The Ground Zero Mosque controversy is reigniting as the tenth anniversary of 9⁄11 approaches, and new accusations against its chief financier adds to concerns about the money for the $100 million project. Those behind the Ground Zero Mosque have a history of shady financial dealings, and have not ruled out taking money from Saudi Arabia and Iran.
Allstate Insurance is suing Hisham Elzanaty, the Ground Zero Mosque’s top financial backer, for running a “highly developed and sophisticated kickback scheme.” He is alleged to have fraudulently set up medical facilities, despite not being a licensed professional. He then presented Allstate Insurance with inflated medical bills and engaged in illegal fee-splitting arrangements, it is claimed. He is being sued by Allstate for $5.1 million. State Farm and Geico separately sued Elzanaty this year for $1.9 and $1.7 million respectively on similar allegations of fraud.
Elzanaty donated $6,000 to the Holy Land Foundation in 1999, which was shut down by the federal government in 2001 for acting as a front for Hamas. The government’s position was vindicated during the trial, and documents were introduced into evidence proving that the charity was set up by the Muslim Brotherhood to finance the terrorist group. Elzanaty says that he did not know of HLF’s terrorism connection when he made the donation, as the charity said it was raising money for orphanages.
“The Ground Zero Mosque’s financing should worry all Americans, even those who don’t have a problem with the location of the mosque,” Martin Mawyer, president of the Christian Action Network, told FrontPage. The organization is putting on a screening tour of its film opposing the Ground Zero Mosque in Congress and New York City public parks in the week leading up to the 10th anniversary of 9⁄11.
Other questions surround Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf and his Cordoba Initiative. He is also the leader of the American Society for Muslim Advancement (ASMA), which has the status of a “church” and therefore, does not need to disclose its donors. ASMA told the government in its filing that it had 500 attendees for its religious services, but the apartment building these services are held at cannot accommodate such a crowd. The organization was originally named the American Sufi Muslim Association and was co-founded with Faiz Khan, a 9⁄11 conspiracy theory activist. Khan also led prayers at Imam Rauf’s mosque until December 2009.
ASMA’s 2009 financial statement says it is “developing Cordoba’s ability to function independently.” However, the filed tax return for Cordoba claims it is not financially tied to any other group. Furthermore, between 2006 and 2008, Cordoba did not declare over $130,000 in donations from 2006 to 2008. The government was not informed of a $32,000 donation in 2007. Two donations of $98,000 and $25,000 to ASMA for Cordoba were also not filed. The individuals behind the Ground Zero Mosque are now talking of forming another group with the specific purpose of fundraising.
As the Investigative Project on Terrorism explains, “If that group gets nonprofit status, it will not be required to disclose its contributors. If that group gets church status, it will not have to disclose even its donors.” This is especially troubling given Cordoba’s Sharia Index Project that had ties to the Muslim Brotherhood and the Iranian government.
The mosque’s developer, Sharif el-Gamal, is also a suspicious figure. He has a lengthy criminal record, and the source of his wealth is being scrutinized. He founded his real estate company in 2003, one year after quitting his job as a waiter. He quickly became a multi-millionaire and bought the site slated to become the Ground Zero Mosque. One former associate said, “I’m sure he didn’t buy it with his own money.” Another described him as a “master manipulator.” He was evicted in August 2010 for not paying $39,000 in rent and is being sued by Citibank for nearly $100,000 in overdue loans.
A closer look at the Ground Zero Mosque’s connection to the Saudi-based Xenel Industries is also necessary. It has donated to ASMA and the Cordoba Initiative. Its CEO, Abdullah Alireza, was found on the “Golden Chain” document listing important Al-Qaeda financiers. Alireza also sits on the board of Dar al-Maal al-Islami with a half-brother of Osama Bin Laden. The bank’s subsidiaries are believed to have financed Al-Qaeda. The evidence against Xenel is strong enough that the city of Orlando cancelled a $100 million contract with it. Imam Rauf is also an important part of the Perdana Global Peace Organization, the largest donor to the Free Gaza Movement.
The mammoth task of raising the $100 million necessary for the Ground Zero Mosque makes it more likely that the group will look to overseas sources of money. In 2011, only $7.5 million was raised. They hope to raise $15 million next year. To help with the cost, the project has applied for a $5 million federal grant for its “social services.” It also had some help from Michael Moore, who raised it over $50,000. The project also is open to receiving money from Iran and Saudi Arabia.
The Ground Zero Mosque’s finances should be a problem for everyone, supporters and opponents.