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ICNA Dollars for Hamas and Wildfires By: Joe Kaufman
FrontPageMagazine.com | Monday, November 05, 2007

Evidently the folks at the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) are not paying attention to those whom they are allowing to affiliate with their organization.  According to the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA), an umbrella group for South Asian-oriented mosques and Islamic centers throughout the United States and Canada, its subsidiary “ICNA Relief USA” has been recognized by FEMA for its Hurricane Katrina relief.  Considering ICNA Relief’s recent association with the financing of Hamas abroad, FEMA, a division of Homeland Security, may want to review its policy concerning certain organizations it lets participate in its programs.

Through FEMA’s Public Assistance Grant Program, aid is provided to “certain Non-Profit organizations to alleviate suffering and hardship resulting from major disasters or emergencies declared by the President.”  However, if an organization that is being provided this assistance is also helping to finance an overseas terrorist organization, then any “suffering and hardship” that is “alleviated” – if any – would undoubtedly be canceled out by the agony created by the terrorist acts.

While ICNA Relief has the benefit of being a “tax exempt” organization within the U.S., the group, at the same time, engages with a foreign entity that finances Hamas.

In August of 2006, Jamaat-e-Islami (JI), the Muslim Brotherhood of Pakistan, announced on its website that its charity, the Al-Khidmat Foundation (AKF), had given six million rupees – the equivalent of $99,000 – to the head of Hamas, Khaled Mashaal.  In turn, Mashaal, who resides in Damascus, Syria, thanked the group for the money and said that it would be used by Hamas to further terrorist attacks against Israelis.

At the time of the transaction, ICNA Relief USA was the top donor to AKF, and according to AKF’s website, that is still the case.  This certainly creates a conflict of interest with regard to ICNA’s association with FEMA.  On the one hand, the group claims to be aiding those in need.  On the other, the group is helping to destroy people’s lives.

On October 25th, ICNA announced its involvement in relief efforts concerning the wildfires of Southern California.  Stated on the group’s site was/is the following: “ICNA’s Southern California chapter has partnered with several local organizations to provide shelter, evacuation help and immediate relief and long term help for those in need.”  According to the site, an entity titled “ICNA Relief USA’s Wildfires Disaster Response” was created for this purpose, and ICNA is currently asking for donations for it.

The site further states that ICNA Southern California is appealing to the Muslim Community “to join the special congregational prayer for relief from the fire and for rain to end the drought.”  The prayers will be held at the Islamic Society of Orange County (ISOC), the place where Al-Qaeda spokesman Adam Gadahn became a Muslim and where the spiritual leader of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, Omar Abdel Rahman, had been an invited guest lecturer.

The press contact for ICNA’s wildfire work is the group’s Secretary General Naeem Baig, who claimed in July of this year that ICNA has “no relations – no links – to any organization or any country outside the United States.”  This, of course, is a denial of reality, as Baig’s statement completely disregards ICNA’s relationship with JI, AKF, Hamas, and even ICNA’s own charity, Helping Hand, which has an office in Islamabad, Pakistan.

It is the contradictions of ICNA that do harm to the group’s claims, which at face value seem commendable.  As stated on its website, “ICNA Relief USA is committed to offering services and assistance to those struck by disaster within the United States. Partnering with Red Cross, FEMA, and other leading disaster relief agencies, ICNA Relief USA is becoming one of the forefront Islamic relief agencies within the United States.”

For ICNA, having a relationship with groups like FEMA and the Red Cross is a win-win situation on many fronts.  The group gains legitimacy; the group gets to ask for more donations and possibly receives government grants; the group gains praise for helping the community; and lastly, the group gets to perform ‘dawah’ or outreach (for the express purpose of conversion), whilst exposing the most vulnerable in society to Islam.  But what’s good for ICNA may very well be the exact opposite for America and her allies abroad.  As long as ICNA remains associated with Jamaat-e-Islami, and as long as it continues to play a role in the financing of Hamas, the group’s “good deeds” cannot be seen as anything but pointless and dishonest.

Hurricane Katrina left death and destruction in its wake.  FEMA was charged with the task of divvying up federal funds in order to rebuild towns and survivors’ lives.  The money numbered in the tens of billions.  In the aftermath, a massive investigation was launched checking for possible waste and/or corruption concerning the funds.  Questions arose, with regard to the money trail.

Given ICNA’s ties to overseas extremist groups, and given that the money transfer to Hamas from AKF took place while the Katrina relief effort was in high gear, a new question needs to be asked and investigated: Being a “partner” to FEMA, as ICNA Relief USA has declared itself to be, did part of that money trail lead to ICNA?  And if the answer is indeed “yes,” then did a portion of that part, against the government’s wishes, ‘terrifyingly’ make its way elsewhere?

Joe Kaufman is the Chairman of Americans Against Hate and the founder of CAIR Watch.

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