PHILADELPHIA – October 18, 2018 – Following the Middle East Forum's exposé of a possible criminal investigation into Islamic Relief, the recipient of at least $700,000 in U.S. taxpayer funding, seven members of Congress have demanded answers from the federal government.
Islamic Relief is the largest Islamic charity in the West, with branches in more than 20 countries. Founded by students affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood, it has received at least $80 million from Western governments and international bodies.
Citing an "extensive report by the Middle East Forum," representatives Ted Budd, Chuck Fleischmann, Matt Gaetz, Paul Gosar, Debbie Lesko, Barry Loudermilk, and Walter Jones issued a letter to the directors of the FBI, IRS, and Office of Personnel Management (OPM):
As members of the legislative branch, we have a vital role in ensuring taxpayer money is spent wisely and certainly to ensure that such money is not spent on entities that are subsidizing terrorism. If the United States Government has information suggesting criminal or extremist activity by Islamic Relief, it is critically important that Congress be informed so we can make decisions concerning any funding that might go to Islamic Relief.
That "extensive report" refers to a June 2018 MEF study on Islamic Relief's extremism and terror connections. It reveals the response from OPM to a Freedom of Information Act request:
"We are withholding the records ... as they were compiled for law enforcement purposes and their disclosure could reasonably be expected to interfere with ongoing enforcement proceedings, by—for example—suggesting the scope of an investigation and alerting potential subjects as to the nature of the Government's evidence and strategy." (Emphasis added.)
Any criminal investigation into to Islamic Relief's U.S. branch is likely to relate to its financial relationship with its parent branch in the U.K, or its activities in the Middle East, particularly in the Gaza Strip.
For years, allegations of extremism and terrorism ties have dogged Islamic Relief:
- In 2014, the United Arab Emirates designated Islamic Relief Worldwide as a terrorist organization, due to its links with violent Muslim Brotherhood elements in the Middle East.
- In 2015, Egyptian prosecutors accused Essam El-Haddad – a founder of Islamic Relief and advisor to President Mohamed Morsi – of using Islamic Relief to fund the Muslim Brotherhood.
- In 2016, the banking giant HSBC shut down Islamic Relief's accounts, following a similar decision made by UBS in 2012.
- In 2017, the Bangladeshi government banned Islamic Relief from working with Rohingya refugees.
- In 2017, the U.K. Charity Commission started investigating Islamic Relief's promotion of extremist preachers.
"For decades, Islamic Relief has used its position as a leading provider of humanitarian aid to distract from its promotion of intolerant, extremist ideology, and its links to terrorism in the Middle East," said Sam Westrop, author of the Forum report.
"Now, officials in countries around the world are beginning to understand the dangers of Islamic Relief, its underlying ideology, and its carefully-crafted duplicity. We welcome congressional interest in the matter."
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The Middle East Forum identifies and promotes American interests in the Middle East and works to protect Western civilization from the threat of Islamism.
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