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
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
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.
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)."
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
"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
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
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."
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
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
"... 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
"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.