This year, America’s hearts and prayers have been focused on Texas, Florida and now Puerto Rico, all of which have been battered by hurricanes, suffering much damage and loss of life. Different groups have offered their services in the relief effort. Two of them, ICNA Relief and the Islamic Center of Boca Raton, have a disturbing history rooted in terrorism and bigotry. It is this history that has cast doubt upon the groups’ recent ‘charitable’ actions. Indeed, it is their ulterior motive to establish legitimacy to deflect from their radical ties and Islamist ambitions.
ICNA Relief is a function of the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA), the American affiliate of Jamaat-e-Islami (JI), South Asia’s largest Islamist group. Jamaat’s militant wing, Hizbul Mujahideen, owned the Pakistani compound where Osama bin Laden was living and eventually killed in. ICNA, itself, has used the internet to promote terrorist organizations, including Hezbollah, Hamas, al-Qaeda and the Taliban.
In August 2006, ICNA Relief was the top donor and partner to Pakistani JI charity Al Khidmat Foundation (AKF), at the same time AKF took a delegation to Damascus, Syria to hand deliver nearly $100,000 to then-global Hamas leader Khaled Mashal at his residence. Mashal thanked the group and said Hamas would continue to wage “jihad” (war) on the “Zionist yoke” (Israel). ICNA Relief continues to work directly with AKF overseas.
The Islamic Center of Boca Raton (ICBR) was incorporated in October 1998. Among its founding directors was Hamas web designer Syed Khawer Ahmad, who created the first official website for the Islamic Association, al-Jamia al-Islamiya, the charitable arm of Hamas. ICBR’s founding imam, Ibrahim Dremali, has spent time on the federal ‘no fly’ list. In January 2000, the Global Relief Foundation (GRF), a now defunct al-Qaeda-related charity, gave $600 thousand to ICBR as seed money towards the construction of a new 27,000-square-foot mosque, which is today the current ICBR. In May 2007, then-ICBR member Rafiq Sabir was sentenced to 25 years in prison for conspiring to provide material support to al-Qaeda.
From October 1999 through September 2001, ICBR published a violently anti-Semitic essay on its website, titled ‘Why can’t the Jews and Muslims live together in peace?’ It stated, “Jews are people of treachery and betrayal; it is not possible to trust them at all… As the Muslims and Jews are enemies residing in opposing religious and doctrinal camps, it is not possible for them to be brought together unless one is made to submit to the other by force… [T]he Prophet said, ‘The Hour (the Day of Judgement) will not begin until the Muslims fight the Jews and kill them.’”
During Hurricane Irma, ICNA Relief and ICBR partnered with each other to offer their services to the community, while using the dire occasion to proselytize and promote their brand of Islam.
Leading the event was Assistant Executive Director of ICNA Relief and Secretary of ICNA Florida and ICNA Relief Florida, Abdul Rauf Khan. Khan has used his Facebook page to post videos dedicated to Nation of Islam leader and anti-Jewish bigot Louis Farrakhan and Egypt’s banned Muslim Brotherhood. He has been photographed wearing Muslim Brotherhood garb, himself. Khan also posted a link on his Facebook site to an anti-Semitic video labeling comedian talk show host Bill Maher, “Zionist Jew Bill Maher.”
Representing ICBR was ICBR co-founder and current ICBR President Bassem Alhalabi. Alhalabi was an assistant to terrorist leader Sami al-Arian at the University of South Florida (USF), while al-Arian was actively creating an infrastructure in the US for Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Alhalabi used al-Arian as a reference, when he would later apply for a job at Florida Atlantic University (FAU) in Boca Raton, where he is currently an Associate Professor. In June 2003, the US Department of Commerce charged Alhalabi with illegally shipping a $13,000 military-grade thermal imaging device to Syria.
If people did not know about the worrisome histories behind ICNA Relief and the Islamic Center of Boca Raton, they would think that the groups were acting out of kindness and generosity regarding America’s hurricanes, instead of the reality, as fronts for evil. No doubt, these groups have given off the false impression, at least to some, that they are interested in the betterment and welfare of the community. But accepting assistance from either of these organizations comes with a steep and dangerous price.
In truth, everything these groups do is a calculated move. Headlines such as ‘Muslims At The Forefront Of Relief Work’ and ‘Religious principles drive Muslim response to disasters’ permeate ICNA’s website and are used to divert attention away from their and their associates’ extremist agendas and to promote and proselytize their brand of Islam under the guise of charitable work.
It is time that the press and public stop falling for and lavishing praise on these cynical public relations maneuvers and draw attention to the facts that the organizations they promote are also aiding and abetting terrorism and bigotry.
Beila Rabinowitz, Director of Militant Islam Monitor, contributed to this report.