Islamic Relief Worldwide (IRW)
|In their own words
|“an international relief and development charity which envisages a caring world where people unite to respond to the suffering of others, empowering them to fulfil their potential.”
- In 2021, total income was £182.9 million; total expenses were £173.6 million.
- Donors include European Union, Switzerland, United Kingdom, Catholic Agency for Overseas Development (CAFOD), Finn Church Aid, CARE International, Oxfam, Secours Islamique France, Islamic Development Bank, World Vision, Qatar Charity, Action Aid, UNICEF, and UNDP. (See table below for further funding information.)
- In 2019-2020, Sweden granted Islamic Relief Worldwide $2.1 million for “Humanitarian support” in Gaza.
Funding Cuts to IRW
- Islamic Relief Worldwide (IRW) is an “independent humanitarian and development organisation” that operates in over 40 countries.
- IRW is active in lobbying the United Nations. According to its website, IRW “regularly visits the UN Head quarters in New York to speak with Member States… offering them our expertise on humanitarian issues and faith sensitive approaches to complex topics” and “organises side events with UN agencies and Governments at global forums such as the Commission for the Status of Women, the High Level Political Forum, and the UN General Assembly.”
- In 2016, the US Federal Bureau of Investigation, Internal Revenue Service, and Office of Personnel Management reportedly put together a criminal case relating to Islamic Relief’s ties to terrorism. As of August 2020, the investigations are still ongoing.
- In July 2020, Director and Trustee of IRW Heshmat Khalifa was forced to resign following an expose in The Times regarding his past antisemitic comments. According to The Times, Khalifa had “labelled Jews the ‘grandchildren of monkeys and pigs’ and called Egypt’s president a ‘Zionist pimp’.”
- In August 2020, the entire Islamic Relief Worldwide board resigned after its new chairman, Almoutaz Tayara, described Israel as the “Zionist enemy” and praised Hamas as “‘great men’ who were answering the ‘divine and holy call of the Muslim Brotherhood.’”
- In November 2020, IRW Network and Resource Development Director Tayed Abdoun was forced to resign after exposure of antisemitic comments he made. For instance, in 2015, Abdoun posted a picture on Facebook of a “knife with a thumbs up,” writing “Lay the bodies of the Jews on the top of the mountains, so that no dog in Palestine must suffer hunger.”
- Following the offensive and antisemitic social media posts, the Charity Commission launched an investigation. According to the Commission, “All three individuals have themselves acknowledged that their conduct was unacceptable and have issued apologies. All parties have cooperated fully with the Commission. The Commission reviewed the charity’s response to these comments and is satisfied that it took swift action, including to condemn the comments and ensure all three individuals left their roles, which the individuals did of their own accord. None has any ongoing involvement with the charity.”In January 2021, the Charity Commission closed the case.
- In September 2022, IRUSA was a signatory on a letter to US Secretary of State Antony Blinken condemning the decision by Israel to designate six Palestinian NGOs as terrorist organizations. According to the letter, “Sadly, for more than a decade, we have witnessed the erosion of civic space as Israeli authorities target and repress individuals and organizations that support Palestinian civil society. These actions run counter to the democratic values the Israeli government purports to support…[we] call on the U.S. to publicly reject these unsubstantiated designations and to not restrict the ability of these CSOs to continue their operations.”
Ties to Terrorism
- On June 19, 2014, Israel’s Defense Minister declared IRW to be illegal, based on its alleged role in funneling money to Hamas, and banned it from operating in Israel and the West Bank. (Hamas is a designated terror organization by Israel, the U.S., EU, and Canada.) According to news reports, the decision was made after “the Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet), the coordinator for government activities in the territories, and legal authorities provided incriminating information against IRW.”
- On December 12, 2014, IRW announced it had commissioned an “independent investigation” that found “absolutely no evidence of any links with terrorism” and that “not one of these many audits over many years has found a shred of evidence that Islamic Relief funds terrorism or has terrorist links anywhere in the world.”
- In a statement to the media, Israel’s General Security Service (Shin Bet) said it could not respond to IRW’s announcement “without an in-depth examination of [the audit’s] findings, its scope or who it was carried out by.” It claimed the Israeli government’s decision to declare IRW illegal was “based on information that has been accumulated over years, that the fund is a central player in financing of Hamas… [and] on accumulated knowledge and experience in fighting terror and financing of terror organizations.”
- IRW was a “founding organization” of The Union of Good. The Union of Good is designated as a terror organization by Israel and was designated by the US government as “an organization created by Hamas leadership to transfer funds to the terrorist organization.”
- IRW and Islamic Relief Germany (IRG) have ties to the Turkish Humanitarian Relief Foundation (IHH), an organization prohibited from operating in Germany due to its role in funneling money to terror groups. The German branch of IHH had a close relationship with Milli Görüs (IGMG), a “pan-European organization, which the German domestic intelligence agency claims is responsible for promoting extremist ideas and propagating antisemitic conspiracy theories.” (See below for further information on Islamic Relief Germany.) IHH is a member of the Union of the Good, an umbrella of 50+ Islamic organizations, which was designated by the US government as “an organization created by Hamas leadership to transfer funds to the terrorist organization.”
- In 2017, Bangladesh banned three Muslim aid organizations, including Islamic Relief, from working in the Rohingya refugee camps as a “preventative measure against potential radicalization in the camps.”
- In January 2016, the UK-based bank HSBC announced that it was ending all links to IRW, “amid concerns that cash for aid could end up with terrorist groups abroad.”
- According to a 2016 report by the Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency on the activities of the Muslim Brotherhood, IRW is a “key organization” in providing “credibility” to the Muslim Brotherhood. The report also revealed that Haytham Rahmeh, an official of the Muslim Brotherhood, is a member of Islamic Relief Sweden, and noted that “[Rahmeh] has been involved in supporting militias linked to the Muslim Brotherhood in the Syrian conflict, through lobbying and weapons purchases.”
- In 2014, the United Arab Emirates included IRW and IR-UK on a list of terrorist entities.
- In 2012, UBS Bank closed Islamic Relief Worldwide’s bank account due to concerns about counter-terrorist regulations.
- In 2006, IRW’s Gaza coordinator, Iyaz Ali, a Pakistani-born British national, was arrested and charged with transferring funds and assistance to “Hamas institutions and organizations, including the Al Wafa and Al Tzalah associations, which have been outlawed in Israel. He also admitted that he worked in Jordan and cooperated with local Hamas operatives.” The Israeli government statement also referred to documents “that attested to the organization’s ties with illegal Hamas funds abroad (in the UK and in Saudi Arabia) and in Nablus. Also found were photographs of swastikas superimposed on IDF symbols, of senior Nazi German officials, of Osama Bin Laden and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, as well as many photographs of Hamas military activities.”
- In 2005, Russian authorities accused IRW of supporting terrorism in Chechnya.
Islamic Relief Palestine (IRPAL)
- While in June 2014 Israel’s Defense Minister declared IRW to be illegal, based on its alleged role in funneling money to Hamas, and banned it from operating in Israel and the West Bank, Islamic Relief Palestine continues to operate in Gaza.
- Islamic Relief has received funding from Sweden, Switzerland, Germany, European Union, Belgium, and Austria for projects in Gaza.
- Since 2006, IRPAL has cooperated with the Al-Falah Society. According to the Meir Amit Institute, the Al-Falah Society Charitable is one of “Hamas’s charitable societies.”
- IRPAL partners with the Gaza Zakat Committee (GZC), also known as the Islamic Zakat Society (IZS). IZS works closely with the Hamas government and is managed by Hamas preacher Hazem Al-Sirraj.
- According to Dr. Emanuel Schaeublin, a lecturer at the University of Zurich, GZC has ties to Fatah, the PFLP, and Hamas. Islamic Relief UK and Islamic Relief Canada are both directly named by IZS as its patrons.
- In December 2022, IRPAL partnered with Unlimited Friends Association on an orphan sponsorship program.
- According to Middle East Forum, UFA is “aligned with senior Hamas leaders, works to reward the ‘families of martyrs’ in Gaza with cash handouts, and promotes violently anti-Semitic rhetoric across its social media pages.” Additionally, “UFA and the Palestinian branch of Islamic Relief have shared the same employees.”
- In May 2019, IRPAL published a tender for the “supply of computers and accessories for the preparation of the Bani Suhaila primary school for boys within the project of building and finishing a basic school for girls in Bani Suhaila Males in Bani Suhaila.” The Bani Shaila primary school is a part of the “Al kutla al Islamia”- the education wing of Hamas.
- In 2006, IRW Gaza coordinator Iyaz Ali, a Pakistani-born British national, was arrested and charged with transferring funds and assistance to “Hamas institutions and organizations, including the Al Wafa and Al Tzalah associations, which have been outlawed in Israel. He also admitted that he worked in Jordan and cooperated with local Hamas operatives.” (See more on Ali above.)
- In October 2015, IRPAL Project Manager Ramez Obaid posted a video clip on his Facebook account that showed a Palestinian child throwing stones at an IDF vehicle, stating “May God bless you.”
- In August 2014, IRPAL Project Coordinator in Gaza City Tawfiq Dwaik glorified the terrorist Ali Nabil Basil (Abu Sahil). Abu Sahil was a terrorist in the Al Aqsa brigades who was killed during the 2014 Gaza war.
- In July 2014, IRPAL employee Mohammed Elsaleh posted a picture of the ID cards of kidnaped Israeli soldiers stating that “This is the lost card, O sons of Zion. God is great, praise be to God.”
- On April 7, 2018, as a member of the Association of International Development Agencies (AIDA), IRW was a signatory on a statement “condemning Israel’s unlawful killing of civilians” during the Gaza-border violence and called for an “independent and transparent investigation into the killing and injuring of civilians in the context of peaceful demonstrations, and for those responsible to be held to account.” The statement ignored the violent nature of the protests, which have consisted of an organized armed attack on the Israeli border and IDF positions, attempts to destroy and breach the border fence, and sustained arson, rocket, and mortar attacks on Israeli civilian communities.
Islamic Relief Germany
- Islamic Relief Germany (IRG) was founded in 1996 in Cologne and has offices throughout Germany.
- In 2017, IRG, in partnership with Islamic Relief Palestine, spent €1.2 million on three projects in Gaza, including “improvement of access and quality of education,” “psychosocial support for children in Gaza,” and “improvement of preschool education.”
- In January 2017, Germany’s Federal Court of Auditors announced it was investigating IRG for a “potential misuse of the aid money.”
- In November 2016, Chief of the Berlin Senate Chancellery Christian Gaebler responded to a written question about Islamic Relief’s “Islamist” connections, stating that “Islamic Relief Germany has connections to organizations surrounding the Muslim Brotherhood.”
- In 2016-2018, German blogger Sigrid Herrmann-Marschall (Vorwaerts und Nicht Vergessen) wrote several articles about IRG accusing the group of funneling funds to Hamas and having ties to the Muslim Brotherhood. In response, IRG filed a complaint in the regional court of Cologne and the Supreme Court. In 2016, IRG sued Hermann-Marschall and lost its case.
Islamic Relief Australia
Islamic Relief Canada
- Several staff members, including the founders of IRW, have alleged ties to the Muslim Brotherhood. IRW also has personal and professional ties to other organizations that are banned from operating in a number of countries, either due to links to terrorism or suspected funneling of money to terrorist organizations.
- Hany El-Banna is the founder of Islamic Relief Worldwide. In a 2016 interview with Al-Aqsa Voice, the official radio station of Hamas, El-Banna discussed the long history of involvement of IR in Gaza and its work with the Gaza Zakat Committee, a charitable organization regulated by Hamas.
- Essam El-Haddad, co-founder of Islamic Relief Worldwide and former trustee of Islamic Relief Worldwide and Islamic Relief-UK, was a senior Muslim Brotherhood official and the National Security Advisor to Egyptian President Morsi. El-Haddad has been in custody and in solitary confinement since the overthrow of Morsi in 2013.
- Ahmed Al-Rawi, former director of IRW, is the former head of the Federation of Islamic Organizations in Europe (FIOE) and President of the Muslim Association of Britain, both of which are “considered to be part of the European Muslim Brotherhood.” According to a 2005 interview, Al-Rawi stated that FIOE and Muslim Brotherhood are “interlinked…with a common point of view.”
- Issam Al-Bashir is the former director of IRW, the former Minister of Religious Affairs in Sudan, and a leading Muslim Brotherhood figure. Bashir is a member of the European Council for Fatwa and Research (ECFR), a group led by Yusuf Qaradawi, a Global Muslim Brotherhood spiritual leader who has called for the killing of Jews and homosexuals.
- Abdul Wahab Noorwali is a former trustee of IRW and the Assistant Secretary General of the World Assembly of Muslim Youth (WAMY).
- Ibrahim El-Zayat, the current director of Islamic Relief Australia, has alleged ties to the Muslim Brotherhood. Additionally, El-Zayat serves as the European representative of WAMY.
- In 2002, German federal police launched an investigation of Zayat. A leaked report claimed Zayat transferred more than $2 million on behalf of WAMY. According to the report, Zayat sent some of that money to an Albanian charity called Taibah, which was designated a terrorist organization by the US government in 2011. The report concluded claiming that “The constellation of accounts, money flows and persons indicate that the accounts in Germany of Ibrahim El-Zayat and Ayman Sayed Ahmed Aly were used for carrying out fundamentalist Islamic activities in Europe.”
- Adnan Abdul Rahman Saif is a trustee of IRW and a trustee of the Muath Trust, a Yemeni charity based in the UK with ties to Muslim Brotherhood. He is a supporter of the late Sheikh Abdullah al-Ahmar, who was the leader of the Al-Islah, a Muslim Brotherhood affiliated Islamist party in Yemen and a supporter of Hezbollah.
2018-2021 Grants Received (amounts in £ unless otherwise noted)
|Catholic Agency for Overseas Development (CAFOD)
|United Kingdom (Department for International Development)
|Finn Church Aid
|Secours Islamique France
|Save the Children
|Islamic Development Bank
|World Vision Germany
|Catholic Relief Services (CRS)
|CARE International UK
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