MUSLIM CHARITIES

Anti-Semitic charity under investigation

The Charity Commission investigates leading Islamic charity amid allegations that its leaders promote anti-Semitism

By Robert Mendick, and Ben Lazarus
24 May 2014
The Telegraph

A leading Islamic charity is being investigated by the official watchdog amid allegations that its leaders promote anti-Semitism and have called for homosexuals and female adulterers to be stoned to death.

The Islamic Education and Research Academy (iERA), which claims it works with two major British charities, lists among its advisers two preachers banned from the UK for extremist views.

The Charity Commission first became concerned after reports that the organisation had imposed gender segregation at its meetings held on university campuses. The University of London has banned the charity as a consequence.

Now the commission has announced a full-blown investigation after identifying a number of “regulatory issues” over its organisation of events and how it chooses speakers and preachers for them.

The investigation — likened by the commission to a police inquiry — coincides with a devastating 44-page report into iERA by the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain (CEMB), an organisation set up to combat Islamist extremism.

IERA was founded by Abdurraheem Green, a Muslim convert, who is the charity’s chairman. He has been caught on camera preaching at Hyde Park Corner, calling for a Jewish man to be removed from his sight. “Why don’t you take the Yahoudi [Jew] over there, far away so his stench doesn’t disturb us?” he can be heard to say.

In a 2006 internet posting, according to the CEMB report, he described gay people as “vile” and “evil”. The report also says he suggested in a blog that women who commit adultery should be subjected to a “slow and painful death by stoning”. Two of the charity’s advisers are Bilal Philips and Dr Zakir Naik, who have both been banned from entering the UK by Theresa May, the Home Secretary.

Maryam Namazie, from the Council of ex-Muslims of Britain, said the organisation should be stripped of its charitable status. “Clearly, the Islamist far-Right should not be granted charitable status but instead classified as a hate group – perpetrating hate against gay people, ex-Muslims, women, Jews, non-Muslims and the majority of Muslims who do not subscribe to their values.”

In a statement, the Charity Commission said: “The regulator is investigating concerns about the charity’s governance. The inquiry was opened following a records inspection at the charity’s premises in January 2014. The regulator says that it identified a number of regulatory issues connected to the charity’s approach and policies for organising events and inviting external speakers and its associated records and documents.”

The charity, which is based in London, says on its website it is a global organisation “committed to presenting Islam to wider society”. It issued a statement saying it was co-operating with the commission’s statutory inquiry. The charity said: “iERA considers to have willingly complied with the statutory case demands and already clearly articulated any discrepancies to the commission. Although iERA does not see the reason for a formal investigation they are fully supporting and assisting the Charity Commission’s formal inquiry.”

In the statement, the charity added that it had “been engaged in charity work which has benefited our fellow Britons and communities abroad. This includes supporting charities such as Age UK”.

iERA said it also worked with Great Ormond Street Hospital but last night the hospital said: “We are aware that two people, who are also members of the Islamic Education and Research Academy, are taking part in an independent local fun run and have chosen to raise funds for the charity, as thousands of people do every year. We have no further association with the organisation.”

A spokesman for Age UK said: “We are not aware of any work the iERA do for the national charity Age UK in the community.”


Jihad-Supporting Imam Raised Millions on U.S. Fundraising Tour


by John Rossomando and Ravi Kumar
IPT News
December 11, 2013

A Syrian Sunni sheik who raised at least $3.6 million during a U.S. fundraising tour last April has blessed a new coalition of Syrian jihadist groups aiming to replace the Assad regime with an Islamic state.

Sheik Osama al-Rifai, who raised the money for the Franklin, Mich.-based Syrian Sunrise Foundation, endorsed the creation of the Islamic Front in a Nov. 22 YouTube video. The front represents a merger of seven jihadist groups fighting Bashar al-Assad's forces. Many of them have ties to al-Qaida.

"The unification of these great Islamist and jihadist groups is not a normal piece of news, but is a great event that brings the happiness and thrill to every Muslim, not only in Syria but in the whole Islamic world," al-Rifai said in remarks translated by the Investigative Project on Terrorism. "I congratulate this brilliant news; I congratulate the brothers who formed it. I cannot say that we bless this group because it is they who should be blessed by them."

Al-Rifai visited mosques and Islamic community centers in cities across America. He spoke at fundraising dinners on Sunrise Foundation's behalf in Tampa, Miami, the Chicago area, Dallas, Crown Point, Ind., Los Angeles, a Detroit suburb called Novi and Meadowlands, N.J.

In Dallas, he said that anyone who works to raise awareness about what is happening in Syria was "a jihadist for Allah."

"Those who are subjecting themselves to martyrdom for the sake of god and who defend themselves and their families, not only them who are performing the jihad, but every single Muslim, Arab, and Syrian who has sympathy toward what happens in Syria," Al-Rifai said. "Every single one of you who give any kind of effort to help his brothers in Syria is a jihadist for Allah, every single one of you who spread the word to raise the awareness among the others about what's happening in Syria is a jihadist for Allah.

"I would love to address my brothers who are in charge of the organizations here like Shaam Relief, and Syrian Sunrise Foundation, you must be very aware that you are too performing jihad just like your brothers in Syria."

Calls seeking comment from the Investigative Project to the Syrian Sunrise Foundation and its President Ahmad Alabas were not returned.

The United States and United Kingdom suspended all non-lethal aid to rebels in northern Syria Wednesday, after the Islamic Front took over bases that had belonged to the western-backed Free Syrian Army. Officials fear the existing supplies could fall into the jihadists' hands. That assistance could include items such as radios, body armor, transportation and night-vision goggles.

The Syrian Sunrise Foundation's Facebook page states that al-Rifai helped raise $1.5 million in Tampa, $280,000 in Miami, $320,000 in Indiana, and $1.5 million in the Detroit area.

He spoke April 5 at the Mosque Foundation in Bridgeview, Ill. Two mosque leaders, Kifa Mustapha and Jamal Said, were implicated in a previous terror-support investigation. Said appears on a telephone list for the "Palestine Committee," a Muslim Brotherhood umbrella group charged with supporting Hamas politically and financially. Mustapha was a paid fundraiser for one of the committee's branches, raising more than $300,000 for the Holy Land Foundation. Five foundation officials were convicted in 2008 of providing material support for Hamas.

The Syrian Sunrise Foundation likely brought al-Rifai to the U.S. due to his reputation inside Syria as the head of a movement with a large charitable operation.

Its website says that it aims "to send aid to families, orphans, and widows affected by the conflict." The group claims to have a "well-established humanitarian network of hundreds of workers" and denies having any sort of "any political, religious, or any other agenda."

In June, al-Rifai participated in a conference in Cairo in June that supported overthrowing Assad.

The conference was also attended by radical Sheikh Yusuf Qaradawi and former Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi. The conference closed with a statement by an Egyptian cleric, Sheikh Mohamed Hassan, saying, "We're obliged to jihad in order to assist our brothers in Syria, with fighters, funding and arms."

And al-Rifai made vicious anti-Semitic statements in a 2010 speech, blaming Jews as "absolute evil" for corrupting society.

"Each time they lived with any nation, they subjected this nation to a curse, and they don't have any friends among the whole nations," he said. "This friendship between the Jews and the West is a fake and fabricated one. All the politicians and the intellectuals in the West are aware of this ... but because of political pressure they cannot admit that. If they were really free, they would kick Israel with their legs."

Jews corrupted Western women "through Freud," al-Rifai said before invoking a classic anti-Semitic forgery: "And the Jews mention in the Protocols of the Elders of Zion that all the nations are the donkeys of the Jews, and that they cannot humiliate and ride these donkeys until they can corrupt them. This is in the Elders of Zion, and I ask the God to give me the capability to explain all of that."

A Fundamentalist Charter

Al-Rifai frequently speaks about morality and uniting all Syrians, but endorses a coalition that opposes those ideals. The coalition al-Rifai now supports could have as many as 45,000 men under its command, IHS Jane's estimates.

Most of the factions that make up the Islamic Front, including its leadership, have had close relations with Al-Qaida's Syrian branches, Jabhat al-Nusra and the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria. They have issued statements expressing appreciation of the Syrian al-Qaida branch.

"This independent political, military and social formation aims to topple the Assad regime completely and build an Islamic state where the sovereignty of almighty God alone will be our reference and ruler," Ahmed Abu Eissa, leader of the Suqour al-Sham Brigades, said in a Reuters report following the Islamic Front's creation.

The new coalition's charter rejects secularism as contrary to Islam, saying that it divides "religion from life and society" and reduces it "exclusively to rituals, customs and traditions." Its leaders claim that they would not institute an "oppressive, authoritarian system," saying Syria should be ruled by an Islamic consultative council or shura.

"[The Islamic Front] does not participate in any political process contrary to religion or which give sovereignty to anything other than the Law of God Almighty, with the political process which does not recognize that legislation is the right of God alone," the charter says. "The Front cannot participate in, recognize or rely on it, for religion without politics is forbidden in our religion, and politics without religion is rejected secularization."

Zahran Alloush, leader of Jaish al-Islam and chief of military operations for the Islamic Front, solicited foreign fighters to come fight for his faction in a 7 tweet. He also called for resurrecting the caliphate in a July 25 YouTube video in which he also advocated cleansing Syria of Shiites and Alawites. Videos show his fighters flying the jihadist black flag rather than the pre-Ba'ath Syrian flag used by the Western-backed Free Syrian Army (FSA) and its allies.

Alloush was also a member of the FSA military council along with Sheik Ahmed Issa, who heads Suquor al-Sham. Both quit Tuesday and issued a declaration announcing their withdrawal from the body. Zaman Alawsl, an Internet newspaper focusing on the Syrian Civil War, reports that the declaration came hours after FSA Chief of Staff Gen. Salim Idris allegedly told a British newspaper that the FSA would fight Jabhat al-Nusra and other Islamic extremist groups should Assad fall.

Fighters from Harakat Ahrar al-Sham have fought alongside Jabhat al-Nusra. The two groups coordinated the September attack against the ancient Christian town of Ma'aoula. Ahrar Al-Sham also has worked with the Free Syrian Army and with the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood.

Hassan Aboud, the head of Ahrar Al-Sham, told Al-Jazeera in a June 8 interview that his group had previously taken part in a number of joint operations with Jabhat al-Nusra.

He agreed with the al-Qaida affiliate that "Islam is the precept for actions," but his group's only differences with it al-Nusra came down to tactics and some provisions.

He expressed the same sort of opposition to democracy found in the Islamic Front's charter.

"Democracy is people governing people, according to rules they please," Aboud said. "We say that we have a divine system whose law is Allah's for his creatures and his slaves who he appointed as viceregents on this Earth."

Abu Muhammed al-Husseini, the head of al-Sham's political office in Raqqa, told Reuters in July that his group had no major disagreements with al-Nusra, but only differs with it when it comes to "operational details."

Suquor al-Sham signed a declaration with Jabhat al-Nusra in September defining their goal as obtaining "the rule of sharia and making it the sole source of legislation" and that those groups opposed to the Assad regime should operate within "an Islamic framework." It was also signed by Islamic Front members Ahrar al-Sham, the Tawhid Brigade and Jaish Al Islam.

Suquor al-Sham has been involved in beheadings, such as one of a Syrian civilian shown in a YouTube video from February.

Issa, like others in the Islamic Front, has a dim view of secular democracy. "We do not want people to be ruled by statutory laws cited by humans, whether right or wrong," he said in a June 15 interview with Al-Jazeera.

Al-Rifai and the Syrian Sunrise Foundation

Al-Rifai was involved in the Muslim Brotherhood's 1979-1982 uprising against dictator Hafez al-Assad. He lived in exile in Saudi Arabia for about 15 years before returning to Syria in 2000.

He previously held friendly relations with Bashar al-Assad, so much so that the Syrian president personally visited him in 2002 out of respect for his personal stature in Syria. That changed in August 2011, after Syrian security forces stormed al-Rifai's mosque in Damascus, which was one of the main locations for anti-Assad protesters in the early days of the uprising.

Al-Rifai leads the Zayd Movement, a Sufi faction with 20,000 followers and is said to control 450 mosques in Syria. Zayd runs charities around Damascus that provide food for needy families. The Syrian Muslim Brotherhood has actively sought to build an alliance with al-Rifai and Zayd in an effort to regain influence in Damascus.

Although Zayd is not part of the Muslim Brotherhood or connected with it, both share "the same school of thought," according to a member of the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood who spoke with the Carnegie Endowment.

Al-Rifai's recent endorsement of the Islamic Front and the blurry lines between the Sunni factions fighting to topple the Assad regime and the millions it has raised in the United States raises certain questions. That includes the millions raised by the Syrian Sunrise Foundation.
Once the money leaves the United States it becomes next to impossible to track. This is especially true of a warzone such as Syria.

The Holy Land Foundation example stands as a case and point. The charity claimed it merely routed aid to needy Palestinians, but evidence presented during the trial showed millions of dollars were sent to groups controlled by Hamas.

"The purpose of creating the Holy Land Foundation was as a fundraising arm for Hamas," U.S. District Judge Jorge Solis said during a 2009 sentencing hearing.

The Syrian Sunrise Foundation markets itself with a similar message of helping the needy.

But it raised millions of dollars with a Syrian cleric who now supports a jihadist coalition tied to al-Qaida, and someone whose anti-Semitic rantings were known years before his American tour. Syria's civil war created an enormous humanitarian crisis.

Al-Rifai's solution – embracing brutal jihadists – offers little hope of making things better.


Money funneled by former ‘Ground Zero’ mosque imam to finance lavish lifestyle

Imam Feisel Abdul Rauf pocketed money for trips, real estate and a fancy car, the suit charges

BY BARBARA ROSS AND LARRY MCSHANE / NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
PUBLISHED: TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 5, 2013

The ex-“Ground Zero” imam, his pockets stuffed with donations given to Islamic nonprofits, splurged on a high-flying lifestyle that included expensive trips with a New Jersey gal pal, a stunning new lawsuit charges.

The married Feisal Abdul Rauf fleeced the Malaysian government for $3 million and a Westchester County couple for $167,000, according to a lawsuit filed by the couple, businessman Robert Deak and his wife Moshira Soliman.

The money was given to help Rauf’s two nonprofits, the Cordoba Initiative and the American Society for Muslim Advancement, which work to combat anti-Islamic sentiment.

Instead, the controversial imam used some of the cash to provide lavish gifts and getaways to a woman identified as Evelyn Adorno, who shared “a personal relationship with Rauf,” said Deak’s attorney, Jonathan Nelson.

Adorno lives in North Bergen, N.J. — the same town as the 64-year-old imam and his wife, Daisy Khan.

The rest of the cash was spent on a luxury sports car, personal real estate and entertainment for the imam and his wife, charges the 11-page lawsuit.

The religious leader’s largesse and expensive travel with Adorno, 57, came despite the $50,138 annual salary he reported in Cordoba’s 2010 tax filing.

Khan — listed as a Cordoba director and ASMA’s executive director and co-founder — said Tuesday she did not know about the lawsuit or any charges.

“I haven’t gone on any vacations with my husband,” she told the Daily News. “I really know nothing about this.”

But Nelson specified the trips were with Adorno.

Rauf, who became a polarizing figure in the national debate over the mosque near the World Trade Center site, was ousted as the religious leader of the planned Muslim community center in January 2011.

The imam was at odds with Sharif El-Gamal, the developer of the project at 51 Park Place. His departure came one month after Deak claims that he discovered Rauf was misusing the donations.

The Islamic center, named Park51, opened its doors in September 2011. El-Gamal did not return a Tuesday call for comment on his former colleague.

At the North Bergen apartment where Adorno lives, an irate woman in a bathrobe slammed the door on a reporter. “I’m not going to comment as to whether I’m Evelyn or not,” she snapped.

But one resident said Adorno was a well-known figure in the building. “How could you not know Evelyn? She’s a trip,” said the neighbor, declining to give her name.

Paul Knight, the lawyer for Khan, dismissed the charges and said the imam will prove his innocence.

“The allegations are meritless and we will mount a vigorous defense against this lawsuit,” said Knight.

And Julia Jitkoff, who helped launch Cordoba in 2004 but later resigned from its board, told The News she saw no sign of shenanigans during her time with the nonprofit.

“I’m very fond of both of them,” Jitkoff said of Rauf and Khan.

But the court papers portrayed Rauf as a crook and a tax cheat.
 
“Mr. Deak and Ms. Soliman are shocked and disappointed that their generosity and philanthropy have been preyed upon by Rauf … for his own personal enjoyment,” Nelson said.

The suit additionally accuses Rauf of hiding his scheme by lying on his nonprofits’ income tax returns for 2008, 2009 and 2010.

Indeed, documents reviewed by The News raised questions Tuesday. Cordoba reported no revenue in a 2006 tax filing and just $15,000 in gifts, grants and contributions in a 2007 filing, even though the Deak Family Foundation reported giving Cordoba $38,000 in 2006 and $30,000 in 2007.

In later filings, Cordoba retroactively reported additional revenue for 2006 and 2007.

State papers show that Cordoba and ASMA are deeply intertwined and have shared office space.

But board member Mino Akhtar insisted Tuesday that Cordoba and ASMA “are totally different organizations.”

She added: “I totally trust them (Rauf and Khan).”

Deak and Rauf were once friends but fell out two years ago. The Cordoba Initiative sued the couple in 2011, claiming Deak scammed Rauf into paying $1.5 million for a Washington condo that he and his wife had bought for only $567,500 months earlier.

Deak’s lawyer said the $1.5 million was payment for consulting work done for Rauf.
The plaintiffs seek $20 million in damages from Rauf, Cordoba and ASMA.

Mohammaed Asr of Queens, a sales worker who attends afternoon services at the Park51 center, was shocked to hear of the charges. “If true, this is a disgrace,” said Asr, 41. “A lot of people are already ignorant (about Islam). This isn’t going to help.”


ICNA Relief Promotes Jihad Donations

IPT News
May 2, 2012

The charitable wing of a major American Muslim organization is promoting donations to extremist causes, undercutting a nationwide campaign to improve its image. The website link from the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA) Relief division hints at deeper connections to extremism and terror, both by the charitable branch and by its parent organization.

ICNA's self-proclaimed goal is "to communicate the message of Islam to the society at large" and "also to initiate change in the social and political spheres [of American society] in light of the principles of the noble Qur'an," according to the group's 2020 Vision program.

"The future of Dawah [proselytizing] in this society is directly linked with the ability of ICNA's membership to communicate the message of Islam to the society at large," it explains. Over time, the group encourages "moving to the next level of Dawah, aimed towards the movers and shakers of the society."

As that program outlines, that goal means more engagement with non-Muslims to promote Islam. ICNA is in the midst of a pro-Sharia campaign, which explains that Islamic law isn't something threatening to American society or order.

A long history of extremism stands in the way. ICNA's magazine, conferences, and ideology have promoted violent jihad and supremacy rhetoric for decades, and continue to emphasize Islam as a civilization alternative to secular society.

The group's 2010 Member's Hand Book illustrated how further acceptance of Islam would lead to an Islamic state in America and then to a global Caliphate. "With this work of propagation of Islam, social reform, and the truth is introduced to a large part of the society. A good part of the society's thinking individuals join the movement. Then it may move to establish an Islamic society, obedient to Allah's commands," the hand book states.

To change beliefs about Islam and to further ICNA's role in promoting it, the 2020 plan emphasizes social justice and charity issues. But the discovery of more extremist content on ICNA Relief's website shows that although the group has initiated a new public image, an ideology of extremism prevails just under the surface.

The charity website links to a chapter about the giving of zakat, obligatory tithing, from Let Us Be Muslim, a text by Islamist preacher Abu Ala Maududi. He was the founder of Jamaat-e-Islami, a South Asian extremist organization that advocates the overthrow of secular governments and their replacement with a worldwide Islamic state.

The section from Let Us Be Muslim, a fundamental text used in many of ICNA's education curricula teaching extremism, promotes giving "Fi-Sabili'llah: in the way of Allah." Maududi defines this in the chapter as "giving help to a struggle for making Islam supreme on earth."
In addition, the terminology of "making Islam supreme" is a constant theme throughout ICNA's indoctrination programs. A 2008 presentation on the ICNA Southern California website explains the "goal of the Islamic Call" as the "extermination of pre-Islamic traditions or Jahaliya [ignorant ways of life]" and "mak[ing] Islam the predominant way of life" on earth.

The link on ICNA Relief's page promotes these sentiments even further, explaining that charity should be spent to further violent causes.
"Thus, we are told, there are two ways we can lead our lives. One is the way of God… To walk on this path, you must generously help your brothers and support Jihad out of whatever resources God in His bounty and wisdom has given you," Maududi wrote in the section ICNA Relief links readers. "The other is the Satanic way: apparently full of benefits, but in reality it leads to ruin. The hallmark of this way of life is worshipping money and amassing wealth at the expense of all other considerations."

Theological justifications for supporting militancy aren't new to ICNA or ICNA Relief. Currently, ICNA members proceed through a two-tiered system of membership, which requires an ideological commitment to the philosophy of political Islamism, as envisioned by thinkers like Maududi.

One leader, ICNA New York President Ashrafuz Zaman Khan, is alleged to have carried out war crimes in the name of Maududi's violent pan-Islamist ideology.

Open support for terrorist causes was available on the websites of regional ICNA branches, even after 9/11. As late as November 2002, the ICNA Southeast Zone website linked to the websites of Hamas, Hizballah, and terrorist organizations fighting in Chechnya, Afghanistan, and the Pakistani-Indian disputed region of Kashmir. Among its short list of recommended Islamic charities was the Islamic Society in Gaza, which openly touted its connections to Hamas.

The group's magazines and conferences similarly promote connections to violent jihad and terrorist organizations going back dozens of years.
An article in the October 1995 edition of ICNA's The Message Magazine features an interview with ICNA Relief director Tariqur Rehman about the crisis in Bosnia. Rehman describes how he "witnessed first hand" the religious progress of Bosnian army and mujahideen, and notes how they needed "weapons, heavy weapons." Although the United States fought against the Serbian genocide of the Bosnians, it cracked down on Islamic charity Benevolence International Foundation for supplying Islamist warriors fighting there. Al-Qaida-linked mujahideen used Bosnia as a training base, exporting fighters who would take bring jihad back to their home countries, including battling in Iraq against American forces.

An October 1997 article in the magazine, "Kashmiri Commander Speaks," features an exclusive interview with Salahuddin Ahmed, supreme commander of terrorist organization Hizbul Mujahideen and chairman of the United Jihad Council. Ahmed's terrorist coalition at the time included groups like 2001-terror-designees Lashkar-e-Taiba and Harakat al-Ansar, which was proscribed the same month as the article.

In "Kashmiri Commander Speaks," Salahuddin advocates on behalf of the jihad in Kashmir and discusses the role American Muslims can play. "The Kashmiris need concrete military and material support, and also the support of the Muslim Ummah, especially, on diplomatic and political levels," he says. He also quotes a Quranic verse when asked if he has "any message from the Muslims in America."

"Our message for the brothers in America and the outside world is in terms of the Holy Qur'an: 'And why should ye not fight in the cause of Allah and of those who being weak are ill-treated (and oppressed)?" he quotes.

In the same issue, writer Lena Winfrey Sayyed writes of the importance of fighting Jews in Israel and of supporting violent jihad in a more general way.

"One of the duties a Muslim is given by Allah is to make jihad (struggle). It can mean armed combat, but this may not be possible for everyone," Sayyed says. "Other acts are considered jihad. For example, a hadith [saying of the prophet Muhammad] states that one who supports a fighter with weapons or other means gets the same reward as the one fighting."

The same sentiments have been expressed in conferences and rallies. At its 2001 annual conference, then-ICNA President Zulfiqar Ali Shah led the audience in an Arabic chant of "Our way, our way, is jihad, jihad."

He explained his remarks to the conference as referring to violent jihad and a duty to support Muslims at war. "Whether they are brothers in Palestine or Kashmir, they belong to the Muslim ummah and we are united with them in their struggle," he said. "We stand for them and we are for their support and for the victory in Muslim [sic - Islam]. Let's give a big takbir [elevation of Allah's name] for our mujahideen brothers and sisters in Kashmir."

In earlier years, terrorist leaders and extremists were given platforms at ICNA conferences. Senior Hamas member Muhammad Siyam addressed the audience during the 1990 conference together with the deputy head of Jamaat-e-Islami Pakistan, Khurshid Ahmed.

When ICNA talks of charitable contributions and social justice, it is promoting a message tailored to a Western audience, not to its own membership. This new ICNA Relief link, with the organization's decades of radical education and rhetoric, show that ICNA's leadership still believes in supporting jihad and pursuing Islamic supremacy.



US Offers $10 Million Bounty for 2008 Mumbai Terror Suspect

Voice of America
April 3, 2012
The United States is offering a bounty of up to $10 million for the Pakistani man accused of masterminding the deadly 2008 terrorist attacks in Mumbai.

The State Department's "Rewards for Justice" website on late Monday announced the reward for information leading to Hafiz Mohammad Saeed's capture and conviction. The reward is the second highest bounty offered by the U.S.

Saeed is the founding member of the Pakistani-based militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba, which is suspected of carrying out several terrorist attacks on Indian soil.  He currently heads the Jamaat-ud-Dawa charity which is largely seen as a front for the militant group.

Saeed told reporters Tuesday that the U.S. issued the bounty because he is urging Pakistan not to reopen its border with Afghanistan to NATO supply convoys. The cleric demanded that Washington put forward any evidence of his involvement in terrorist activities. He later told the Pakistani GEO television that the the U.S. wants to silence him and discourage the public from supporting him. Saeed also called for the U.S. to leave Afghanistan and the region.

Pakistani authorities held Saeed under house arrest for about six months after the Mumbai attacks. He later was released, without charge.  Pakistan’s Supreme Court said there was insufficient evidence to detain him.

The November 2008 terrorist attack on India's financial hub, carried out by Lashkar-e-Taiba, killed 166 people, including six Americans.

In Washington, U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters Tuesday the bounty on Saeed is about "justice being done" and that there should be no impunity for those who kill Americans overseas. She emphasized that the reward was not just for information leading to Saeed's arrest, but also for information leading to his conviction.

Pakistan's government did not officially comment Tuesday on the bounty. But a key member of the ruling coalition, Mushahid Hussain, rejected the U.S. decision and told VOA it could undermine the ongoing parliamentary review of Islamabad's ties with Washington.

"This will not go down well with the people of Pakistan. And as I said, it is politically motivated because in the past the U.S. had put some [Afghan] Taliban leaders on the list of terrorists and now those same Taliban leaders have been de-notified for political reasons because the U.S. is now negotiating with the Taliban for an exit from Afghanistan," said Hussain. "So putting somebody on the list or removing somebody from the list has nothing to do with the action of that person alleged or otherwise, but it is based on politics and pragmatism, and this seems to be the case of Hafiz Saeed also."

India has long accused Lashkar-e-Taiba of carrying out the attack, with the help of Pakistan's military and spy agency.



Islamic charity co-founder convicted on tax charge


By NIGEL DUARA (AP)
September 10, 2010

EUGENE, Ore. — A federal jury on Thursday convicted the co-founder of an Islamic charity chapter who was accused of helping smuggle $150,000 to Muslim fighters in Chechnya.

Pete Seda was convicted of one count of conspiracy to defraud the government and one count of filing a false tax return. His lawyers said they would appeal.

"The verdict is a devastating blow to Mr. Seda and his family," said defense attorney Steven Wax. "We do not believe that it reflects the truth of the charges. We will be pursuing a just result of this case to the highest court in the land, if need be. This fight is not yet over."

Judge Michael Hogan set sentencing for Nov. 23.

Seda claimed the money was intended as a tithe that his accountant failed to disclose on a tax return for the U.S. chapter of the Al-Haramain Islamic Foundation in Ashland, Ore. The foundation has been declared a terrorist organization by the U.S. government.

The tax-fraud conviction was the government's first significant victory in its prosecution of Al-Haramain, which it began investigating shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorism attacks. A federal judge ruled in another case involving the charity that the government's program of wiretapping suspected terrorists without getting permission from a judge was illegal.

Prosecutors said Seda had a more sinister purpose, arguing throughout the weeklong trial that he was a Muslim radical posing as a moderate promoting peace. They alleged he was trying to smuggle the money to help fighters overthrow the Chechnyan government.

The jury returned the verdict after nearly 13 hours of deliberation. A groan passed through the courtroom as Seda's family slumped down on the benches. Seda, wearing a purple polo shirt with his beard neatly trimmed, turned and smiled at his family.

Assistant U.S. attorneys Charles Gorder Jr. and Chris Cardani told the jury that Al-Haramain distributed the Quran to U.S. prison inmates. They said non-Muslims were issued a regular Quran while Muslim prisoners got an edition with an appendix calling for violence against Jews and nonbelievers, a version they called the "Noble Quran."

Part of Seda's crime occurred when the charity's co-founder, Soliman Al-Buthe, left the country with a donation of about $130,000, converted to traveler's checks, without declaring the amount. Seda also failed to note the donation on the charity's tax forms.

Al-Buthe, who is in Saudi Arabia, faces the same charges as Seda but cannot be extradited. The original donation of $150,000 from an Egyptian doctor was deposited and converted at an Ashland bank.

Seda's attorney reminded jurors that a rabbi and a Christian minister testified on behalf of Seda, their neighbor, who has been a U.S. citizen for 16 years.

Seda, 52, shortened his last name from Sedaghaty and adopted the nickname Pete instead of his first name, Pirouz, after moving from his native Iran and attending Southern Oregon University in Ashland. He found widespread support when he helped open a branch of the now-defunct Saudi charity in Ashland to improve the understanding of Islam and relations with Muslims.

Seda became a community fixture, working as an arborist and taking part in local events, including walking a camel down the main street in the Fourth of July parade. A raid on his home, which served as the headquarters of the Al-Haramain chapter, led to an indictment on tax charges while he was out of the country and turned him into an international fugitive.

Seda returned voluntarily with the help of a friend, Portland attorney Tom Nelson, who has been involved with a related legal battle over alleged government eavesdropping on attorneys for Al-Haramain.

Prosecutors pointed to Seda's flight as a reason to keep him in custody, while Wax said Seda showed he could cooperate with house arrest while he wore an ankle monitor for almost three years.

The judge agreed with the prosecutors and ordered Seda to be taken into custody. Plainclothes U.S. marshals stood behind he as he hugged his wife, children and attorneys.



2 Minnesota women among 14 charged in terror probe

By AMY FORLITI and PETE YOST (AP)
August 6, 2010

ST. PAUL, Minn. — Amina Farah Ali had become the go-to person for Somalis in the southern Michigan city of Rochester wanting to donate items to refugees displaced by violence in their homeland.

But she and another woman, Hawo Mohamed Hassan, were actually using the pretense of charity to send money to a violent terrorist group in the African country, prosecutors allege. They also claim the women made direct pleas in teleconference calls for others "to support violent jihad in Somalia."

The two women, both U.S. citizens living in Rochester, are among 14 people named in indictments unsealed Thursday in Minneapolis, San Diego, and Mobile, Ala. — accused of being part of what the government called "a deadly pipeline" that routed money and fighters from the U.S. to al-Shabab. The Somali insurgent faction embraces a radical form of Islam similar to the harsh, conservative brand practiced by Afghanistan's former Taliban regime.

Both women said they are innocent. "We are not terrorists," Ali said after she and Hassan made their first appearances Thursday in U.S. District Court in St. Paul.

The indicted also include Omar Hammami, an Alabama man now known as Abu Mansour al-Amriki, or "the American" — who has become one of al-Shabab's most high-profile members and appeared in a jihadist video in May 2009. The group's fighters, numbering several thousand strong, are battling Somalia's weakened government and have been branded a terrorist group with ties to al-Qaida by the U.S. and other Western countries.

Of the 14 people named in indictments Thursday, at least half are U.S. citizens and 12 of them are out of the country, including 10 men from Minnesota who allegedly left to join al-Shabab. Seven of those 10 Minnesota men named had been charged in earlier indictments or criminal complaints.

Ali, 33, and Hassan, 63, are the only two people indicted Thursday who remain in the U.S. They are both charged with conspiracy to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization. Ali faces multiple counts of providing material support to a foreign terrorist organization, and Hassan faces three counts of lying to the FBI.

Abdifatah Abdinur, a Somali community leader in Rochester, said many knew Ali as a religious speaker who preached to women, and as a person who would collect clothes for refugees, telling many people to drop off donations at her garage.

"I know a lot of people might send money or goods, without knowing the consequences of what they were doing," said Abdinur said.

"If you have clothes, you give them to her," said Abdinur. "If you have shoes, give them to her." Abdinur said. "I was surprised, as almost everybody was (to learn) that she was sending clothes to al-Shabab."

The women and others allegedly went door to door in Minneapolis; Rochester, Minn., and elsewhere in the U.S. and Canada to raise funds for al-Shabab's operations in Somalia. The indictment says they claimed the money would go to the poor and needy and used phony names for recipients to conceal that it was going to al-Shabab.

They also allegedly made direct appeals to people in teleconferences. During one teleconference, the indictment says, Ali told others "to forget about the other charities" and focus on "the jihad."

The indictment says Ali and others sent the funds through various hawalas, money transfer businesses that are a common source of financial transactions in the Islamic world. Ali is accused of sending $8,608 to al-Shabab on 12 occasions from September 2008 through July 2009.

The fundraising operation in Minnesota reached into Ohio, where a Columbus resident helped collect donations for al-Shabab, according to the indictment. The document also says that after the FBI searched Ali's home in 2009, she contacted an al-Shabab leader in southern Somalia and said: "I was questioned by the enemy here. ... They took all my stuff and are investigating it ... Do not accept calls from anyone."

Prosecutors didn't seek detention for Ali or Hassan, but a federal magistrate set several conditions for their release, including barring travel outside Minnesota without permission.

When asked whether she understood why she was in court, Ali said through an interpreter: "I do not know — however, I think maybe because of my faith."

Ali, who works in home health care and has lived in Rochester for 11 years, also said: "Allah is my attorney."

Hassan said she was self-employed, running a day care.

Minneapolis has been the hub of the federal investigation into al-Shabab recruitment over the last two years, after a U.S. citizen from Minneapolis carried out a suicide bombing in Somalia in October 2008. Roughly 20 young men — all but one of Somali descent — have left Minnesota for that country since late 2007.

In Mobile, Ala., on Thursday prosecutors unsealed a September 2009 indictment against Hammami. Holder said Hammami has appeared in several propaganda videos for al-Shabab and "has assumed an operational role in that organization."

Hammami, 26, grew up in the middle-class town of Daphne, Ala., and attended the University of South Alabama in Mobile, where he was president of the Muslim Student Association nine years ago. School officials said they have been unaware of his whereabouts since he left the university in 2002.

Hammami's father, Shafik, is an engineer with the state highway department who also has served as president of the Islamic Society of Mobile. Shafik Hammami confirmed his relationship to Omar Hammami in e-mail exchanges with The Associated Press earlier this year but declined further comment.

In San Diego, prosecutors unsealed an indictment charging Jehad Serwan Mostafa, 28, with conspiring to provide material support to al-Shabab. Mostafa is believed to be in Somalia.




The Pennsylvania Lifeline to Hamas

Posted by Joe Kaufman on Feb 22nd, 2010 and filed under FrontPage

In 1981, future terrorist leader and spokesman Mousa Abu Marzook began building, within the United States, a network of violence supporting Palestinian-oriented groups, which would later become the basis for a well-financed Hamas infrastructure. Today, that network has been severely crippled. However, parts of it yet exist, all of which hail from the American propaganda wing of Hamas, the Islamic Association for Palestine (IAP), one of which is a chapter of the IAP itself.

On December 8, 2004, Joyce and Stanley Boim, an American couple, were awarded $156 million by a federal court jury for the murder of their teenage son, David, who had been shot and killed during a May 1996 Hamas terrorist operation in Israel. The four defendants who were found liable for the murder included three organizations, the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development (HLF), the Islamic Association for Palestine (IAP), and the Quranic Literacy Institute (QLI), and one individual, a Chicago resident named Muhammad Salah.

Of the three organizations, only the IAP was still in existence at the time of the trial. However, that would soon change, as then-Communications Director of the Chicago office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-Chicago) Ahmed Rehab, in January 2006, e-mailed this author declaring that the IAP was no more.

In the time that the IAP was operating, from the years 1981 to 2005, the group had created a number of local chapters throughout the U.S., using aliases as names. These included the American Middle Eastern League for Palestine (AMELP) and the American Muslim Society (AMS).

Like the IAP, most of these groups are gone. However, there is still one chapter that is in operation, the American Muslim Society of the Tristate Area of Pennsylvania, New Jersey & Delaware (AMS Tri-State).

AMS Tri-State was established in December 2000 and incorporated the following month, in January 2001. According to the Pennsylvania Department of State, the group’s corporation is still active.

The registered address of AMS Tri-State is 1860 Montgomery Avenue, located in Villanova, Pennsylvania. It is the same address as the Foundation of Islamic Education (FIE), a satellite campus for Cairo, Egypt’s Al-Azhar University.

Since it began, AMS Tri-State has held board meetings at FIE and has held annual conferences at FIE. These conferences, which were co-sponsored by FIE, featured a number of leaders from various radical Muslim groups, including the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA), the Muslim American Society (MAS), the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC), and the International Institute of Islamic Thought (IIIT).

The website address of AMS Tri-State was recently renewed, as the expiration date of it has changed from December 16, 2009 to December 16, 2010. The Registrant, Administrative Contact and Technical Contact of the site is Iftekhar Hussain. According to the website of CAIR-Pennsylvania, of which Hussain acts as Chairman of the Board, Hussain is “currently serving as Secretary General of the American Muslim Society of the Tristate Area of PA, NJ & DE.”

For Hussain to be involved with both groups is no strange coincidence, as the IAP was the parent organization of CAIR. CAIR was founded by three leaders of the IAP: IAP National President Omar Ahmad, IAP National Public Relations Director Nihad Awad, and AMS-Chicago President Rafiq Jaber, who later became IAP National President.

In fact, some can make the claim that AMS Tri-State is the parent organization of CAIR-Pennsylvania, which was established in 2004. AMS Tri-State founding Secretary General Iftekhar Hussain served as CAIR-Pennsylvania Chairman; AMS Tri-State founding President Zaheer Chaudhry served as a CAIR-Pennsylvania board member; and AMS Tri-State founding Chairman Masood Ghaznavi served as a CAIR-Pennsylvania advisor.

Remnants of Hamas, such as AMS and CAIR, exist as a cautious reminder of a violent movement that began in the 1980s and that persists to this day. Unfortunately, when the IAP was shut down in 2005, its offspring were left to flourish.

Unlike CAIR, though, which has grown to over 30 chapters across the United States, AMS Tri-State appears to be an oversight. The memory of David Boim, along with all the other innocents who have perished at the hands of Hamas, cannot be served by its continuance.

Why the IAP lingers in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware is a mystery that can only be known to the group itself. And whatever the reason is, it cannot have anything but a sinister motive attached to it.

Joe Kaufman is the Chairman of Americans Against Hate, the founder of CAIR Watch, and the spokesman for Young Zionists.

Beila Rabinowitz, Director of Militant Islam Monitor, contributed to this report.

 

Hamas backers jailed in Texas

BBC News
May 27, 2009

Two founder members of what was once the biggest Muslim charity in the US have each been jailed for 65 years.

Shukri Abu Baker, 50, and Ghassan Elashi, 55, were convicted of channelling funds to the Palestinian militant group, Hamas. Three other members of the Holy Land Foundation were jailed for between 15 and 20 years by a Dallas court. The charity was found guilty last year of sending $12m (7.4m) to fund social programmes controlled by Hamas. The five men were convicted in November on charges ranging from money laundering to supporting terrorism. Hamas was designated a terrorist organisation by the US government 14 years ago, making it illegal to give the group money or other support.

The defendants said they were only interested in helping the needy. Their supporters said no money had been used to fund violence, and the case was a by-product of what it called the anti-Islamic sentiment following the 11 September attacks of 2001. Shukri Abu Baker told the judge in Dallas on Wednesday: "I did it because I cared, not at the behest of Hamas." But prosecutors argued that the humanitarian aid sent by the charity allowed Hamas to divert money to militant activities.

Orphans

Jurors had reached their guilty verdict last year after eight days of deliberations following a retrial of the Texas-based Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development. It was the largest terrorism financing trial since the 9/11 attacks. The indictment against the group said it sponsored Palestinian orphans and families in the West Bank and Gaza whose relatives had died or been imprisoned as a result of Hamas attacks on Israel. The charity was shut down and had its assets frozen in 2001.
 

Alleged Terrorist Group Steers Young Men to Fight

Mumbai Suspect, Ex-Recruits Describe How Pakistan-Based Lashkar-e-Taiba Gave Them the Motivation and Skills to Kill

By GEETA ANAND in Mumbai, MATTHEW ROSENBERG in Lahore, Pakistan, AND SIOBHAN GORMAN and SUSAN SCHMIDT in Washington

DECEMBER 8, 2008

Captured terrorist suspect Mohammed Ajmal Kasab has repeatedly offered the same explanation to his interrogators for his role in the Mumbai attacks. "Islam is in danger," he says over and over, according to a senior Indian police official.

It was a message pumped into the 21-year-old by his trainers from the Pakistani militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba, according to Indian police. To reinforce the message, Mr. Kasab and the nine other terrorists were shown videos of Hindu violence perpetrated on Indian Muslims, police say.

Mr. Kasab's account of his recruitment and training -- along with accounts from court papers and interviews with former recruits -- offers a portrait of how Lashkar-e-Taiba combines indoctrination with expert combat training to turn directionless, disconnected young men into deadly Islamist terrorists.

On Sunday, Pakistan security forces raided a Lashkar-e-Taiba camp where authorities believed militants linked to last month's Mumbai attack were located, a senior Pakistani official said.

Lashkar, whose teachings are often tailored specifically for attacks on the subcontinent, highlights two atrocities in the past two decades that have riled India's minority Muslim community and inspired acts of terrorism in India as well: A 1992 Hindu fundamentalist campaign to destroy the Babri Masjid, a mosque in Uttar Pradesh state, and the 2002 anti-Muslim rioting, in the town of Godhra in the western state of Gujarat, in which more than 1,000 people were killed.

The symbolism appears to have had the desired effect on Mr. Kasab. "He got a sense of purpose right away," says A.N. Roy, director general of the Maharashtra State Police. "He felt he was fighting for his religion."

Since the attacks, Indian police say Mr. Kasab has come to regret his actions and asked police to deliver a letter to his father. In it, according to Mr. Roy, he wrote in Urdu: "I did not go on the path you told me to. I did not realize that the path I was taking would lead me here. I went too far. I am now as good as dead. Nobody should go down this path."

Lashkar-e-Taiba, which started in the early 1990s and made its name challenging India's claims over Kashmir, has expanded its reach to wherever it perceives Muslims to be in danger. In the process, it has become one of the most deadly Islamic terrorist groups, a support at times for al Qaeda, and a route for Western extremists and converts to sign up for terrorism.

Foreign jihadis finding it increasingly difficult to get to al Qaeda directly have turned to Lashkar. Among the most famous Lashkar alumni: "shoe bomber" Richard Reid, who tried to blow up a trans-Atlantic flight in late 2001, and Dhiren Barot, who was arrested in 2004, and convicted two years later, for planning a deadly bombing plot in London and providing al Qaeda with materials to target U.S. financial buildings. Both are British citizens.

Pakistan banned Lashkar-e-Taiba, which means "Army of the Pure," under U.S. pressure in 2002, by which time thousands of young men already had trained in Lashkar camps, experts say. Despite the ban, Pakistan has allowed the group to hide in plain sight, doing little if anything to clamp down.

Lashkar's parent organization, a charitable group called Jamaat-ud-Dawa, or "Party of Preachers," is increasing in influence, especially in the central Pakistani province of Punjab, where it even arbitrates village disputes. At its headquarters in Muridke, a few hours' drive from Lahore, it runs a 75-acre campus with an Islamic university, two schools and a hospital. It has set up schools across Punjab and other parts of Pakistan where government schools are nonexistent or poorly funded.

Jamaat-ud-Dawa's educational activities, experts say, have turned it into an open door for young men from all over the world who are interested in exploring militant Islam and perhaps joining Lashkar-e-Taiba.

Lashkar-e-Taiba's founder, Hafiz Mohammed Saeed, denies the group was involved in the Mumbai strikes, despite what Indian and U.S. officials say is substantial evidence. Pakistan also has cast doubt on the Indian version of events and on accounts of Mr. Kasab's testimony. President Asif Ali Zardari said he doubts the man Indian police had identified as Mr. Kasab is Pakistani.

According to police accounts, Mr. Kasab has said he is from a poor family of devout Muslims in the small, dusty village of Faridkot in Punjab. His father worked selling snacks out of a cart. One of five siblings, Mr. Kasab has said he dropped out of school when he was in fourth grade so he could help support the family, working as a casual laborer in his town of 3,000 people.

Most people in the Faridkot area work in farming or as laborers in nearby cities. The region, with its poor and undereducated population, has proved to be a fertile recruiting ground for militant Islamic groups, including Lashkar-e-Taiba.

In 2005, Mr. Kasab says, according to the police accounts, he moved to Lahore, where his brother was employed. Mr. Kasab worked for a time as a casual laborer, but then got into petty crime, he told police. In search of a source for weapons to commit crimes, Mr. Kasab met with some people who turned out to be recruiters for Lashkar-e-Taiba, he said.

The recruiters persuaded him to attend a training camp, where they showed him video footage of Hindu extremists demolishing the Babri Masjid and Hindu mobs killing Muslims in the aftermath of the burning of a train full of Hindu pilgrims passing through Godhra in 2002.

The two incidents are those most cited in complaints by Indian Muslims about how majority-Hindu India has ignored and persecuted them despite India's democracy and secular constitution. Indian Mujahedeen, a terror outfit with alleged links to Lashkar-e-Taiba, cited the events in emails taking responsibility for a series of terrorist attacks in India earlier this year.

The grievances Lashkar-e-Taiba uses to motivate recruits vary depending on the target audience. One former member says he was recruited at age 16 in 1997 after a Lashkar recruiter showed him pictures of Muslim women raped and killed and dumped in mass graves in Bosnia, as well as of dead insurgents in Kashmir. In an interview, the former member said the recruiter came to his school in Gujranwala, a district close to Jamaat-ud-Dawa's headquarters, to tell the class to be pious Muslims.

"The pictures moved a lot of us and some of us even started to cry," he said in an interview.

After Mr. Kasab's first few months in a Lashkar-e-Taiba camp he felt a sense of purpose for the first time in his life, he told Mumbai police. It was his job to fight to the death to save Islam and he said he was ready to die in the jihad, police said.

At several camps around Pakistan, including a major Lashkar-e-Taiba camp in Muzaffarabad in Kashmir, Mr. Kasab underwent 18 months' training in marine warfare, weaponry and explosive use, he told interrogators, said Mr. Roy, the Maharashtra police director general.

Among the trainers were several who appeared in army and navy uniforms with names and rank badges, Mr. Roy said. The Pakistani government denies any of its military was involved in training the attackers.

The former Lashkar member also said training was provided by Pakistani military officers in uniform when he attended camp in Muzaffarabad. "They were experts," he said. "They taught us about explosives, about urban combat, how to go into buildings, clear rooms of people and hold off soldiers for as long as we could."

Lashkar-e-Taiba's camps typically give new recruits three weeks of basic weapons training, according to experts and past attendees. Volunteers begin their day with a call to morning prayers before rigorous exercises and religious instruction.

Foreign recruits are sometimes trained at a special camp, according to Yong Ki Kwon, a Lashkar-e-Taiba trainee apprehended by police in northern Virginia in 2003. Mr. Kwon became a cooperating witness for the government in its investigation of the Virginia Jihad network and pleaded guilty to weapons and conspiracy charges. He described training at several Lashkar camps in Pakistan in weapons, camouflage, reconnaissance and night maneuvers, and ambush tactics.

Ghulam, a 51-year-old former Lashkar-e-Taiba member who asked that only his first name be used, says that after his camp training in the early 1990s, he was sent to help the group's fighters in Kashmir. A Pakistani who now lives in Lahore, Ghulam says he carried weapons, ammunition, clothes and food to hideouts and safe houses across the Line of Control, the de facto border between India's and Pakistan's parts of the Himalayan region. Once, he said, his group was fired on by Indian forces as they headed back toward the line, and Pakistani soldiers opened fire to give them cover. Mr. Kasab said the members of his training group knew they were preparing to launch an attack, but they weren't told details, according to the police account.

A few days before they left their camp, a group of 10 were chosen from a larger group about double in number, police said. They were told they were attacking Mumbai and details on the plan. They knew they might die, but were promised their families would get about $3,000 if they became martyrs. For three months they were kept in isolation and communicated with one another using code names.

On Nov. 23, the group set out from Karachi, Pakistan's major port on the Arabian Sea, for a journey that three days later would deliver them to the shores of Mumbai. Mr. Kasab was the only one of the 10 Mumbai assailants captured; the rest were eventually killed by security forces, most of them after being holed up in three hotels and a Jewish center for three days as they eluded commandos.

Residents in the village where Mr. Kasab grew up said he moved out a few years ago, according to a local journalist. His father, Amir, confirmed the gunman as his son after seeing a photograph of him injured after the attacks, the journalist said. His mother burst into tears and kissed the photograph. The elder Mr. Kasab said he hasn't received any money from Lashkar-e-Taiba. "I don't sell my son," he told the journalist.

—Zahid Hussain and Jay Solomon contributed to this article.

Five Convicted in Terrorism Financing Trial

By GRETEL C. KOVACH

New York Times

Published: November 24, 2008

DALLAS — On their second try, federal prosecutors won sweeping convictions Monday against five leaders of a Muslim charity in a retrial of the largest terrorism-financing case in the United States since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.Skip to next paragraph

The five defendants, all leaders of the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development, based in Richardson, a Dallas suburb, were convicted on all 108 criminal counts against them, including support of terrorism, money laundering and tax fraud. The group was accused of funneling millions of dollars to the Palestinian militant group Hamas, an Islamist organization the government declared to be a terrorist group in 1995.

“Money is the lifeblood of terrorism,” Richard B. Roper, the United States attorney whose office prosecuted the case, said Monday in a statement. “The jury’s decision demonstrates that U.S. citizens will not tolerate those who provide financial support to terrorist organizations.”

The defendants argued that the Holy Land Foundation, once the largest Muslim charity in the United States, was engaged in legitimate humanitarian aid for community welfare programs and Palestinian orphans.

The jury, which deliberated for eight days, reached a starkly different result than the jury in the first trial, which ended in a mistrial on most charges in October 2007, after nearly two months of testimony and 19 days of deliberations.

The government shuttered the Holy Land Foundation in December 2001 and seized its assets, a move President Bush heralded at the time as “another step in the war on terrorism.”

The charity’s leaders — Ghassan Elashi, Shukri Abu-Baker, Mufid Abdulqader, Abdulrahman Odeh and Mohammad El-Mezain — were not accused in the 2004 indictment of directly financing suicide bombings or terrorist violence. Instead, they accused of illegally contributing to Hamas after the United States designated it a terrorist group.

The defendants could be sentenced to 15 years on each count of supporting a terrorist group, and 20 years on each count of money laundering. Leaders of the foundation, which is now defunct, might also have to forfeit millions of dollars.

Khalil Meek, a longtime spokesman for a coalition of Holy Land Foundation supporters called Hungry for Justice, which includes national Muslim and civil rights groups, said supporters were “devastated” by the verdict.

“We respect the jury’s decision, but we disagree and we think the defendants are completely innocent,” Mr. Meek said. “For the last two years we’ve watched this trial unfold, and we have yet to see any evidence of a criminal act introduced to a jury. This jury found that humanitarian aid is a crime.”

He added, “We intend to appeal the verdict, and we remain convinced that we will win.”

The prosecutor, Barry Jonas, told jurors in closing arguments last week that they should not be deceived by the foundation’s cover of humanitarian work, describing the charities it financed as terrorist recruitment centers that were part of a “womb to the tomb” cycle.

After the mistrial last year, critics said the government had offered a weak, complicated case and had failed to recognize that juries were not as quick to convict Muslim defendants accused of supporting terrorism as they had once been. Prosecutors spent more time in the second trial explaining the complexities of the case and painting a clearer picture of the money trail. They also dropped many of the original charges.

“Today’s verdicts are important milestones in America’s efforts against financiers of terrorism,” Patrick Rowan, assistant attorney general for national security, said in a statement. Mr. Rowan added that the prosecution “demonstrates our resolve to ensure that humanitarian relief efforts are not used as a mechanism to disguise and enable support for terrorist groups.”

Nancy Hollander, a lawyer from Albuquerque who represented Mr. Abu-Baker, said the defendants would appeal based on a number of issues, including the anonymous testimony of an expert, which she said was a first.

“Our clients were not even allowed to review their own statements because they were classified — statements that they made over the course of many years that the government wiretapped,” Ms. Hollander said. “They were not allowed to go back and review them. There were statements from alleged co-conspirators that included handwritten notes. Nobody knew who wrote them; nobody knew when they were written. There are a plethora of issues.”

Noor Elashi, a 23-year-old writer who is the daughter of Ghassan Elashi, said she was “heartbroken” that jurors had accepted what she called the fear-mongering of the prosecution.

“I am utterly shocked at this outcome,” Ms. Elashi said. “This is a truly low point for the United States of America.” She said supporters would not rest until the verdict was overturned.

“My dad is a law-abiding citizen who was persecuted for his humanitarian work in Palestine and his political beliefs,” Ms. Elashi said. “Today I did not shed a single tear. My dad’s smile was radiant. That’s because he saved lives, and now he’s paying the price.”

According to freedomtogive.com, a Web site that calls itself the voice of the defendants’ relatives and friends, the foundation “simply provided food, clothes, shelter, medical supplies and education to the suffering people in Palestine and other countries.” 

 

The Saudi Connection

How billions in oil money spawned a global terror network

U.S. News & World Report

By David E. Kaplan

12/15/03

The CIA's Illicit Transactions Group isn't listed in any phone book. There are no entries for it on any news database or Internet site. The ITG is one of those tidy little Washington secrets, a group of unsung heroes whose job is to keep track of smugglers, terrorists, and money launderers. In late 1998, officials from the White House's National Security Council called on the ITG to help them answer a couple of questions: How much money did Osama bin Laden have, and how did he move it around? The queries had a certain urgency. A cadre of bin Laden's al Qaeda terrorists had just destroyed two of America's embassies in East Africa. The NSC was determined to find a way to break the organization's back. Working with the Illicit Transactions Group, the NSC formed a task force to look at al Qaeda's finances. For months, members scoured every piece of data the U.S. intelligence community had on al Qaeda's cash. The team soon realized that its most basic assumptions about the source of bin Laden's money--his personal fortune and businesses in Sudan--were wrong. Dead wrong. Al Qaeda, says William Wechsler, the task force director, was "a constant fundraising machine." And where did it raise most of those funds? The evidence was indisputable: Saudi Arabia. America's longtime ally and the world's largest oil producer had somehow become, as a senior Treasury Department official put it, "the epicenter" of terrorist financing. This didn't come entirely as a surprise to intelligence specialists. But until the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, U.S. officials did painfully little to confront the Saudis not only on financing terror but on backing fundamentalists and jihadists overseas. Over the past 25 years, the desert kingdom has been the single greatest force in spreading Islamic fundamentalism, while its huge, unregulated charities funneled hundreds of millions of dollars to jihad groups and al Qaeda cells around the world. Those findings are the result of a five-month investigation by U.S. News. The magazine's inquiry is based on a review of thousands of pages of court records, U.S. and foreign intelligence reports, and other documents. In addition, the magazine spoke at length with more than three dozen current and former counterterrorism officers, as well as government officials and outside experts in Riyadh, the Saudi capital. Among the inquiry's principal findings:

Starting in the late 1980s--after the dual shocks of the Iranian revolution and the Soviet war in Afghanistan--Saudi Arabia's quasi-official charities became the primary source of funds for the fast-growing jihad movement. In some 20 countries, the money was used to run paramilitary training camps, purchase weapons, and recruit new members.

The charities were part of an extraordinary $70 billion Saudi campaign to spread their fundamentalist Wahhabi sect worldwide. The money helped lay the foundation for hundreds of radical mosques, schools, and Islamic centers that have acted as support networks for the jihad movement, officials say.

U.S. intelligence officials knew about Saudi Arabia's role in funding terrorism by 1996, yet for years Washington did almost nothing to stop it. Examining the Saudi role in terrorism, a senior intelligence analyst says, was "virtually taboo." Even after the embassy bombings in Africa, moves by counterterrorism officials to act against the Saudis were repeatedly rebuffed by senior staff at the State Department and elsewhere who felt that other foreign policy interests outweighed fighting terrorism.

Saudi largess encouraged U.S. officials to look the other way, some veteran intelligence officers say. Billions of dollars in contracts, grants, and salaries have gone to a broad range of former U.S. officials who had dealt with the Saudis: ambassadors, CIA station chiefs, even cabinet secretaries.

Washington's unwillingness to confront the Saudis over terrorism was part of a broader strategic failure to sound the alarm on the rise of the global jihad movement. During the 1990s, the U.S. intelligence community issued a series of National Intelligence Estimates--which report on America's global challenges--on ballistic missile threats, migration, infectious diseases; yet the government never issued a single NIE on the jihad movement or al Qaeda.

Propaganda. Saudi officials argue that their charities have done enormous good work overseas and that the problems stem from a few renegade offices. They say, too, that Riyadh is belatedly cracking down, much as Washington did after 9/11. "These people may have taken advantage of our charities," says Adel al-Jubeir, foreign affairs adviser to the crown prince. "We're looking into it, and we've taken steps to ensure it never happens again."

To understand why the Saudis would fund a movement that now terrorizes even their own society, some history is in order. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia was born of a kind of marriage of convenience between the House of Saud and the strict Wahhab sect of Islam. In the 18th century, Mohammed ibn Saud, a local chieftain and the forebear of today's ruling family, allied himself with fundamentalists from the Wahhab sect. Over the next 200 years, backed by the Wahhabis, Saud and his descendants conquered much of the Arabian peninsula, including Islam's holiest sites, in Mecca and Medina. Puritanical and ascetic, the Wahhabis were given wide sway over Saudi society, enforcing a strict interpretation of certain Koranic beliefs. Their religious police ensured that subjects prayed five times a day and that women were covered head to toe. Rival religions were banned, criminals subjected to stoning, lashing, and beheading.

The Wahhabis were but one sect among a back-to-the-roots movement in Islam that had limited attraction overseas. But that began to change, first with the flood of oil money in the 1970s, which filled Saudi coffers with billions of petrodollars. Next came the Iranian revolution and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, in 1979. Most ominously for the Saudis, however, was a third shock that same year: the brief but bloody takeover by militants of the Grand Mosque in Mecca.

Threatened within the kingdom, and fearful that the radicals in Tehran would assert their own leadership of the Muslim world, the Saudis went on a spending spree. From 1975 through last year, the kingdom spent over $70 billion on overseas aid, according to a study of official sources by the Center for Security Policy, a Washington think tank. More than two thirds of that amount went to "Islamic activities"--building mosques, religious schools, and Wahhabi religious centers, says the CSP's Alex Alexiev, a former CIA consultant on ethnic and religious conflict. The Saudi funding program, Alexiev says, is "the largest worldwide propaganda campaign ever mounted"--dwarfing the Soviets' propaganda efforts at the height of the Cold War. The Saudi weekly Ain al-Yaqeen last year reported the cost as "astronomical" and boasted of the results: some 1,500 mosques, 210 Islamic centers, 202 colleges, and nearly 2,000 schools in non-Islamic countries.

Key to this evangelical tour de force were charities closely tied to Saudi Arabia's ruling elite and top clerics. With names like the Muslim World League and its affiliate, the International Islamic Relief Organization, the funds spent billions more to spread Wahhabism. The IIRO, for example, took credit for funding 575 mosques in Indonesia alone. Accompanying the money, invariably, was a blizzard of Wahhabist literature. Wahhabist clerics led the charge, causing moderate imams to worry about growing radicalism among the faithful. Critics argue that Wahhabism's more extreme preachings--mistrust of infidels, branding of rival sects as apostates, and emphasis on violent jihad--laid the groundwork for terrorist groups around the world.

Princely giving. If the Saudis' efforts had been limited to pushing fundamentalism abroad, their work would have been cause for controversy. But some Saudi charities played a far more troubling role. U.S. officials now say that key charities became the pipelines of cash that helped transform ragtag bands of insurgents and jihadists into a sophisticated, interlocking movement with global ambitions. Many of those spreading the Wahhabist doctrine abroad, it turned out, were among the most radical believers in holy war, and they poured vast sums into the emerging al Qaeda network. Over the past decade, according to a 2002 report to the United Nations Security Council, al Qaeda and its fellow jihadists collected between $300 million and $500 million--most of it from Saudi charities and private donors.

The origins of al Qaeda are intimately bound up with the Saudi charities, intelligence analysts now realize. Osama bin Laden and his followers were not exactly holy warriors; they were unholy fundraisers. In Afghanistan, Riyadh and Washington together ponied up some $3.5 billion to fund the mujahideen--the Afghan fighters who took on the Soviets. At the same time, men like bin Laden served as fundraisers for the thousands of foreign jihadists streaming into Afghanistan. By persuading clerics across the Muslim world to hand over money from zakat, the charitable donations that are a cornerstone of Islam, they collected huge sums. They raised millions more from wealthy princes and merchants across the Middle East. Most important, they joined forces with the Saudi charities, many already moving aid to the fighters.

Afghanistan forged not only financial networks but important bonds among those who believe in violent jihad. During the Afghan war, the man who ran the Muslim World League office in Peshawar, Pakistan, was bin Laden's mentor, Abdullah Azzam. Another official there was Wael Julaidan, a Saudi fundraiser who would join bin Laden in founding al Qaeda in 1988. Documents seized in raids after 9/11 reveal just how close those ties were. One record, taken from a Saudi-backed charity in Bosnia, bears the handwritten minutes of a meeting between bin Laden and three men, scrawled beneath the letterhead of the IIRO and Muslim World League. The notes call for the opening of "league offices . . . for the Pakistanis," so that "attacks" can be made from them. A note on letterhead of the Saudi Red Crescent--Saudi Arabia's Red Cross--in Peshawar asks that "weapons" be inventoried. It is accompanied by a plea from bin Laden to Julaidan, citing "an extreme need for weapons."

After the Soviets left Afghanistan in disgrace, bin Laden moved his fledgling al Qaeda to Sudan, in 1992. By then a perfect storm of Islamic radicalism was gathering across the Muslim world. Some "Afghan Arab" veterans of Afghanistan now eyed radical change in their homelands, where secular and corrupt regimes held sway. Others set out for lands where they saw fellow Muslims oppressed, such as Kashmir and Bosnia. Saudis rich and poor responded with donations at thousands of zakat boxes in mosques, supermarkets, and schools, doling out support for besieged Muslims in Algeria, Bosnia, Kashmir, the West Bank, and Gaza. Millions poured in.

The Saudi charities opened offices in hot spots around the globe, with virtually no controls on how the money was spent, U.S. officials say. The donors funded many worthy projects, supporting orphanages and hospitals, and providing food, clothing, and medicine to refugees. But by 1994, Riyadh was starting to get complaints--from the French interior minister about Saudi funds reaching Algerian terrorists and from President Clinton about their funding of Hamas, whose suicide bombers were wreaking havoc on the Middle East peace process. More concerns surfaced in the Philippines, where an investigation of an al Qaeda plot to murder the pope and bomb a dozen U.S. airliners led to the local IIRO office. Its director was a brother-in-law of bin Laden's, Muhammad Jamal Khalifa, who was busily funneling cash to the region's top Islamic guerrilla groups, Abu Sayyaf and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

Who's who. It was Bosnia, though, that finally caught the sustained attention of the CIA. In the early '90s, the ethnic-cleansing policies of the Serbs drew hundreds of foreign jihadists to the region to help defend Bosnian Muslims. Saudi money poured in, too. Saudi donors sent $150 million through Islamic aid organizations to Bosnia in 1994 alone, the U.S. Embassy in Riyadh reported. But large sums were winding up in the wrong hands. A CIA investigation found that a third of the Islamic charities in the Balkans--among them the IIRO--had "facilitated the activities of Islamic groups that engage in terrorism," including plots to kidnap or kill U.S. personnel. The groups were a who's who of Islamic terrorism: Hamas, Hezbollah, Algerian extremists, and Egypt's Al-Gama'a al-Islamiyya, whose spiritual head, Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman, later earned a life sentence for plotting to bomb the United Nations and other New York landmarks.

In a classified report in 1996, CIA officials finally pulled together what they had on Islamic charities. The results were disturbing. The agency identified over 50 Islamic charities engaged in international aid and found that, as in the Balkans, fully a third of them were tied to terrorist groups. "Islamic activists dominate the leadership of the largest charities," the report noted. "Even high-ranking members of the collecting or monitoring agencies in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Pakistan--such as the Saudi High Commission--are involved in illicit activities, including support for terrorists."

As front organizations, the charities were ideal. Some provided safe houses, false identities, travel documents. Others offered arms and materiel. Nearly all dispensed sizable amounts of cash, according to the CIA, with little or no documentation. And they were, it seemed, everywhere. By the mid-1990s, the Muslim World League fielded some 30 branches worldwide, while the IIRO had offices in over 90 countries. The CIA found that the IIRO was funding "six militant training camps in Afghanistan," where Riyadh was backing a then obscure sect called the Taliban, whose religious practices were close to Wahhabism. The head of a Muslim World League office in Pakistan was supplying league documents and arms to militants in Afghanistan and Tajikistan. Another Saudi charity had begun funding rebels in Chechnya.

"Chatter." Although they called themselves private foundations, these were not charities in the sense that Americans understand the term. The Muslim World League and the IIRO, for example, are overseen by the grand mufti of Saudi Arabia, the kingdom's highest religious authority. They receive substantial funds from the government and members of the royal family and make use of the Islamic affairs offices of Saudi embassies abroad. The Muslim World League's current secretary general, Abdullah Al-Turki, served as the kingdom's minister of Islamic affairs for six years. "The Muslim World League, which is the mother of IIRO, is a fully government-funded organization," the IIRO's Canadian head testified in a 1999 court case. "In other words, I work for the government of Saudi Arabia."

The year of the CIA report, 1996, was also when Osama bin Laden moved back to Afghanistan, after a four-year sojourn in Sudan. Protected by the Taliban, and with money pouring in, bin Laden, finally, went operational. He opened new training camps, and sent cash to established terrorist groups and seed money to start-ups. Then he began plotting strikes against the United States, even issuing a long fatwa, or religious edict, summoning devout Muslims to wage jihad on America. The fatwa received little publicity, but bin Laden now had alarm bells ringing at the CIA. "He seemed to turn up under every terrorist rock," remembers a senior counterterrorism official. At CIA headquarters, the agency set up a "virtual station" on bin Laden, pooling resources to track his operations.

U.S. intelligence agencies, meanwhile, were picking up disturbing "chatter" out of Saudi Arabia. Electronic intercepts of conversations implicated members of the royal family in backing not only al Qaeda but also other terrorist groups, several intelligence sources confirmed to U.S. News. None were senior officials--the royal family has some 7,000 members. But several intercepts implicated some of the country's wealthiest businessmen. "It was not definitive but still very disturbing," says a senior U.S. official. "That was the year we had to admit the Saudis were a problem."

Despite the mounting evidence, the issue of Saudi complicity with terrorists was effectively swept under the diplomatic rug. Counterterrorism experts offer several reasons. For one, this was five years before the 9/11 attacks, and terrorism simply wasn't seen as the strategic threat it is today. Only a dozen or so Americans were killed each year in terrorist attacks. Moreover, in many of the jihad struggles, Washington was neutral, as in Kashmir, or even supportive, as in Bosnia. When Saudi money began financing jihadists headed to Chechnya, Washington responded with "a wink and a nod," as one analyst put it. The level and impact of all the Saudi funding were also difficult to discern. "We knew the outlines," explains Judith Yaphe, a senior Middle East analyst at the CIA until 1995. "But before 9/11, much of it had to be intuited. It was like the blind man examining the elephant."

There were other reasons. In much of official Washington, a growing movement of Third World religious zealots was just not taken seriously. For years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, those running U.S. intelligence were "Soviet people" still fighting the Cold War, says Pat Lang, who served as chief Middle East analyst for the Defense Intelligence Agency during the 1990s. "The jihadists were like men from Mars to them." Peter Probst, then a senior counterterrorism official at the Pentagon, agrees. "Any time you would raise these threats, people would laugh," he recalls. "They would say I was being totally paranoid."

The fact that the movement was based on Islam made it more difficult to discuss. "There was a fear that it was too sensitive, that you'd be accused of discrimination," Probst says. "It was political correctness run amok." Others say the message was subtle but clear. In the CIA, merely getting permission to prepare a report on a subject can require up to five levels of approval. On the subject of Saudi ties to terrorism, the word came back: There was simply no interest. The result, says a CIA veteran, was "a virtual embargo."

The FBI fared little better. By 1998, a sprawling investigation in Chicago into terrorist fundraising had led federal agents to $1.2 million looted from a local chemical firm. The money, they suspected, had been sent to Hamas. The G-men found the source of the cash curious: a Saudi charity, the IIRO, which had funneled the money through the Saudi Embassy. Senior Justice Department officials expressed concerns about "national security," and the case, eventually, was dropped. "Did someone say to me we can't do this because it would offend the Saudis? No," says Mark Flessner, a prosecutor on the case. "But was that always an undertone? Yes. Was that a huge issue? Yes."

It didn't hurt that the Saudis had spread money around Washington by the millions. Vast sums from Saudi contracts have bought friends and influence here. In his recent book Sleeping With the Devil: How Washington Sold Our Soul for Saudi Crude, former CIA operative Bob Baer calls it "Washington's 401(k) Plan." "The Saudis put out the message," Baer wrote. "You play the game--keep your mouth shut about the kingdom--and we'll take care of you." The list of beneficiaries is impressive: former cabinet secretaries, ambassadors, and CIA station chiefs. Washington lobbyists, P.R. firms, and lawyers have also supped at the Saudi table, as have nonprofits from the Kennedy Center to presidential libraries. The high-flying Carlyle Group has made fortunes doing deals with the Saudis. Among Carlyle's top advisers have been former President George H.W. Bush; James Baker, his secretary of state; and Frank Carlucci, a former secretary of defense. If that wasn't enough, there was the staggering amount of Saudi investment in America--as much as $600 billion in U.S. banks and stock markets.

That kind of clout may help explain why the House of Saud could be so dismissive of American concerns on terrorism. Official inquiries about bin Laden went unanswered by Riyadh. When Hezbollah terrorists killed 19 U.S. troops with a massive truck bomb at Khobar Towers in Dhahran in 1996, Saudi officials stonewalled, then shut the FBI out of the investigation. So sensitive were relations that the CIA instructed officials at its Riyadh station not to collect intelligence on Islamic extremists--even after the bombing--for fear of upsetting their host, former officers tell U.S. News.

Payoffs. The attacks on the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in August 1998 changed all that. Within weeks, the NSC formed its task force on terrorist finances, drawing in members from the Treasury Department and the CIA's Illicit Transactions Group. (The ITG was later absorbed into the agency's Counterterrorism Center.) In the movies, U.S. intelligence often seems capable of extraordinary feats. In the real world, alas, Washington's reach is all too limited. Officials on the task force were quickly sobered by the handful of people they found with true expertise on the Middle East. Those knowledgeable about terrorist financing numbered even fewer. So limited was the CIA's knowledge that it began using al Qaeda's real name only that year--10 years after bin Laden founded the organization. Even less was known about al Qaeda's fellow jihadists around the globe. Its top ally in Southeast Asia, Jemmah Islamiya, was not targeted until after 9/11, according to an Australian intelligence report.

Other challenges loomed. The Islamic world has always been a difficult target for Western intelligence services, and terrorist cells are among the toughest to penetrate. Following criminal money is also a tortuous task. Drawing a bead on al Qaeda combined all three challenges. The NSC task force tried to formulate what staffers called "a theory of the case." Their first questions were simple: What did it cost to be bin Laden? How much did it take to fund al Qaeda?

Terrorist acts, even the so-called spectaculars like 9/11, are relatively cheap to carry out. But the more the task force studied al Qaeda, the bigger its budget appeared. With its training camps and operations, and payments to the Taliban and to other terror groups, the amount was surely in the millions, task-force members surmised. After finding that bin Laden's inherited wealth was largely gone and his Sudanese businesses failing, the question was, where did the money come from? The answer, they eventually concluded, was Saudi charities and private donors.

The charities, by 1999, were integrated even further into the jihadist movement. In India, police detained Sayed Abu Nasir, a longtime IIRO staffer, for plotting to bomb U.S. consulates. Nasir confessed that the organization was secretly supporting dozens of jihadist training camps in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Equally striking was the al Haramain Foundation, one of Saudi Arabia's largest, which dispensed $50 million a year through some 50 offices worldwide. U.S. officials would eventually conclude that its branches in at least 10 countries were providing arms or cash to terrorists, including those in Indonesia, Pakistan, and Somalia. In Southeast Asia, al Haramain was acting as a key source of funds for al Qaeda; in Chechnya, Russian officials suspected it of moving $1 million to the rebels and arranging the purchase of 500 "heavy weapons" from the Taliban.

There was more. In the Middle East, the CIA learned, Saudi donations were funding as much as half of Hamas's budget and paying off the families of suicide bombers. In Pakistan, so much Saudi money poured in that a mid-level Pakistani jihadist could make seven times the country's average wage. Jihad had become a global industry, bankrolled by the Saudis. Daniel Benjamin, the NSC's counterterrorism director, knew that Palestinian terror groups had used local charities, but that was nothing like what the Saudis had wrought. "The structure was not astonishing," Benjamin says. "The ambition and scale were."

This time something would be done. The NSC staff approached Vice President Al Gore, who told the Saudis that Washington wanted a meeting with their top security and banking officials. In June 1999, the NSC's William Wechsler, Treasury's Richard Newcomb, and others on the task force flew to Riyadh. They were met by a half-dozen senior Saudi officials, all dressed in flowing white robes and checkered kaffiyehs. "We laid everything out--what we knew, what we thought," said one official. "We told them we'd just had two of our embassies blown up and that we needed to deal with them in a different way."

Deep freeze. Two things soon became clear. The first was that the Saudis had virtually no financial regulatory system and zero oversight of their charities. The second was that Saudi police and bank regulators had never worked together before and didn't particularly want to start. Those were problems, but the Americans made it clear they meant business. If the Saudis didn't crack down, Newcomb explained, Treasury officials had the ability to freeze assets of groups and individuals who supported terrorists. That struck a nerve. The mention of wealthy Saudis prompted lots of nervous chatter among the Saudis. But on some points, the Saudis seemed genuinely puzzled. Some stressed that jihad struggles in certain regions, such as Israel and Chechnya, were legitimate. Still, the Saudis agreed they may have a problem. Changes, they said, would be made.

But none were. A second visit by a U.S. delegation, in January 2000, elicited much the same reaction. Worse, the team was getting the same treatment back home. Frustrated with Riyadh, Newcomb's Office of Foreign Assets Control at Treasury began submitting the names of Saudi charities and businessmen for sanctions. But imposing sanctions required approval from an interagency committee, and that never came. CIA and FBI officials were lukewarm to the idea, worried that sanctions would chill what little cooperation they had with their Saudi counterparts. But it was the State Department that objected most strenuously. "The State Department," recalls one official, "always thought we had much bigger fish to fry."

Not everyone in Foggy Bottom agreed. In the fall of 1999, Michael Sheehan, State's tough-minded coordinator for counterterrorism, had seen intelligence on the Islamic charities and was appalled. As part of a still-classified report, he wrote a cable instructing U.S. ambassadors to insist that host governments crack down on the groups. But some at State argued that the charities were doing important work and fought to kill Sheehan's initiative. The cable was deep-sixed.

Underlying the reluctance to confront the Saudis was a more fundamental failure--Washington's inability to recognize the strategic danger posed by the growing jihad movement, of which al Qaeda is but the head. The U.S. government, in effect, largely missed the gravest ideological threat to national security since the end of the Cold War. "There were people who got it at the analyst level, at the supervisory level, but all of us were outnumbered," says Pat Lang, the former Pentagon analyst. "You just couldn't get people to take seriously the world of Islam and the threat it represented."

Consider the work of the National Intelligence Council, which is tied closely to the CIA and reports directly to its director. In 1999, the NIC brought together experts from across America to identify global trends--key drivers, they called them--that would affect the world over the next 15 years. A senior intelligence official, the anonymous author of Through Our Enemies' Eyes, which chronicles the rise of al Qaeda, described to U.S. News how he perused the NIC draft report and was shocked to see that Islamic fundamentalism was not listed among the key drivers. The analyst sent a note to the NIC chief, stressing that there were nearly a dozen Islamic insurgencies around the world, knitted together by Saudi money, al Qaeda, and thousands of Afghan veterans. The response: "I got a Christmas card back with a note hoping my family was well," the man recalls. The NIC's final report, Global Trends 2015, barely mentioned radicalism in the Islamic world. The NIC's vice chairman, Ellen Laipson, later wrote that their report "shied away" from the issue because it "might be considered insensitive and unintentionally generate ill will."

The lack of vision extended to the incoming Bush adminstration, say counterterrorism officials. Early in the Bush term, they say, Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill moved to kill a proposed terrorist asset-tracking center that the NSC task force had pushed.

The 19 hijackers, of course, obliterated any lingering concerns about sensitivity and Saudi ill will. Over the next year, police raided the offices of Saudi-backed charities in a half-dozen countries. The Treasury Department ordered the assets of many of them frozen, including those of al Haramain branches in Bosnia and Somalia. At the Saudi High Commission in Bosnia, which coordinated local aid among Saudi charities, police found before-and-after photos of the World Trade Center, files on pesticides and crop dusters, and information on how to counterfeit State Department badges. At Manila's international airport, authorities stopped Agus Dwikarna, an al Haramain representative based in Indonesia. In his suitcase were C4 explosives.

Outside Washington, federal agents raided offices of the IIRO and Muslim World League, along with over a hundred other Islamic groups, nearly all based--at least on paper--in two buildings in the Virginia suburbs. Many share directors, office space, and cash flow. For two years, investigators have followed the money to offshore trusts and obscure charities which, according to court records, they believe are tied to Hamas, al Qaeda, and other terrorist groups. To date, no groups have been indicted. "You can't trace a cent to any terrorist," says attorney Nancy Luque, whose clients include several of the firms.

The big Saudi charities, for their part, also deny wrongdoing. The Muslim World League, al Haramain, and the IIRO all declined to answer questions from U.S. News, but IIRO Secretary General Adnan Basha told the Arab press that "there is not a single shred of evidence" tying the group to terrorists. Says al Haramain director Sheik Aqil al-Aqil: "We set up this institution to preach Islam peacefully. It's very strange that we are described as terrorist."

But as more evidence has become public, Saudi officials have finally admitted that something is indeed seriously wrong. In June of this year, they promised reforms. Charities would be audited, officials in Riyadh vowed, their overseas activities curtailed. The ubiquitous zakat boxes have been banned. Saudi officials liken the situation to U.S. funding of the Irish Republican Army. During the 1970s and '80s, IRA activists raised millions of dollars from Irish-Americans, despite British pleas that the funds were backing IRA terrorism. "The Saudis are not diligent donors," says Chas. Freeman, a former ambassador to Riyadh whose Middle East Policy Council receives Saudi funds. "They've never asked us what we're doing with their money." The Saudis' record, Freeman says, is not one of complicity but of "negligence and incompetence."

Getting serious. Not everyone, obviously, agrees. A $1 trillion lawsuit names Saudi princes, businessmen, and charities for funding the terrorists behind the 9/11 attacks. Brought by more than 900 victims' family members, the suit is winding its way through the U.S. courts. The withholding of 27 pages in Congress's 9/11 report last June--detailing Saudi funding and ties to al Qaeda--has only fed suspicions. Counterterrorism officials also remain wary that the Saudis will make good on their pledges to reform. Only after triple suicide bombings struck Riyadh on May 12 did the regime get serious about cracking down, they say. Since then, the Saudis have arrested more than 200, broken up a dozen al Qaeda cells, and begun sharing intelligence as never before. "The Saudis didn't really get it," says Wechsler, the former NSC coordinator. "They didn't get it after the '98 embassy bombings, after the Cole bombing, after 9/11, after Bali. They got it after May 12."

That remains to be seen. This year Saudi officials announced the closing of all of al Haramain's offices overseas. That came as news to its director, al-Aqil, who in July told Reuters that he was still running branches in Egypt, Yemen, Sudan, Mauritania, Nigeria, and Bangladesh. Al-Aqil, say Saudi officials, is now under investigation for fraud. In Pakistan, meanwhile, President Pervez Musharraf has twice asked Riyadh to curtail the millions of Saudi dollars that pour into local Islamic political parties, jihad groups, and religious schools. Again, the Saudis have promised change, but Pakistani officials are skeptical. They point to the visit to Mecca last month by the chief of the Jamiat-e-Ullema Islam, one of Pakistan's top Islamic parties. The JUI shares power in Pakistan's Northwest Territory, where it provides sanctuary for Taliban members staging attacks in Afghanistan. Why was JUI's boss in Mecca? For fundraising, JUI sources told U.S. News.

The bigger test for the Saudis will be reform of their society. The hijacking of their charities by the jihad movement occurred because of support by the Saudi fundamentalist religious establishment. That won't be easy to change. Since May 12, officials in Riyadh say, they have purged some 2,000 radical clerics from their mosques and ordered the jihadist rhetoric turned way down. But bringing Wahhabism into the 21st century won't be easy. "We need time," says Abdullah Alotaibi, a political scientist at King Saud University in Riyadh. "You can't change 70 years of history overnight."

Money Mecca

Offices of these three leading Saudi charities played key roles in moving millions of dollars to jihadists, terrorists, or insurgents in some 20 countries.

A - MUSLIM WORLD LEAGUE

Headquarters: Mecca

Est. annual budget: $45 million

Branch offices: 36

Terror ties: Early '90s, Manila branch sends cash to Islamic guerrillas in Philippines; 2001-02, MWL's Rabita

Trust affiliate designated as terrorist group by U.S. for al Qaeda ties; 2002, federal agents raid U.S. offices

of MWL in terrorist financing case.

 

B - AL HARAMAIN FOUNDATION

Headquarters: Riyadh

Est. annual budget: $53 million

Branch offices: 50

Terror ties: 1996, CIA links group to Egyptian extremists and Bosnian jihadists; 1999, Moscow claims group

transferred money and arms to Chechen rebels; 2002, staffer nabbed at Manila airport with explosives; 2003, U.S.

says branches in 10 countries provide arms or cash to terrorists.

 

C - INTERNATIONAL ISLAMIC RELIEF ORGANIZATION

Headquarters: Jeddah

Est. annual budget: $46 million

Branch offices: 80

Terror ties: Early '90s, Manila branch funnels cash to Abu Sayyaf and Moro Islamic Liberation Front; 1996, CIA

reports funding of jihadists in Balkans and Afghanistan, and ties to Algerian and Egyptian extremists, al Qaeda, and

Hamas; 1998, FBI traces suspected Hamas money in Chicago to IIRO; 1999, staffer suspected in bomb plot admits IIRO

funds Afghan terror training camps.

NO GOOD MUSLIM CHARITIES CAN BE IDENTIFIED!

ISLAMIC UNIVERSAL PROMO
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FROM: THE DESK OF THE DIRECTOR PROMOTIONS,
ISLAMIC PROMOTIONS/PRIZE AWARD DEPARTMENT,
REF: GUPL/67-AO91652005
  
WINNING NOTIFICATION
  
Assalamualaikum warahmatullahi wabarakatu

We are pleased to inform you of the announcement today,14th of june 2005,of winners of the ISLAMIC UNIVERSAL PROMO held on 31th of may 2005. ISLAMIC UNIVERSAL PROMO is sponsored by ISLAMIC RELIEF ORGANISATION. The Organisation is dedicated to alleviating the poverty and the suffering of the world poorest people."Whoever saved a life, it would be as if he saved the life of all mankind" Qur'an 5:32.

Islamic Relief is registered with the UK government’s Charity Commission – Registered Charity no. 328158. 

Your email address was attached to ticket number 13-2316-5086-477; with serial number A025-09 drew the lucky numbers 37-13-34-85-56-87, and consequently won in category A. You have therefore been approved for a lump sum pay out of 4,000,000.00(GBP) in cash credited to file REF NO.GUPL/67-AO91652005.

This is from total prize money of 9,000.000.00(GBP) shared among the three international winners in the category A. All participants were selected through a computer ballot system drawn from Islamic 100,000 companies/individuals from Middle East, Australia, New Zealand, America, Asia, Europe , North America and Africa as part of our International Promotions Program, which is conducted annually.
  
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We hope with a part of you prize, you will participate in our end of year high stakes 10 Million Islamic international lotto. To begin your claim, please respond back to your claims agent;
  
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Ticket number 13-2316-5086-477
Serial number A025-09
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No Muslim Charities Could be Found to Help with the Hurricane Katrina Cleanup

Muslims looking for safe charities

Donors fear they might unknowingly aid terrorists.
By VIK JOLLY The Orange County Register
Thursday, October 20, 2005

Masoud Nassimi has given money for victims of Hurricane Katrina and sponsored a child in his native Afghanistan.

He has donated to charities for water projects in Pakistani villages and to help refugees in Bosnia.

Donating is second nature to the Westminster man, who never gave too much thought to his charity, doling it out as required by his Muslim faith.

That is, until he gave to a Muslim organization - to buy ambulances in the Middle East - that was later shut down by the U.S. government, which accused it of funneling money to terrorist groups.

"All the time we receive brochures. It never crossed my mind the question of how the money will be used and who's managing it," said Nassimi, 43, a Caltrans engineer.

Nassimi has not stopped giving. During this Muslim holy month of Ramadan, when charity is stressed even further, he has given to victims of the Pakistan earthquake.

But he now looks for transparency, seeking charities that clearly define their goals, spell out how they spend money, are free of suspicion and make their financial documents available to the public.

He would like to see a list of trustworthy charities and nonprofits to give to without fretting about whether the money could end up supporting terrorism.

While fears of giving have substantially subsided since the U.S. government froze the assets of several prominent charities accused of ties to terrorism after the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, Muslim charities and community leaders say they recognize the dilemma.

And while some Muslim charities have already become more transparent in the way they do business, more change is coming.

Next month, several U.S. Muslim organizations will meet in Washington, D.C., to hammer out operating guidelines for a fledgling group to serve as a sort of umbrella authority.

The National Council of American Muslim Non-Profits could end up scrutinizing member charities, setting financial standards and issuing a de facto seal of approval, thus raising their credibility level.

Karen Keyworth, who's on a task force to form the council, said the nation's estimated 50 Muslim charities will likely want to join.

"If they meet these standards, they'll be able to improve their overall quality and then, of course, donor confidence will be affected by that," she said.

Keyworth, co-founder of Virginia-based Islamic Schools League of America, was part of the planning process this year with some other Muslim organizations and input from the U.S. Treasury Department.

She said Muslim organizations are starting to mature.

"There's a natural change in all these institutions moving toward a more organized (system) capable of carrying out the standards of financial responsibility," she said. "9/11 came along and gave that a very big push."

The U.S. Department of Treasury has encouraged formation of the council to "implement best practices and help safeguard both donors and charities from the taint of terrorism and also restore donor confidence in the community," Treasury spokeswoman Molly Millerwise said.

Locally, the Islamic Shura Council of Southern California, where Nassimi is a volunteer, is urging people to give to four relief agencies for Pakistan quake victims and giving an unusual assurance: The groups will send an independent team to the affected area, which will report back to the community on Nov. 13.

"In Southern California what we are trying to accomplish is a total transparency between the recipient and donor," said Shakeel Syed, executive director of the organization of more than 70 mosques and Muslim organizations.

Last year, federal officials charged seven leaders of the Texas-based Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development with illegally sending millions of dollars to the Palestinian group Hamas. One of the group's top fundraisers was arrested at his Buena Park home for an alleged immigration violation and remains in custody.

Some in the Muslim community argue that Islamic charities have been unfairly singled out for increased scrutiny by the government post-9/11.

But Treasury spokeswoman Millerwise said the government must act when it gets information on charities with terrorist links.

The U.S. government has frozen the assets of 41 Muslim charities worldwide, accusing them of ties with terrorist organizations.

While many Muslim charities have thrived despite post 9/11 scrutiny, some say they are spending more time, energy and money on audits and attorney fees than they ever did before.

"We have all kinds of checks and balances to make sure that money that we are raising is going to uses that are kosher," said Jihad Smaili, who's an attorney and a board member of the Toledo, Ohio-based KindHearts.

The organization started in 2002 and is devoted to providing disaster relief and development aid worldwide.

His group raised almost $5 million last year, but Smaili said, "It's unfortunate that a charity such as ours has to spend a lot of time and money on its existence."



Muslim world urged to fund Hamas

The Supreme Leader of Iran, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has called on the Muslim world to help the Palestinian people and their Hamas-led government.

Both he and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad launched strong attacks on the West as a three-day forum on Palestinian solidarity began in Tehran.

The US Treasury has this week further tightened Palestinian cash flows.

But Palestinian PM Ismail Haniya said on Friday the cuts in funds would not weaken the people's resolve.

Late on Friday, the Russian Foreign Ministry said Moscow had agreed to provide "urgent financial aid" to the Palestinian Authority.

The US and European Union cut off aid to the authority after Hamas took power on 30 March, because the militant group refuses to renounce violence and recognise Israel.

'Rotten tree'

Ayatollah Khamenei, opening the Tehran conference, said all Muslims had a duty to help the Palestinian people and should not remain indifferent to tyranny.

He launched a scathing attack on the West, saying its liberal democracy was like a poison.

He said global imperialism led by the US president openly threatened the Muslim world by talking about launching a crusade against it

President Ahmadinejad widened the attack to include Israel, which he said was "a rotten, dried tree that will be eliminated by one storm".

The president provoked an international outcry last October when he cast doubts on the Holocaust and said Israel should be "wiped off the map".

On Friday he said there were no doubts about the holocaust suffered by the Palestinian people in the past 60 years and that the Palestinians should not pay the price for what the West said were crimes against Jews.

"Believe that Palestine will be freed soon," he said.

The conference came as the US Treasury banned its nationals from doing business with the Hamas-led Palestinian Authority.

It said the militant Islamist group had a vested interest in the transactions of the authority.

The US is making exceptions for government entities under the direct control of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, whose Fatah movement is a rival of Hamas.

'Oil and olives'

Mr Haniya said on Friday the suspension of Western aid to the Palestinians would never defeat the Hamas-led administration.

He said the West would not succeed in isolating the government because it had the full support of Palestinians.

"We will eat cooking oil and olives," he said.

Mr Haniya was addressing Friday prayers in Gaza before the start of a series of rallies aimed at demonstrating support for the Hamas-led administration.

In response to the financial crisis, the Russian foreign ministry said Moscow would grant the Palestinian Authority urgent financial aid.

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov made the pledge to Mr Abbas in a telephone call, a ministry statement said.

Russia says Hamas should recognise Israel and enter negotiations but it believes denying aid is a mistake.

The militant group's political leader in exile, Khaled Meshaal, is attending the Tehran conference to gain funding pledges.

Iran has said it will fund the Hamas-led government but so far no figures have been publicly pledged and no concrete deals have yet been announced at the conference.

 

Doha meeting to ask Muslims to help Hamas govt

Monday, 8 May, 2006
Staff Reporter

ISLAMIC scholars are to meet in Doha later this week to draw up a fatwa (religious edict), obliging the Muslim faithful to help the Palestinian government headed by Hamas.

Influential cleric Dr Yusuf al-Qaradawi said the May 10-11 meeting would help both the Palestinian people and their government, hit hard by US and EU funding cuts because of the Islamist group’s refusal to recognise Israel.

Ulemas (scholars) as well as other Muslim and Palestinian leaders will "draw up a fatwa on the duty of the Ummah (Muslims) and of governments" towards the Palestinians and the Hamas cabinet, Qaradawi told a press conference yesterday.

The fatwa will refer to financial aid to the Palestinians as well as offering them moral support.

He slammed what he called "the duality of the West, which rejects Palestinian democracy after encouraging such a democracy just because it doesn’t suit them."

"This is political hypocrisy and we reject it," he said.

Exiled Hamas supremo Khalid Mishal, Islamic Jihad chief Ramadan al-Shalah and Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command leader Ahmed Jibril would attend the Doha meeting, Qaradawi said.

However, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah faction, which Hamas trounced in January’s vote, would not be attending, he said, citing "difficulties with Fatah representatives ... who mostly refuse to co-operate".

Qaradawi, head of the International Federation of Muslim Scholars, said the conference aimed at rallying support for the Palestinian people in the backdrop of the difficult conditions they lived today.

It would bring together Muslim scholars from all over the Islamic world to make known their stance on the "siege" clamped on the Palestinian people.

Qaradawi said he would urge the varying Palestinian factions to stand united in one trench with the Palestinian government to tackle the siege as "such action is a religious, moral and national duty".

He said he would also call on all Arab-Muslim governments and organisations not to give in to foreign pressure and to initiate support and assistance to the Palestinians.

Qaradawi warned that "any failure of Hamas as a result of the siege is a failure of the entire Muslim world".

"The conference will issue a final communique and a fatwa to explain the duty of the Arab and Muslim nations and the Palestinian factions on supporting the Palestinians and their government under the leadership of Hamas, because this is what the Shariah and reality dictate."

The conference will also set up a committee to follow up the recommendations issued by the conference.

"The silence of some of the Muslim governments toward the EU and US pressures on Hamas is treason," he said.

Qaradawi rejected the idea of disbanding the Arab League, saying that the Arab and Muslim governments are not exempted from their obligations towards Palestine which he described as the "home of the Prophets".

He hailed Qatar’s donations to the Palestinian people and appreciated the efforts of the charities in helping them.

"I have given a speech via cell phone to the Egyptian Engineers Syndicate. I was told that an Egyptian donated LE1.25mn (Egyptian pounds) to the Hamas government but the banks refused to transfer the money," he said.

Asked about the Islamic scholars conference, Qaradawi said the initiative was his own as well as from the scholars union.

"It was a collective initiative that found a positive response from Qatar," he said.

Regarding the concessions that Hamas should make to come to terms with the other Palestinian factions, he said he could not ask Hamas to do so "while Israel is encroaching upon the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people".

"Hamas has offered a 50-year long truce but Israel rejected it," he said.

Regarding the legitimacy of the channels that would deliver the financial aid raised by the people and governments, Qaradawi ruled that all such channels are legitimate. – Gulf Times/Agencies



Arms plea by Hamas

Published: 11th May 2006

DOHA: Hamas yesterday urged supporters around the world to send it arms, fighters and money to back its fight against Israel.

"We ask all the people in surrounding Arab countries, the Muslim world and everyone who wants to support us to send weapons, money and men," its political leader Khaled Meshaal said in a speech at a pro-Palestinian event in Qatar.

"You should not shy away from of this. This is resistance, not terrorism," said Meshaal whose group leads the Palestinian government.

Prominent Muslim cleric Sheikh Youssef Al Qaradawi told the event Muslims should boycott banks refusing to transfer funds to the Palestinians after Washington said it could penalise banks that help provide money to the Hamas-led government.

 

Mosque donations make Muslims uneasy


Oct. 19, 2006

HEBA ALY

Toronto Star

STAFF REPORTER

Close to a decade ago, in a Beverley St. mosque, hands were shaken and a deal made — a deal that continues to raise questions in the mind of Munir Pervaiz.

The Pakistani-Canadian banker was hosting a wealthy Saudi man and took him to visit the neighbourhood mosque. The mosque needed money. The businessman had funds to spare. A transfer was made.

"At that time, it was just a goodwill gesture toward a mosque that needed some money to grow," Pervaiz says.

Pervaiz, who worked in Saudi Arabia for 15 years, has revised his views on that; he now says such financial transfers are never innocent.

"When these monies are given," he says, "it is a propagation of a certain ideology."

Last June's arrest of 17 GTA residents on terrorism-related charges has revived debate over financial aid to Canadian mosques from overseas, inside and outside Muslim circles.

Some argue it constitutes dangerous outside influence and plants a seed of radicalism here.

Those who have accepted overseas money say it represents only a small part of their overall funding and has no influence on how they do things.

Among Canada's Muslims, it's a sensitive subject some prefer not to discuss.

Receipts on a bulletin board at Scarborough's Jame Abu Bakr Siddique mosque record funds raised the week before. Donations at Friday prayer: $1,921. Revenue from the shop: $330. Management committee member Saleh Hafejee pointed to them earlier this year as proof of the mosque's attitude of financial accountability.

When asked about foreign funding, Hafejee first said there had been none since about 1998, when the Scarborough Muslim Association, which runs the mosque, accepted $100,000 from a wealthy Saudi individual.

But the mosque's president, Yakub Hatia, later confirmed what the Star found on a website for the Saudi Arabia-based Islamic Development Bank: that it had accepted a $270,000 grant to the association this past January to build an Islamic school. He noted that for a $6 million project, those funds were a drop in the bucket.

That North American mosques have been accepting Saudi money for years "is not a secret," says Calgary-based Syed Soharwardy, founder of Muslims Against Terrorism. "This is a very common practice in the Muslim community." Soharwardy founded the Islamic Supreme Council of Canada in 2000 after noticing the effect of Saudi funding on Canadian mosques.

"Wherever the mosques get funding from Saudi Arabia," he says, "the imam and the management committee become so centrally focused that they don't believe that anybody else in the Muslim community can be right." That tends to deepen their isolation.

"I disagree with anybody who says that mosques in Canada are breeding grounds for terrorism or extremism. I don't believe that," Soharwardy says. "But what I'm sure of is that narrow-mindedness and intolerance towards the difference of opinion will lead towards extremism and ultimately terrorism."

In 2004, a task force on terrorist financing sponsored by the U.S. Council on Foreign Relations said Saudi money helped establish 210 Islamic centres and 1,359 mosques worldwide. Citing a Saudi government news release, it said donations included $5 million (U.S.) from King Fahd, the late leader of Saudi Arabia, for an Islamic centre in Toronto, along with operating funds of $1.5 million annually (The name of the recipient has not been revealed.) There's nothing unique or illegal about such international gifts.

"Under Canadian law, there is absolutely nothing wrong with people receiving contributions from outside — universities do, hospitals do, certainly religious institutions do," says Martin Rudner, director of the Canadian Centre of Intelligence and Security Studies at Carleton University. "The question you have to ask is ... the existence of leverage and purpose."

Critics of Saudi funding suggest that the money comes with the expectation that recipients toe the Wahhabist line. The dominant form of Islam in Saudi Arabia, Wahhabism is a puritanical movement that frowns upon reforms to what it sees as the "pure" Islam of historic times. Since 9/11, it has been increasingly linked to Islamist terrorism.

"Saudi Arabia has spent what could amount to hundreds of millions of dollars around the world financing extremism," the U.S. task force claimed — in the form of direct funding, training of imams, texts and materials.

What worries Pervaiz is not the money itself, but the materials that end up distributed in the bookstores and classrooms of Saudi-funded institutions: "Islamic revivalism and Islamic jihad."

In the library at the Islamic Foundation of Toronto, issues of National Geographic and Maclean's sit alongside Islamic reference books by Sayyid Abul A'la Maududi, founder of Pakistan's biggest Islamic fundamentalist movement, Jamaat-e-Islami, and Sayyid Qutb, who is associated with the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood.

They are exactly the kind of books that concern Pervaiz. But they seem to cause no discomfort to the foundation's president, Mohammad Alam.

Dressed in short sleeves and trousers — not the traditional Islamic garb many of the foundation's teachers wear — he tours the library largely unaware of what's inside. "I do not read any of those books," he admits. "I have very little knowledge of Islam. I know five daily prayers. I know when is Ramadan. I know when is the Eid."

The foundation's imam, Husain Patel, says it's only natural for libraries to carry a wide variety of reference books.

"If you go to any university library, you'll find books by all types of authors. That's what a library is supposed to be."

Nobody, he says, has ever raised concerns over hate in their pages.

The Scarborough mosque accepted about $150,000 from one of the most active Saudi-based donors — the Islamic Development Bank — to help construct its school in 1994, says Alam. But it sees things differently today.

"We believe (the local) Muslim community is rich enough. We don't have to go out and ask for the funding from any other nations or any government."

He says there were "no strings attached" to the one-time grant, but argues that organizations routinely funded by Saudi Arabia are a different story: "If somebody's going to fund you, they expect something in return."

The Islamic Development Bank's stated aim is economic development and social progress in Muslim communities, and an official told the Toronto Star that in Canada its involvement is limited to accredited schools endorsed by local authorities.

Hatia, of the Scarborough Muslim Association, says the only condition the bank placed on its grant to the mosque's new school this year was that it be registered with the Ontario Ministry of Education and that it send progress reports back to the bank.

On the other hand, the bank refused the Pickering Muslim Association's request for funds to expand its mosque, because there was no school involved.

According to its website, the bank has given more than $1.6 million over the past five years to Islamic schools across the country, including the Mississauga school run by the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA). The bank also offers scholarships through local partners, one being the ISNA, which receives $28,000 a year to provide grants to four Muslim university students.

The society's secretary general, Mohammad Ashraf, argues that's not "Saudi money." The Islamic Development Bank is, he says, a "World Bank of the Muslim world," and has nothing to do with Saudi government. Any suggestion that extremist ideology is perpetuated through such a loan is unfounded and damaging, he has insisted.

Tarek Fatah is among those who disagree. "Nothing in Saudi Arabia happens without the authorization of the state," says the former communications director of the Muslim Canadian Congress, which has pushed for a ban on international funding of Canadian religious institutions.

Most of the bank's capital comes from Saudi Arabia, he insists. "It's different layers of deception."

Drawing connections between such gifts and extremism is dangerous, says Kathy Bullock, offering a personal opinion while on leave from her job as outreach director with ISNA Canada. What this debate comes down to, she says, is fear-mongering.

Those who preach hate are not attached to any particular branch of Islam, she says. "They're like a brand in and unto themselves. They're their own school of thought, if you like. An individual from any of those communities could be attracted to those ideas." 

 

Iran urges establishment of int'l organization on zakat


Nov 28, 2006
International Revolutionary News Agency

The head of Iranian delegation attending the international conference on Zakat (annual obligatory alms under Islamic law) urged Muslim states here Tuesday to help establish a global Zakat organization.

Addressing the opening session of the one-day conference in Kuala Lumpur's Mandarin Oriental Hotel, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Abbas Araqchi said promotion of the culture of Zakat in Islamic countries was a must.

Zakat is the third of the Five Pillars of Islam and refers to giving a fixed portion of one's wealth for the needy and poor.

It enjoins every adult, mentally stable, free and financially able Muslim, male and female, to pay a certain amount of money to support specific categories of people.

The idea of establishing an international zakat organization was mooted by Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi as a way of helping poor Islamic countries address their socio-economic problems.

The ongoing conference is deemed the first step towards establishing such an organization.

Over 200 participants from 15 Muslim countries are participating in the conference, where they will share their views and ideas on the subject.

Besides Iran, other participants in the conference are Brunei, Qatar, Pakistan, Indonesia, Syria, Egypt and Bahrain.

Araqchi in his speech said Iran's Imam Khomeini Relief Committee has a long and rich history of promoting the culture of helping the poor and removing poverty from the face of society.

He said that the committee would be willing to share its experiences with other Muslim states in promoting the new culture of fighting poverty in all Muslim states.

 

THE MILITANT ISLAM CONNECTION IN BOSTON

The Boston Globe
JEFF JACOBY
The Boston mosque's Saudi connection
January 10, 2007

SPEAKING AT the State Department in 1999, Muhammad Hisham Kabbani, a Sufi sheik and leader of the Islamic Supreme Council of America, sounded an alarm about Muslim houses of worship in the United States.

"The most dangerous thing that is going on now in these mosques . . . is the extremists' ideology," he said. "Because they are very active, they took over the mosques; . . . they took over more than 80 percent of the mosques that have been established in the US." He warned ominously that "a danger might suddenly come that you are not looking for . . . we don't know where it is going to hit."

When Kabbani was condemned by other Muslim organizations, he stood his ground. His assessment of the leadership of US mosques, he said, was based on having visited scores of them, and in a subsequent interview he explained the extremists' pattern of infiltration.

Muslim immigrants to the United States "came with a good heart . . . and they wanted a place to pray," Kabbani told the Middle East Quarterly. "They collected money and they built mosques in their community. Slowly, certain Middle Eastern groups seized these mosques, promoting political and ideological agendas rooted in their home countries' problems. . . . Slowly, such groups took over many mosques either directly or by unseen pressure on the moderate board members, and now an antagonistic mentality controls them. The extremists -- not ordinary believers -- changed the use of American mosques into centers of intolerant political dogma."

At the time, Kabbani's charges may have seemed little more than inside Muslim baseball. After Sept. 11, it became clear that mosques dominated by radical clerics were a potentially lethal threat. Many such mosques are funded by Saudi Arabia, which spends heavily to propagate Wahhabism, a fanatic and aggressive strain of Islam. The Saudi government, reported the 9/11 Commission, "uses zakat" -- Islamic charity -- "and government funds to spread Wahhabi beliefs throughout the world, including in mosques and schools. . . . Some Wahhabi-funded organizations have been exploited by extremists to further their goal of violent jihad against non-Muslims." Its findings were reinforced by Freedom House, which in 2005 documented the penetration of US mosques by Saudi-supplied Wahhabi hate literature.

It is against this background that the $24 million mosque and cultural center being built by the Islamic Society of Boston has generated such controversy.

Questions have been raised about the Islamic Society's past and present leaders, some of whom have supported Islamist terrorism or indulged in virulently anti-American and anti-Semitic rhetoric. There are concerns about the sweetheart deal in which the land for the mosque was acquired from the City of Boston for a fraction of its value. Especially disturbing has been the Islamic Society's response to its diverse critics: a lawsuit accusing them of anti-Muslim conspiracy and libel.

That libel, the lawsuit charges, included claims that the "ISB receives funds from Wahhabis and/or Muslim Brotherhood and/or other Saudi/Middle Eastern sources" and that "the ISB Project was supported financially by donors from Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states 'with known connections to radical Islamists.' " Given the Saudi role in disseminating jihadist fanaticism, it might indeed be defamatory to falsely accuse the ISB of financial ties to Saudi Arabia.

But such ties are quite real.

According to financial documents supplied to The Boston Globe, major funding for the mosque is being provided by the Islamic Development Bank in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. In December 2005, two payments of approximately $250,000 each were wired from Jeddah to the Citizens Bank account of the mosque's general contractor in Boston. Messages confirming the payments were faxed from Jeddah to the Islamic Society of Boston on Dec. 19; these refer to the payments as "USA-52" and "USA-53." Other documents suggest that subsequent payments have been made as well.

The Islamic Development Bank is a subsidiary of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, and each of the conference's 56 member nations are shareholders. But the largest shares are owned by Saudi Arabia, Libya, and Iran, which together control 48 percent of the bank's stock. Saudi Arabia, Libya, and Iran are also three of the world's foremost sponsors or incubators of terrorism. It is perhaps not surprising that the Islamic Development Bank, through its Al-Quds and Al-Aqsa funds, has become a leading funder of Palestinian suicide bombing, paying large financial subsidies to the families of terrorists.

The Islamic Society of Boston didn't return my calls, but its website notes that all donors are cross-checked against the government's terrorist watch list, and that funding is accepted only "with no strings attached." It notes too that it "rejects any interpretation of Islam that is considered fundamentalist, oppressive, radical, anti-Western, or anti-Semitic."

But questions remain. More questions will come. Suing the good people who ask them won't make the questions go away. Answering them candidly, on the other hand, just might.

 

As Muslim Group Goes on Trial, Other Charities Watch Warily


Prosecutors charge that the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development in Richardson, Tex., which was closed in 2001 was a supporter of Hamas.


By NEIL MacFARQUHAR

July 17, 2007

DALLAS — The strained argument between the United States government and nonprofit groups over how to deal with charities suspected of supporting terrorism is expected to play out in federal court here with the trial of the largest Muslim charity in this country, the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development.

The government, in the lengthy indictment and other court documents, accuses the foundation of being an integral part of Hamas, which much of the West condemns as a terrorist organization. The prosecution maintains that the main officers of the Holy Land foundation started the organization to generate charitable donations from the United States that ultimately helped Hamas thrive.

The defense argues that the government, lacking proof, has simply conjured up a vast conspiracy by claiming that the foundation channeled money through public charity committees in the occupied territories that it knew Hamas controlled. The federal government, the defense says, has never designated these committees as terrorist organizations.

The defense is expected to liken a donation to the Holy Land foundation to one to a Roman Catholic charity in Northern Ireland that ends up helping poor Irish Republican Army sympathizers.

The case is being closely watched by a large number of charitable organizations, as well as Muslim-Americans, because its outcome might well help determine the line separating legitimate giving from the financing of banned organizations.

Critics of government policy say the Office of Terrorism and Financial Intelligence at the Treasury Department has gone too far in using often secret evidence to condemn charities. The process unfairly destroys them, the critics say, though not one American charity itself has been convicted of supporting terrorism since the practice started in 2001. Some individual officers have gone to jail.

These critics say that in its zeal to prosecute, the government has lost sight of the fact that the charities were delivering millions of dollars to the poor and to victims of disasters.

They also say that undermining charities on the basis of little or no public evidence tarnishes the United States’ reputation among Muslims globally, effectively helping the very groups the policy is supposed to subvert.

“The Treasury Department has this ‘complete taint’ theory,” said Kay Guinane of OMB Watch, a Washington group that advocates government transparency. If anyone in a charity is suspected of aiding a terrorist organization, Ms. Guinane said, the entire charity is deemed guilty.

Other countries, like Britain, have managed to allow charities under suspicion to continue to deliver aid to the poor, she said, whereas the Treasury Department “disagrees with any approach that says you can separate the real charitable work from the alleged terrorist activity.”

Chip Poncy, the strategic policy director for the terrorism finance office at the Treasury Department, outlined the department’s basic approach in Congressional testimony in May. “If any aspect of a charity’s organization is engaged in terrorist support, then the charitable organization is a problem,” Mr. Poncy said.

But he also noted that all 44 charities the government has designated as supporting terrorism were engaged in some legitimate charity work. They include six either closed or under investigation in the United States.

The Treasury Department refuses to reveal how many millions of dollars donated for the poor or for disaster relief sit frozen in the accounts of shuttered charities. But OMB Watch estimates the sum at $14 million, and lawyers for the Holy Land foundation say it includes its assets and charitable donations of about $5 million.

For American Muslims, whose religion stipulates that they give 2.5 percent of their annual income to charity, the shuttering of so many of their organizations without a hearing smacks of discrimination.

The Holy Land foundation case has had a high profile since President Bush announced in 2001 that the charity was being closed.

In 2004, Attorney General John Ashcroft heralded the 42-count indictment against the charity and seven of its senior officials as the fruit of the USA Patriot Act, saying, “There is no distinction between those who carry out terrorist attacks and those who knowingly finance terrorist attacks.”

The case is extremely complicated and has been delayed three times since first scheduled in October 2004. There have been extended legal battles over the terrorism designation itself, secret evidence, a decade of wiretaps and testimony from unidentified Israeli sources, and two efforts to seize the foundation’s assets as damages for deaths in Palestinian attacks in the occupied territories or in Israel.

The prosecution’s list of unindicted co-conspirators runs to more than 10 pages with some 300 names, including some of the largest Muslim American organizations.

The Holy Land foundation “was an integral part of the Hamas social structure,” the government’s trial brief says. The group, based in Richardson, Tex., received more than $57 million in donations, gifts and grants while it was operating from 1992 to 2001, the indictment states.

The prosecution says the money was channeled through charity committees known as zakat committees. Zakat is the Arabic word for “charity” or “tithe,” and the committees, habitually organized by mosques, exist in virtually every Palestinian town.

Official federal foreign aid programs have indirectly channeled money to the occupied territories via the zakat committees, the defense counters. Officials with the United States Agency for International Development and the State Department refused to comment, citing current litigation, as did the prosecutors.

“They are trying to establish that using widely accepted methods of getting humanitarian aid to the Palestinians is criminal,” said John Boyd, a defense lawyer. “If that is what you think, then put them on the list and say we can’t give them money. Not a single one of those zakat committees has ever been on those lists.”

Three reporters, including one from The New York Times, may be called by the prosecution to testify about their articles on the Holy Land foundation.


Muslim charity founder gets jail for lying to FBI


By Lee Hammel
TELEGRAM & GAZETTE STAFF
July 18, 2008

WORCESTER— The founder of a Muslim charity was sentenced yesterday in U.S. District Court to a year in prison and fined $10,000 for lying to an FBI agent when he denied traveling to Afghanistan in 1994-1995.

In sentencing Emadeddin Z. Muntasser, former president of Care International Inc., a defunct Boston charity, Judge F. Dennis Saylor IV doubled the maximum amount of prison time and the fine called for under the federal advisory sentencing guidelines. Mr. Muntasser, 43, is a former Worcester resident and Worcester Polytechnic Institute graduate living in Braintree. He must report for his prison sentence within four weeks.

The U.S. attorney’s office called for a five-year prison term, saying the case is being watched around the world to see how the United States will treat someone the Justice Department said abused the tax system to send money to organizations that have since been branded by the government as terrorists. But Mr. Muntasser’s lawyers pointed out that guidelines called for a sentence of between zero and 6 months and that the U.S. Probation Department recommended a sentence within that range on a simple false statement case.

Mr. Muntasser was detained Jan. 11, the day a federal jury convicted him in Boston on charges of conspiracy to defraud the United States and scheming to conceal material facts as well as lying to a federal agent. But expectations that Mr. Muntasser might be freed on a sentence of time served were raised after Judge Saylor reversed the jury verdict on the two most serious charges and freed Mr. Muntasser June 13 on conditions to await sentencing yesterday.

Judge Saylor also reversed all of the convictions against Samir Al-Monla of Brookline, another Care former president, but left all except one of the convictions intact against a third defendant in the case, Muhamed Mubayyid of Shrewsbury, a former treasurer of Care International. Mr. Mubayyid is scheduled to be sentenced today.

All of them had been charged with conspiring to get or keep tax-exempt status from the Internal Revenue Service by concealing Care’s support for Islamic Holy War and those who fight it and that it was an outgrowth or successor to Al-Kifah Refugee Center, which had been tied in news accounts to the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center in New York.

Judge Saylor called this conviction “a serious offense, not a garden variety” false statement. He said the FBI might have gained some useful information about the Afghan warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, whom Mr. Muntasser met with in Afghanistan, as well as whether the government of Pakistan helped him gain passage through the dangerous frontier bordering Afghanistan.

Defense lawyer Kathleen M. Sullivan argued that FBI Agent Christopher Peet was not likely to have learned much of value in the April 2003 interview with Mr. Muntasser from a trip eight years earlier.

Ms. Sullivan argued that Mr. Hekmatyar had been invited to the White House as an anti-Soviet hero, but Judge Saylor said that by 1994 Mr. Hekmatyar was shelling Kabul and by the time of the interview in 2003 he had been branded a terrorist by the U.S. government.

While Judge Saylor did not penalize Mr. Muntasser for “relevant conduct” from the acquitted charges, he took into account that Mr. Muntasser had made materially false statements in the 1993 application to the IRS for tax-exempt status, although he was not prosecuted for that because of the statute of limitations.

Judge Saylor said Mr. Muntasser showed many charitable and other worthy attributes. The judge said he was having trouble reconciling that with the views showing support of suicide bombings and other violence in the newsletter, Al Hussam, published by Care.

Islam had been brought into the trial numerous times, Judge Saylor noted, but there are millions of Muslims who do not support violence.

After Assistant U.S. Attorney B. Stephanie Siegmann objected, Judge Saylor reversed his acceptance of a plea by Ms. Sullivan to sentence Mr. Muntasser, a Libyan citizen, to 364 days instead of 365 days. Although that would apparently have an effect on whether the government could continue to detain Mr. Muntasser at the end of the sentence if it decided to deport him, Judge Saylor said he was uncertain of the consequences of reducing the sentence by a day.

 

Israel shuts Islamic movement office

JERUSALEM (AP): Israeli security forces on Sunday closed an office of a Muslim charity allegedly linked to the violently anti-Israel Hamas movement.

Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said police and security agents on Sunday raided premises of the “Al Aqsa Institute” in the northern Israeli town of Umm el-Faham and removed computers and documents.

A police statement said the institute was a mainstay of Israel's Islamic Movement, whose leader in northern Israel has been charged with racism and incitement to violence over a 2007 speech in which he allegedly called for a new Palestinian uprising.

The statement said the Umm el-Faham office transferred large amounts of money to Jerusalem commanders of Hamas. The Palestinian group is listed as a terrorist organization by Israel, the United States and the European Union.

Islamic Movement spokesman Zaim Jiday denied the alleged links with Hamas.

“It's absolutely not right,” he told Israeli Army Radio. “We do not cooperate (with Hamas). We carry out legal, open and transparent activities.”


 

IT’S OK TO GIVE TO BAD MUSLIM CHARITIES PER MO-HAM-MAD

Volume 2, Book 24, Number 502:

Narrated Abu Huraira:

Allah's Apostle (p.b.u.h) said, "A man said that he would give something in charity. He went out with his object of charity and unknowingly gave it to a thief. Next morning the people said that he had given his object of charity to a thief. (On hearing that) he said, "O Allah! All the praises are for you. I will give alms again." And so he again went out with his alms and (unknowingly) gave it to an adulteress. Next morning the people said that he had given his alms to an adulteress last night. The man said, "O Allah! All the praises are for you. (I gave my alms) to an adulteress. I will give alms again." So he went out with his alms again and (unknowingly) gave it to a rich person. (The people) next morning said that he had given his alms to a wealthy person. He said, "O Allah! All the praises are for you. (I had given alms) to a thief, to an adulteress and to a wealthy man." Then someone came and said to him, "The alms which you gave to the thief, might make him abstain from stealing, and that given to the adulteress might make her abstain from illegal sexual intercourse (adultery), and that given to the wealthy man might make him take a lesson from it and spend his wealth which Allah has given him, in Allah's cause."

 

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