Erdogan's associates use zakat funds to finance Brotherhood with Washington’s knowledge
The international Brotherhood relies on donation-based charitable organizations to spread its influence in Western society, as well as facilitating the procedures for transferring funds between countries. Among the most prominent entities employed by the Brotherhood to facilitate its dubious operations is the US-based Zakat Foundation of America.
Contrary to what many expected that the Brotherhood’s activities in Washington and the West in general would be narrowed after it was declared a terrorist group in most countries in the Middle East such as Egypt, the UAE and Saudi Arabia, the US administration is still being criticized for allowing the Brotherhood’s financial institutions – which contribute to the cash flows of terrorist groups – to operate on US soil.
An investigation conducted by the Investigative Project on Terrorism and the Middle East Forum revealed that the Brotherhood has used the Zakat Foundation as a cover to fund al-Qaeda since the foundation's establishment in 2001.
According to the investigation, terrorists have adopted charitable organizations to facilitate the collection and transfer of funds to militants, and many of these institutions have been labeled as financers of terrorist groups following extensive investigations in the United States in the aftermath of the events of September 11, 2001, including the Holy Land Foundation and other entities.
The investigative reports reviewed the background of the Turkish-born head of the Zakat Foundation, Khalil Demir, for further verification on the funding links between the Brotherhood’s institutions in the United States and al-Qaeda.
Prior to the Zakat Foundation’s establishment, Demir worked as a public relations official for the Benevolence International Foundation (BIF), which was added to the terrorist list by the US Treasury in 2002.
Enaam Arnaout, who had headed BIF, was accused of using the foundation to finance terrorists, which he eventually admitted, as BIF had been supporting militants in Bosnia and Chechnya, using the donations to provide them with clothes, food and basic necessities.
Arnaout was also accused of having direct contact with late al-Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden, as he worked with him to release funds according to bin Laden's needs as he requested directly.
Penetrating political circles
As is the Brotherhood’s custom, the group seeks to recruit its charities to attract politicians. In 2017, the Zakat Foundation organized a party to which New York Mayor Bill de Palacio was invited, and in 2019, Demir began to visit the Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s office to participate in various events.
Moreover, the Nordic Monitor website revealed that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is using his associate Demir to consolidate these socio-political ties with US officials by organizing joint events.
In cooperation with Demir and Turkish consulate official Mahmut Ay, Ankara organizes Islamic events and invites important US politicians. These events are also organized in partnership with the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA).
It is worth noting in this regard that the increasing pressure on the US government to track the movement of funds of the Brotherhood's charitable organizations has led to the closure of three bank accounts belonging to the Zakat Foundation, which the terrorist organization has not yet announced.
This exposes the United States to criticism from politicians, media and activists opposed to the Brotherhood’s activities in the country. Hassan Salameh, a professor of political science, previously told the Reference that the declaration of the Brotherhood as a terrorist group in Washington has important political considerations. The group is used by some regimes as a tool to destabilize the Middle East to achieve private agendas. Accordingly, the US abandonment of the group and the confiscation of its funds and bank accounts are subject to evaluation of the US interest and the extent of future utilitarianism behind it.
But what is clear is that the group uses its entities to penetrate deeply into political circles, which poses a threat to the values of American society in particular and Western societies in general.