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Emerson profile highlights fishy “charities”

January 23, 2010

George Michael has written a profile of national security reporter Steve Emerson in the latest issue of the Middle East Quarterly.  Emerson has exposed many vulnerabilities in America’s defenses over the years, but of special interest for this blog is Emerson’s work investigating Islamic charities:

In later testimony before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee on November 8, 2005, he [Emerson] charged that Saudi Arabia had funded a vast network of charities and religious organizations that had ties to terrorist groups, including Al-Qaeda and Hamas.[21] This testimony prompted Treasury and National Security Council investigations into the labyrinth of radical Islamic charities operating in the United States. According to federal officials, these investigations led to an effort within the agencies to shut down some of the charities but nothing was done; the Clinton administration lacked the political will to close down the charities. Only after the 9-11 attacks did that will emerge and efforts to shut down the charitable fronts succeed.[22]

Emerson has focused primarily on the fundraising activities of mainstream Muslim groups and their links to the more radical organizations for which they serve as fronts. As he has observed, one of the most important activities carried out by Islamist groups in the United States has been the establishment of nonprofit, tax-deductible organizations to establish zones of legitimacy within which fundraising, recruitment, and even terrorist planning can occur.[23] Using a technique first developed in the Middle East, these groups often provide American Muslims with much-needed social services such as education, nutrition, and health care so as to win over and manipulate them.[24] This activity is usually justified by reference to the religious duty of paying zakat (the Islamic alms tax).[25] This practice creates substantial good will and much social capital for those Islamist groups who choose to employ it as a cover for collecting monies destined for jihadist groups.

According to one CIA study, one-fifth of all Islamic NGOs worldwide have been unwittingly infiltrated by Islamist terrorist groups.[26] As Emerson has pointed out, some of the religious and charitable organizations have mixed legitimate activities with illegitimate, thus betraying the true aims of the donations.[27] Investigators who seek to reveal this duplicity run a serious risk of being condemned as bigots who find wrongdoing in a meritorious religious activity that has close parallels to Jewish and Christian charities.

The article goes on to explain how U.S. Islamic charities have funneled money into Hezbollah and Hamas.  The citations above (footnotes 21-27) are available in the original article.

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