The Alavi Foundation, recently accused of illegally providing funding and services to Iran, supported Middle Eastern culture and language programs at Harvard to promote Islamic education. Harvard Spokesman Kevin Galvin said that officials of the university were unaware of Alavi’s ties.
Middle East studies Professor Roger Owen received grants from Alavi for his work at the Center for Middle Eastern Studies.
The organization has also donated hundreds of thousands to Rutgers University and Columbia University to fund Persian language and culture programs. It also owns the Razi School, a private Islamic grade school in Queens.
They continue to deny charges of funding Iran and are fighting government efforts to seize their properties, which include mosques around the country.
In this piece by Houston Chronicle web producer Samira Rizvi, the interests, activities and worshipers of Houston’s Islamic Education Center are discussed. The article paints a picture of the organization and the Muslims that are part of it from the perspective of one of its own members. The question of whether Muslims should apologize for Major Hasan’s actions is also addressed.
The Islamic Education Center is an asset that has been seized by federal authorities as part of an investigation of its owners—Iran’s Alavi Foundation—for alleged financial ties to the Iranian government.
The Houston mosque was one of four properties seized in an investigation of Alavi.
Neither the mosques nor any members are being accused of criminal activity, and authorities state they are allowing religious life to continue as usual in the mosques.
The New York-based Alavi Foundation is a high-profile organization that claims to be a non-profit devoted to promoting Islam and the Persian language, and has even reportedly made donations to former President Bill Clinton’s foundation. But it has been under FBI suspicion for years over alleged ties with Iran.
Federal prosecutors say the foundation is merely a front for the Iranian government and transfers rental income from its properties to Iran’s Bank Melli, which was first subject to US sanctions in 2007 for alleged support of Iran’s nuclear program.
This article explores what is known about Iran’s Alavi Foundation, shedding light on why federal authorities seized 4 US mosques—all Alavi property—as part of its investigation of the organization.
The recent seizure of US mosques by federal authorities is raising concern amongst Muslim advocacy groups about the religious freedom and civil liberties of the majority of law-abiding US Muslims.
The mosques, property of the Iranian Alavi Foundation, were seized by authorities as part of an investigation probing financial ties to Iran’s nuclear program. The mosques themselves have been not been accused of any wrongdoing.
“As a civil rights organization we are concerned that the seizure of American houses of worship could have a chilling effect on the religious freedom of citizens of all faiths and may send a negative message to Muslims worldwide,” the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) said in a statement.
The move puts average Muslims at the center of the political dispute between Tehran and Washington, said Imam Mahdi Bray, executive director of the Muslim American Society’s Freedom Foundation.
“The American Muslim and faith communities must not allow houses of worship to become pawns in geopolitical struggles,” Imam Bray told CNN. “The tension between the United States and Iran must not be played out in the mosques of America.”
The Muslim American Society’s Freedom Foundation called the actions an “unprecedented encroachment of religious freedom.” The group said “it is an abiding concern among the American Muslim community that this action is just the beginning of a backlash after last week’s Fort Hood shooting tragedy.”
The Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) is also seeking more information from the federal government on the property seizure.
Federal investigators moved to seize four mosques in the US and a skyscraper in Manhattan yesterday over their alleged financial aid to Iran.
Prosecutors in Manhattan filed a civil complaint in the federal court seeking the forfeiture of more than $500 million in assets of the Alavi Foundation, which describes itself as a charitable foundation, and a company, Assa.
Authorities maintain the mosques themselves are being accused of no wrongdoing, and in their seizure are simply being treated as property, not as threatening religious organizations. The US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York maintains that worshippers are not being targeted and are free to continue using the properties as usual.
The mosques are in New York City, Maryland, California and Texas.
Federal authorities made efforts to seize the Alavi Foundation’s 60 percent stake in New York City’s Piaget building on Fifth Ave. as part of their criminal allegations against the organization. The organization is accused of being a front for the Iranian government.
“As today’s complaint alleges in great detail, the Alavi Foundation has effectively been a front for the government of Iran,” said Preet Bharara, the U.S. attorney in Manhattan. “For two decades, the Alavi Foundation’s affairs have been directed by various Iranian officials, including Iranian ambassadors to the United Nations, in violation of a series of American laws.”
As with the foundation’s mosque seizures, the building’s tenants/occupants remain free to use the buildings as they had been before the criminal filings.