Muslim Aid: the Hamas connection

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Date : Wednesday, 7 April 2010
Author : Andrew Gilligan
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Here is the full text of the article which appeared in The Sunday Telegraph last month, not previously published online:

A CHARITY praised last week by Gordon Brown and the Prince of Wales has channelled hundreds of thousands of pounds to groups linked to Hamas, the banned terrorist organisation, according to security sources.The Prime Minister and the heir to the throne personally praised Muslim Aid, whose own accounts show it has paid at least £325,000 to the Islamic University of Gaza, where leading Hamas figures teach, and £13,998 to the al-Ihsan Charitable Society, designated by the US government as a “sponsor of terrorism” and a front for the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorist group.

Security sources also claim that Muslim Aid has helped channel a further £210,600 to six other organisations in the Gaza Strip since July 2009, all of which they say are linked to Hamas.

Muslim Aid is banned from the West Bank by the Israeli government, which says it is a member of the Union of Good, an alliance of charities that raise money for Hamas. Hamas is banned throughout the EU as a designated terrorist organisation.

In a video address to Muslim Aid’s 25th anniversary dinner on Wednesday, Mr Brown praised the charity’s “valuable work” and said: “I wish Muslim Aid and its passionate and committed staff and supporters the very best for another 25 years of achievement.”

According to invitations sent out by Muslim Aid, Mr Brown had been due to speak in person at the dinner, but cancelled at the last minute. However, another member of the Cabinet, Shaun Woodward, the Northern Ireland Secretary, did speak, as did a member of the Conservative front bench, Andrew Mitchell MP. Two other ministers, Sadiq Khan and Gareth Thomas, attended the dinner.

The Prince sent a message saying that “our country is incredibly fortunate to be able to count on organisations like Muslim Aid, who bring not only help, but hope to those most in need”.

Muslim Aid, based at the hardline East London Mosque, has close links to the Islamic Forum of Europe (IFE), a fundamentalist Muslim group based in the same offices.

Muslim Aid raised more than £24 million last year and has been given at least £830,000 of public money. It claims to serve humanity “regardless of political affiliation” and only supports lawful organisations.

However, one foreign security source said: “We are opening our eyes on them. In the past they were supporting the outer rim of Hamas societies in Gaza. Now they are supporting the core.”

The Islamic University of Gaza, created in 1978 by the founder of Hamas, Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, is the main training ground for future Hamas leaders and dozens of its current leaders also teach, or have taught, there.

Ismail Haniyeh, the Hamas leader, was a trustee. It is described by The New York Times as “one of the prime means for Hamas to convert Palestinians to its Islamist cause.” Its rector of advanced studies has been quoted as saying that Jews should be “butchered”.

Muslim Aid said that the university was registered with the Palestine National Authority and that the payment was legitimate.

Other Hamas-linked organisations to which Muslim Aid has channelled money, according to security sources, are the National Association for Moderation and Development (£125,000), the Islamic Society of Nuseirat (£37,000), the Islamic Centre of Gaza (£21,000), the Islamic Society of Khan Younis (£15,000), the Khan Younis Zakat Committee (£7,600) and the Islamic al-Salah, Gaza (£5,000.) Some of this money was not raised by Muslim Aid itself but by other charities.

The Sunday Telegraph has seen official documents supporting these claims. The societies are not directly involved in military activities but are said to be part of Hamas’s extensive social and educational network.

Muslim Aid says it is an “international development” charity. However, in the last two years for which accounts are on file, it paid £174,965 to the Muslim Council of Britain, a political lobbying group dominated by the IFE and its allies, which has nothing to do with disaster relief or war zones.

It has also paid at least £550,000 to the East London Mosque, which is closely linked to the IFE.

A Muslim Aid spokesman said the payment to the mosque was for a 90-year lease on its offices and not a donation.

It said allegations that it was linked to extremism and terrorism were “absurd and baseless”, and added: “In line with Muslim Aid’s objectives, we have undertaken transparent and legitimate charitable community projects in the UK with the MCB and IFE.”

Muslim Aid said that the money shown in its published accounts as paid to the al-Ihsan Charitable Society was not handed over once it was designated as a terrorist organisation.

A Downing Street spokesman declined to comment.

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