Susannah Johnston, investigative reporter for Focus on Western Islamism (FWI), the Middle East Forum's counter-Islamist media outlet, spoke to an October 11 Middle East Forum Webinar (video). Johnston was interviewed by Sam Westrop, director of the Middle East Forum's counter-extremism project, Islamist Watch. The following is a summary of their comments:
FWI has previously reported that millions of federal taxpayers' dollars are flowing to organizations controlled by Islamists or their networks. These sums have been steadily increasing annually since 2010, and FWI is now also investigating state and city funding of Islamism. Johnston's follow-up investigation into Islamist movements that also receive local funding reveals two disturbing trends: (1) U.S. Islamist organizations that are ideologically supportive of the Muslim Brotherhood or Hamas are receiving state government grants; and (2) some U.S. Islamist organizations that receive money from state governments support global Islamist organizations that, in turn, "move money" to Hamas.
FWI's investigations into state funding to Islamist organizations tied to Hamas have thus far only covered Massachusetts, Illinois, New York, and California. But tens of millions of dollars going to radical groups have already been uncovered from just this small sample.
California, for instance, has doled out tens of thousands of dollars to the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), founded in 1994 by pro-Hamas activists.
In the wake of Hamas's recent frenzied atrocities in southern Israel massacring more than thirteen hundred civilians from at least twenty countries and taking more than a hundred captive, all in one day, Nihad Awad, CAIR's national executive director, tweeted his support for Hamas.
The Muslim American Society (MAS), founded as a U.S. branch of the MB, received $2.5 million in grants for its Upper New York chapter. The MAS leadership "has openly championed Hamas," and both CAIR and MAS are part of the United States Council of Muslim Organizations (USCMO). Following the terror attacks in Israel, the USCMO also published a statement in support of Hamas.
New York's grants are primarily disbursed to Islamist organizations for education, and MB affiliates aren't the only recipients. Al-Madrasa Al-Islamiya, a private school in New York, received a $1.6 million grant from the state. A textbook in its school curriculum includes disturbing information about "kidnapping women and children" presented in positive terms. Another New York school, the Al-Ihsan Academy, received a $5.6 million grant. Al-Ihsan previously hosted Sheikh Shafayat Mohamed as a speaker, who has called Jews and Christians "perverted transgressors" and referred to Jews as "apes and swine."
In New Jersey, another organization connected to the Hamas-Muslim Brotherhood network in America, the North American Islamic Trust (NAIT), received state funding, yet NAIT "wrote checks to a Hamas leader."
The Islamic Circle of North America's charity, ICNA Relief, also received state money from the state of New Jersey. The charity defends its relationship with Al Khidmat, the South Asian charitable arm of the terror group, Jamaat-e-Islami. Al Khidmat has also funded Hamas.
Aside from education grants, mosques are also the recipients of taxpayer dollars. For example, the terror-connected Bridgeview Mosque in Illinois has been earmarked to receive hundreds of thousands from the state "for several years in a row."
Private religious schools of all denominations receive public funds, which "gives these Islamist [schools] cover in getting money."
Funding benefits Islamism beyond the immediate financial boost. Government support for Islamist groups linked to the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamist movements serves to legitimize Islamists, helping them to "impose control" over New York Muslim communities, and in turn serving to "wipe out ordinary moderate Muslim resistance."
As a result of the activities in which Islamist groups are engaged, these few examples indicate that taxpayer funding is insufficiently vetted by state and local governments. Many state government offices are "lackluster" or unresponsive to investigative inquiries about their funding decisions, which are a matter of public record.
There is some hope, Johnston added. New York City council member Inna Vernikov is "really concerned," and former state representative Dov Hikind is alarmed enough that he plans to bring Johnston's FWI research to the governor in an effort to cut state funding of Islamist groups.
Over the next year, the Middle East Forum will publish a mapped database for readers to learn if other U.S. cities or states are subsidizing Islamism with their taxpayer monies.
That public officials are reticent to deny public funds to Islamist groups is partly due to government "ignorance" of the organizations' extremism and subterfuge. Since 9-11, Islamist groups have been successful in deflecting scrutiny by leveling accusations of "Islamophobia" against their critics, including counter-Islamist analysts and researchers.
Hamas's unprecedented wholesale slaughter of Israeli citizens shocked the globe in what may prove to be a wake-up call for the West. Hopefully, Johnston concluded, U.S. Islamist groups tied to the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas could start finding that their complaints of "Islamophobia," which provided cover for their deceptive practices, will begin to fall on deaf ears.
Marilyn Stern is communications coordinator at the Middle East Forum.