U.S. Taxpayer-Funded Group Gives $100,000 to Terrorism-Tied Islamic Charity

USAID gives cash to Hamas, Muslim Brotherhood-linked group

Gayle Smith
USAID head Gayle Smith / AP
December 8, 2015

A U.S. taxpayer-funded aid organization has awarded $100,000 to an Islamic charity that has been banned in some countries for providing assistance to Hamas and other terrorism-linked organizations, according to grant information.

The U.S. Agency for International Development, also known as USAID, has pledged a federal grant of $100,000 for the charity Islamic Relief Worldwide, which has been repeatedly linked to the financing of terrorism.

Under USAID’s Foreign Assistance for Programs Overseas, Islamic Relief will be given $100,000 in 2016 for various foreign projects, according to grant information.

The award has generated controversy among critics of Islamic Relief’s ties to the Muslim Brotherhood and the terror group Hamas.

Both Israel and the United Arab Emirates have banned the Islamic charity since 2014 following investigations that determined that the organization was tied to the Muslim Brotherhood and entities providing support to Hamas, according to reports.

Islamic Relief has also been caught in a financial relationship with al Qaeda and other radicalized individuals.

The charity’s "accounts show that it has partnered with a number of organizations linked to terrorism and that some of charity's trustees are personally affiliated with extreme Islamist groups that have connections to terror," according to research conducted by Samuel Westrop, a terrorism analyst, and published by the Gatestone Institute.

Israeli authorities determined in 2006 that the charity was providing material support to Hamas.

"The IRW provides support and assistance to Hamas's infrastructure. The IRW's activities in Judea, Samaria, and the Gaza Strip are carried out by social welfare organizations controlled and staffed by Hamas operatives," according to the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs. "The intensive activities of these associations are designed to further Hamas's ideology among the Palestinian population."

Israeli authorities arrested the charity’s Gaza coordinator, Ayaz Ali, in 2006 due to his work on Hamas’s behalf.

"Incriminating files were found on Ali’s computer, including documents that attested to the organization’s ties with illegal Hamas funds abroad (in the UK and in Saudi Arabia) and in Nablus," according to Israel’s foreign affairs ministry. "Also found were photographs of swastikas superimposed on IDF symbols, of senior Nazi German officials, of Osama Bin Laden, and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, as well as many photographs of Hamas military activities.

A review of Islamic Relief’s accounts have shown that it donated thousands of dollars to a charity founded by a leading al Qaeda terrorist, according to Westrop’s research.

Islamic Relief Worldwide was co-founded by a Muslim Brotherhood-linked individual who formerly worked for the Clinton Foundation. That individual, Gehad el-Haddad, was arrested by Egyptian authorities in 2013 and sentenced to serve five years for supporting the Muslim Brotherhood.

American law enforcement officials also have expressed concerns about the organization’s ties to Hamas.

"We know that these Muslim leaders and groups are continuing to raise money for Hamas and other terrorist organizations," one U.S. law enforcement official told Patrick Poole, a terrorism analyst, in 2011. "Ten years ago we shut down the Holy Land Foundation. It was the right thing to do. Then the money started going to KindHearts. We shut them down too."

"Now the money is going through groups like Islamic Relief and Viva Palestina," the official said. "Until we act decisively to cut off the financial pipeline to these terrorist groups by putting more of these people in prison, they are going to continue to raise money that will go into the hands of killers."

While the charity attempted to perform an internal audit in 2014 in a bid to clear its tainted name, experts have cast doubt on the integrity of the investigation.

"The information provided by [Islamic Relief] on its internal investigation is insufficient to assess the veracity of its claims," NGO Monitor, a watchdog group, wrote in a 2015 analysis. "NGO Monitor recommends that a fully independent, transparent, and comprehensive audit of IRW’s international activities and funding mechanisms be undertaken immediately."

Kyle Shideler, director of the Center for Security Policy’s Threat Information Office, expressed shock that the U.S. government would be funding such a controversial organization, particularly in light of recent efforts to boost the fight against international terror organizations.

"The fact that the U.S. government would provide funding to an organization which two of our allies view as a terrorism finance entity is obviously highly problematic both for our domestic security, but also for foreign relations," said Shideler, who has written extensively about the charity.

"Both Israel and the UAE consider IRW a threat to their security. And we’re funding them. The fact that this administration is aware of the role IRW plays, and yet sees fit not only to associate with, but actually funds them should be an outrage."

The grant is particularly troubling given that Congress as Congress seeks to label the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist group, Shideler said.

"Given that there’s currently a bill before Congress to designate the Muslim Brotherhood, and Congress is currently in discussion over an Omnibus spending bill, it would seem to me that now would be an opportune time to call for a total defunding of organizations linked to terror finance or Muslim Brotherhood activity," Shideler said. "One would think such a move wouldn't be necessary, but unfortunately it appears that this administration will continue to do so unless restrained by Congress."

USAID did not respond to a request for more information about the grant.