The Obama administration recently gave a $270,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to Muslim charity known as Islamic Relief Worldwide (IRW). Based in the United Kingdom, it has been however banned by Israel and the United Arab Emirates because of its alleged financial ties to Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood, both of which are tied to terrorism.
HHS gave funds to IRW in February for the group’s work in Kenya as part of a global partnership health initiative that is managed by the Atlanta-based federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). According to the CDC, the goal of the health initiatve is to fight infectious diseases and promote “global health security as an international priority.”
As of 2014, Israel and United Arab Emirates banned IRW from operating from within their respective borders. The two governments allege that IRW supports Hamas, a militant terrorist group that conducts rocket attacks and assassinations in Israel and Palestine. Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon of Israel alleged in July of 2014 that the IRW in the West Bank and Gaza Strip were controlled by Hamas. “The IRW is one of the sources of Hamas’s funding and a means for raising funds from various countries in the world,” Yaalon said. “We do not intend to allow it to function and abet terrorist activity against Israel.”
Evidence of IRW complicity with terror goes back at least to 2006, when the Israeli Security Agency arrested Iyaz Ali, a British national born in Pakistan who worked on IRW’s operations in the West Bank. The Israeli Defense Ministry stated that Iyaz transferred fund and other assistance to outlawed Hamas organization. Iyaz admitted to have worked with Hamas in Jordan. “The IRW provides support and assistance to Hamas’s infrastructure,” the statement continued, alleging that IRW’s operations are “controlled and staffed by Hamas operatives.” The security agency said further, “The intensive activities of these associations are designed to further Hamas’s ideology among the Palestinian population.”
Then, in November 2014, the United Arab Emirates added IRW to its list of terrorist organizations. The London-based HSBC bank also cut itself off from IRW, having cited the group’s terrorist ties.
Despite the evidence, IRW continues to strongly deny that it has associations with Hamas or terrorist acts. However, the Obama administration has nevertheless cheered the IRW’s work on international relief.
According to Ryan Mauro of the Clarion Project, a watchdog group that tracks Islamist activity, the involvement of Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood with the IRW should disqualify it from receiving federal funding.
Besides the $270,000 IRW received through HHS, it also received another $100,000 in a stipend from the U.S. Agency for International Development. Mauro said, “Don’t taxpayers deserve to have their money go to a humanitarian group without such risks?” He added, “If you want to give it to a Muslim group, then give it to one without an Islamist history so we can build up better alternatives.”
Some fifty members of Congress have expressed opposition to funding the IRW. Among them is Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas.
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