The Office of the Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism condemns the well-documented record of anti-Semitic attitudes and remarks made by the senior leadership of Islamic Relief Worldwide (IRW). Given that IRW has an annual budget of approximately $100M+ and holds a designation as a charitable organization internationally, as well as 501 (C) (3) status in the United States, this record of anti-Semitism presents a significant issue for all donors and donor countries to IRW. The consistent pattern of spreading the most vile anti-Semitic vitriol by IRW’s leadership causes us to question the core values of the organization.
While numerous media reports abound detailing this anti-Semitic history at IRW, we believe it is worthwhile to review that history:
A July 2020 expose by the London Times and Dr. Lorenzo Vidino, director of the Program on Extremism at George Washington University, revealed that Heshmat Khalifa, a trustee and director of Islamic Relief Worldwide (IRW), had posted on his Facebook page calling Jews the “grandchildren of monkeys and pigs.”
Khalifa had also posted on social media in 2014 and 2015 calling Egyptian President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi a “Zionist pimp.” Khalifa had also praised Hamas, a U.S. designated terrorist organization, calling it “the purest resistance movement in modern history.” Khalifa resigned after The Times approached IRW.
The charity then promised that it was “reviewing our processes for screening trustees’ and senior executives’ social media posts to ensure that this will not happen again.”
However, just weeks later another London Times article showed that another IRW Trustee, Almoutaz Tayara, who was also the chairman of Islamic Relief Germany, had posted similarly anti-Semitic views glorifying terror attacks against Israel, and describing the Jewish state of Israel as the “Zionist enemy.” Tayara also described Hamas’ leaders as “great men” who answered the “divine and holy call of the Muslim Brotherhood.”
Another of Tayara’s posts depicted a cartoon of US President Barack Obama wearing a tie emblazoned with the Star of David, seemingly implying that “Jews control the US.” Referring to Hamas’s military wing, the Izz al-Din al-Qassem Brigades, Tayara wrote: “The al-Qassem heroes did not graduate from the military academies of the UK and the US, unlike the rulers and royals of the Arab world who, there, were nurtured on cowardice and allegiance to the foreigners — the UK and the US.” While these posts had already been brought to light in 2017 when German researcher Sigrid Herrmann-Marschall highlighted them in a blog post, Islamic Relief Germany chose to maintain Tayara as chairman following an apology which he issued, deletion of the posts and closure of his Facebook account.
This summer, when Tayara’s social media abuses came to public scrutiny, IRW issued a new statement that it had been “shocked by the anti-western and anti-Israel content of the posts partially glorifying violence and terrorism,” when it became aware of them, but that Tayara had given “outstanding support” to the charity for more than a decade. Moreover, additional evidence of anti-Semitic and intolerant views by top IRW leaders, including a video showing IRW founder Hany al Banna describing Yazidis as “devil worshippers”, have come to light in recent weeks.
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.