(May 7, 2020 / JNS) On May 3, Islamic Relief USA—the largest Islamic charity in the United States, and whose overseas branches are funded by the U.S. government—ran an event with Omar Abdelkafi, a fiery Egyptian preacher with a well-established record of violent anti-Semitism.
It seems unlikely that Islamic Relief was unaware of Abdelkafi’s fanaticism. It has been the subject of international media coverage, mentioned in dozens of books examining radicalization and extremism, and even the State Department has referred to Abdelkafi’s “history of anti-Semitic comments.”
Those comments go far beyond common anti-Semitism. The American Center for Democracy reports that Abdelkafi wrote in 2017:
“O Allah, we complain to you about the Jews, as they can not escape you, O the mighty of the heavens and the earth. O Allah, count their number; slay them one by one and spare not one of them … Liberate Al Aqsa Mosque from the filth of Jews the aggressors … ”
According to Politico, Abdelkafi has proclaimed that Muslims should refuse to shake hands with Christians or to share sidewalks with them. And MEMRI has reported that in an address following the Paris attacks, Abdelkafi said: “This play, to which the Muslims are subjected ad nauseam across the world, is the sequel to the comedy film of 9/11.”
Abdelkafi’s preaching is blamed for the radicalization of Stockholm suicide-bomber Taimour Abdulwahab.
So extreme was Abdelkafi’s hatred of Jews that Muslim conference organizers in Canada uninvited him after being alerted to his extremism.
We asked Islamic Relief USA about Abdelkafi’s anti-Semitism, inviting spokesman Syed Hassan to comment on whether it was acceptable to partner with someone so extreme, and whether the charity condemned such a flagrant hatred for Jews. We have not yet received a response from Islamic Relief (but will append to this article if we do).
Islamic Relief’s willingness to embrace one of the world’s most notoriously hardline, anti-Jewish clerics throws doubt on the Islamist charity’s claims in recent years that it has sought to stamp out the much-discussed anti-Semitism of its board members and senior staff.
A year ago, an investigation by the Middle East Forum revealed that one of its most prominent officials, Yousef Abdallah (who has since left the organization), published social-media posts praising the killing of Jews. Amid a consequent flurry of international media coverage, Islamic Relief released a statement claiming:
In accordance with Islamic Relief USA’s strict non-discrimination policies and standards of conduct, Yousef Abdallah was immediately subjected to internal disciplinary and remedial action following knowledge of his actions. Moreover, Islamic Relief USA continued to demonstrate its values by increasing its existing efforts in diversity and sensitivity trainings for staff. These efforts include visiting the Holocaust Museum to better understand the tremendous impact of hateful rhetoric and attending an international conference on anti-Semitism. Last year, Islamic Relief representatives visited Auschwitz and reflected on the evils of anti-Semitism and subsequently shared these experiences with staff.
At the time, critics doubted Islamic Relief’s sincerity. Quin Hillyer of the Washington Examiner marveled at the fact that the charity
denies any anti-Semitic activity, but still employs a man whose tweets express approval for the act of killing more than 20 Jews and firing missiles into Tel Aviv, along with one calling on God to “destroy [Zionists] as you destroyed the peoples of Ad, Thamud and Lot.” And somehow, this IRUSA employee was mistakenly billed as a speaker at an event with [Rep. Ilhan] Omar, due to … an internal printing error?
Islamic Relief USA’s former chairman and current board member continues to be Khaled Lamada, who in 2017 the Middle East Forum found had circulated text on social-media praising the “jihad” of the “Mujahidin of Egypt” for “causing the Jews many defeats,” and republished claims on Facebook that praised Hamas for inflicting a “huge defeat” against the “Zionist entity.”
According to the government data, Islamic Relief branches have received more than $2 million in grants from the U.S. taxpayer.
Sam Westrop is director of Islamist Watch, a project of the Middle East Forum.
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