-based Muwafaq, an Al-Qaeda front group. The FBI, in 2003, claimed there was a "close relationship between Human Appeal International and Hamas." In February 2005, Hamas's website had already openly announced the receipt of funds from HAI.
The Islamic Cultural Centre is part of the Muslim Brotherhood's European network and hosts the European Council for Fatwa and Research, of which former IRW director Issam Al-Bashir is a leading member. The head of the council is Yusuf Al-Qaradawi, the spiritual leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, who believes Hitler was "divine punishment" for the Jews and is a supporter of suicide bombings.
In 2010 and 2011, the Kuwait-based International Islamic Charitable Organisation provided IRW with hundreds of thousands of pounds. According to counter-terrorism expert Matthew Levitt, a leaked CIA report identified this Kuwaiti charity as a key supporter of terrorism.
It is not just the charity, however, that has partnered with extremist groups. A number of IRW trustees and officials are also personally affiliated with state sponsors of terror, extremist groups and pro-terror organizations:
Dr Essam El-Haddad, a trustee of both Islamic Relief Worldwide and Islamic Relief UK, is presently the national security advisor to Egypt's President Morsi.
In January 2013, media reports claimed that Essam El-Haddad met with Major General Qassem Suleimani of the Iranian state terror group, the IRGC's Quds Force. The Times reported:
The spy chief met Essam al-Haddad, foreign affairs adviser to President Morsi, and officials from the Muslim Brotherhood, to advise the Government on building its own security and intelligence apparatus, independent of the national intelligence services, which are controlled by Egypt's military.
The move will confirm fears among opposition groups that the Muslim Brotherhood plans to enslave the country under a theocracy, while the prospect of Iran gaining influence in Cairo will make Egypt's neighbours and allies fearful.
Two members of the Muslim Brotherhood's Guidance Council, the Maktab al-Ershad, confirmed details of Mr Suleimani's visit. "The Government requested a high-level meeting with Iranian officials. Iran sent Suleimani," said one official. "The meeting was intended to send a message to America, which is putting pressure on the Egyptian Government, that we should be allowed to have other alliances with anyone we please." [Author's emphases.]
In April 2013, Haddad met with Iranian President Ahmadinejad, who hailed the talks as "strategic" and promised greater collaboration between Egypt and Iran. Haddad pledged to help Iran "prevent intervention of foreign countries in Syria by taking new initiatives."
Dr. Ahmed Al-Rawi, a director of Islamic Relief, is the former head of the Federation of Islamic Organizations in Europe and president of the Muslim Association of Britain. Both groups are considered to be part of the European Muslim Brotherhood.
In 2004, Al-Rawi signed a declaration which supported jihad against British and American forces in Iraq.
Dr. Hani El-Banna, the co-founder of Islamic Relief, was formerly a trustee of Muslim Aid, a London-based charity which was previously a "partner organization" of the Al-Salah Islamic Association. The U.S. government has officially designated Al Salah a terrorist entity. A number of Bangladeshi commentators have accused Muslim Aid of funding the violent Islamist group Jamaat-e-Islami, while El-Banna was involved.
In an interview with Emel magazine, El-Banna expressed his admiration for Islamist figures Hassan al-Banna and Sayyed Qutb, the ideological founders of the Muslim Brotherhood. Qutb famously authored a pamphlet entitled 'Our Struggle with the Jews' – an anti-Semitic tract recently described by the New York Review of Books "as extreme as Hitler's."
In addition, Hani El-Banna founded, and runs, with the support of IRW, another charity called the Humanitarian Forum. Banna's fellow trustee at IRW, Abdul Wahab Noorwali, is also a trustee of Humanitarian Forum.
Another trustee at the Humanitarian Forum is Huseyin Oruc, who is also a representative of the Turkish charity IHH. The IHH helped to organize the Gaza flotilla and has been designated a terrorist organization by the Dutch government. In 2012, Oruc helped to organize a protest movement called the Global March to Jerusalem, which was backed by a number of key Hamas individuals and organizations.
Sulaiman Shamsaldeen and Ibrahim Hassaballa are also trustees of the Humanitarian Forum, and both have been directors-general of the International Islamic Charitable Organisation. As mentioned above, the US government accuses this Kuwait-based charity of being a key financial supporter of terrorism.
Issam Al-Bashir is a former Director of Islamic Relief. He is also the former Minister of Religious Affairs in the Sudan and a leading Muslim Brotherhood figure. Bashir was forced out of the Sudanese Muslim Brotherhood after he attempted to merge the group with the Sudanese Islamist Party, a group created by the Sudanese regime to broaden the support for the Islamist government. Bashir is a leading member of the European Council for Fatwa and Research, a group of fundamentalist clerics led by Muslim Brotherhood spiritual leader Yusuf Al-Qaradawi, who has called for the killing of Jews and homosexuals.
Abdul Wahab Noorwali
Abdul Wahab Noorwali, a trustee of Islamic Relief Worldwide, is the Assistant Secretary General of the World Assembly of Muslim Youth (WAMY), a position he has held for the last 12 years. WAMY, founded in 1972, is a Saudi youth organization that US government agencies and officials claim has helped spread Islamic extremism around the world and has sponsored terrorism in places such as Bosnia and Israel.
The Saudi government funds WAMY. The US government has accused the organization of having links to Osama Bin Laden. WAMY was named in the lawsuit filed by families of the victims of the September 11 attacks, who accused the group of supporting al-Qaeda. Further, law enforcement officials in India and the Philippines have also accused WAMY of financing terrorism in their countries. In 2003, Hamas leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin thanked the World Assembly for their continued financial support.
Ali al-Ahmed, a Saudi Arabian commentator who is the executive director of the Saudi Institute, said in an interview in March 2004 that WAMY is not only deeply anti-Semitic, but also anti-Shia.
WAMY has a long history of producing extreme anti-Semitism and anti-Shia publications.
WAMY distributed the booklet The Difference Between The Shiites and the Majority of Muslim Scholars in both English and Arabic. The booklet claims that Jews conspired to create division within Islam, and planted the "Jewish ideas" which became Shi'a Islam. The author claims, "The Jewish conspiracy (among others), represented by Abdullah Bin Sabaa, first influenced Muslims who were less knowledgeable about Islam and later on, spread to the rest of the Muslim community."
The book A Muslim's Relations with Non-Muslims, Enmity or Friendship, authored in Arabic by Dr. Abdulla Al-Tarekee, is also distributed by WAMY, and claims,
"The unbelievers, idolaters, and others like them must be hated and despised... We must stay away from them and create barriers between us and them." (page 28) "Qur'an forbade taking Jews and Christians as friends, and that applies to every Jew and Christian, with no consideration as to whether they are at war with Islam or not." (page 37)
Islamic Views is an Arabic language book produced by WAMY and printed by the Saudi Government's Armed Forces Printing Press. Under the heading 'The Prophet asks for Jihad', Islamic Views states:
"The Prophet Mohammad fought against the infidels and the Jews till he triumphed over them and conducted himself about twenty invasions and he sent tens of regiments led by his companions for Jihad…Damn from Allah to the Jews who made graves of their prophets as Masjid."
Noorwali was involved with the distribution of WAMY's publications.
In an interview with Middle East Newsfile, Noorwali said, "Saudi Arabia's support has been enormous since the establishment of WAMY in 1963. The Kingdom provides us with a supportive environment that allows us to work openly within the society to collect funds and spread activities. It also provides us with protection abroad through Saudi embassies and consulates, in addition to financial support."
Ibrahim El-Zayat is also listed as a trustee for both Islamic Relief Worldwide and Islamic Relief UK.
Arab journalist Dr. Sami Alrabaa has claimed that El-Zayat, while head of an extremist Munich-based organization called The Islamic Community of Germany, told a meeting of activists: "It is still premature to strike against the Jews and infidels in this country."
The German government has also identified El-Zayat in the past as the European representative of the World Assembly of Muslim Youth. An archived WAMY Arabic language web page also makes the same identification.
Meckenheim police also link Zayat to Institut Européen des Sciences Humaines, a French Islamist college. Several radical clerics are lecturers at the school, which a number of European intelligence agencies have accused of being used to spread religious hatred.
In 1996, in cooperation with WAMY, the Federation of Islamic Organisations in Europe established a youth branch, the Forum of European Muslim Youth and Student Organizations, of which Zayat was president. The NEFA Foundation and other counter-terrorism organizations consider this youth forum to be a leading voice of European Muslim Brotherhood.
In 2002, German federal police launched an investigation of Zayat. A leaked report claimed Zayat transferred more than $2 million on behalf of WAMY. Zayat sent some of that money, according to the report, to an Albanian charity called Taibah. In 2011, Taibah's Bosnian branch was designated a terrorist organization by the US government. The report concluded:
"The constellation of accounts, money flows and persons indicate that the accounts in Germany of Ibrahim El-Zayat and Ayman Sayed Ahmed Aly were used for carrying out fundamentalist Islamic activities in Europe."
El-Zayat is also the head of the Islamische Gemeinschaft in Deutschland (IGD), a German member organization of the Federation of Islamic Organisations in Europe, and which is listed by the German domestic intelligence agency as a key representative of the Muslim Brotherhood in Germany.
El-Zayat is linked (through a German business called SLM Liegenschaftsmanagement Gesellschaft für Finanzvermittlung und Consulting GmbH) to the Islamische Gemeinschaft Milli Görüs (IGMG), a pan-European organisation which the German domestic intelligence agency claims is responsible for promoting extremist ideas and propagating anti-Semitic conspiracy theories.
Adnan Saif is another trustee of Islamic Relief Worldwide. He has been an outspoken supporter of the late Sheikh Abdullah al-Ahmar, who was leader of the Islamist Yemeni Islah Party. Al-Ahmar was a vocal supporter of the Lebanese terror group Hezbollah and praised its acts of terror against Israel. Saif claims that Abdulla al-Ahmar was to Yemen what, "Ghandi and Mandela were to their respective countries."
Ahmar's confidante was Abd al-Majid al-Zindani, the Bin Laden loyalist who, in 2004, was deemed a Specially Designated Global Terrorist by the United States government.
Saif was previously the head teacher of the Scientific Institute in Birmingham, which, according to Yemeni writer Nu'man Abd al-Wahid, was one of a large number of Yemeni institutions designed to instill Islamist values. Al-Wahid notes that Al Zindani was the first "guardian" of these Scientific Institute schools.
Islamic Relief has worked hard to promote itself as a responsible charity with only benevolent interests at heart. It appears, though, looking at IRW trustees' high-level links to extreme Islamist groups, that a proper investigation is urgently required.
Despite being one of the largest and most influential Islamic charities in the World, there has been surprisingly little scrutiny of Islamic Relief Worldwide and its branches. In part, this is due to the legitimacy conferred on IRW by politicians around the world, who are all too eager to endorse such a large charity.
Not only, for example, does the British Government fund IRW's work, but cabinet members, Deputy Prime Ministers and peers of the realm regularly appear at Islamic Relief fundraising events; all eager to assure the charity of their firm support. Even Britain's Prince Charles, heir to the throne, has expressed his support and made appearances at IRW events.
In 2009, the British Foreign Office sponsored the charity's 25th Gala dinner. In 2011, Britain's ruling Conservative Party screened an Islamic Relief fundraising video at its annual conference.
Also in 2011, the Scottish Government provided Islamic Relief with £398,000 of the taxpayers' money, as part of its £9 million International Development Fund. Humza Yousaf, a Scottish National Party member of the Scottish Parliament, is presently the Minister for External Affairs and International Development. Yousaf was formerly the media spokesperson for Islamic Relief. Further, in 2008 Alex Salmond, the Scottish leader, attended a ceremony which honored IRW's head of fundraising.
Between 2007 and 2010, the European Commission granted Islamic Relief Worldwide a total of €19,507,127.
The current American administration is particularly friendly with Islamic Relief. Islamic Relief USA's own website notes that:
"In April 2010, Mr. Ayoub was appointed to the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Advisory Committee on Voluntary Foreign Aid (ACVFA). Along with other leaders in the international development field, Mr. Ayoub provides advice, analysis and recommendations to USAID on the most pressing development issues in the world today. Most recent, Mr. Ayoub was appointed to the U.S. State Department's Religion and Foreign Policy Working Group, where he will be advising on humanitarian issues."
In 2011, the website of the White House published an article which praised the charity's work and illustrated the close relationship between the U.S. government and Islamic Relief USA. During a speech at the National Prayer Breakfast, President Obama also noted his administration's support for the charity.
With such widespread and high-level support, it is not surprising that IRW enjoys both the provision of public funds and the political legitimacy that maintain its stellar reputation in the halls of Washington and Westminster. Indeed, senior politicians, unwilling to abandon a favourite charity that they have personally endorsed, might well lobby against any investigation into IRW.
It is not, however, unusual for politicians to identify with charities that promote extremism. Without the grassroots or political pressure for greater scrutiny, the most unscrupulous charities enjoy the benefits of political support. Interpal, another leading British Islamic charity which openly consorts with senior leaders of the terror group Hamas, has also enjoyed endorsement from leading politicians and cabinet members.
Few regard IRW to be as troublesome a charity as Interpal. It appears that IRW is simply much more careful. Moreover, IRW has elicited a great deal of support outside the Muslim community due to its donations to the victims of Hurricane Katrina and the 2005 London tube bombings.
The large number of links between IRW and extremist pro-terror groups, however, suggests that under the cover of a charity with excellent public relations officers lies a structured pro-terror group with an anti-Western agenda.