Federal agents near Chicago Tuesday raided the office of a charitable organization the U.S. government says raises money for the Palestinian militant group Hamas. The Bridgeview, Illinois raid was one of four against offices of the Holy Land Foundation
Federal agents spent part of Tuesday afternoon carrying computers, tape recorders, files and other items out of the Holy Land Foundation office in Bridgeview, as a small crowd of people from the neighborhood gathered to watch.
The Holy Land Foundation says it raised $13 million in the United States last year and calls itself the country's largest Muslim charity. On Tuesday, President Bush ordered the organization's assets frozen. "The Holy Land Foundation claims the money it solicits goes to needy Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza," said Mr. Bush. "Money raised by the Holy Land Foundation is used by Hamas to support schools and indoctrinate children to grow up into suicide bombers."
Federal agents also raided Holy Land offices in Texas, California and New Jersey. The organization's leaders say they will take the U.S. government to court over its action. In Bridgeview, Illinois, Mohammed Ibrahim said his brother runs the Chicago-area office, and is not raising money to support terrorism in the Middle East. "No way. I know my brother in law and he is not into that," says Mr. Ibrahim. "He likes to help poor people and that is about it."
Another man told reporters he donates $50 a month to the group, and has received thank-you notes in return from families in the Middle East who have benefited. Local resident Daoud Yusef says Tuesday's raid is just the latest in a series of harassment incidents against Muslims following the September 11 terrorist attacks in New York and Washington. "I'll be honest with you. In the United States, any time a Muslim does something, they call him a terrorist," says Mr. Yusef.
Residents of Bridgeview, which is one of the Chicago-area's largest Muslim communities, say since September, the Holy Land office, a local mosque and several local residents have been the subject of false rumors linking them to terrorism.