Saturday, May 18, 2024

Biden Gave $5 Million to Terror-Tied Islamists in 2023 (But Still Much Less than Trump)

ResearchGovernment Funding of IslamismBiden Gave $5 Million to Terror-Tied Islamists in 2023 (But Still Much Less than Trump)

The federal government handed another five million dollars to Islamist organizations in 2023, FWI research has uncovered.

During the entire of Biden’s term so far, between 2021 and the present, his administration has provided almost one hundred and fifty domestic Islamic organizations with grants (and a few contracts) worth $60 million. Over $14 million of this funding has been given to thirty-eight organizations identified by FWI as Islamist-run or influenced.

Under Biden, the federal government’s average yearly funding of domestic Islamists is one third of what it was under Trump, even upon excluding COVID handouts from the Small Business Administration.

But the Biden administration’s payouts are still considerable.

The violent Islamist movement Jamaat-e-Islami, responsible for acts of brutal terrorism and mass-slaughter in South Asia, has perhaps benefited the most consistently. Nine grants worth a total of $2.5 million, provided by the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Homeland Security, and the Department of Justice, were handed out in the past few years to ICNA Relief, the sister organization of the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA), the self-admitted North American branch of Jamaat-e-Islami.

Another $450,000 was handed over to ICNA itself as well as one of its local branches in Illinois, ICNA-Rockford. Some $188,000 was given to Helping Hand for Relief and Development (HHRD), ICNA’s international aid arm.

In 2018, the Middle East Forum uncovered that HHRD partnered with designated terrorist organization Lashkar-e-Taiba in Pakistan. This and other evidence of ICNA and HHRD’s extremism and terror ties has since led to multiple inquiries by Congress, as well as an official investigation launched by the Inspector General for the United States Agency for International Development in 2021.

A federal investigation into the charity, however, was apparently not enough to stop subsequent appropriations to HHRD and its parent organization, ICNA.

About $700,000 of taxpayers’ money given to ICNA Relief was handed out under the Refugee Cash and Medical Assistance program, a federal program run by the Department of Health and Human Services, under which refugees are provided with direct cash grants, among other benefits.

Meanwhile, the White House, just days before the October 7 attacks, hosted a “roundtable” with officials from ICNA Relief, as well as other Islamist groups.

Perhaps even more serious is the federal government’s involvement with one of the wealthiest Islamist networks in America. The federal government has signed contracts and grants with two organizations from the SAAR network, a collection of businesses and nonprofits in Virginia, some of which were investigated by the federal government in the 2000s on terror finance suspicions. Today, the SAAR network includes hundreds of charities, nonprofits, financial firms, media, thinktanks and even poultry businesses, all from its base in northern Virginia.

Since 2021, two organizations controlled by SAAR network officials, CommunityForce Incorporated, and the Fairfax University of America (which only educates a mere 43 students), have received $4.6 million and $436,000 of taxpayers’ monies respectively. 

While the SAAR network’s leading nonprofit organization, the International Institute of Islamic Thought (IIIT), appears not to have received federal funding directly, overseas, the U.S. government did hand over $573,000 to the International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM), a key global Islamist center of learning and a key institution for the SAAR network’s operations in the far-East. The IIUM and IIIT share a founder: AbdulHamid AbuSulayman, whom one federal investigator has described as among IIIT’s “ardent supporters” of the designated terror organizations Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. AbuSulayman is not the only shared official. The current chair of IIIT and a former IIUM president is Anwar Ibrahim, Malaysia’s current Islamist Prime Minister.

Most of the money to SAAR’s Communityforce Incorporated, meanwhile, was provided by the U.S. Air Force, reportedly for the provision of software support services for USAF’s “Force Modernization and Sustainment Automated Management System.”

CommunityForce officials include Mohammad Omar Ashraf, a key SAAR network operative whose home was included in a list of residences to be searched as outlined in a 2003 federal affidavit alleging “a group of individuals … suspected of providing material support to terrorists, money laundering, and tax evasion through the use of a variety of related for-profit companies and ostensible charitable entities under their control.”

Other CommunityForce officials include Firas Barzinji, who also serves as an attorney for other SAAR network institutions, and is involved with other Muslim Brotherhood-founded groups such as the Islamic Society of North America. Firas is the son of the late Jamal Barzinji, a prominent American Islamist and SAAR member, about whom federal agent David Kane declared: “I believe that Barzinji is not only closely associated with PIJ  [Palestinian Islamic Jihad] (as evidenced by ties to [convicted PIJ financer Sami] Al-Arian, including documents seized in Tampa in 1995 reflecting direct correspondence between Barzinji and Al-Arian), but also with HAMAS.”

CommunityForce documents report a total of $45 million of federal contracts, although these total sums are not corroborated in published federal spending datasets (which are updated somewhat inadequately and infrequently).

Other new recipients of federal grants under Biden include the Islamic House of Wisdom (IHW). In 2023, the Department of Homeland Security handed the mosque over $330,000, despite the institution’s role as a major supporter of the hostile Iranian regime and its underpinning Shia Islamist ideology.

According to a 1993 report commissioned by the United States Institute of Peace, the founder of IHW, Mohammad Ali Elahi, arrived in the United States in 1991 on a four month visa “to inspect American branches of Hizballah (Tehran’s network of agents) and to reinforce Tehran’s influence on Shi’ite communities.” A congressional letter to the United States Attorney General in 2023, signed by nine representatives, further noted that “since moving to the US, [Elahi] has had seemingly non-stop contact with senior regime officials. … According to investigative journalists, IHW has been a significant purveyor of extremist propaganda, in line with the Iranian regime’s views.”

A Deobandi madrassa, Darul Uloom New Jersey, received $150,000 from the Department of Homeland Security. The Darul Uloom appears to be a key platform for Tablighi Jamaat, a Deobandi missionary organization which counter-terror analysts and law enforcement widely consider to be an incubator for jihadist radicalization.

In 2021, the federal government handed $148,000 to another Deboandi organization, named Rahmat-e-Alam. As uncovered previously by FWI, officials at Rahmat-e-Alam and its projects sanction physical beatings of students, while also managing several private Islamic schools in the United States.

The Biden administration, across its term so far, has handed $360,000 to the Chicago and New York branches of the Muslim American Society (MAS), which federal prosecutors named in 2008 as the “overt arm of the Muslim Brotherhood in the United States.” In 2019, the Philadelphia branch of MAS received national media attention after it organized an event featuring songs about torturing and beheading Jews.

Another Muslim Brotherhood-founded organization, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), has also benefited from the taxpayer’s largesse. In 2022, the Oklahoma branch of CAIR was handed $249,000 by the Department of Health and Human Services.

FWI has already reported on examples of the Biden administration’s other funding to Islamist organizations in 2021 and 2022. These include $274,000 from the Food and Nutrition Service to the Islamic Center of Detroit,  a mosque with a history of giving platforms to radical preachers. Another $145,000 was given to the Al-Aqsa Islamic Society, whose imam, Abdelmohsen Abouhatab, has denounced Jews as the “vilest people.”

In 2022, the federal government handed $247,000 to Al-Furqaan Foundation, a prominent Salafi group that also receives support from the Qatari regime. An undercover FWI investigation in 2022 found that books sold by Al-Furqaan Foundation included texts advocating jihad and peddling 9/11 conspiracy theories.

Federal funding for Islamist organizations is evidently concerning. That said, most Islamist organizations in the West have become independently wealthy, and do not subsist on government funding. But federal support does not just serve to finance, but to legitimize as well. Federal contracts and grant agreements help Islamist movements impose control over American Muslim communities, while sidelining underfunded, moderate Muslim competitors.

The federal government is one of the largest funders of lawful Islamism in the West. The amounts handed out under the Biden administration, however, are substantially less than provided by the Trump administration, which gave almost $18 million to domestic Islamists in 2018 alone.

The Trump administration, in fact, handed out, on average, almost three times as much taxpayers’ money to domestic radical Islamic groups than the Obama or Biden administrations.

Some things do not change, however. Biden’s federal government has also encouraged Islamists to become involved with government initiatives, met with senior Islamist leaders and appointed Islamist-linked officials as staff and public officials.

However, unlike the Trump administration, the Biden White House has, at least, distanced itself from groups such as the Council on American-Islamic Relations, and its Islamist head, Nihad Awad. Also under Biden, the Inspector General at the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) opened an investigation into Helping Hand for Relief and Development (HHRD) and the federal funding it has received, all as a result of the Middle East Forum’s research into HHRD’s terror ties.

As one Muslim-American blog declared at the end of the Trump administration: “The Donald was good for business.” For many Islamists, Biden’s administration has been less helpful than expected, and certainly less generous.

There are perhaps deeper reasons for the contrast. The politics and allegiances of conservativism and Islamism have undergone significant change at the edges. There are now plenty within the GOP who have noted the growing support for the Republican Party within Islamist circles. There is also a growing Republican appreciation of the Islamist distaste for progressivism.

It is particularly striking that some Islamist leaders in the “uncommitted” vote campaign that targeted the Democratic primaries appear openly supportive of a second Trump term.

Whatever the reasons, neither party has behaved well. Islamists have enjoyed funding and legitimacy, while reformist, anti-Islamist Muslims have been left unsupported and ignored. At best, based on the existing evidence, one could at least hope a second Biden term might lead to fewer dollars financing domestic Islamist causes.

Sam Westrop is director of Islamist Watch, a project of the Middle East Forum.

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