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Panorama: Faith, Hate and Charity


Category: News

Date: 30.07.2006
Printable version


In tonight's BBC Panorama, the Charity Commission admits that a recent investigation, which cleared a leading British Islamic charity of having links to the fundamentalist group Hamas, "wasn't in depth".

 

The London-based Interpal charity has been raising around 4m a year in recent years for humanitarian aid which it directs mainly to Islamic charities in the West Bank and Gaza.

 

Panorama says many of these charities in Palestine are affiliated to Hamas and some are run by senior members of Hamas, which has been designated as a terrorist organisation by the European Union.

 

The programme - Faith, Hate and Charity - is broadcast on BBC ONE tonight (Sunday 30 July 2006) at 10.15pm.

 

It investigates the extent to which these Hamas-linked charities also in receipt of funds from Interpal promote what would be defined under UK law as terrorism, for example, the glorification of suicide bombing.

 

The programme shows video extracts of young girls belonging to one of the charities which has received funds from Interpal - the al Khalil al Rahman Girls' Society - singing: "We all sacrifice ourselves for our country. We answer your call and make of our skulls a ladder to your glory, a ladder."

 

Another clip is of girls dancing to a tune with the lyrics: "Fasten your bomb belt oh would-be martyr and fill the square with blood so that we get back our homeland."

 

A woman, who is helping to organise another event, is seen taking the microphone and telling the children: "To martyrs in every time and place... To the rich blood and to the wounds which have drawn the identity of Islamic land."

 

Some of the clips of girls glorifying martyrdom were videoed at a summer camp organised by the al Khalil al Rahman Girls' Society.

 

In an email to the BBC, Interpal's Managing Trustee Dr Essam Mustafa [also known as Essam Yusuf] pointed out that Interpal had not funded the camp, though he did acknowledge they allocated 38,000 of funds for orphans, food and education over four years.

 

He said no funds have been allocated by Interpal since 2004.

 

Dr Mustafa said he did "not... condone or wish to encourage" the songs the girls were singing but argued they were little different from the final verse of the national anthem "God Save the Queen."

 

They were, he said, "of a kind common to areas of conflict/war for centuries. Our own [ie the British) National Anthem contains references to General Wade's fight against the Scots (verse six)."

 

This final verse of the anthem exhorts the 18th century Field Marshal Wade to crush the rebellious Scots.

 

He also argued the girls' lyrics were not dissimilar to the Scots "yearning for the revival of their nation using bloodthirsty battles as their reference point. Even modern US Army drill songs contain references in no uncertain terms to what the soldiers are going to do to their enemies."

 

He also pointed to a recent photograph of Israeli children writing messages on the casings of shells to be fired at Hezbollah positions.

 

Interpal has twice been cleared of links to Hamas by the Charity Commission: first in April 1996 and again in September 2003.

 

The Commission says it is duty bound to assess "rigorously" any allegation against a UK-registered charity of links to terrorism.

 

Asked by Panorama's John Ware if the Commission's investigation in 2003 could be described as "rigorous", Kenneth Dibble, Director, Legal and Charity Services replies: "It was an investigation which followed a particular concern and focus."

 

Ware: "But it wasn't widespread?"

 

Dibble: "It wasn't in depth."

 

Mr Dibble acknowledges that the Charity Commission did not travel to the Palestinian Territories to investigate what he describes as possible "collateral activities" - those promoting terrorism - in any of the dozens of Islamic charities Interpal helps fund in the West Bank and Gaza.

 

Mr Dibble says that what goes on in Palestinian charities funded by UK charities like Interpal is "something that I think clearly needs to be looked at... It's an issue that you are now raising now and if I may say so is quite a pertinent issue."

 

When the Commission cleared Interpal in 2003, David Aufhauser, General Counsel to the United States Treasury, said: "What happened with Interpal in Britain is really quite chilling. These are the best of our friends."

 

The Charity Commission had asked the US authorities for the evidence that supported their decision to designate Interpal as a "terrorist" entity alleging that "Interpal is the fund-raising co-ordinator of Hamas".

 

The Americans say they did not comply because the information was classified.

 

Interpal's Managing Trustee Dr Essam Mustafa declined to be interviewed in the programme.

 

However he has categorically denied that he or Interpal has any links to Hamas and has blamed such allegations on what he calls the "Christian and Jewish Zionist Movement".

 

Panorama discloses that Treasury officials have examined files on charities in six West Bank towns, all in receipt of funds of Interpal.

 

The draft report from the Treasury's Asset Freezing Working Group says the charities have helped "provide a broad civilian foundation for Hamas that provides critical support to the organisation's political and paramilitary activity".

 

The draft report says the Islamic Charitable Society of Hebron has played "a well-documented supporting role within the Hamas infrastructure" and that it had "funded and administered educational programmes that appear tantamount to incitement and indoctrination in support of violent Hamas activity."

 

Interpal has sent more than 1m to the charity in recent years for humanitarian purposes.

 

Panorama filmed at a girls school and orphanage which are part of the Islamic Charitable Society of Hebron, which has been run by senior members of Hamas.

 

Fateheya Qawasmeh, principal of the Girls al Sharia school, a Hamas election candidate, and widow of a local Hamas commander assassinated by Israel, denies any incitement material has ever been found in her school or at the orphanage.

 

The programme shows what it describes a "trove" of images of Hamas martyrs and their exploits - including blown up bars and buses and twisted limbs - that it says were found by the Israelis in August 2004 on a computer also containing the names of the orphans, in the office of the manager of the girls orphanage.

 

A senior Hamas politician Dr Mahmoud Ramahi tells Panorama that Hamas's extensive social welfare network had the "main responsibility" for Hamas being voted into power last January because it had helped the movement earn the trust of ordinary Palestinians.

 

Panorama says charities linked to Hamas do provide basic needs to poorer Palestinians, while also acting as vehicles for spreading missionary Dawah: the call to Islam, in this case Hamas's militant version.

 

Panorama says that Dr Mustafa doubles as Managing Trustee for both Interpal and the Union of Good, a global coalition of 56 Islamic charities chaired by the spiritual leader of the worldwide Muslim Brotherhood Movement, Dr Yusuf Qaradawi.

 

Dr Qaradawi has said of the Israel-Palestine conflict: "We must plant the love of death and the love of martyrdom in the Islamic nation."

 

On the programme Dr Mustafa is heard telephoning Dr Qaradawi on a TV show on al Jazeera, hailing him as "the Sheikh of the Mujaheedin... The Sheikh of heroic stands.

 

"... But my biggest salutation is to the Mujaheedin: to the heroes of the Palestinian people who are sacrificing everything that is precious."

 

Dr Mustafa denies his words meant he supported violence.

 

The Union for Good has sent more than $200m to the West Bank and Gaza, much of it also directed to Islamic charities.

 

UK charities are not allowed to fund ideologies.

 

But Panorama says Dr Qaradawi makes no bones about the relationship between charity and politics: "I don't like this word 'donations'.

 

"I like to call it Jihad with money, because God has ordered us to fight enemies with our lives and our money."

 

Although Dr Mustafa denies that either he or Interpal have any links to Hamas - or any other political group - he has acknowledged to Panorama that he met two senior Hamas men in Yemen in June 2002.

 

One was Sheikh Mohammed Siam who is seen on a video tape in September 2002 "gleefully" announcing to a mass wedding in Yemen that Hamas suicide bombers have just blown up a bus in Tel Aviv which killed six people, including a Jewish student from Scotland: "You will read about this in the papers tomorrow. Many of the occupying invaders have been hurt."

 

The other was Sheikh Muhammad Moayad, now serving 75 years in an American jail for funding Hamas and conspiring to fund Al Qaeda.

 

The US court heard a clip secretly filmed by the FBI of the Sheikh saying he had "sat with Essam" in London. "He's one of the best people."

 

Kelly Moore, former Assistant US Attorney who prosecuted al Moayad, tells Panorama: "Given that he [Dr Mustafa] was meeting with Moayad and Mohamed Siam, Moayad who's now been convicted of terrorism crimes, related to Hamas and Siam who was the known leader of Hamas in Yemen, he clearly has links to Hamas... those are links to Hamas."

 

Dr Yusuf acknowledges he met al Moayad in Yemen but says it was solely to do with raising funds for Palestinians in need.

 

He insists Sheikh Siam just happened to be present at one of his meetings.

 

He also denied writing or approving an article in Arabic commissioned by the Union of Good, and bearing his name which spoke of "support for Jihad in all its forms until God allows for victory: 'victory only comes from God'."

 

Dr Yusuf also denied his Union of Good website expresses support for Hamas, even though it includes a picture Sheikh Yassin, the founder of Hamas, on a page devoted to a children's campaign called the "al Yassin fund".

 

Notes to Editors

 

Producer: Tristan Quinn

Associate Producer: Kenneth Payne

Reporter: John Ware

Deputy Editor: Andy Bell.

 

SS

 

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Category: News

Date: 30.07.2006
Printable version

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