January 30, 2022 | Insight

Terrorists Benefit from Qatar’s Goodwill and Charity

January 30, 2022 | Insight

Terrorists Benefit from Qatar’s Goodwill and Charity

On Monday, President Joe Biden will have a busy meeting at the White House with Qatari ruler Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad. Qatar hosts one of the biggest U.S military bases in the Gulf region and has been instrumental in resettling Afghan refugees forced to flee their country last year. While giving credit where credit is due, Biden should not shy away from the sensitive question of whether Doha’s lavish support for foreign Islamist charities winds up putting millions of dollars in the hands of terrorists.

In November, the Middle East Forum uncovered documents showing that Qatar’s Eid Charity has offered 46,000 grants to 391 groups from all corners of earth. The groups were overwhelmingly Islamist, with a considerable number of ultra conservative Salafists among them.

The Eid Charity is a quasi-governmental organization established in 1995 by Muhammad Al Thani, a member of the ruling family and a cabinet minister who named his charity after his late father Eid. On its website, Eid Charity describes Qatar’s state-owned Al-Jazeera TV and Qatar Airlines as “partners.”

Between 2004 and 2019, the foundation spent $770 million, mainly to buy food and clothing for the poor and to sponsor teaching and preaching of Islam, mostly in the austere Wahhabi rite. Eid Charity also funded political organizations, including $2.7 million for the Jerusalem International Charity (JIC), which the Treasury Department sanctioned in 2012 “for being controlled by and acting for or on behalf of Hamas.” The Beirut-based JIC remains active, although it is not clear from the documents whether Doha continues to bankroll the group. The Eid Charity’s last known contribution was in 2019.

Funding for JIC hasn’t even made it friendly to its benefactor. On its website, the group attacked Qatar for allowing 13 Israeli athletes to participate in a 2021 Judo World Masters tournament in Doha. JIC also thrashed the government of Qatar for suppressing “the popular Qatari voice that opposes normalization” with Israel. In 2020, JIC said the Doha government was “maintaining ties with the Zionist occupation.” While JIC is unlikely to change its views, it is hard to understand why Doha would pay millions to a terrorist entity, let alone one that thrashes Qatar.

To be fair, JIC is one of the few explicitly political organizations on the list of recipients of the Eid Charity. Most other organizations active in predominantly Arab countries seem focused on social work. Yet Hamas, Hezbollah, and similar organizations reject the notion that warfare and welfare are separate missions. Rather, they are part of a single struggle against Israel, the United States, and other purported enemies of Islam.

Accordingly, Hamas and Hezbollah routinely leverage the personnel and funding of social welfare organizations for political and military purposes. Of course, open acknowledgements of such activity are rare. Hamas and Hezbollah appreciate the value of letting others believe they distinguish between charity work and armed conflict. Charity organizations also serve as a useful vehicle for spreading radical ideologies and recruiting potential operatives.

Two examples from Gaza show how the organizations that receive Qatari funding promote intolerance or even violence. The Association of Young Muslim Women received a total of $1.3 million from Eid Charity, a sizable amount in the highly impoverished strip. On its Facebook page, the association emphasizes its efforts to prevent drug abuse and domestic violence.

Scrolling down its Facebook page, one discovers that the group offers courses that teach women to “know your enemy.” The courses train women on how to store information, hide it, and stay vigilant against Israeli attempts to steal any information about Gazans.

The Association of Young Muslim Women also warns against “celebrating with Christians on Christian holidays,” a theme that another Gazan organization, the Ibn Baz Charity Association, also promotes aggressively. The latter received $3.5 million in grants from the Eid Foundation.

Ibn Baz was the late Saudi Grand Mufti who favored very strict interpretations of Islam. In a post on its Facebook page, the Ibn Baz Association opposes “tolerance toward peaceful infidels,” meaning Christians. The association says it is okay to interact with infidel Christians, but Muslims should never wish them happy holidays or share with them their worship activity. “We are not ashamed of our Islam,” the post concludes.

While Qatar’s funding of charity and social work is commendable, President Biden should whisper in the ear of Sheikh Tamim to rethink where Qatari money goes. Extensive due diligence is necessary to distinguish between legitimate charities and those that mix social work with radical ideology or even direct support for terrorism. Evidence from the Eid Charity files suggests Doha needs to try harder.

Hussain Abdul-Hussain is a research fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD). For more analysis from Hussain, please subscribe HERE. Follow Hussain on Twitter @hahussain. Follow FDD on Twitter @FDD. FDD is a Washington, DC-based, nonpartisan research institute focusing on national security and foreign policy.


Gulf States Hezbollah Israel Palestinian Politics Sanctions and Illicit Finance