The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is the section of our government that is responsible for ensuring that our food is safe for American consumption. Yet, when it comes to food consumed by Muslim Americans, the USDA has been relying on groups associated with terrorism – the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA) and Islamic Relief (IR) – for assistance and is even partnering with these groups. The following will explain why our government needs to break ties with these radical outfits and worry not just about food safety, but national security.
According to ICNA Relief, the social services division of ICNA, the group has been “working with the U.S. Department of Agriculture for the past two years to provide guidance on expanding halal food options through the emergency food assistance program (TEFAP)… In the future we will be working to educate USDA suppliers, distributors, and wholesalers on the requirements of halal certification.”
The USDA states on its website, “For specific Halal information the following organizations may be helpful: ICNA Relief [and] Islamic Relief USA.” The USDA website also lists Islamic Relief USA (IRUSA) as a USDA Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) “partner organization.” IRUSA is the US branch of IR. IR’s global headquarters, Islamic Relief Worldwide (IRW), is based in Birmingham, England.
ICNA was founded as the American arm of the South Asian Islamist group Jamaat-e-Islami (JI). As such, ICNA has significant links to South Asian terrorists. For over three decades, ICNA has harbored former JI killing squad commander Ashrafuzzaman Khan, who, in November 2013, was sentenced to death (in absentia) for the murders of 18 people during the 1971 Bangladesh genocide. Khan has served as ICNA Vice President and ICNA-New York President. ICNA has as well collaborated with and promoted Falah-i-Insaniat Foundation (FIF), a banned front for Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), the group behind the November 2008 Mumbai, India terror attacks.
ICNA has been linked to terrorist financing. In August 2006, ICNA was a top donor and partner to JI charity Al-Khidmat Foundation (AKF), at the same time AKF led a delegation to Damascus, Syria to hand deliver $100,000 to then-global head of Hamas, Khaled Mashal, at his residence. ICNA continues to be a partner and donor to AKF. In October 2000, ICNA placed on its website links to the official sites of Hamas and Hezbollah as well as a directive issued by then-ICNA President Mohammad Yunus to provide “material support” to “fellow Chechnyan Muslims,” while providing a link to qoqaz.net (‘Jihad in Chechnya’), a financing/recruitment website for al-Qaeda.
ICNA has an Islamic outreach (dawah) division, WhyIslam. On the WhyIslam website, one finds an essay, ‘Gender Equity in Islam,’ sanctioning domestic violence. It states, “[W]omen on whose part you fear disloyalty… beat them.” Not long ago, the site featured a message board used by forum moderators to make posts deriding Jews and supporting Hamas and Israel’s destruction. One moderator, Marwan, discussing an Indian eatery called “Hitler’s cross,” vilely joked, “Nazi restaurant… I wonder if they have kosher meals.” Another said that Jews who speak against Israel… “deserve peace and life… The rest will one day end up in the Mediterranean sea.”
Like ICNA, Islamic Relief has several ties to overseas terrorism. As a result, IR has been banned by a number of nations. In May 2006, Israel labeled IR a front for Hamas. In November 2014, the UAE government designated IR a terrorist group. Also in 2014, Britain’s HSBC bank cut ties with Islamic Relief over concerns about “terrorist financing.” And in October 2017, Bangladesh’s NGO Affairs Bureau banned Islamic Relief in fear the group would conduct terrorist recruitment of Myanmar refugees. In November 1999, it was reported that Islamic Relief had collected and sent over $6 million to Chechen rebels with ties to Al-Qaeda.
IRUSA board member and ex-Chairman, Khaled Lamada, has used social media to promote the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas. According to the Middle East Forum, “Lamada has circulated text praising the ‘jihad’ of the ‘Mujahidin of Egypt’ for ‘causing the Jews many defeats’” and “republished claims on Facebook that praise Hamas for inflicting a ‘huge defeat’ against the ‘Zionist entity.’” In June 2015, Lamada tweeted that it is “absurd” to classify Hamas “as a terrorist organization.” Lamada has visited suicide bombing supporter Mazen Mokhtar at the hospital and praised anti-Semitic Egyptian cleric Salah Sultan as “the honor of the homeland.”
What could possibly be the legitimate reason for the USDA or any governmental organization to partner with either ICNA or Islamic Relief? In truth, there is none. These groups are dangers to society and threats to national security. Their associations with terror and bigotry render any expertise that they may or may not have in Halal food moot.
Instead of embracing these groups, as the USDA has done, the agency should look to shut them down. There is no excuse to partner with either of these two radical entities, as a partnership implies an acceptance of the hatred and violence they are linked to.
Beila Rabinowitz, Director of Militant Islam Monitor, contributed to this report.