Recently the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) produced a video complaining about how Muslim charitable groups have been negatively affected by the Bush administration’s crackdown on terrorist charities. The ACLU chose leaders and patrons of the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA) to make its point.
It was a poor choice, as ICNA itself has been tied to terrorist financing.
The latest ACLU video has found its way onto the homepage of ICNA. It begins with then-President George W. Bush speaking at a 2001 press conference concerning the “financial aspects of terrorism.” He is shown stating the following: “Al-Qaeda has international supporters. And some of those supporters hide themselves in the disguise of charity.”
The press conference took place shortly after the government shut down and froze the bank accounts of the three largest Muslim charities in the United States: the al-Qaeda-linked Benevolence International Foundation (BIF) and Global Relief Foundation (GRF), and the Hamas-linked Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development (HRF).
In November 2008, HRF, along with five of its top leaders, was found guilty of funneling more than twelve million dollars to Hamas.
Given what the government knew about these groups, one would think that their closures could only be seen as a good and important, if not an entirely necessary, action to take. However, ICNA, backed by the ACLU, does not view this as a positive achievement. To the contrary, it sees it as an exploitation of Muslims under a false banner of “War on Terror,” which it claims has caused members of the Islamic community to stop giving to charity.
On the video, former national president (ameer) of ICNA, Khurshid Khan, complains: “It has very badly affected the donations, because people now shy away, because they are scared.”
Another ICNA representative, Muhammad Tariq Rahman, says on the video: “You want to make a political statement. You close down a couple of Muslim charities. You create a fear factor. You create hype in the community, saying that, ‘Oh look, Muslims are giving overseas, and they’re doing this and that,’ which is not true.”
But it is true — at least in part of the community — and one has only to look at ICNA itself to see that that is the case.
In August 2006, Jamaat-e-Islami (JI), otherwise known as the Muslim Brotherhood of Pakistan, announced on its website that its charity, the Al-Khidmat Foundation (AKF), had traveled to Damascus to the home of the global head of Hamas, Khaled Mashaal. They sent well wishes from the president of JI and presented Mashaal with six million rupees — the equivalent of 99 thousand U.S. dollars. Accompanying the group was a Dr. Hafiz Ur Rehman. Mashaal thanked the group for the money and proceeded to declare that Hamas was going to continue to wage “jihad” (terrorist acts) against “the Zionist yoke” (Israel).
At the time of the Hamas transaction, ICNA was listed on AKF’s website as the top two donors to AKF — “ICNA Relief USA” and “ICNA Relief Canada,” the titles of ICNA’s two North American charities.
Of course, this was no small mistake on ICNA’s part, as ICNA is the American affiliate of JI.
Even today, ICNA Relief and Helping Hand (ICNA’s Pakistan-based charity) are both listed as “partners,” along with their logos, to AKF’s Al-Khidmat Welfare Society (AKWS).
Khurshid Khan, the individual featured on the ACLU video, was president of ICNA during the transaction. The ICNA president before him, Zulfiqar Ali Shah, had also been the president of the South Asia division of Kind Hearts, when the Ohio-based Islamic charity was shut down by the U.S. government in 2006 for raising millions of dollars for Hamas.
Tariq Rahman, the other individual featured on the video, was the executive director of ICNA Relief, but stepped down from the position roughly a year previous to the transaction. According to the ACLU, he is currently running the charity.
The Mashaal affair was not the only occasion that ICNA has been associated with the funding of terror. Before the 9/11 attacks, the organization was asking its followers to donate to groups associated with al-Qaeda.
In May 2000, ICNA launched a website for its southeast division, which at the time was located in the state of Florida. Today, the chapter is headquartered in the Norcross suburb of Atlanta, Georgia. On the website’s homepage was a prominent link to Qoqaz.net (Jihad in Chechnya), a site that was actively raising funds and recruiting fighters for al-Qaeda. The site was a project of Azzam Publications, an organization named for Osama bin Laden’s mentor, Abdullah Azzam.
Directly above the link was a message from then-national president of JI, Muhammad Yunus, which stated in part: “We must show our spiritual and material support for our brothers and sisters being oppressed by Russian forces.” Yunus is presently a national director of ICNA and the registered agent for ICNA’s corporation.
Along with links to the official websites of Hamas, Hezbollah, and the Taliban, the message with the Qoqaz link stayed up on the homepage for at least two weeks and two days following 9/11.
As this author has pointed out in the past, providing material support to a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) is illegal. And like the JI/ICNA relationship with regard to the Hamas transaction, ICNA has a relationship with the U.S.-based administrator for Qoqaz, Mazen Mokhtar. Mokhtar has been involved with ICNA’s Why Islam (WI) religious outreach (dawah) project. Mokhtar is currently featured on a WI video, which is found on the homepage of the WI-Sacramento, California, website entitled “Why Islam Introduction.”
Whether the ACLU knew or did not know about these things prior to going into production with its video is anyone’s guess. But regardless of that, ICNA should not and is in no position to be criticizing the Bush administration’s decision to close and freeze the funds of terrorist charities.
If ICNA is affected in any way by the government’s actions, it should be that it is shut down as well.