2 Islamic groups decry terror links
Complaint was sent to Internal Revenue Service
Detroit Free Press
September 25, 2001
BY L.L. BRASIER, MARYANNE GEORGE AND DAVID ZEMAN
FREE PRESS STAFF WRITERS
Two Islamic organizations with offices in Michigan said Monday they have
been falsely accused of being front groups for terrorism by a
special-interest group with a conservative agenda.
The Indiana-based Muslim Arab Youth Association in North
America (MAYA), which has an office in Southfield, and the Texas-based
Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), with a branch in Lathrup
Village, showed up on a list of 16 charities that Judicial Watch alleges are
part of a "terror financial network likely linked" to Osama bin
The groups denied the allegations.
Neither group is on the list of 27 organizations and
individuals with alleged ties to terrorists whose assets the government said
Monday it wants to freeze.
But last week, Judicial Watch, which identifies itself as a
public-interest law firm based in Washington, named the groups in a
complaint it sent to the Internal Revenue Service demanding an
Judicial Watch, which has filed dozens of suits against
government agencies and represented Paula Jones and Gennifer Flowers in
actions against President Bill Clinton, said it based its list on published
accounts linking the groups to terrorist activity.
The Free Press asked for the accounts referring to CAIR and
MAYA and was faxed published reports on Monday. The only reference to CAIR
is from a Pittsburgh newspaper report that quotes a freelance journalist as
saying the group is a front for Hamas, a militant anti-Israel group.
National Islamic leaders are quoted refuting that characterization. Two
references from other accounts refer to MAYA as a sponsor of Islamic
Tom Fitton, a spokesman for Judicial Watch, said the
allegations against CAIR also are based on confidential sources he declined
Members of the local branches were angered by the
accusations and said they are considering a defamation lawsuit against
"It is very unfair," said lawyer Shereef Akeel of
Huntington Woods, who represents both groups. "You can't say things
like this that are untruthful.
"The Muslim Arab Youth Association is a group for kids.
They've built a fine reputation in this country and in Canada. For 14 years,
they have been providing social and cultural activities for students and
their families. They work toward harmony and unity, and for these types of
accusations to be made is just wrong."
Haaris Ahmad, local director of CAIR, said, "It's
become part of the whole witch-hunt.
"Our whole focus has been on improving relationships
with Muslims and non-Muslims, of fostering goodwill for Islam. That's our
whole thing. We have no international connections. And we barely have enough
money to meet our goals. What we have, we're not giving away."
CAIR, with a staff of two in Michigan, provides seminars in
schools and for community groups to educate people about Islam, Ahmad said.
It also produces brochures for schools, hospitals and law enforcement so
that their staffs are better prepared to deal with Muslim citizens.
In Detroit, an IRS spokeswoman said the agency was aware of
the Judicial Watch complaint, but declined to say whether it would result in
"We believe there may be some charities out there that
are funneling money," said Sarah Wreford of the IRS. "Whether they
are on that list, we don't know."
Meanwhile, in the Ann Arbor area, the Islamic Assembly of
North America (IANA) also has come under scrutiny because the name of its
president, Mohammed Alahmari, is on a list of people the FBI said last week
it wanted to question in connection with the terrorist attacks.
Alahmari, 42, told the Free Press last week in an interview
at his Ypsilanti Township office that he called the FBI in Detroit and was
told he should not have been on the list. FBI Special Agent Dawn Clenney has
repeatedly declined to comment.
IANA is not on the list of 27 organizations or people whose
assets are being targeted by the federal government.
Alahmari said IANA is a nonprofit group set up to
disseminate information about Islam and has no links to terrorist groups.
"Our work is to guide people as Muslims," Alahmari
said. "We do not condone terrorism, we don't fund terrorism and we do
not support Osama bin Laden."
Alahmari said the group hosts two conferences a year,
publishes and distributes books, runs Web sites and offers counseling and
financial assistance to Muslims. He said the group has five full-time staff
Alahmari said revenues -- listed in federal tax documents as
more than $498,000 in 1999 and $207,000 in 2000 -- are raised through
personal donations, book sales and conferences. The group reported expenses
of $291,170 in 1999 and $369,183 in 2000.
Alahmari, who lives in Ann Arbor, declined to disclose
details of his personal life.
Records show IANA was incorporated in Colorado in 1993, and
Colorado continues to be its corporate home, though it also is registered in
In incorporation papers, IANA says funds are to go
"exclusively for Islamic charitable, educational, or religious
purposes," in keeping with its federal nonprofit, tax-exempt status.
But some funds, the group says, are to "be distributed
to one or more of its affiliated organizations" that share its
tax-exempt status. Presumably, that includes IANA Corp., the group's trade
name, and the Waqf Foundation in Ann Arbor, which IANA says raises money
that will "be invested in real estate and other ventures."
And New York-based Help the Needy, another assumed name of
the corporation, according to Michigan records, raises money for food and
Ayman Jarwan, office manager for Help the Needy, said Monday
the group recently separated itself from IANA and relocated to Syracuse,
N.Y. He described the group as a nonprofit charity that helps needy people
in the United States and abroad.
Jarwan declined to say how much money the group raises each
year. He said half of the revenue is sent to needy people in Iraq for items
such as food, clothing and medicine.
Jarwan also denied having links to terrorist groups.
Contact L.L. BRASIER at 248-858-2262 or firstname.lastname@example.org,
MARYANNE GEORGE at 734-665-5600 or email@example.com
or DAVID ZEMAN at 313-222-6600 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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