Accuracy in Media

In January the Muslim American Society (MAS) issued a press release titled “CNN Agrees to List Muslim charities.” The MAS’s public affairs arm, the “Freedom Foundation” said it had contacted national media concerning their failure to list Muslim charities in tsunami coverage as worthy recipients of aid dollars.  MAS recommended two charities to national media. Those two organizations were Islamic Relief USA and the Islamic Circle North America. “Both are recognized and respectable NGOs who have been working in Asia and Africa for years,” Executive Director Mahdi Bray said. MAS claimed victory with CNN, but CNN’s reaction seems mixed.

The CNN webpage does include Islamic Relief Worldwide, based in London, the parent group of Islamic Relief of Burbank, California. But it omits the Burbank branch and the Islamic Circle of North America.

There are outstanding and substantial controversies regarding both. The Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA) has previously been described by the L.A. Times as allied with Jama’at-i-Islami (JI) a Pakistani fundamentalist group that calls Osama Bin Laden the hero of the Islamic world. At a JI rally a few years ago, millions of dollars and 22 pounds of gold were raised for the cause of armed jihad throughout the world. Bin Laden was invited but could not safely attend to see the fatigue-clad mujahadeen youth that had turned out to honor him. A spokesman for another terrorist group, HAMAS, was able to accept the invitation and attended. ICNA sends money to JI for what it contends are charitable purposes.

Khalid Duran, a professor, scholar and president of the IbnKhaldun Society, a cultural association and forum of independent Muslim intellectuals, has an interesting view of this. He has testified on Capitol Hill, in the Swedish Parliament and the German Bundestag, on topics such as Afghanistan, Algeria, Bosnia, Iran, Sudan and terrorism.  Duran has alleged that the ICNA is the North American branch of JI.

Is there support for that view? We examined notes on a meeting that transpired in Woodside, New York, in July 2000 that may shed light on the issue. The official notes are of a “unity” meeting held between ICNA and a smaller American group, Jama’at-al-Muslimeen (JM.)  JM was represented by its leader Dr. Kaukab Siddique. Who represented ICNA? Qazi Hussein Ahmed, the Pakistani leader of JI. Indeed, the notes state that JI has an organization in America called the Islamic Circle of North America.

It’s no wonder that ICNA conferences in America have often featured Islamist ideology.

The other recommended charity, The Islamic Relief of Burbank, California, also has been the subject of controversy. Syndicated columnist Michelle Malkin reported in her book “Invasion,” that the Islamic Relief accepted $50,000 from an alleged bin Laden front-group through its British office.

Malkin reported, “Data from the United States Department of Labor reveals that four Muslim charities under federal investigation for ties to terrorism applied for high tech, or H1-B visas, on behalf of at least sixteen workers over the past years. Three of the charities…had their assets frozen by the Treasury Department after the September 11 attacks. The fourth, Islamic Relief Worldwide in Burbank, California, accepted $50,000 from an alleged bin Laden front group at its British office, according to Treasury officials.”

The standard for a media company listing a charity in its coverage of tragedies should be the credibility and reputation of the group, not its religious affiliation. Media should resist pressures to automatically list Muslim groups as worthy recipients of American aid dollars. After all, concerned citizens want to help victims of natural disasters, not assist organizations that may contribute to producing more victims of terrorism.

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