Islamic Relief Canada (IRC) is celebrating proposed legal changes by the Canadian government that experts fear will benefit foreign terrorist groups that exploit international aid channels. According to its own records, IRC donated over $35 million to its parent organization – Islamic Relief Worldwide — which has been accused of using “charitable funds to provide material support to terrorism.”
IRC’s celebration began on December 23, 2022, when it released a short video celebrating Canada’s planned move to loosen restrictions on humanitarian aid to Afghanistan. “This past year, we launched our aid for Afghanistan campaign,” said the video’s narrator. “With your help, we demanded that our government allow aid to be provided to Afghanistan in need. This week we finally saw progress being made! Minister Sajjan [Canada’s Minister of International Development] stated that the government will be amending the Canadian criminal code. This will allow Canadian aid organizations to operate in Afghanistan without fear of criminal prosecution.”
The Trudeau government, which already sends a substantial amount of taxpayer funds to Afghanistan, apparently intends to loosen the restrictions on charitable aid to Afghanistan in the next few months. “The earliest time could be around springtime; it could go faster or it could take longer,” said Sajjan.
The move to loosen restrictions on charitable aid to Afghanistan comes in the face of growing concern that any aid to the country will end up in Taliban coffers. A recent article in the New York Sun asks, “‘Can America deliver humanitarian aid to a needy, impoverished country without lining the pockets of a terrorist organization’s bigwigs and furthering their cruel hold on power? It looks like the answer to that question is, ‘No.’”
The Sun further reports that the UN sends “cash to Afghanistan because the country’s central bank has been cut off from the international system.” According to the Sun, “‘Hard-to-trace cash deliveries meant for various UN agencies and ‘partners,’ however, go to Taliban-controlled banks, making it easy to finance Taliban pet projects and favored allies.’”
According to reporting by U.S. Army veteran, Jason Howk, the Taliban monitors all humanitarian aid into Afghanistan down to which people are allowed to work for the aid organizations. “This allows the regime to track where aid is going and to ensure they get loyalists into the system to re-direct the aid at the distribution point.”
These concerns are shared by Khalida Nawabi, who fled Afghanistan to another country and then the United States where she helped establish the “Free Afghanistan” movement. “Humanitarian aid money to Afghanistan supports the radicalization efforts of the Taliban,” Nawabi said. “In Kabul in the last six months the Taliban has built new madrasas, which they use for radicalization. They go from home to home rounding up children for ‘re-education’ at a madrasa.”
Despite such concerns, the Trudeau government remains intent on expanding humanitarian support to Afghanistan. In 2022, it allocated over $143 million in humanitarian assistance for the vulnerable in Afghanistan and the surrounding region. Geneviève Tremblay, Spokesperson for Global Affairs Canada, told FWI that the agency works with a range of organizations in Afghanistan, including the UN, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to continue to deliver international assistance to Afghanistan. Both the UN and the ICRC reportedly send financial aid into the country via cash shipments.
Canadian officials began laying the ground work for the policy change regarding charitable aid in 2017 when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau appeared in an IRC promotional video released during Ramadan. In the video, he praised IRC’s spirit of shared Canadian values. As the video shows aid workers packing boxes, Trudeau says, “This is certainly in the spirit of Ramadan but also of our shared values as Canadians.” Trudeau then obliquely dismissed criticism of Islamist groups. “Everywhere around the world people are challenged looking at fault lines, looking at differences, pushing back against people who are different because of fear, because of intolerance, because of ignorance, and the more we can do to show that we share values…the better the world we’ll build,” said Trudeau.
In 2018, a group of Canadians, including two Muslims and a former intelligence officer, asked the Royal Canadian Mounted Police to launch a criminal investigation into the Trudeau government and Members of Parliament for funding terrorism with taxpayer funds. The complaint noted that “IRC in turn is sending millions of dollars to Islamic Relief Worldwide (IRW)” and that IRW “uses charitable funds to provide material support to terrorism.” Over half of IRW’s funding comes from various Islamic Relief branches—including IRC. IRW’s 2021 annual report shows IRC is the third largest donor to IRW at £29.8 million.
Both Israel and the United Arab Emirates have designated IRW for terror-financing, and both Swiss bank UBS and British bank HSBC have closed IRW accounts due to concerns over terror finance. Over the decades of Islamic Relief Worldwide’s existence, its leadership has been tied to the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas. The German government says both IRW and its German branch (Islamic Relief Deutschland) have “significant ties” to the Muslim Brotherhood. And the U.S. State Department says the organization has a problem with “blatant and horrifying anti-Semitism and glorification of violence exhibited at the most senior levels of IRW,” and “this record of anti-Semitism presents a significant issue for all donors and donor countries to IRW.”
Hany El-Banna, a current board member for Canada’s branch of Islamic Relief, cofounded Islamic Relief Worldwide. El-Banna praised the work of Muslim Brotherhood founder “and advocate of violent jihad, Hassan Al-Banna.” El-Banna himself served as member of the Federation of Student Islamic Societies, which the British government now considers a Muslim Brotherhood group.
Another individual who worked for the IRC, Yaser Haddara, directed the Canadian branch of Islamic Relief from 2005-2011. He and his brother, Wael, traveled to Egypt to help the Muslim Brotherhood gain power, helping elect the Muslim Brotherhood’s President of Egypt, Morsi in 2012. Both brothers reportedly served as senior advisors to Morsi. Wael Haddara served as a director of Islamic Relief for the Afflicted and Needy-Canada (IRFAN-Canada). The government of Canada listed IRFAN-Canada a “terrorist entity” in 2014 for transferring “$14.6 million worth of resources to various organizations associated with Hamas, a listed terrorist entity…”
And yet another of IRC’s leaders is El-Tantawy Attia. Attia currently serves as a member of the board of directors for IRC and as Executive Director of Toronto Masjid. At the masjid he has reportedly said, “Here, we follow the teachings of the Muslim Brotherhood.”
Yet another individual with notable ties is Abdelmonem Daymi – known as “Monem.” Monem currently directs special programs for the Canadian branch of Islamic Relief. Prior to his IRC tenure, he worked for Islamic Relief Tunisia. In 2019 the Tunisian government opened an investigation into Daymi for funding terrorism, and the results of that investigation have not yet been made public. One government report claims that $50,000 of Islamic Relief Tunisia monies funded jihad in Libya. Daymi also founded and served as the director of Tunisia Charity, an arm of Qatar Charity, which Tunisian lawmakers called for investigating due to suspected funding of terrorism.
Nawabi, whose family members were murdered by the Taliban and who has been threatened by unknown parties for speaking out warns that sending any money, public or private, to Afghanistan is a bad policy. “Aid to Afghanistan strengthens the Taliban. It would be better for us to die, than allow humanitarian aid into Afghanistan. There has to be another way to help.”
Susannah Johnston is Focus on Western Islamism’s investigative reporter.