Investigation: Foundations Gave Millions To Groups Accused Of Terror Ties
By: Peter Hassan
Major American foundations have given millions of dollars in funding to Islamic organizations accused of having ties to radical Islamist movements or designated terrorist organizations and a group of activists are trying to convince them to stop.
Groups like Islamic Relief Worldwide, which some countries have banned for allegedly funding Hamas and other terrorist organizations, have received millions of dollars from corporate charities like the GE Foundation, community foundations like the Silicon Valley Community Foundation, and independent foundations like George Soros' Open Society Foundation. (RELATED: Soros Transfers $18 BILLION To His Open Society Foundations)
Researchers with the Middle East Forum, an activist group devoted to promoting American interests abroad, identified the financial stream from American foundations to seven Islamic groups with radical ties: Islamic Relief Worldwide and its sister organization in the United States - Islamic Relief USA, the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), the Muslim American Society (MAS), the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA), the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) and, despite rebounding from highly damaging terrorist allegations in 2008, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR).
The various foundations have given $5.8 million to these seven groups since 2000, IRS filings show, with $5.6 million of that taking place since 2008.
In total, 46 corporate foundations, eight community foundations, nine private foundations and one donor-advised fund have given money to these seven groups.
The MEF researchers tried - with very limited success - to privately persuade every foundation on the list to cease giving money to the seven groups, before sharing their findings exclusively with TheDC. In the interest of transparency, TheDC included the entire list of donations - with accompanying documentation - at the bottom of this article.
All seven groups have all been accused of having ties either to radical Islamist movements or to designated terrorist organizations.
The Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA) supports the establishment of an Islamic caliphate and has ties to a radical Pakistani political group called Jamaat-e-Islami. Al-Qaeda recruiter Anwar al-Awlaki spoke at an event for the ICNA in 2002. ICNA members have been involved in terroristic activities in the United States. One woman was arrested in 2015 for allegedly planning a terrorist attack had spoken at multiple ICNA events. Five students who were arrested for terrorist activities in 2009 were all members of an ICNA mosque in Alexandria, Va. (RELATED: New York Terrorist's Mosque Has Ties To Fundamentalist Islamic Umbrella Group)
A 2010 handbook given to members of ICNA's sister wing revealed the group's goal of "a united Islamic state, governed by an elected khalifah (caliph) in accordance with the laws of shari'ah (sharia)." ICNA did not return a request for comment. Read an in-depth look at ICNA's radical ties here.
Islamic Relief Worldwide is an Islamic charity that Israel and the United Arab Emirates have both banned for allegedly financing terrorist activities. The organization, which has affiliate organizations around the world including in the U.S., claims an independent audit cleared it of those allegations.
Islamic Relief has previously accepted tens of thousands of dollars from the Charitable Society for Social Welfare, a now-defunct Islamic charity founded by Sheik Abd-al-Majid al-Zindani.
Both the U.S. and the United Nations designated al-Zindani a terrorist in 2004. Federal prosecutors in 2005 described Zindani's organization as "a front organization" that was "used to support al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden," The Washington Post reported in 2008.
Islamic Relief accepted funding from the al-Qaeda-linked group as recently as 2009, according to their annual report filed that year. That report has since been deleted from Islamic Relief's website, although it can still be seen in cached form here.
The group's founder, Dr. Essam El-Haddad, was a senior official for the Muslim Brotherhood government in Egypt.
An investigation by the Gatestone Institute concluded that Islamic Relief Worldwide "appears to be a hub for donations from charities accused of links to Al Qaeda and other terror groups.
Islamic Relief USA described Islamic Relief Worldwide as a "sister organization" in a statement to TheDC, but denounced that either organization has radical ties.
Their full statement is below:
Mr. Westrop and his colleagues at Middle East Forum, along with other apparently Islamophobic publications, continue to pedal the same nonsensical claims that have been debunked time and time again. The only thing credible that the Middle East Forum has ever said in their posts is a sentence that states that Islamic Relief does "laudable work" in providing clean water and food for those suffering from hunger or food insecurity.
This is why corporations donate to Islamic Relief USA, because of our laudable work. Like any good and successful corporation, it invests in a good product. Islamic Relief is as good a product as there is.
We have never encouraged an ideology of hatred and violence. We stand for humanitarianism and abide by the principles of neutrality, impartiality, humanity and independence. That is why we engage in disaster relief, feeding the hungry, and run education programs in more than 38 countries around the world, serving anyone in need regardless of religion, race, or gender.
We have never funded terrorist organizations like Hamas. We have strong accountability mechanisms in place to ensure that our funds are not diverted to listed entities and our finances are regularly audited to ensure strong accountability. We fund programs based on need, not on ideology. We submit ourselves to several voluntary sectoral standards. In fact, Charity Navigator has consistently rated us as a four-star organization, and a recent Business Insider article listed us as among the best charities to support with donations for Hurricane Harvey.
Independent investigations have debunked the claims made by Israel. Also, the United Kingdom-based Disasters Emergency Committee, has said Islamic Relief Worldwide, our sister organization, is satisfied in how our the organization has robust systems in place to ensure aid money is properly accounted for and spent appropriately. They added that there isn't any evidence that IR used funds inappropriately.
It is not about, nor has it ever been, about advocating or perpetuating terrorist dogma. We welcome people to scrutinize our finances, as time and time again, we have proven our donations are spent to solely uplift people.
A spokesperson for GE Foundation told TheDC that it has determined Islamic Relief Worldwide doesn't meets the corporate charity's standards, which the spokesperson said includes compliance with IRS designations and the U.S. Patriot Act.
The group's sister organization, Islamic Relief USA, still meets GE's standards, the spokesperson said.
The Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) is a group with ties to the Muslim Brotherhood. The group, which declined a request for comment, has lobbied Washington to remove two militant groups, Hamas and Hezbollah, from its list of designated terrorist organizations. MPAC's founder, Salam al-Marayati, once suggested that Israel was behind the September 11 terrorist attacks.
The Muslim American Society (MAS) "was founded as the overt arm of the Muslim Brotherhood in America," federal prosecutors said in a 2008 court filing. (RELATED: Keith Ellison Failed To Disclose Group Tied To Muslim Brotherhood Sponsored Mecca Pilgrimage)
In 2009, MAS and ICNA held a convention that, according to the ADL, "served as a forum for religious scholars and political activists to rail against Jews, call for the eradication of the state of Israel and accuse the United States government as waging a war against Muslims at home and abroad." The group did not return an email seeking comment.
The Council of American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) faced damaging accusations of terror ties in 2008 and 2009, although the organization has rebounded to the extent that it is welcomed within the mainstream Left.
CAIR was named an un-indicted co-conspirator in the 2008 Holy Land Foundation terror financing trial. The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) has said that CAIR was founded by "leaders of the Islamic Association for Palestine (IAP), a Hamas affiliated anti-Semitic propaganda organization." The ADL has accused CAIR of pushing an "anti-Israel agenda" and of being soft on Islamic terrorism.
A federal judge concluded in 2009 that there is "ample evidence" of ties between three U.S.-based organizations, including CAIR and the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), and radical Islamic groups such as Hamas, which the State Department has designated a terrorist organization.
"Almost all of the foundations we asked to stop funding Islamist groups told us the same thing: all they looked for was an active 501(c)3 status. The side effect of this is that foundations end up funding all sorts of racist and anti-Semitic hate groups. Under these foundations' standards, for example, an eligible 501(c)3 would be the New Century Foundation, a notorious white supremacist group," said David Swindle, a coordinator for Islamist Watch, a project of the Middle East Forum.
"Islamist groups like the Council on American-Islamic Relations and Islamic Relief fall into this same category of utilizing charitable status to obscure long histories of promoting and funding extremism and hate."
The Foundations Behind Them
The foundations funding the seven Islamic groups fall into four categories: corporate charities, community foundations and independent foundations and donor-advised foundations.
Independent Foundations: Soros And Gates Lead The Way
George Soros' Open Society Foundations and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation have combined for more than $2 million in donations to at least one of the seven groups since 2011.
OSF gave $625,000 to ISNA between 2011 and 2015. (RELATED: Leaked Memo Shows Soros Group Funded 'Opposition Research' On Critics Of Radical Islam)
OSF sent a lengthy answer in response to questions about ISNA's ties and OSF's financial support of the group:
The Islamic Society of North America is one of the largest mainstream Muslim organizations in the United States. The group runs youth leadership programs, promotes efforts to improve the governance of mosques, promotes gender inclusivity, and works with members of the Catholic and Jewish communities on interfaith programs, among other activities. The group's leadership has partnered with the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Defense in Democratic and Republican administrations alike to make the country safer. And they've joined State Department-sponsored travels abroad to promote the benefits of U.S.-style democracy.
Unfortunately, the organization has long been a favorite target of extremist anti-Muslim hate groups, who continue to circulate discredited information in an effort to stain their good reputation. The Open Society Foundations is proud to support ISNA's work on the Shoulder to Shoulder Campaign, an interfaith effort to stand up against hate crimes and anti-Muslim bigotry.
The Gates Foundation gave more than $1.3 million to Islamic Relief Worldwide in 2014. The Gates Foundation, which did not reply to a message seeking comment, told the MEF researchers that they currently have no plans for future donations to Islamic Relief, but refused to commit to not funding Islamic Relief in the future.
The Gates Foundation told the researchers they rely on the left-wing Southern Poverty Law Center in determining whether a group the foundation is giving money to constitutes a "hate group." The SPLC is known for smearing mainstream conservative organizations as "hate groups." (RELATED: SPLC Says Army Bases Are Confederate Monuments That Need To Come Down)
The Ploughshares Fund, which was used to create an "echo chamber" in favor of the Iran deal in 2015, gave $10,000 to Islamic Relief's American arm in both 2015 and 2016. Ploughshares did not return an email seeking comment.
The full list of independent foundations that have given to the seven groups can be seen below:
Corporate Foundations: Intel, GE, Johnson & Johnson, Verizon and more.
GE Foundation gave more to groups on the list than any other corporate foundation - more than $537,000. That money went to Islamic Relief (both the worldwide organization and its U.S. affiliate) and ICNA.
A spokesperson for GE said that, after reviewing Islamic Relief Worldwide, the company will no longer be giving money to the group.
"We regularly review the charities we support to certify compliance with IRS 501(c)(3) status or equivalent for non-U.S. organizations as well as the U.S. Patriot Act, and determined Islamic Relief Worldwide did not meet these standards," a spokesperson for GE said.
GE will, however, continue funding Islamic Relief USA, the group's sister organization in the United States.
Altogether, corporate foundations accounted for more than $2.3 million in donations to the radical groups.
Virtually all of the donations from corporate foundations from employee matching programs, in which companies will match any employee's donation to 501(c)3 charitable organizations. In other words, the seven Islamic organizations likely weren't vetted before the corporate foundations gave them money.
A spokesperson for the Verizon Foundation, which had the sixth largest record of donations to groups on the list, emphasized to TheDC that the corporate charity did not make donations to any of these groups aside from matching employee contributions.
See the full list of corporate foundations' support for the seven groups below:
Unlike the corporate charities, community foundations would have specifically chosen the recipient organizations for their donations.
The Silicon Valley Community Foundation, which claims to be the largest community foundation in the world, gave more than $330,000 to CAIR and Islamic Relief between 2008 and 2015, IRS filings show.
A group of self-described "moderate Muslims" implored the foundation in a letter to cease giving donations to the two groups, which they described as Islamist and opposed to Western values. The letter said that Islamic Relief "gives charitably to terrorist sympathizers and enablers, including affiliates of Hamas."
Signatories of the letter included Muslim academics and representatives from organizations including the Center for Islamic Pluralism and Muslims Facing Tomorrow.
Five Republican congressmen wrote a similar letter to the foundation in June, asking them to cease giving money to CAIR and Islamic Relief. The foundation has given no indication that they plan to cease funding the two groups. A spokesperson for SVCF pointed TheDC to a statement the foundation released in August, standing by its support for CAIR and Islamic Relief.
See the full list of community foundation donations to the seven groups below:
Donors gave more than $450,000 to groups on this list through Schwab Charitable Fund between 2007 and 2015. The fund allows donors to give input on where their money goes, but the ultimate decision lies with Schwab.
Five groups received money through Schwab Charitable Fund: Islamic Relief, CAIR, ISNA, MPAC and ICNA.
See the full donation list below:Terrorism, Hamas, Global Jihad, Soros, U.S. Foundations, GE Foundation, Silicone Valley