Updated Sept. 13: U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis's amendment to block money going to Islamic Worldwide was not withdrawn, as it was never formally offered in the first place. "Due to Hurricane Irene (sic), I left Washington on Thursday to help my family and community prepare for the storm," DeSantis said in a statement. "I was thus unable to offer my amendment, but remain committed to blocking taxpayer funds for organizations with ties to terrorist groups such as Hamas."
U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, R-Fla, introduced an amendment to the State and Foreign Operations Appropriations Act to block taxpayers' dollars from going to Islamic Relief Worldwide, IRW, or Islamic Relief UK late last month because the Islamist charity allegedly funneled money to Hamas, the Washington Free Beacon reported.
IRW received $370,000 in federal funding for the fiscal years 2015 and 2016, government records show.
National Islamist groups and their allies rallied to the charity's defense.
"Islamic Relief Worldwide is a valued partner of numerous governments and the United Nations bodies globally, and exists as a humanitarian organization dedicated to the alleviation of poverty and suffering internationally," the Council of American-Islamic Relations Chicago chapter (CAIR-Chicago) said in a press release urging American Muslims to pressure Congress to reject the legislation.
The announcement also claimed that "IRW has been awarded $704,662 worth of funding from US federal sources for its work in Kenya, Ethiopia, and Central African Republic."
Israel banned IRW from operating in the West Bank in 2014 saying the charity funneled money to Hamas. Iyaz Ali, a British national of Pakistani origin who worked for IRW's Gaza office, allegedly transferred money to Hamas institutions outlawed in Israel, a 2006 communique issued by the Israeli prime minister's office said.
Files found on Ali's computer tied IRW with illegal Hamas funds in the UK, Saudi Arabia, and Nablus, the statement said. Investigators also found "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."
The UAE designated IRW as a terrorist organization last year. Britain's largest bank HSBC also declined to do further business with Islamic Relief UK in January 2016, citing the charity's alleged terror ties.
In the United States, the DeSantis amendment also drew calls from Islamic Relief USA and the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) asking supporters to contact their representatives to voice their opposition.
Islamic Relief USA labeled the amendment as "malicious and misguided" and claimed it "seeks to denigrate and undermine this widely respected civil society organization."
"If passed it could cause substantial material damage to IRW's life-saving work around the world. Lives and livelihoods in some of the world's poorest and most disadvantaged countries are at stake," Islamic Relief USA claimed.
The organization has shared close ties with IRW since its inception. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) underscored the connections in IRUSA's 1993 articles of incorporation: "Your case is being transferred to National Office for further review due to your close association with Islamic Relief, United Kingdom, an organization that does...not have tax exempt status in the United States. As stated in your application, Islamic Relief, United Kingdom will administer the operation of your numerous, diverse programs."
Those ties continue to this day.
On its "Affiliates and Alliances" page, Islamic Relief USA's website describes itself as one of "16 Islamic Relief legally separate and independent affiliates (also referred to as 'partner offices') around the world." "Islamic Relief Worldwide (IRW), a United Kingdom charity, serves as a catalyst, coordinator and implementer of the Islamic Relief family's relief and development projects around the globe."
Senior IRW officials have had close ties to the global Islamist Muslim Brotherhood movement. Among them:
Mohamed Ashmawey, former chief executive officer of IRW's board of directors, served on the executive committee of the Muslim Arab Youth Association (MAYA), an umbrella group of militant Islamist groups that hosted conferences featuring radical extremists. Ashmawey also served as CEO of Islamic Relief USA and ISNA board member.
Ibrahim El-Zayat, former chair of IRW's board of trustees, was a representative of the World Assembly of Muslim Youth (WAMY) in Europe, a Saudi nongovernmental organization that seeks to spread the conservative Saudi brand of Islam known as Wahhabism. He also is connected to the Turkish Islamist organization, Milli Gorus. He is reported to have told a meeting of Islamists in Germany: "It is still premature to strike against the Jews and infidels in this country."
AbdulWahab Nourwali, a member of IRW's board of trustees, served as "a trustee of WAMY for 12 years, administering and operating the WAMY offices in three major cities in Saudi Arabia with a strength of 300 employees, as well as running and supervision of 23 overseas bureaus some of which have more than 200 employees," his biography said.
Essam El-Haddad, who quit his position as IRW trustee in September 2012, became advisor to Muslim Brotherhood leader and Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi. El-Haddad also served on the Muslim Brotherhood's Guidance Bureau.
IRW's annual reports available on its website list donations from terror-tied charities, including:
Qatar Charity, formerly the Qatar Charitable Society. It collaborated with the Hamas Ministry of Education in 2009 to build schools to indoctrinate children with pro-jihadist propaganda. Osama bin Laden discussed Qatar Charity in 1993 as an important fundraising source for al-Qaida.
Charitable Society for Social Welfare's tax records list now-deceased American-born al-Qaida cleric Anwar al-Awlaki as vice president. The charity is believed to have been founded by Shaykh Abd-al-Majid al-Zindani, named in 2004 by the Treasury Department as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist.
International Islamic Charitable Organization is a Kuwait-based Islamist charity tied to Global Muslim Brotherhood spiritual leader, Yusuf Qaradawi. The charity allegedly sent money to "trusted zakat committees" in the Palestinian territories, many of which have ties to Hamas.
Al Eslah Yemen. Yemen's second largest political party, founded in 1990, is affiliated to the Muslim Brotherhood. Saudi Arabia placed it on its terrorist blacklist in 2014. Senior party leaders reportedly have close ties to terrorist groups such as al-Qaida.
Islamist groups may have succeeded in blocking the DeSantis amendment, and Islamic Relief USA may continue to receive government grants. Its history and terror connections, however, are well documented. Those facts cannot be changed by political pressure campaigns.