Daniel Greenfield, a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the Freedom Center, is an investigative journalist and writer focusing on the radical Left and Islamic terrorism.
That's how much taxpayer money may have gone to an Islamic charity allegedly linked to terror supporters. And the charity, Islamic Relief USA is also involved in helping resettle “refugees”
That number comes from an important report by the Middle East Forum, a key counterterrorism think tank, and it involves a Federal investigation into Islamic Relief USA, the Muslim charity in question, triggered by Ryan Mauro, the Director of the Clarion Intelligence Network, and a Shillman Fellow, and the Obama administration’s stand down order on the investigation.
The investigation into Islamic Relief USA by the FBI, the IRS and the Office of Personnel Management began with a meeting between Mauro and a federal special agent with counterterrorism experience in 2014. That was the same year that Israel and the UAE had separately cracked down on Islamic Relief Worldwide over the Muslim charity’s alleged ties to the Muslim Brotherhood and terrorist groups.
In the coming years, Islamic Relief Worldwide would face legal challenges in even more countries. Meanwhile, as described in the Middle East Forum report, a deeply troubling situation had emerged in which “over $80 million from western taxpayers” was being funneled to IRW and its affiliates.
The OPM investigation was triggered by Islamic Relief USA’s acceptance on to the Combined Federal Campaign workplace charity list of the United States government, which, as Ryan Mauro notes, “allows federal employees to automatically donate to approved non-profits.”
President Reagan’s executive order 12353 had allowed charities to solicit contributions from Federal employees and military service members “to lessen the burdens of government and of local communities in meeting needs of human health and welfare”.
It was never meant to fund Islamic terrorists.
The presence of an alleged terror charity on the CFC list had created a surreal situation in which soldiers fighting Islamic terrorists might be unwittingly tricked into funding them. Since 9/11, OPM had a clear responsibility for ensuring that no terror charities or individuals linked to terror could be part of the list.
And yet in 2014, over a decade later, while Israel and the UAE were cracking down on IRW, an IR charity was not only safely operating in the United States, it had been approved by the Federal government.
That’s the situation that Mauro describes, that led him to trigger a three agency investigation. The OPM investigation was followed by an IRS and FBI investigation. “Then, near the end of Obama Administration in 2016, the Justice Department declined to prosecute,” Mauro wrote.
“Federal agents were stunned. No clear reason was given. The investigation into Islamic Relief continued, but the criminal case presented by the three agencies would not move forward.”
That same year, Arsalan Suleman, Obama's envoy to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) spoke at a dinner honoring Islamic Relief USA and praised it as a "valued partner" for the State Department. Anwar Khan, its president, was described as serving on the State Department’s Religion and Foreign Policy Working Group. Suleman also praised Jihad Saleh, formerly associated with Al-Talib, the infamous UCLA MSA magazine that celebrated Osama bin Laden and other Islamic terrorists.
In 2017, an IRUSA official had even boasted that, "Islamic Relief USA launched its first resettlement office in Raleigh, North Carolina last year."
While the investigation of Islamic Relief USA got underway, other parts of the massive sprawling Islamic Relief Worldwide network with arms, affiliates and partners straddling the terror-torn regions of the globe from Afghanistan to Chechnya, from Iraq to Pakistan and from Sudan to Yemen, came under fire.
Israel banned IRW in 2014, describing it as, “another source of funds for Hamas”.
Hamas members were accused of running the Israeli branches of the Islamic charity.
"We have no intention of allowing it to operate and assist terrorist activity against Israel,” Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon warned.
An Israeli raid of IRW’s Gaza coordinator allegedly turned up not only Hamas ties, but photos of Osama bin Laden and the founder of the terror group that would eventually turn into ISIS.
While IRW vocally protested Israel’s decision, the next set of bans came from other Muslim countries.
That same year, the United Arab Emirates listed IRW among 82 other groups, including ISIS, various branches of Al Qaeda, the Muslim Brotherhood, and the Haqqani Network, as part of a crackdown on terror groups. The list featured Islamic Relief UK, and "Islamic Relief Worldwide (IRW) of the Global Muslim Brotherhood" accusing the Islamic charity of being part of the Muslim Brotherhood.
The basis for the accusation was obvious. While IRW denies any affiliation with the Brotherhood, its upper ranks intersect extensively with Brotherhood links and affinities.
Hany El-Banna, the co-founder of IRW, praised Hassan Al-Banna, the founder of the Brotherhood. "His presence could be felt everywhere even though his name dare not be uttered openly. Our area, Hilmiyya, was the Brotherhood’s headquarters and Al-Banna used to pray in the mosque where my father gave khutbahs," El-Banna raved in an interview. "You could breathe Al-Banna’s teachings in the air."
Al-Banna’s “teachings” included flogging women, censoring newspapers, killing apostates, and conquering the world under an ISIS-style Caliphate. "It is the nature of Islam to dominate, not to be dominated, to impose its laws on all nations and to extend its power to the entire world,” he had declared.
El-Banna allegedly expressed support for Hamas and after IRW, he went on to found Muslim Charities Forum, which had its funding in the UK pulled after alleged ties to a Muslim Brotherhood charity raising money for Hamas.
Essam El Haddad, another Islamic Relief co-founder, was accused by the Egyptian government of using the organization to finance the Muslim Brotherhood and of “financing terrorism by using global charities such as Islamic Relief.”
After accusations of terror links from Russia, Israel, the UAE and Egypt, Bangladesh became the next country to crack down on Islamic Relief last year.
“There were some serious allegations of irregularities against several charities, which were then blacklisted. It is believed that some of them encourage radicalism and provide funds to militants, and we cannot let them do so with Rohingyas,” Former foreign minister Dipu Moni said.
But what about America?
Four countries, three of them Muslim, have accused Islamic Relief of ties to Islamic terrorists and the Muslim Brotherhood in recent years. The Obama administration’s refusal to act against Islamic Relief USA fell into a larger pattern in which Islamic terror groups from Hamas to Hezbollah got a pass from the DOJ. But after crackdowns by the UAE, Egypt and Bangladesh, the United States was being more Islamic than the sheikh, tolerating a group that even Muslim countries were no longer tolerating.
Meanwhile John Rossomando of the Investigative Project has noted that Khaled Lamada, the board chairman of IRUSA, was caught in a photo giving the Muslim Brotherhood salute along with Muslim Brotherhood figures.
Last year, Ron DeSantis, then a member of the House, had attempted to restrict funds from going to IRW. His efforts however were undercut by Democrats and the media which maligned him for attacking a “respected” charity.
“This amendment singles out IRW for its religious affiliation," Rep. Keith Ellison had falsely claimed.
At the time it was noted that, "IRW has been awarded $704,662 worth of funding from US federal sources."
After Ryan Mauro’s investigation, the OPM, FBI and IRS investigations, the Middle East Forum’s report, the UAE, Israel and Bangladesh’s actions against IRW, it’s time for action. A Democrat House dominated by the political allies of the Islamists is no longer a useful forum for cutting off funding to Islamic Relief, but with a Republican in the White House, the opportunity to take meaningful action exists once more.