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The Black Hearts of KindHearts By: Joe Kaufman
FrontPageMagazine.com | Tuesday, March 14, 2006

One of the problems with the war on terror is that, when organizations connected to terrorist groups overseas are shut down by the United States, far too many of those active in the groups are awarded freedom without punishment, enabled to continue their activities with impunity, while exploiting legal loopholes and public sentiment in which charity and cheerful-sounding names evoke.  KindHearts is one of those organizations.

In December of 2001, shortly after the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, three large Islamic charities were closed down, each accused of funneling millions of dollars to Al-Qaeda and/or Hamas.  A handful of the leaders of the groups – Benevolence International Foundation (BIF), Global Relief Foundation (GRF) and Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development (HLF) – were taken into custody.  This, while most of those involved were left untouched.


One of the lucky bunch, a public relations representative for GRF, Khaled Smaili, took the opportunity to fill the void that was left with the closures.  In January of 2002, Smaili’s brainchild, KindHearts, was born, with Smaili as President and C.E.O.


KindHearts for Charitable Humanitarian Development was incorporated as a “Domestic/Non-Profit” in Toledo, Ohio, far from the city lights of GRF’s Chicago surroundings.  Hatem El-Hady, a Toledo physician, became KindHearts’ Chairman of the Board, and Jihad Smaili, a Cleveland attorney (and Khaled’s older brother), became KindHearts’ legal counsel.  [Jihad is also the Registered Agent for KindHearts U.S.A., which was incorporated in June of 2003.]


The focus of KindHearts was on assisting “Palestinians,” both in Israel and in Lebanon.  “Orphan” sponsorships, medical centers, housing projects, and other pleasant-sounding programs were advertised and showcased by the organization.  However, there was a sinister component that underscored all that KindHearts did and stood for, and that was the group’s financial support for Hamas, the Islamic Resistance Movement.


To better accomplish this, Mohammed El-Mezain, a Hamas operative, was brought in as a fundraising specialist.  Previously, El-Mezain had utilized his expert skills as a fundraiser for HLF, and according to the Political Bureau Chief of Hamas, Khalid Mishal, El-Mezain was in fact the American leader for the group (Hamas).


In addition to this, according to tax exemption filings, KindHearts named the Islamic Association for Palestine (IAP), a now-defunct Hamas front, as its “Fundraiser Organizer” (as announced by Steven Emerson, during testimony before the United States Senate).  KindHearts got so close to the IAP that it made Abdelbaset Hemayel, the IAP’s former Director and Secretary General, an Illinois and Wisconsin Representative for KindHearts.


Other KindHearts officials with radical Islamist ties are:


  • KindHearts’ Director of Domestic Programs, Khalifah Ramadan.  Ramadan was a training and evaluation consultant for the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) and the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), two large Muslim organizations based in the United States that have links to overseas terror groups.
  • KindHearts’ Representaive, Omar Shahin.  Shahin was an Imam for the Islamic Center of Tucson (ICT), the former home of numerous terror operatives, including Wael Jelaidan, who later helped found Al-Qaeda.
  • KindHearts’ Representative, Wagdy Ghuneim.  Ghuneim, an Egyptian cleric, has been featured in KindHearts fundraising dinners for 2002, 2003 and 2004.  During a rally at Brooklyn College, in May of 1998, Ghuneim attempted to persuade the crowd to support violent jihad and labeled Jews as “descendants of the apes.”
  • KindHearts’ Representative, Hatem Bazian.  Bazian is an Islamic Studies instructor and a member of the faculty of Near Eastern Studies at UC Berkley.  In April of 2004, during a San Francisco anti-war rally, Bazian, a native Palestinian, called for an “intifada” against the United States.  This was just two months prior to Bazian being featured in a KindHearts Fundraising Dinner, entitled ‘Palestinians in agony!
  • KindHearts’ Manager in Lebanon, Haytham Maghawri (a.k.a. Haytham Fawri).  Maghawri, the past Social Services Director for HLF, according to the Treasury Department, “collected [KindHearts] funds and sent them to Hamas and other Salafi groups.”  [One of the recipients of KindHearts funding was Specially Designated Global Terrorist (SDGT) Usama Hamdan, a leader of Hamas in Lebanon.]

KindHearts’ nefarious activities led them to working with other terrorist charities.  This includes Hamas-affiliated Sanibil, which received at least $250,000 from KindHearts.  According to the FBI, KindHearts was depositing the funds “into the same account used by the Holy Land Foundation,” when HLF was providing funds to Sanabil.  Sanabil was named a Specially Designated Global Terrorist (SDGT) entity in August of 2003.  KindHearts President, Khalid Smaili, complained that law enforcement and intelligence were making it impossible for his organization to assist Hamas.


KindHearts also made its way into fanatic Muslim houses of worship.  In KindHearts’ Spring 2004 newsletter, Khalid Smaili is shown presenting the “Mosque of the Year” award to the President of the Mosque Foundation (a.k.a. Bridgeview Mosque) of Chicago, Osama Jammal.  The picture was taken during a KindHearts fundraising dinner, at the Mosque Foundation.  In a damaging report put out by the Chicago Tribune, leaders of the mosque are said to have “condemned Western culture” and “praised Palestinian suicide bombers.”


When Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast of the United States in August of 2005, the area was torn apart.  One of the states affected most was Louisiana.  KindHearts, in what appeared to be a “kind” gesture, partnered with the Islamic Center of Baton Rouge (ICBR), which made its center available to victims of the disaster.  However, ICBR was also the scene of a KindHearts terrorist fundraiser less than two years earlier, where $500,000 was raised.  Part of the money went towards the building of a new Baton Rouge mosque; most of it went to Hamas.


In October of 2005, KindHearts went in a new direction, as the result of another catastrophic incident.  After an earthquake ravaged the border area between Pakistan and Afghanistan, KindHearts created a South Asia division to respond to it.  The “charity” hired Zulfiqar Ali Shah to be its Director.  Shortly prior to this, Shah was the Chairman and C.E.O. of the Universal Heritage Foundation (UHF), an Islamic-oriented educational institution based in Kissimmee, Florida.


UHF turned heads, when it invited Shaikh Abdur-Rahman Al-Sudais, the chief cleric of the Grand Mosque in Mecca, to speak at its inaugural event held in December of 2003.  Al-Sudais had previously, on Saudi television, called for the murder of Jews, Christians and Americans and had referred to Jews as “the scum of the human race, the rats of the world, the killers of prophets, and the grandsons of monkeys and pigs.”


Besides his leadership with UHF, Shah had also been the President (Ameer) of the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA), a group with close ties to Jamaat-e-Islami, Pakistan’s version of the violent Muslim Brotherhood and strong supporter of Al-Qaeda.  This connection proved to be very important to KindHearts, as it soon forged a partnership with the Al-Khidmat Foundation, the charitable arm of Jamaat-e-Islami.


This South Asia initiative was short-lived, though.  KindHearts, which had been the subject of a two year Senate investigation into terrorism financing, on the date of February 19, 2006, was abruptly closed down by the United States, with all of its funds effectively frozen.  A “blocking notice” from the Treasury Department was taped to the padlocked, decorated glass doors of the West Toledo offices, stating “All property and interests in property of KindHearts for Charitable, Humanitarian Development, Inc., including its U.S. representative office and all other offices worldwide, are blocked pending investigation into whether KindHearts... is being controlled by, acting for, on behalf of, assisting in, or providing financial, or material support to, and/or otherwise being associated with Hamas.”


The same day government officials descended on KindHearts, three Toledo-area men were arrested, charged with plotting to carry out terror attacks against U.S. troops in Iraq and other overseas targets.  One of them had an additional charge of threatening the life of President George W. Bush.  The three – Mohammad Zaki Amawi, Marwan Othman El-Hindi, and Wassim Mazloum –  had spent over a year weapons training and trying to acquire and/or build explosives, including suicide belts.


The jihadi group frequented a small storefront mosque, At-Tawfeeq, which practiced a radical form of Islam known as Salafism.  Two of them also attended Masjid Saad Foundation (MSF), a mosque whose website features vehemently anti-Israel writings and articles of support for the GRF, HLF and KindHearts.  [The Registrant for KindHearts’ website, Mahir Sabra, who is currently the Assistant Vice President for Information Technology and Chairman of IT Administration at the Islamic University of Gaza, also had attended MSF.]


When asked if there were any connection between the closure of KindHearts and the arrests, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales stated that they are “separate investigations, but they're coordinated.”  From Amawi’s apartment, authorities seized knives, battle fatigues, computers, and records from KindHearts.  KindHearts documents were also found in El-Hindi’s home and in the travel agency he ran in Chicago.


According to documentation, Marwan Othman El-Hindi is the Registered Agent and Manager of Royal International, LLC.  Rafil Dhafir, who is currently serving out a 22 year sentence for his role as the head of an illegal Iraqi charity called Help the Needy, was a board member of Royal International.  El-Hindi and Dhafir also listed the same Oak Lawn, Illinois house as their residence.


The El-Hindi/Dhafir connection is not the only link to KindHearts Rafil Dhafir has.  On November 16, 2002, Rafil Dhafir, along with Zulfiqar Ali Shah, were featured speakers at a fundraiser for the Islamic Center of Boca Raton.  On May 10, 2003, Khaled Smaili was the featured speaker at the same Boca mosque.  All three of these individuals were involved in charities that have been closed by the United States, yet only one of the three is spending time behind bars.  Zulfiqar Ali Shah already has a new gig as the Religious Director of the Islamic Center of Milwaukee, and Khaled Smaili has been left to his own devices.  Something seems unfair about this!  Shouldn’t Shah and Smaili get the same treatment? 

KindHearts, the Hamas charity with Al-Qaeda affiliations, has been shut down, but many of its leaders, solicitors and staff remain free, awaiting their chance to start the next KindHearts, Holy Land or Global Relief.  The big question for the United States government is how long will this cycle of hatred and violence be allowed to continue?  When will those involved be shut down as well?

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

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