I feel in debt to this great country. Specifically when the Medicaid covered me with the entire cost of both of my hips replacements which reached $350,000.00.
– Sofian Abdelaziz Zakkout
On September 28th, more than $24 million was distributed by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to organizations considered to be at high risk of a terrorist attack. Each organization chosen received up to $100,000. While many of the groups could probably make the case for why they needed the DHS funds, one in particular is of interest, as it has a number of terrorism ties, itself. And because those ties have been exposed, the decision to award it with a grant is now officially under DHS review.
American Muslims for Emergency Relief (AMER) is a non-profit 501(c)3 based in South Florida that claims to be “operated exclusively for charitable and educational purposes.” According to its website, it has assisted in numerous disasters, both inside the U.S. and overseas. Someone without any knowledge of the origins of AMER could easily believe that the “charity” is a worthy cause. Evidently that was the case, when DHS decided to dump thousands of dollars in AMER’s lap – $70,000, to be exact. However, when one looks at the group from which AMER came from, he/she will find that the government’s decision was nothing more than a terrifying lapse in judgment.
AMER is run by the American Muslim Association of North America (AMANA), out of AMANA’s North Miami Beach address. The President of both AMER and AMANA is Sofian Abdelaziz Zakkout. [AMER’s Vice President, Rasheed Mahamad, and Secretary/Treasurer, Mustafa Nassar, are also directors of AMANA.] Shortly after he incorporated AMANA in September of 1999, Zakkout became involved with the Health Resource Center for Palestine (HRCP) as its Vice President.
While Zakkout was a leader in HRCP, the group told its followers, for HRCP “News Information & Updates,” to view the websites of the Islamic Association for Palestine (IAP), the American propaganda wing of Hamas, and Free Jerusalem, a site that, on its homepage, lauded the life and death (“martyrdom”) of and featured numerous pictures of the former spiritual leader and founder of Hamas, Sheikh Ahmed Yassin. As well, while he was with HRCP, the group’s Secretary and Treasurer was Syed Khawer Ahmad, the former webmaster of the official website of the Islamic Association, Al-Jamiya Al-Islamia, the parent organization of Hamas located in Gaza.
Around this time, Zakkout also held the position of President of the Shamsuddin Islamic Center. He incorporated the center in November of 2000, and like AMER, Zakkout would use the AMANA address as the business address for Shamsuddin. In August of 2003, Shamsuddin would welcome Gulshair Shukrijumah, an individual who had been involved with at least two of those convicted for their part in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, as a Director of the mosque. Shukrijumah died less than one year later, after suffering a series of strokes said to have been derived from his son Adnan’s being named a “Global Terrorist” by the United States government. Zakkout, described in Gulshair’s obituary as “a family friend” of the Shukrijumahs, announced the death.
After finishing his tenure with HRCP (the group was shut down in April of 2003), Zakkout focused the majority of his activities on AMANA, including the creation of a full blown website, complete with a large amount of anti-Jewish, anti-Christian and anti-homosexual content. As well, within the site’s links section, there were links to Jihad in Chechnya, one of the main websites that was raising money and recruiting fighters for Al-Qaeda and the Taliban, and the Al-Haramain Foundation, an Islamic “charity” that has been banned worldwide by the United Nations for being a financing arm to Al-Qaeda and the Taliban. These links were placed on Zakkout’s site over a year after 9/11.
Today, AMANA’s website has been purged of much of its hatred and violence. Nevertheless, right on the group’s homepage, there are links to IslamiCity, a website that repeatedly calls for the murder of Jews and repeatedly “curses” Jews and Christians; the official website of Bilal Philips, an individual whose name was placed on the list of “unindicted co-conspirators” of the ‘93 bombing; and Islam Online, a site that features live dialogues with Hamas leaders and a ‘Fatwa Bank’ (religious ruling) section mandating terrorist attacks on Israeli civilians.
Found on AMANA’s website is a list of its advisors. One of the “AMANA Advisors” is Ibrahim Dremali, a former representative of the Southeast division of the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA-SE), an organization that told its web viewers to give “material support” to groups affiliated with Al-Qaeda. In addition, Dremali was a witness for the defense of convicted terrorist Adham Hassoun, during Hassoun’s August 2002 court hearing.
Zakkout had also defended Hassoun, stating, “They don't have anything against him. It's just because he is Muslim... The guy is clean.” Hassoun, meanwhile, had been charged with being part of a support cell that provided supplies, money and recruits to overseas terrorist organizations.
Prior to creating AMER, AMANA was involved in fundraising for Islamic Relief, a “charity” that the Israeli government has called a front for Hamas. Furthermore, the group’s logo has been seen in photographs taken inside the AMANA office.
With all of this in mind, one could easily ask how it was possible that AMER would be considered to receive funding from Homeland Security. It’s a question that those in DHS most certainly did not contemplate, when they made their decision to provide AMER with a grant. But now, in a stunning decision, based primarily on information exposing AMER and its parent organization’s terror ties, DHS has chosen to review the case.
In an official response from DHS, the following is read: “DHS through FEMA is currently reviewing the validity of several claims made in the grant application from which a determination was made to award DHS grant monies to AMANA. This review remains pending.”
While it would be an amazing change in direction for DHS to rescind the award, tragic mistakes, such as the giving of grants to those that wish us harm, have not been a rare occurrence. In far too many instances, the U.S. government has played a dangerous game of ‘Good cop/Bad cop’ with the enemy. However, the only winner in this game has been the enemy. Zakkout says that his organization deserves the DHS grant, because according to him, he “receives threats,” but what about the threat that Zakkout’s organization poses to us?
If, in the end, DHS decides to revoke the funding, it will have done the right thing. The hope is for this type of situation to never again be repeated.
Joe Kaufman is the chairman of Americans Against Hate and founder of CAIR Watch. Beila Rabinowitz is the director of Militant Islam Monitor.