American national security faces a bipartisan challenge as Sunni and Shi’a Islamists join forces to
infiltrate and subvert charitable and political causes to advance their revolutionary agenda. A new
Middle East (MEF) Forum report on Islamic Relief—a Sunni international charity with chapters in the US, UK, and dozens of European and Middle Eastern countries—reveals connections not only to Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas-affiliated NGOs, but also Khomeinist Shi’a organizations. Regardless of the historical Sunni/Shi’a divide or the sectarian bloodshed in Syria, Islamists of all persuasions are
increasingly making common cause.
One prominent example is Essam El-Hadad, co-founder of the Islamic Relief franchise and previously the senior foreign policy advisor to the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohamed Morsi, the since-deposed Egyptian president. Haddad helped build Egypt’s links with Iran. He met with Qasem Soleimani, Iran’s spy chief and head of the regime’s Al Quds Force, according to The Times, to “advise the Government on building its own security and intelligence apparatus, independent of the national intelligence services.”
Subsequently, Morsi hosted the then-Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad; and El Haddad, along
with other Muslim Brotherhood representatives, traveled to Iran.
At the time, these connections were puzzling. Iranian-backed Hizbullah fighters and Sunni rebels
(including Muslim Brotherhood affiliates) were locked in an intra-Islamist battle in Syria that seemed to be affecting relations elsewhere. Muslim Brotherhood fronts mostly stopped participating in the Iran-
sponsored Al Quds Day, an annual march in North American and European cities in support of Hizbullah and the future “liberation” of Jerusalem.
It now appears that Sunni and Shi’a Islamists’ differences over Syria did not cause them to sever
fundraising links or end political coordination in the West.
A case in point is the Iranian Alavi Foundation (AF), which was recently forced to surrender its majority
stake in a Manhattan skyscraper for violating U.S. sanctions. While serving Tehran’s obvious interests,
repatriating or spending millions of dollars on subversive scholarship and interfaith programs, AF also
supported Sunni Islamist groups, including Islamic Relief, a frequent partner of the Council on American
Islamic Relations (CAIR) and the International Institute of Islamic Thought (IIIT).
Another AF grantee, Michigan’s Islamic House of Wisdom, a Shiite mosque, employs Imam Mohammed
Ali Elahi, who formerly taught Islamic Ethics at the Iranian Naval Academy in the early 1980s; served as
one of Ayatollah Khomeini’s top propagandists; defends Hizbullah; and was part of a delegation that met
with Hassan Rouhani. CAIR’s executive director, Nihad Awad, joined Elahi as part of that delegation;
Awad and Elahi both accepted Rouhani’s claim that Iran intervened in Syria only to fight terrorism and
defend children from ISIS. This is not the only time Awad has aligned with Shi’a Islamists. Indeed,
during Awad’s tenure at CAIR, the group organized a dinner for Iran’s then-president Mohamed
Khatami. Awad has also boasted of being invited to meet with Turkey’s President Erdogan and Iran’s
President Rouhani during the UN General Assembly in September 2018.
In 2009, CAIR-Michigan’s executive director, Dawud Walid and CAIR National’s communications director,
Ibrahim Hooper, both condemned the American government’s seizure of four mosques owned by AF.
And, in 2013, when the AF-funded Irshad Islamic Center – another Shiite mosque and a sponsor of Al
Quds Day – encountered bureaucratic obstacles to its efforts to convert a private residence into a mosque, CAIR successfully sued the local zoning board.
Islamic Relief and CAIR have ran joint and concurrent political campaigns and events with the National
Iranian American Council (NIAC), an AF grantee, unmasked as an unregistered foreign agent of Iran.
NIAC’s internal documents, reveal close collaboration with two officers of Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence,
as well as how NIAC, the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), and another pro-Tehran group,
CASMII, were among the founders of a coalition to lobby for the JCPOA nuclear deal. NIAC remains close
with other Iranian lobby fellow travelers, such as Georgetown University academic John Esposito.
NIAC’s joint efforts with Sunnis extend beyond the nuclear deal. NIAC’s Elham Khatami and Islamic Relief
President Anwar Khan joined the same activist board, which embraces Islamist presenters and
apologists under the guise of opposing Islamophobia. This ongoing effort allows Kahn and Khatami—and their respective organizations—to appear supportive of liberal, interfaith causes, while continuing
privately to advance their illiberal, theocratic agenda.
NIAC campaigned beside CAIR to oppose the Trump-imposed travel restrictions. And, in 2012, CAIR and
NIAC both condemned Apple for alleged discrimination against Farsi-speakers. Similarly, both groups
have denounced Muslim opponents of theocracy as “Islamophobes”. Linda Sarsour, a frequent CAIR
speaker and co-Chair of the Women’s March, associates with both pro-Hamas and pro-Hizbullah
factions, such as Abbas Hamideh’s al-Awda, the Palestine Right of Return Coalition, which supports
Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions ( BDS ) against Israel. The Palestine Right of Return Coalition is based on
a false premise (arguably debunked by a State Department report) that descendants of all of the Arabs
who have left the lands that are now the State of Israel in 1948 are refugees under international law
and have the birthright to return to that territory. Most Palestinians who have settled in other Middle
Eastern or African countries have not received citizenships of those states; however, even some of the
US-born descendants of the original Arab communities who have left in 1948, despite being multiple
generations away from those events claim to be “refugees” and make a claim to Israeli territory based
on that claim. This group is not a proponent of any peaceful resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,
nor has it backed the rights of the Palestinians living under duress in various Middle Eastern states.
Rashida Tlaib, a recently elected Democratic member of the US Congress, headlined a recent CAIR
Congressional reception event and she also recently posed with a Hezbullah supporter at a private dinner.
In 2016, NIAC and its Sunni Islamist partners co-signed a petition calling on President Obama to rescind
the allegedly discriminatory National Security Exit-Entry System. And NIAC worked with CAIR to aid Iran,
ease U.S. entrance requirements for Iranian dual-nationals, and protest counter-terrorism measures.
NIAC conveniently covers for its Muslim Brotherhood allies by downplaying Brotherhood influence on Al
Qaeda, instead ascribing terror’s ideological roots to Saudi-backed Wahhabism, and claiming that the
Brotherhood “rarely engaged in terrorism.”
A key player in the Sunni-Shi’a alliance is Masoud Modarres, a well-known name in Iranian charity
circles. Modarres is linked with scandals at the Child Foundation, which, just like the Alavi Foundation,
was investigated for Iranian regime money laundering. Several staffers were convicted in at least two
Perhaps Moddares’s experience with various humanitarian and community causes, such as the “Peace
Project”, “IranAm”, and “Noor va-Danesh,” allegedly prepared him for service as CF’s director of
outreach, its liaison between Shi’a extremist and Muslim Brotherhood organizations. His actual
experience as a peacebuilder and member of US-based humanitarian organizations is questionable. He
lists himself as a consultant for a “Peace Project” for nearly 7 years from 2012 to the present day.
The Project has no description, however, and English language search yields only a Mohammed
Modarres (MSc), a different person who is a founding director of an endeavor called “The Peace Project”
– with no description for this purported NGO. He likewise claims to have experience as President of a
publishing and mailing company called Internet Concepts, supposedly aimed at various ethnic
communities in the United States, and later an ethnic research contributor to the Iranian American
community aspect of that organization’s research. However, there is no mention of it in the English
language though he claims to have been involved in it for 21 years. He does not list any publications or
examples of research produced by that organization. Modarres was a board member of Noor va-Danesh
(from 2007-08), a Persian language school in Rutherfood, NJ, which is listed as a beneficiary of AF.
Given that link to AF, a reasonable question is who was funding these purported organizational efforts
all these years, and what was Modarres really doing. Finally, Modarres claims to be an international
consultant providing his expertise to international NGOs, but he does not list these organizations, nor
examples of his work on his LinkedIn account. Thanks to his more current and public efforts, however,
CF and Islamic Relief co-organized campaigns related to Syria, Yemen, and the earthquake in Iran.
Another campaign focused on refugees. Both Sunni and Shia Islamists rely on charitable programs to
acquire moral credibility and raise vast amounts of money for their agendas.
Although Sunni and Shi’a Islamists have pledged their allegiance to state and non-state actors with
divergent theologies, histories, and goals, ultimately both groups are infused with a revolutionary zeal,
support jihadist terrorists and ideologues, and are willing to join forces to damage the United States,
Israel, and stable Middle Eastern and African governments. They use charities to run joint political
campaigns, align with radical leftists, and lobby the US Government, benefiting foreign actors—all at the
expense of US national security interests.
The sooner this unholy alliance is exposed, the faster we can act to unravel these networks before they
do any more damage. Until now, the efforts to uncover these connections have been led largely by
conservative-leaning groups which the media and Islamist organizations have dismissed as “fringe”.
However, national security concerns are neither right wing and left wing. There is a need for an
independent, intellectually diverse, and a politically bipartisan coalition of researchers investigating these
links and inconsistencies, and presenting credible, transparent findings to Congress.