The Al Haramain Islamic Foundation (AHIF) is a Saudi-based charity that claims to provide educational, financial, and material support to impoverished Muslims around the world. One of its priorities is “to establish the correct beliefs in the hearts of the Muslims as comes from the Book of Allah and the Sunnah based upon the understanding of the righteous and pious generations.” At its height in the 1990s, Al Haramain was active in more than 50 countries, and according to Al Jazeera the charity raised approximately $30 million per year. Its revenues and international activities have dwindled markedly since 1998, however, due to allegations of the group’s involvement with international terrorism.
To spread its teachings about Islam, AHIF has used and distributed the Wahhabi translation of the Qur’an, translated by Muhammad Taqi-ud-Din Al-Hilali and Muhammad Muhsin Khan. This translation is known for its insertion of “explanatory” bracketed material and footnotes that are not part of the Arabic Qur’anic text. These insertions uniformly guide readers in a radical direction. The “explanatory” material, among other things, touches on jihad. An early footnote states:
“Al-Jihad (holy fighting) in Allah’s Cause (with full force of numbers and weaponry) is given the utmost importance in Islam and is one of its pillars (on which it stands). By Jihad Islam is established, Allah’s Word is made superior, … and His Religion (Islam) is propagated. By abandoning Jihad (may Allah protect us from that) Islam is destroyed and the Muslims fall into an inferior position; their honour is lost, their lands are stolen, their rule and authority vanish. Jihad is an obligatory duty in Islam on every Muslim, and he who tries to escape from this duty, or does not in his innermost heart wish to fulfil this duty, dies with one of the qualities of a hypocrite.”
This footnote thus rules out nonmilitary interpretations of jihad by insisting on “full force of numbers and weaponry,” endorses jihad as a means of propagating Islam, and specifies that this fighting is required of “every Muslim.”
Al Haramain also appended an essay about jihad to an English translation of the Qur’an commonly known as “The Noble Qur’an,” which AHIF distributed widely. The essay itself is not a part of the Qur’an, and is titled “The Call to Jihad (Holy Fighting in Allah’s Cause) in the Qur’an.” (The parenthetical phrase is not an addition; it appears in the essay’s title.) The 22-page essay, written by former Saudi Arabian chief justice Abdullah bin Muhammad bin Humaid, is an exhortation to violence. Bin Humaid argues at length that Muslims are obligated to wage war against non-Muslims who have not submitted to Islamic rule. He explains:
“Allah … commanded the Muslims to fight against all the Mushrikun as well as against the people of the Scriptures (Jews and Christians) if they do not embrace Islam, till they pay the Jizyzah (a tax levied on the non-Muslims who do not embrace Islam and are under the protection of an Islamic government) with willing submission and feel themselves subdued.”
Mushrikun refers to non-Muslims who are not classified as people of the Scriptures. In other words, bin Humaid advocates war with the entire non-Muslim world. And he appeals to the reader to volunteer for jihad:
“Jihad is a great deed indeed and there is no deed whose reward or blessing is as that of it, and for this reason, it is the best thing that one can volunteer for. … [I]t (Jihad) shows one’s patience, one’s devotion to Islam, one’s remembrance to Allah and there are other kinds of good deeds which are present in Jihad and are not present in any other act of worship.”
In 2005 two Al Haramain directors, Soliman al-Buthi and Pete Seda (a.k.a. Pirouz Seda Ghaty), were indicted for their roles in a money-laundering scheme that federal investigators believe financed the Chechen mujahideen. Al-Buthi (who the Treasury Department in 2004 had named a “specially designated global terrorist,” alleging direct ties between Al Haramain and al Qaeda) thereafter became a fugitive living in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. There, al-Buthi was promoted by the Saudi government to the post of Health Department Director. “My government knows me very well,” al-Buthi has said.
The U.S. Treasury designated Al Haramain’s offices in Kenya and Tanzania as sponsors of terrorism for their role in planning and funding the 1998 bombings of two American embassies in East Africa. The Comoros Islands office was also designated because it “was used as a staging area and exfiltration route for the perpetrators of the 1998 bombings.”
The New York Times reported in 2003 that Al Haramain had provided funds to the Indonesian terrorist group Jemaah Islamiyah, which was responsible for the 2002 Bali bombings that killed 202 people. The Indonesia office was later designated a terrorist entity by the Treasury Department because of this, and because it had provided support to al Qaeda in the region.
Al Haramain’s Afghanistan office was designated for supporting the bin Laden-financed Makhtab al-Khidemat terrorist organization, and for its involvement with a group training to attack foreigners in Afghanistan after the Taliban fell. The Albania office was designated because of its ties to al Qaeda and the Egyptian Islamic Jihad. The Bangladesh office was designated after an official sent an operative to conduct surveillance on U.S. consulates in India. The Ethiopian branch was designated because of its support for al-Ittihad al-Islamiya, a Somali terrorist group that carried out attacks on Ethiopian defense forces. The Pakistan office was designated for supporting the Taliban, Lashkar-i-Taibah, and Makhtab al-Khidemat.
On March 11, 2002, the United States and Saudi Arabia acted together to shut down the Somalia and Bosnia branches of Al Haramain, charging that those offices had diverted charitable funds to terrorism. The Somalia branch employed members of Al-Itihaad al-Islamiya and paid them through the Al-Barakaat Bank, a principal source of funding, intelligence, and money transfers for Osama bin Laden. The Bosnia office, meanwhile, had ties to Al-Gama’at Al-Islamiyya (the Islamic Group), an Egyptian terrorist organization that was a signatory to Osama bin Laden‘s fatwa dated Feb. 23, 1998, which targeted Americans and their allies. On January 29, 2004, the United Nations added Al Haramain to its list of groups whose assets were to be blocked due to affiliations with al Qaeda.
In March 2004, the United States Treasury Department charged individuals associated with a Tanzanian branch of Al Haramain with plotting attacks against tourist hotels on Zanzibar (though their plots had been foiled by local security). The Netherlands office was also designated for its terrorist affiliations.
All told, between 2002 and 2004, thirteen separate Al-Haramain branches had been individually designated for their terrorist ties, including the U.S. branch based in Ashland, Oregon (which was charged with providing funds to al Qaeda). In June 2008, the U.S. Treasury Department applied the terrorist designation to the entire Al-Haramain organization worldwide
Significant portions of this profile are adapted from Daveed Gartenstein-Ross’s insights which appear in the article “Confronting a Year in Radical Islam,” written by Jamie Glazov and published by FrontPageMagazine.com on February 16, 2007.