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Ummah Welfare Trust: Charities, Regulators and Banks

Updated from 22 December 2008

If you’re a charity working in a poor and chaotic part of the world in which violent terrorist groups are active, or possibly even in power, you have a dilemma. You will probably have some contact with these groups, and will have to reach a working relationship with them of sorts. If you don’t, you may find that you become their target.

Of course, if you’re actually quite well disposed to the terrorist groups in the first place, necessity may become a virtue. Many terrorist groups – Hamas, Hezbollah – operate ‘charitable wings’ that are an integral part of the way that they extend their influence within the societies in which they operate. In effect, they buy their constituency: establishing schools in which the next generation is recruited, providing stipends to the widows of  ‘martyrs’, and dishing out food and cash to those who are uncared for by the state. In fact, the “charitable wings” of terrorist groups may be the only providers of welfare: because functionaries of the state have stolen the vast amounts of legitimate international aid that they were supposed to be passing on, or because there has been a coup, and the terrorist groups have taken over.

Sad to say, it has become increasingly clear that some Western charities have worked closely with terrorist groups, not because they have been forced to, but because they were specifically set up to bankroll the entrenching of terrorist groups within their host societies. Evidence at the Holy Land Foundation trial indicates that the original purpose in setting up that charity was to raise money for Hamas, and that was part of a network of groups, some of which were created to orchestrate opposition to the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, and others of which were set up to attack critics of terrorist and Islamist politics as ‘Islamophobes’.

Of course, if you are a British charity that has no more than a passing acquaintance and a fragile working relationship with Islamist terrorist groups, you might be very deeply upset by the allegations that you’re no more than a front for the ‘charitable arm’ of a terrorist group. You might be so horrified by the suggestion, that you rush off to Carter Ruck, and get them to drag your critics in front of Mr Justice Eady, in the hope that he will order that they hand over large sums of cash to you, that you can spend on relieving the suffering of the poor and the needy.

The difficulty is this. Although, most charities operating in centres of terrorist activity have no deep association with terrorist groups, identifying those that do is not an easy task. As we have seen, the Charity Commission does not take a pro-active role in closing down terrorist linked charities, and is ill equipped for that task. In the case of the Holy Land Foundation case, proving that that charity was a front for Hamas/Muslim Brotherhood took a ten year investigation, and involved raids by armed FBI agent, the confiscation and translation of reams of paperwork, gardens being dug up for evidence, and finally a criminal trial. The whole investigation cost millions of dollars.

So, if you’re sued by a terrorist-linked charity, and need to substantiate your suspicions, you’re probably going to have some difficulty marshalling the resources to mount an effective defence.

As I explained yesterday, the balance is rather different, as far as financial institutions that provide services to such charities are concerned: because they operate under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002. All that is required there, is that that the financial institution has, objectively speaking, reasonable grounds for suspecting that money is being channeled by the charity to a terrorist group. If it has such reasonable suspicion, it must report them to the Serious and Organised Crime Agency. If SOCA does not provide a ‘go ahead’, then it must stop dealing with them. It is that simple.

That is just the position in the United Kingdom. Other countries operate similar anti-terrorist financing laws. Some have designated as funders of terrorist organisations, charities that operate lawfully in the United Kingdom. In some countries, the victims of terrorism have launched law suits against financial institutions that have provided services to groups associated with the terrorists who killed their loved ones. As large financial services groups operate across many countries, they are required to comply with the laws of, and manage legal risk in, multiple jurisdictions.

With all this in mind, let’s have a look at the material in the public domain on the Ummah Welfare Trust.

The Ummah Welfare Trust gives money to Interpal: see page 14 of their accounts. Interpal is designated and banned in the United States as a funder of Hamas. Interpal is banned in Australia and Canada for the same reason.  The BBC’s Panorama investigated links between Interpal and Hamas. Interpal did not sue the BBC.

Here are some pictures from the Ummah Welfare Trust website showing charity recipients carrying a poster that bears the name of the UWT and the “Alsalah Islamic Association Gaza Governates”.

uwt.jpg

Here is a press release from the US Treasury:

The U.S. Department of the Treasury today designated the Al-Salah Society, one of the largest and best-funded Hamas charitable organizations in the Palestinian territories.  Al-Salah Society’s director, Ahmad Al-Kurd, was also designated today.

“Hamas has used the Al-Salah Society, as it has many other charitable fronts, to finance its terrorist agenda,” said Adam Szubin, Director of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC).  “Today’s action alerts the world to the true nature of Al-Salah and cuts it off from the U.S. financial system.”

The Al-Salah Society supported Hamas-affiliated combatants during the first Intifada and recruited and indoctrinated youth to support Hamas’s activities.  It also financed commercial stores, kindergartens, and the purchase of land for Hamas.  One of the most senior Gaza-based Hamas leaders and founders, Ismail Abu Shanab, openly identified the Al-Salah Society as “one of the three Islamic charities that form Hamas’ welfare arm.”  The Al-Salah Society has received substantial funding from Persian Gulf countries, including at least hundreds of thousands of dollars from Kuwaiti donors.

The Al-Salah Society is directed by Ahmad Al-Kurd, a recognized high-ranking Hamas leader in Gaza.  Al-Kurd’s affiliation with Hamas goes back over a decade.  During the first Intifada, Al-Kurd served as a Hamas Shura Council member in Gaza.  As of late 2003, Al-Kurd was allegedly the top Hamas leader in Deir Al-Balah, Gaza.  Since mid-2005, he has served as the mayor of Deir Al-Balah, elected as a Hamas candidate.

The Al-Salah Society has employed a number of Hamas military wing members.  In late 2002, an official of the Al-Salah Society in Gaza was the principal leader of a Hamas military wing structure in the Al-Maghazi refugee camp in Gaza.  The founder and former director of the Al-Salah Society’s Al-Maghazi branch reportedly also operated as a member of the Hamas military wing structure in Al-Maghazi, participated in weapons deals, and served as a liaison to the rest of the Hamas structure in Al-Maghazi.  At least four other Hamas military wing members in the Al-Maghazi refugee camp in Gaza were tied to the Al-Salah Society.

The Al-Salah Society was included on a list of suspected Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad-affiliated NGOs whose accounts were frozen by the Palestinian Authority as of late August 2003.  After freezing the bank accounts, PA officials confirmed that the Al-Salah Society was a front for Hamas.

Identifying Information

Al-Salah Society
AKAs:
Al-Salah Association
Al-Salah Islamic Foundation
Al-Salah
Al-Salah Islamic Society
Al-Salah Islamic Association

Frankly, who knows what internal risk management processes resulted in Barclays’ decision to withdraw banking facilities from the Ummah Welfare Trust. Perhaps they will make a statement.

While we wait for an explanation, amuse yourself with some of the Ummah Welfare Trust’s recommended reading material:

DISCLAIMER: The views represented in the contents of the following are that of the 3rd party concerned and not of UWT. We simply offer a portal for the browser in the hope that one day, God Willing, he/she will benefit and be a means for us at UWT, to enter paradise – Aameen.

– Here is an article commemorating the late Sheikh Yassin of Hamas: “May Allah bless the Muslims with courage, determination and not be deterred by the loss of one valiant son of Islam. May he find comfort in the dwelling in Jannah designated for the martyrs.”

– Here is an article praising “martyrdom“: The lofty rank of a Shaheed is unparalleled in Islam. Laying down one’s life for the cause of Deen is certainly the ultimate sacrifice…”.

– Here is an article, explaining that Mossad, and not Bin Laden, was behind 9/11.

– Here is a very useful article. It tells you what to do if you are approached by the British security services. Read it in full:

Currently, the British law enforcement authorities are in a very desperate state, not knowing where to look or search. Having been pressured from their American counterparts, the British authorities are trying to thwart the next round of terrorist attacks against America and American targets. Since they do not know where to start, they have decided to begin by harassing Muslim ‘activists’ who may have been, or still are, or know someone who is involved with Jihad or the Mujahideen. Therefore, you MAY be targetted for harassment by law enforcement authorities if you come under any of the groups below:

(a) Those who have been for Jihad somewhere at least point in their lives.

(b) Those who have not been to Jihad, but have openly expressed an interest to go, at some point in their lives.

(c) Those known to finance, collect money for Jihad and the Mujahideen at some point in their lives.

d) Those who have been involved with assisting in media efforts for Jihad and the Mujahideen, whether via speeches, internet, newsletters, etc.

e) Imams, leaders, ameers of mosques, Muslim community centres, university Islamic societies or other individuals who may have come into contact with Jihad and the Mujahideen at some point.

f) Any other ordinary Muslims who do not fall into any of the above categories.

4. What To Do If You Are Targeted

Before getting into a discussion of what to do if you are targetted, it is important to distinguish between ‘good-guy’ harassment and ‘bad-guy’ harassment.

In the ‘good guy’ harassment scenario, you may be approached on the street, telephoned, someone may come to your office, study place (university, college, etc.), mosque etc. by either Anti-Terrorism Police or MI5 Officers, requesting your ‘assistance’ or ‘help’. The conversation will usually begin with “There’s nothing to be worried about” or “You haven’t done anything wrong” or “You’re not in trouble” or “We need you to help us in something” and similar nice words.

A Muslim believes that no harm can come to him except by Allah’s Permission. Likewise, no-one can bring him benefit except by Allah’s Permission. Therefore, the Intelligence, Police and all the authorities in the World cannot do anything to you without Allah’s Will. They may be smart, but Allah is smarter than them. They may ‘beat’ you in this Life, but Allah will beat them in the end. If it is written for you by Allah that you will go to prison, then no-one on Earth can stop that from happening. Likewise, if Allah has written for you to be protected, all the powers in the World cannot change that. Know that whatever happens to you is a test and happens by Allah’s Will. Consider the Police and Intelligence as filthy human beings in your mind and that will help you win over them. Do not feel relaxed if they bring a ‘Muslim’ officer or ‘scholar’ to question you; he is on their side, not yours. It is a trap. Islam survives on its members being firm and steadfast. Do not ‘crack’, waiver, falter or fail. Be firm and in the end, victory will be for you, for Islam, for Allah and His Messenger (SAWS).

Nutters.

UPDATE

In establishing the links between Al Salah charity and the terrorist group Hamas, I had originally relied on the US Treasury’s evidence. But here is a Salon piece in which Hamas itself confirms the relationship, and explains its purpose:

The Islamic Resistance Movement, better known as Hamas, is less circumspect about the ties it has with the Islamic charities. “Of course Salah and other Islamic foundations are identified with us,” says Ismael Abu Shanab, a senior spokesman who lives in the Sheikh Radwan neighborhood. Hamas made huge strides in popularity among the Palestinians at the beginning of the intifada with its hard-hitting attacks against Israelis, but Hamas is clearly worried now that economic pressure may cause most people to abandon the uprising. Hamas may derive some political gain from the works of these organizations, Abu Shanab concedes, but he insists that is not the objective. Even though the tactics have not changed, he says, Hamas considers it prudent to also emphasize its humanitarian work. “We don’t want to derive immediate political benefits,” he explains. “We see it more as a means of extending the life span of the intifada.”

Well, there you have it.