Yesterday the Feds went after 4 US Mosques and a Muslim owned skyscraper. As usual less than 24 hours later, Muslims are crying victim. Keep crying wolf, less and less people are falling for it.
Muslims decry move to seize Houston mosque
Houston spiritual center among U.S. buildings federal prosecutors link to Iran
By MOISES MENDOZA, MARY FLOOD and LINDSAY WISE
The U.S. government on Thursday moved to seize more than $500 million in assets from a New York-based foundation accused of being a front for the Iranian government, including a building that houses the Islamic Education Center of Houston.
The news provoked confusion and anger among Houston's Shia Muslims, many of whom worship at the center's mosque or send their children to an Islamic school that occupies the same large white building at 2313 S. Voss.
Faheem Kazimi, chairman of the board of directors, said IEC leases its building from the Alavi Foundation but no other connection exists.
“The Islamic Education Center is a nonprofit, independent organization, not affiliated with any other organization,” Kazimi said.
He refused to answer any other questions Thursday evening.
The 97-page civil forfeiture lawsuit filed by federal prosecutors in Manhattan alleges that the Alavi Foundation, which files federal taxes as a charitable foundation, is illegally funneling money to the government of Iran.
The U.S. government has accused Iran of financing terrorist organizations and trying to build nuclear weapons. There are no allegations of wrongdoing against those who work and worship at the Houston mosque.
"No action has been taken against any tenants or occupants of those properties," said Yusill Scribner, a spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York. "There are no allegations of any wrongdoing on the part of any of these tenants or occupants."
The foundation released a written statement through an attorney, saying the group was disappointed with the government's legal move.
Citing U.S. policy under several presidents and the International Emergency Economic Power Act, the civil suit alleges that the foundation's property, which includes the Islamic Education Center, is forfeitable as proceeds of violations of laws including money laundering.
The indictment alleges how the Alavi Foundation has been providing services to Iran and the government-owned Bank Melli. The suit also alleges how shell corporations were used to dodge taxes and how a foundation official was arrested for allegedly destroying documents being sought in a grand jury investigation.
The U.S. Treasury has accused Bank Melli of providing support for Iran's nuclear and ballistic missile programs.
The civil suit seeks forfeiture of a 36-story New York City office tower along with other property in New York, California, Virginia, Maryland and several bank accounts. This lawsuit replaces one prosecutors filed in 2008 seeking forfeiture of only a portion of the New York City office tower.
‘Somewhat of a surprise'
Distraught worshippers milled around the center Thursday. Several guarded the gated entrance, shooing away reporters who tried to approach. A few women peeked out windows at the television satellite trucks and cameras and then looked away.
Farouk Abdulghani said he has three boys who attend the center's Islamic school.
“I know for a fact this center has not done anything wrong or suspicious,” Abdulghani said.
The allegations were “somewhat of a surprise,” he said, “but you're always expecting something like this. Muslims always feel they're on the defensive.”
Abdulghani added that he's worried about the consequences for his community and his children.
“It's really upsetting,” he said. “I don't want my kids to lose their school because of something like this.”
Hussein Abdi said he moved to the U.S. from Iran more than 30 years ago and he's been worshipping at IEC for two decades. He came Thursday to pray.
“It makes me furious,” Abdi said. “We're under attack.”
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