In November 2008, a jury returned guilty verdicts against the Texas-based Holy Land Foundation and five of its officials, after finding the charity had provided funding and support to the terrorist organization Hamas. But ten years after the largest terror finance case in U.S. history, Islamist charities once linked to the Holy Land Foundation continue to operate with impunity. One particularly interesting example is Baitulmaal, another Texas-based international aid charity.
Little has been written or researched about Baitulmaal, despite the fact it raised an astonishing $14.6 million in 2015, and today redirects hundreds of thousands of dollars to other organizations in Texas and across the United States, many of which are closely involved in prominent Islamist networks.
Baitulmaal, also known as AHED, was officially established in 2004 by a Palestinian-Jordanian named Hasan Hajmohammad. However, Baitulmaal claims to have actually been around since 1991, at one point operating under a group named the Islamic Trust of North Texas (which employed Hajmohammad as an imam and sponsored his visa).
Hajmohammad is the brother of the Jordanian Islamist parliamentarian Mohammad Al-Haj, who has stated that bullets are “are only to be directed at the occupying Zionist enemy.” In 2002, while in Texas, Hasan Hajmohammad received a police citation at a protest against Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, after he “grabbed” a counter-protestor “by the neck and began to hit him in the face with his fist.” In 2006, while visiting Jordan and the Palestinian territories, Israeli authorities arrested Hajmohammad over claims he was funding a Hamas front organization in the Palestinian town of Jenin.
Hajmohammad eventually made his way back to Texas, where, in 2008, he sued the U.S. government over its refusal to provide him with citizenship. In his original petition for naturalization, Hajmohammad provided a letter of recommendation from the Muslim Arab Youth Association, a prominent Hamas-linked organization that several U.S. lawmakers had in 2003 included on a list of organizations they argued “finance terrorism and perpetuate violence.”
The U.S. government fought Hajmohammad’s lawsuit, pointing to his involvement with three organizations (including Baitulmaal) found during the investigation into the Holy Land Foundation to be linked with the Muslim Brotherhood. When the government stated its intent to introduce evidence from another case against a Hamas operative named Ismail Elbarasse, Hajmohammad’s attorney quickly applied to dismiss his lawsuit, claiming that the “defendant has effectively brow-beat Plaintiff into acquiescence.”
Without Hajmohammad (who remained a “senior consultant” for the charity) at the helm and despite its peripheral mentionin the Holy Land Foundation trial, Baitulmaal nonetheless thrived. Its revenue grew from $1.8 million in 2008 to over $14 million by 2015. What exactly, then, is Baitulmaal funding?
During the 2000s, Baitulmaal claimed to be building mosques and “sponsoring Quranic schools in Palestine.” Although Baitulmaal now claims to operate across the globe, its 2016 tax return showed foreign expenditures of over $6 million in the Middle East, and wire transfers of a comparatively paltry $300,000 to South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.
When asked, Baitulmaal did not disclose a list of its partners. In the Palestinian territories, however, grant recipients seem to be a little more open about their benefactors. The Unlimited Friends Association for Social Development (UFA) is a Gaza-based charity that claims to “provide relief, emergency and developmental services to marginalized areas and people in need.” However, UFA openly works with senior Hamas officials.
In Gaza, UFA helps Baitulmaal hand out cash to the “families of martyrs of the Palestinian people,” whom UFA has described as those killed resisting “the ongoing slaughter against the Palestinian people.”
UFA has never been shy about its affiliations. It advertises in the prominent Hamas daily newspaper, Felesteen, in which it mentions its support from Baitulmaal. And on UFA’s Facebook page, its officials have written: “We ask God to drive away the anguish of the heroic prisoners in the Nazi Zionist jails and to free Al-Aqsa Al-Sharif [the Noble Al-Aqsa] from the filth of the most dirty Jews.”
To some extent, UFA appears to operate as a Palestinian affiliate of Baitulmaal. UFA’s chief employees, in fact, have also identified themselves as Baitulmaal employees. And the clear majority of UFA’s overseas donations come from the Texas charity.
In the West Bank, Baitulmaal’s partners are just as concerning. Baitulmaal fundraises for the Yazour Charitable Association. In 2008, the Israelis accused Yazour Charitable Association of being a Hamas organization, which Hamas media subsequently confirmed. One Palestinian newspaper reports that Baitulmaal and this Hamas front have been working together “for years.”
We also asked Baitulmaal about its financial support for UFA and the Yazour Charitable Association, but received no response.
Baitulmaal’s Islamist activities are not confined to its unaccountable spending in the Middle East. In America, Baitulmaal is closely involved with prominent Islamists. Its most recent executive director, Suleiman Alghanem, is involved with the Hamas-linked group, American Muslims for Palestine. And Baitulmaal’s events have featured speakers such as Osama Abu Irshaid, who has praised Hamas as “an army for liberation” whose fighters “rise up for the blood of martyrs.”
Baitulmaal has many affiliates, subsidiaries, and partners who have similarly escaped past scrutiny. Baitulmaal’s tax returns reveal donations worth hundreds of thousands of dollars to dozens of similar Islamist charities and groups across America, including charities linked to the Muslim Brotherhood and the Turkish regime.
Some of these charities share officials: United Hands Relief for example, is a new charity run by Baitulmaal’s own Suleiman Alghanem. United Hands Relief’s 2016 tax return even recorded its original name as Baitulmaal Relief and Development. In fact, in Gaza, UFA and Baitulmaal employee Amjad Mansour now claims to run United Hands Relief’s Palestine office as well.
Meanwhile, former Baitulmaal President Abuabdallah Boumidiene also served as executive director of American Near East Refugee Aid, as well as CEO of the terror-linked charity LIFE for Relief and Development, both of which, along with United Muslims Relief, are also donors to UFA in Gaza. All of these charities partner closely, both privately and through international bodies such as the UN.
There exists a prosperous, incestuous network of lesser-known Islamist charities operating in America, many of which are linked to extremism at home and terror abroad. Baitulmaal is just one terror-linked, multi-million dollar example.
The Holy Land Foundation trial finished ten years ago. Since then, while attentions and politics have been focused elsewhere, Islamist charitable networks have flourished, and are now raising millions of dollars and sending it to parts of the world where Islamist terror thrives. It is time for law enforcement to investigate the activities of all these charities, and start shutting down one of global Islamism’s most lucrative industries.
Sam Westrop is the Director of Islamist Watch, a project of the Middle East Forum.