Shariah Charities & Zakat

The Laundering Lobbyist?

Former U.S. congressman Mark Siljander was indicted on money-laundering, conspiracy and obstruction charges related to his lobbying work for the Columbia, Mo.-based charity known as the Islamic American Relief Agency (IARA). According to federal prosecutors, IARA funneled money to an Al Qaeda-linked terrorist in Afghanistan who has vowed to wage a “holy war” against U.S. troops. Siljander has been accused of using $50,000 of stolen U.S. Government funds to represent the interests of IARA.

January 16, 2008
Washington, D.C.

When a U.S. Senate committee started investigating a controversial Islamic charity a few years ago, the group responded in the usual Washington way: it hired a politically connected lobbyist to get the panel off its scent. But that move may have backfired Wednesday when the lobbyist, former U.S. congressman Mark Siljander, was indicted on money-laundering, conspiracy and obstruction charges related to his lobbying work for the Columbia, Mo.-based charity known as the Islamic American Relief Agency (IARA).

The indictment, handed up by a federal grand jury in Kansas City, charges that Siljander—a Michigan Republican who was once named by President Ronald Reagan as a U.S. representative to the United Nations—pocketed about $50,000 in stolen U.S. government funds to represent the interests of an organization that, according to federal prosecutors, was funneling money to an Al Qaeda-linked terrorist in Afghanistan. The new charges against Siljander and IARA are some of the most surprising and boldest yet in a Justice Department crackdown against Islamic charities that has had more than its share of setbacks of late. The charges were also vehemently denied by lawyers for Siljander and the former executive director of IARA.

Siljander served in the House between 1981 and 1987, representing a Michigan district that was previously represented by David Stockman, the former OMB director who was indicted last year for allegedly defrauding investors about an automotive firm he once headed. Siljander, who now runs a Washington-area lobbying firm called Global Strategies, is "internationally recognized for his good-faith attempts to bridge the gap between Christian and Muslim communities worldwide," according to his lawyer, James R. Hobbs. Hobbs added that his client has never engaged in any "prohibited financial transactions with any U.S.-designated terrorist" and intends to plead not guilty.


Saudi Charity Begins...Nowhere

International Analyst Network
July 7, 2006
By Dr. Rachel Ehrenfeld

Upon hearing Warren Buffett’s announcement on June 25, 2006, of giving $37 billion to charitable foundations, mostly to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the director of the Council of American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), Nihad Awad, declared that Muslim organizations “are lagging behind,” only because of intimidation by the West. The Muslims, he said, are in “the cycle of fear,” [of] “being accused of funding suspicious organizations that fall under the scrutiny of anti-terrorism investigations.” One wonders why they are funding “suspicious organizations” in the first place.

Instead of blaming America and the West, as CAIR constantly does, it could initiate the establishment of a new Muslim foundation with a similar mission to that of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. This new Muslim foundation could supply immunization, HIV and anti-malarial medication, and medical means to reduce cervical cancer incidence and deaths in poor Muslim countries, feed millions of refugees from Muslim atrocities in Darfur, and generally “bring innovations in health” to Third World Muslim countries. Indeed, Awad himself pointed out that, “We in the Muslim world are lagging behind when we should be pioneers as per our Islamic beliefs.”

To be sure, there is no shortage in oil billionaires in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states. According to Forbes Magazine 2006 list of the World’s Richest People, Saudi and Gulf billionaires are worth at least $134 billion. Muslim billionaires in Egypt, Turkey and Lebanon are worth additional $29.4 billion. This is not taking into account Muslim billionaires and millionaires in Asia and elsewhere. Moreover, the oil boom in the Middle East generated at least 300,000, new wealthy millionaires in the region.


Ashcroft slow to prosecute Muslim charities who fund terror groups

The American Center for Democracy
August 11, 2004
By Dr. Rachel Ehrenfeld

Whenever the Attorney General's office announces a score in the War on Terror, it does so with great fanfare - and then too often drags its feet. What gives?

To emerge victorious in the war on terror, the United States and it allies need to quickly identify the direst threats and eliminate them with rapid, pinpoint responses.

On many fronts they are doing exactly that. Unfortunately, Attorney General John Ashcroft's Justice Department is moving too slowly to indict Islamic charitable groups in this country that collect and distribute millions of dollars to terrorists that kill innocent civilians in the Middle East daily.

It's been nearly a month, for instance, since Ashcroft, announced the indictment of the Texas-based Holy Land Foundation and its leaders for providing material support to the Hamas terrorist group.


Hamas from Cradle to Grave

“It is essential that Europe, the Gulf states, and other countries strictly regulate which Palestinian charities receive international aid and shut down front organizations raising funds for Hamas and other terrorist groups.” Many people see Hamas as divided into wings, most being social welfare-oriented, therefore ignoring or compartmentalizing its “military wing” which is responsible for innumerable acts of terror. However, Hamas’ leader, Sheikh Ahmad Yasin disagrees, "We cannot separate the wing from the body. If we do so, the body will not be able to fly. Hamas is one body." The State Department concurs: "As long as Hamas continues to rely on terrorism to achieve its political ends, we should not draw a distinction between its military and humanitarian arms, since funds provided to one can be used to support the other."

The Middle East Forum
Winter 2004
By Matthew Levitt

Over the past three years, the United States has uncovered just how systematically terrorist groups conceal their activities behind charitable, social, and political fronts. Investigators, faced with the threat posed by Al-Qa'ida and its many affiliates, have come to appreciate the crucial role played by charities, foundations, and individual donors, who funnel support to social service organizations. These same organizations effectively provide recruits, logistics, and cover for terrorists; part of the battle against terror has been an international effort to shut them down. Few experts are misled anymore by the fictitious entities put up by terrorist organizations. Indeed, many of these fronts have seen their officials arrested, their assets seized, and their offices closed down by authorities.

Yet there is one terrorist organization that still benefits from an ostensible distinction drawn by some analysts between its "military" and "political" or "social" wings: Hamas. Analysts who make such a distinction regularly dwell on the "good works" of Hamas, as though these activities had no connection whatsoever with the attacks on civilians and the suicide bombings that are the trademark of the organization. Because of the notion that Hamas has independent "wings," its political and charitable fronts are allowed to operate openly in many European and Middle Eastern capitals.

This distinction is convenient for certain governments and supporters of the Palestinian cause. It is certainly convenient for Hamas. However, it is totally contradicted by the consistent if scattered findings of investigators, journalists, and analysts. This article assembles and reviews the evidence for the integration of social service and terrorism in Hamas. That evidence demonstrates that the distinction is not only false but actually abets the very acts of terrorism that have thwarted all initiatives for peace.

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