The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), considered a terrorist organization by the United Arab Emirates with at least seven of its affiliates tied to terror-related crimes, is partnering with an Islamist wealth management firm whose chief adviser on Sharia (Islamic law) supports suicide bombings.
CAIR-Philadelphia is teaming up with Azzad Asset Management, an Islamic finance company that advises its clients to pursue "faith-based, socially responsible investment" strategies. In practice, Azzad directs Muslim American wealth to Islamist pet projects and organizations, including CAIR, and the pair plan to hold a workshop in June focused on Islamic tithing.
One of the pillars of Islam is zakah, or charitable giving, an annual religious duty that derives extra spiritual rewards for Muslims who donate during the month of Ramadan. In addition to giving to the poor, other possible recipients of zakah are those who fall under the category of serving in the cause of God, or fi sabilillah.
CAIR has in its corner Yusuf Al Qaradawi, an Egyptian Islamic scholar known for his militant religious edicts and jihadist tendencies. Qaradawi has joined other Islamist clerics in blessing CAIR as zakah eligible under the fi sabilillah category, and CAIR has enthusiastically accepted his endorsement.
Thanks in part to this support, CAIR-Philadelphia solicited its patrons daily for donations during the final 10 days of this year's Ramadan. Meanwhile, Azzad Asset Management is helping CAIR squeeze the maximum yield from its donations by holding seminars in May and June instructing Philadelphia Muslims on how to calculate zakah on "retirement accounts, rental property, real estate," and even jewelry.
Azzad is a halal investment firm located in Falls Church, Virginia. Such compliance requires businesses to pursue financial products that are permissible under Islamic principles of social justice and Sharia law, such as refraining from interest lending and products that include gambling, pork and photography.
Azzad was founded by its CEO Bashar Qasem, who perceived a deficiency in Islamic ethical-investment options. Qasem was raised in Jordan, came to the United States in 1987 and became a U.S. citizen in 1996. He was the only Muslim financier in the United States who protested U.S. President Donald Trump's executive order restricting travel from select high-risk countries.
Azzad is one of the few Islamic financial firms engaging in "shareholder advocacy," a program that combines investment with Islamic ethical values. This includes, under the guise of transparency, trying to dismantle right-of-center free market organizations such as the American Legislative Exchange Council that sought a legislative alternative to New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's Green New Deal.
Other Azzad shareholder advocacy causes pertain to admonishing corporations that contribute to global warming and support for resolutions against companies that "set up operations in Jewish settlements in the occupied territories." One such resolution was against the American tech giant Alphabet Google's Israeli branch, pressuring it to adopt the Holy Land Principles. These "principles" are geared towards increasing Palestinian Arab hiring and includes a so-called code of conduct for 545 American companies in "Palestine-Israel."
The resolution omits any discussion about Israel's legitimate border security concerns, and American shareholders have complained that it proposes expensive and burdensome regulations on companies doing business in Israel. Other critics have called it a "gateway drug to full BDS," the radical BDS campaign aimed at isolating Israel through economic warfare.
But if Qasem was truly concerned about Palestinian employment, he would not be partnering with CAIR, which also supports the BDS enterprise. It was pressure from BDS proponents that forced the Israeli company SodaStream to remove its factory from Ma'ale Adumim, just outside of Jerusalem, resulting in the unemployment of hundreds of Palestinian Arabs.
To ensure that its investments comply with halal Islamic principles, Azzad maintains a Shariah Council of three experts—the most prominent being Dr. Mohamed Adam El-Sheikh, a Sudanese activist from the Muslim Brotherhood, a transnational Sunni Islamist movement with ties to violent jihadist groups. El-Sheikh is one of the founders of the movement's American branch, the Muslim American Society, which was responsible for a recent video of Muslim schoolchildren at a North Philadelphia mosque singing about beheading Jews.
El-Sheikh was the imam and director of the Islamic Society of Baltimore, whose guest speakers have been known supporters of terrorist organizations. As imam, he was also a regional representative of the Islamic Africa Relief Agency, an organization which the U.S. Treasury Department accused in 2004 of financing Hamas terrorist activities. El-Sheikh also encouraged members of ISB to financially support Chechen jihadists and other Al-Qaeda-linked groups through IARA.
In 2004, the Sudanese cleric justified Palestinian suicide bombings in cases "where they cannot defend themselves, and their local religious leaders issued fatwas [Islamic legal rulings] to permit that."
El-Sheikh also founded Dar Al-Hijrah, a Northern Virginia mosque formerly led by the late Al-Qaeda affiliate Anwar al-Awlaki, who was killed in 2011 in a U.S. drone strike in Yemen. Several other extremists have also attended this controversial mosque, including Fort Hood mass shooter Nidal Hassan, and Mohammed Al-Hanooti, an unindicted co-conspirator in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.
Neither CAIR nor Azzad represent mainstream Muslim values. Yet these two Islamist institutions are influencing many Muslims to finance Islamist special interests, while demonizing the State of Israel. They make a mockery of what is otherwise the noble cause of zakah.
Leonard Getz, CPA, is the Pennsylvania Associate with the Counter-Islamist Grid, a project of the Middle East Forum. He is also a freelance writer and the author of the book From Broadway to the Bowery.