FILE PHOTO: Rohingya refugees, who crossed the border from Myanmar two days before, walk after they received permission from the Bangladeshi army to continue on to the refugee camps, in Palang Khali, near Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh October 19, 2017. To match Special Report MYANMAR-ROHINGYA/BATTALIONS     REUTERS/Jorge Silva/File Photo
In 2017, the Bangladeshi government banned Islamic Relief from working directly with Rohingya refugees over reported fears about radicalisation. Reuters

Islamic Relief is a cog in a dangerous machine



On June 10, at a drab airport hotel outside the city of Albany in upstate New York, a crowd gathered to break their fast and listen to speakers from the international charitable franchise, Islamic Relief, explain its work in Yemen, Syria and Myanmar. This fundraiser was just one of a dozen events conducted by Islamic Relief across the US that week, and one of the many hundreds of events organised each year in mosques, community centres, schools and other hotels all across the West.

Despite the proclaimed charitable endeavours of Islamic Relief, however, many of these events feature speakers known to preach distinctly uncharitable ideas. In Albany, guests were treated to the musings of Suleiman Hani, who has previously promoted conspiracy theories about the 9/11 attacks.

Founded in 1984 in the English city of Birmingham by students involved with Muslim Brotherhood groups, Islamic Relief is today the largest Islamic charity in the West, with branches in more than 20 countries. It has received at least $80 million of funding from Western governments and international bodies, including the United Nations and the European Union. Its officials are members of government advisory panels, while Western cabinet ministers, European royalty and even Trump administration officials regularly speak at its events. That this international charity regularly promotes extremist preachers has evidently not worried public officials too much. And yet there are plenty of other facts about which politicians should be deeply concerned.
In 2014, the United Arab Emirates designated Islamic Relief Worldwide as a terrorist organisation, because of its links to the global Muslim Brotherhood. In 2016, the banking giant HSBC shut down Islamic Relief's accounts, following a similar decision made by UBS four years earlier. In 2017, the Bangladeshi government banned Islamic Relief from working directly with Rohingya refugees over reported fears about radicalisation. That same year, the UK Charity Commission started investigating Islamic Relief's promotion of extremist preachers.

Seemingly, however, the scale of Islamic Relief's bona fide charitable work has been impressive enough for those in the West to turn a blind eye to its ties to global extremist networks, despite the pleas of moderate Muslim activists
The Middle East Forum, a thinktank in Philadelphia, has now released a report looking extensively at Islamic Relief: its branches, its links to the Muslim Brotherhood, its connections to Hamas, its officials' extremism and its promotion of preachers who incite hatred against both moderate Muslims and non-Muslims.

There is no doubt that Islamic Relief is a flagship Muslim Brotherhood institution. One of its founders, Essam El-Haddad, was a member of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Guidance Bureau while also serving as an Islamic Relief board member. In 2012, El-Haddad joined Mohamed Morsi’s campaign team. Following the elections in Egypt, El-Haddad became Morsi’s senior foreign policy adviser. Following the military intervention to remove Morsi, El-Haddad was charged by Egyptian prosecutors with collaborating with Hamas and Hezbollah.

As our report shows in great detail, across the world, other Islamic Relief officials are tied to Muslim Brotherhood networks. In Sweden, for example, a recent government report concluded that Islamic Relief serves to provide “credibility” to the Muslim Brotherhood, and notes that Islamic Relief official Haytham Rahmeh is involved with providing weapons to Muslim Brotherhood fighters in Syria. Meanwhile, Swedish Islamic Relief official Abdallah Salah, is frequently pictured with Muslim Brotherhood insignia.

Islamic Relief collaborates with and funds several Hamas fronts. Islamic Relief UK has given money, for example, to the Al-Falah Benevolent Society, a Hamas da'wah organisation run by Ramadan Tamboura, described by journalists as a "well-known Hamas figure." Islamic Relief Worldwide, meanwhile, remains financially linked with other organisations connected to terror, including Qatari regime fronts such as the Qatar Charity.

In 2014, the UAE’s decision to ban Islamic Relief was met with confusion and scepticism in the West. At the time, journalists (some, incidentally, since employed by Muslim Brotherhood media) attacked the UAE and deemed the designation “completely ludicrous and defamatory.” But as the Middle East Forum has discovered, the UAE understood what Western politicians have been unable to grasp – that a charity that has served for three decades as a key conduit for international aid efforts could also be the financial arm for an international movement dedicated to promoting extremism and instability, and to radicalising historically moderate Muslim communities.

Islamic Relief is a vital cog in a dangerous machine. Its duplicity may have won over credulous media and politicians, but now governments in Europe and America must follow the UAE’s lead, and restrict the influence and reach of this international Islamist franchise and its hundreds of millions of dollars. As our report concludes: there are plenty of charities that do not promote extremism and subsidise terrorism; why should taxpayers all over the world fund one that does?

Sam Westrop is the Director of Islamist Watch, a project of the Middle East Forum

'Falling for Christmas'

Director: Janeen Damian

Stars: Lindsay Lohan, Chord Overstreet, Jack Wagner, Aliana Lohan

Rating: 1/5

MATCH INFO

West Ham United 2 (Antonio 73', Ogbonna 90+5')

Tottenham Hotspur 3 (Son 36', Moura 42', Kane 49')

UAE athletes heading to Paris 2024

Equestrian
Abdullah Humaid Al Muhairi, Abdullah Al Marri, Omar Al Marzooqi, Salem Al Suwaidi, and Ali Al Karbi (four to be selected).
Judo
Men: Narmandakh Bayanmunkh (66kg), Nugzari Tatalashvili (81kg), Aram Grigorian (90kg), Dzhafar Kostoev (100kg), Magomedomar Magomedomarov (+100kg); women's Khorloodoi Bishrelt (52kg).

Cycling
Safia Al Sayegh (women's road race).

Swimming
Men: Yousef Rashid Al Matroushi (100m freestyle); women: Maha Abdullah Al Shehi (200m freestyle).

Athletics
Maryam Mohammed Al Farsi (women's 100 metres).

The Specs

Engine: 1.6-litre 4-cylinder petrol
Power: 118hp
Torque: 149Nm
Transmission: Six-speed automatic
Price: From Dh61,500
On sale: Now

Our family matters legal consultant

Name: Hassan Mohsen Elhais

Position: legal consultant with Al Rowaad Advocates and Legal Consultants.

Remaining Fixtures

Wednesday: West Indies v Scotland
Thursday: UAE v Zimbabwe
Friday: Afghanistan v Ireland
Sunday: Final

Mercer, the investment consulting arm of US services company Marsh & McLennan, expects its wealth division to at least double its assets under management (AUM) in the Middle East as wealth in the region continues to grow despite economic headwinds, a company official said.

Mercer Wealth, which globally has $160 billion in AUM, plans to boost its AUM in the region to $2-$3bn in the next 2-3 years from the present $1bn, said Yasir AbuShaban, a Dubai-based principal with Mercer Wealth.

Within the next two to three years, we are looking at reaching $2 to $3 billion as a conservative estimate and we do see an opportunity to do so,” said Mr AbuShaban.

Mercer does not directly make investments, but allocates clients’ money they have discretion to, to professional asset managers. They also provide advice to clients.

“We have buying power. We can negotiate on their (client’s) behalf with asset managers to provide them lower fees than they otherwise would have to get on their own,” he added.

Mercer Wealth’s clients include sovereign wealth funds, family offices, and insurance companies among others.

From its office in Dubai, Mercer also looks after Africa, India and Turkey, where they also see opportunity for growth.

Wealth creation in Middle East and Africa (MEA) grew 8.5 per cent to $8.1 trillion last year from $7.5tn in 2015, higher than last year’s global average of 6 per cent and the second-highest growth in a region after Asia-Pacific which grew 9.9 per cent, according to consultancy Boston Consulting Group (BCG). In the region, where wealth grew just 1.9 per cent in 2015 compared with 2014, a pickup in oil prices has helped in wealth generation.

BCG is forecasting MEA wealth will rise to $12tn by 2021, growing at an annual average of 8 per cent.

Drivers of wealth generation in the region will be split evenly between new wealth creation and growth of performance of existing assets, according to BCG.

Another general trend in the region is clients’ looking for a comprehensive approach to investing, according to Mr AbuShaban.

“Institutional investors or some of the families are seeing a slowdown in the available capital they have to invest and in that sense they are looking at optimizing the way they manage their portfolios and making sure they are not investing haphazardly and different parts of their investment are working together,” said Mr AbuShaban.

Some clients also have a higher appetite for risk, given the low interest-rate environment that does not provide enough yield for some institutional investors. These clients are keen to invest in illiquid assets, such as private equity and infrastructure.

“What we have seen is a desire for higher returns in what has been a low-return environment specifically in various fixed income or bonds,” he said.

“In this environment, we have seen a de facto increase in the risk that clients are taking in things like illiquid investments, private equity investments, infrastructure and private debt, those kind of investments were higher illiquidity results in incrementally higher returns.”

The Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, one of the largest sovereign wealth funds, said in its 2016 report that has gradually increased its exposure in direct private equity and private credit transactions, mainly in Asian markets and especially in China and India. The authority’s private equity department focused on structured equities owing to “their defensive characteristics.”

Confirmed bouts (more to be added)

Cory Sandhagen v Umar Nurmagomedov
Nick Diaz v Vicente Luque
Michael Chiesa v Tony Ferguson
Deiveson Figueiredo v Marlon Vera
Mackenzie Dern v Loopy Godinez

Tickets for the August 3 Fight Night, held in partnership with the Department of Culture and Tourism Abu Dhabi, went on sale earlier this month, through www.etihadarena.ae and www.ticketmaster.ae.

COMPANY PROFILE

Name: Xpanceo

Started: 2018

Founders: Roman Axelrod, Valentyn Volkov

Based: Dubai, UAE

Industry: Smart contact lenses, augmented/virtual reality

Funding: $40 million

Investor: Opportunity Venture (Asia)

KEY DATES IN AMAZON'S HISTORY

July 5, 1994: Jeff Bezos founds Cadabra Inc, which would later be renamed to Amazon.com, because his lawyer misheard the name as 'cadaver'. In its earliest days, the bookstore operated out of a rented garage in Bellevue, Washington

July 16, 1995: Amazon formally opens as an online bookseller. Fluid Concepts and Creative Analogies: Computer Models of the Fundamental Mechanisms of Thought becomes the first item sold on Amazon

1997: Amazon goes public at $18 a share, which has grown about 1,000 per cent at present. Its highest closing price was $197.85 on June 27, 2024

1998: Amazon acquires IMDb, its first major acquisition. It also starts selling CDs and DVDs

2000: Amazon Marketplace opens, allowing people to sell items on the website

2002: Amazon forms what would become Amazon Web Services, opening the Amazon.com platform to all developers. The cloud unit would follow in 2006

2003: Amazon turns in an annual profit of $75 million, the first time it ended a year in the black

2005: Amazon Prime is introduced, its first-ever subscription service that offered US customers free two-day shipping for $79 a year

2006: Amazon Unbox is unveiled, the company's video service that would later morph into Amazon Instant Video and, ultimately, Amazon Video

2007: Amazon's first hardware product, the Kindle e-reader, is introduced; the Fire TV and Fire Phone would come in 2014. Grocery service Amazon Fresh is also started

2009: Amazon introduces Amazon Basics, its in-house label for a variety of products

2010: The foundations for Amazon Studios were laid. Its first original streaming content debuted in 2013

2011: The Amazon Appstore for Google's Android is launched. It is still unavailable on Apple's iOS

2014: The Amazon Echo is launched, a speaker that acts as a personal digital assistant powered by Alexa

2017: Amazon acquires Whole Foods for $13.7 billion, its biggest acquisition

2018: Amazon's market cap briefly crosses the $1 trillion mark, making it, at the time, only the third company to achieve that milestone

Herc's Adventures

Developer: Big Ape Productions
Publisher: LucasArts
Console: PlayStation 1 & 5, Sega Saturn
Rating: 4/5

The specs: 2018 Nissan Patrol Nismo

Price: base / as tested: Dh382,000

Engine: 5.6-litre V8

Gearbox: Seven-speed automatic

Power: 428hp @ 5,800rpm

Torque: 560Nm @ 3,600rpm

Fuel economy, combined: 12.7L / 100km

Brief scores:

Juventus 3

Dybala 6', Bonucci 17', Ronaldo 63'

Frosinone 0

Five calorie-packed Ramadan drinks

Rooh Afza
100ml contains 414 calories
Tang orange drink
100ml serving contains 300 calories
Carob beverage mix
100ml serving contains about 300 calories
Qamar Al Din apricot drink
100ml saving contains 61 calories
Vimto fruit squash
100ml serving contains 30 calories

ESSENTIALS

The flights 
Fly Etihad or Emirates from the UAE to Moscow from 2,763 return per person return including taxes. 
Where to stay 
Trips on the Golden Eagle Trans-Siberian cost from US$16,995 (Dh62,414) per person, based on two sharing.

SERIES INFO

Afghanistan v Zimbabwe, Abu Dhabi Sunshine Series

All matches at the Zayed Cricket Stadium, Abu Dhabi

Test series

1st Test: Zimbabwe beat Afghanistan by 10 wickets
2nd Test: Wednesday, 10 March – Sunday, 14 March

Play starts at 9.30am

T20 series

1st T20I: Wednesday, 17 March
2nd T20I: Friday, 19 March
3rd T20I: Saturday, 20 March

TV
Supporters in the UAE can watch the matches on the Rabbithole channel on YouTube

COMPANY PROFILE

Name: SmartCrowd
Started: 2018
Founder: Siddiq Farid and Musfique Ahmed
Based: Dubai
Sector: FinTech / PropTech
Initial investment: $650,000
Current number of staff: 35
Investment stage: Series A
Investors: Various institutional investors and notable angel investors (500 MENA, Shurooq, Mada, Seedstar, Tricap)

Company Profile

Company name: Cargoz
Date started: January 2022
Founders: Premlal Pullisserry and Lijo Antony
Based: Dubai
Number of staff: 30
Investment stage: Seed