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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 27 January 2021

US State Department warns donor countries over $100m for Islamic Relief Worldwide

Office to combat anti-Semitism condemned reports of 'hate speech'

Islamic Relief Worldwide, founded by Hany El Banna, continues to wield influence in the UK.
Islamic Relief Worldwide, founded by Hany El Banna, continues to wield influence in the UK.

The US State Department has called on governments around the world to review ties to Islamic Relief Worldwide after raising concerns about the views of members of it senior leadership.

The department's Office of the Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism said it condemned attitudes and remarks from figures associated with the organisation, which was banned by the UAE in 2014 under terrorism laws.

"As we witness a rise in anti-Semitism in every corner of the globe, it is incumbent on all people of good conscience to stand strong and exhibit zero tolerance for the blatant and horrifying anti-Semitism and glorification of violence exhibited at the most senior levels of IRW. We encourage all government bodies currently examining IRW activities and their relationship with IRW," it said. "Additional evidence of anti-Semitic and intolerant views by top IRW leaders, including a video showing IRW founder Hany El Banna describing Yazidis as 'devil worshippers', have come to light in recent weeks."

The State Department said it was a significant issue for all donors and donor countries that the organisation had been led by people with a record of hate speech, and that it commands annual resources of $100 million.

"The consistent pattern of spreading the most vile anti-Semitic vitriol by IRW’s leadership causes us to question the core values of the organisation," the department said.

The State Department not only cited the damaging remarks about Yazidis, which triggered an apology from Mr Banna, but also a series of anti-Jewish comments from other former directors.

"Heshmat Khalifa, a trustee and director of IRW, had posted on his Facebook page calling Jews the “grandchildren of monkeys and pigs,” it pointed out.

It also referred to reports about Almoutaz Tayara, who was also the chairman of Islamic Relief Germany, describing Hamas’ leaders as “great men” who answered the “divine and holy call of the Muslim Brotherhood”.

After the comments were reported, IRW repudiated the claims and reiterated that it was a humanitarian organisation.

“Any hate speech, and within that any expression of anti-Semitism, is in violation of our code of conduct and against everything that Islamic Relief stands for,” IRW said.

Updated: January 5, 2021 11:00 PM

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