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April 21, 2014

Andrew Silow-Carroll: Passoverkill? Suggestions to make next year's seders even more culturally sensitive

Sara Israelsen Hartley: Seeking the Divine: An ancient connection in a new context

Christine M. Flowers: Priest's execution in Syria should be call to action

Courtnie Erickson: How to help kids accept the poor decisions of others

Lizette Borreli: A Glass Of Milk A Day Keeps Knee Arthritis At Bay

Lizette Borreli: 5 Health Conditions Your Breath Knows Before You Do

The Kosher Gourmet by Betty Rosbottom Coconut Walnut Bars' golden brown morsels are a beautifully balanced delectable delight

April 18, 2014

Rabbi Yonason Goldson: Clarifying one of the greatest philosophical conundrums in theology

Caroline B. Glick: The disappearance of US will

Megan Wallgren: 10 things I've learned from my teenagers

Lizette Borreli: Green Tea Boosts Brain Power, May Help Treat Dementia

John Ericson: Trying hard to be 'positive' but never succeeding? Blame Your Brain

The Kosher Gourmet by Julie Rothman Almondy, flourless torta del re (Italian king's cake), has royal roots, is simple to make, . . . but devour it because it's simply delicious

April 14, 2014

Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer: Passover frees us from the tyranny of time

Greg Crosby: Passing Over Religion

Eric Schulzke: First degree: How America really recovered from a murder epidemic

Georgia Lee: When love is not enough: Teaching your kids about the realities of adult relationships

Cameron Huddleston: Freebies for Your Lawn and Garden

Gordon Pape: How you can tell if your financial adviser is setting you up for potential ruin

Dana Dovey: Up to 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver disease. New Treatment Has Over 90% Success Rate

Justin Caba: Eating Watermelon Can Help Control High Blood Pressure

The Kosher Gourmet by Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon Don't dare pass over these Pesach picks for Manischewitz!

April 11, 2014

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg: Silence is much more than golden

Caroline B. Glick: Forgetting freedom at Passover

Susan Swann: How to value a child for who he is, not just what he does

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Financial Tasks You Should Tackle Right Now

Sandra Block and Lisa Gerstner: How to Profit From Your Passion

Susan Scutti: A Simple Blood Test Might Soon Diagnose Cancer

Chris Weller: Have A Slow Metabolism? Let Science Speed It Up For You

The Kosher Gourmet by Diane Rossen Worthington Whitefish Terrine: A French take on gefilte fish

April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review December 13, 2013 / 13 Teves, 5774

Jihad-Supporting Imam Raised Millions on U.S. Fundraising Tour

By John Rossomando and Ravi Kumar






http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | A Syrian Sunni sheik who raised at least $3.6 million during a U.S. fundraising tour last April has blessed a new coalition of Syrian jihadist groups aiming to replace the Assad regime with an Islamic state.

Sheik Osama al-Rifai, who raised the money for the Franklin, Mich.-based Syrian Sunrise Foundation, endorsed the creation of the Islamic Front in a Nov. 22 YouTube video. The front represents a merger of seven jihadist groups fighting Bashar al-Assad's forces. Many of them have ties to al-Qaida.

"The unification of these great Islamist and jihadist groups is not a normal piece of news, but is a great event that brings the happiness and thrill to every Muslim, not only in Syria but in the whole Islamic world," al-Rifai said in remarks translated by the Investigative Project on Terrorism. "I congratulate this brilliant news; I congratulate the brothers who formed it. I cannot say that we bless this group because it is they who should be blessed by them."

Al-Rifai visited mosques and Islamic community centers in cities across America. He spoke at fundraising dinners on Sunrise Foundation's behalf in Tampa, Miami, the Chicago area, Dallas, Crown Point, Ind., Los Angeles, a Detroit suburb called Novi and Meadowlands, N.J.

In Dallas, he said that anyone who works to raise awareness about what is happening in Syria was "a jihadist for Allah."

"Those who are subjecting themselves to martyrdom for the sake of god and who defend themselves and their families, not only them who are performing the jihad, but every single Muslim, Arab, and Syrian who has sympathy toward what happens in Syria," Al-Rifai said. "Every single one of you who give any kind of effort to help his brothers in Syria is a jihadist for Allah, every single one of you who spread the word to raise the awareness among the others about what's happening in Syria is a jihadist for Allah.

"I would love to address my brothers who are in charge of the organizations here like Shaam Relief, and Syrian Sunrise Foundation, you must be very aware that you are too performing jihad just like your brothers in Syria."

Calls seeking comment from the Investigative Project to the Syrian Sunrise Foundation and its President Ahmad Alabas were not returned.

The United States and United Kingdom suspended all non-lethal aid to rebels in northern Syria Wednesday, after the Islamic Front took over bases that had belonged to the western-backed Free Syrian Army. Officials fear the existing supplies could fall into the jihadists' hands. That assistance could include items such as radios, body armor, transportation and night-vision goggles.

The Syrian Sunrise Foundation's Facebook page states that al-Rifai helped raise $1.5 million in Tampa, $280,000 in Miami, $320,000 in Indiana, and $1.5 million in the Detroit area.

He spoke April 5 at the Mosque Foundation in Bridgeview, Ill. Two mosque leaders, Kifa Mustapha and Jamal Said, were implicated in a previous terror-support investigation. Said appears on a telephone list for the "Palestine Committee," a Muslim Brotherhood umbrella group charged with supporting Hamas politically and financially. Mustapha was a paid fundraiser for one of the committee's branches, raising more than $300,000 for the Holy Land Foundation. Five foundation officials were convicted in 2008 of providing material support for Hamas.

The Syrian Sunrise Foundation likely brought al-Rifai to the U.S. due to his reputation inside Syria as the head of a movement with a large charitable operation.

Its website says that it aims "to send aid to families, orphans, and widows affected by the conflict." The group claims to have a "well-established humanitarian network of hundreds of workers" and denies having any sort of "any political, religious, or any other agenda."

In June, al-Rifai participated in a conference in Cairo in June that supported overthrowing Assad.

The conference was also attended by radical Sheikh Yusuf Qaradawi and former Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi. The conference closed with a statement by an Egyptian cleric, Sheikh Mohamed Hassan, saying, "We're obliged to jihad in order to assist our brothers in Syria, with fighters, funding and arms."

And al-Rifai made vicious anti-Semitic statements in a 2010 speech, blaming Jews as "absolute evil" for corrupting society.

"Each time they lived with any nation, they subjected this nation to a curse, and they don't have any friends among the whole nations," he said. "This friendship between the Jews and the West is a fake and fabricated one. All the politicians and the intellectuals in the West are aware of this ... but because of political pressure they cannot admit that. If they were really free, they would kick Israel with their legs."

Jews corrupted Western women "through Freud," al-Rifai said before invoking a classic anti-Semitic forgery: "And the Jews mention in the Protocols of the Elders of Zion that all the nations are the donkeys of the Jews, and that they cannot humiliate and ride these donkeys until they can corrupt them. This is in the Elders of Zion, and I ask the God to give me the capability to explain all of that."

A Fundamentalist Charter

Al-Rifai frequently speaks about morality and uniting all Syrians, but endorses a coalition that opposes those ideals. The coalition al-Rifai now supports could have as many as 45,000 men under its command, IHS Jane's estimates.

Most of the factions that make up the Islamic Front, including its leadership, have had close relations with Al-Qaida's Syrian branches, Jabhat al-Nusra and the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria. They have issued statements expressing appreciation of the Syrian al-Qaida branch.

"This independent political, military and social formation aims to topple the Assad regime completely and build an Islamic state where the sovereignty of almighty God alone will be our reference and ruler," Ahmed Abu Eissa, leader of the Suqour al-Sham Brigades, said in a Reuters report following the Islamic Front's creation.



The new coalition's charter rejects secularism as contrary to Islam, saying that it divides "religion from life and society" and reduces it "exclusively to rituals, customs and traditions." Its leaders claim that they would not institute an "oppressive, authoritarian system," saying Syria should be ruled by an Islamic consultative council or shura.

"[The Islamic Front] does not participate in any political process contrary to religion or which give sovereignty to anything other than the Law of God Almighty, with the political process which does not recognize that legislation is the right of God alone," the charter says. "The Front cannot participate in, recognize or rely on it, for religion without politics is forbidden in our religion, and politics without religion is rejected secularization."

Zahran Alloush, leader of Jaish al-Islam and chief of military operations for the Islamic Front, solicited foreign fighters to come fight for his faction in a 7 tweet. He also called for resurrecting the caliphate in a July 25 YouTube video in which he also advocated cleansing Syria of Shiites and Alawites. Videos show his fighters flying the jihadist black flag rather than the pre-Ba'ath Syrian flag used by the Western-backed Free Syrian Army (FSA) and its allies.

Alloush was also a member of the FSA military council along with Sheik Ahmed Issa, who heads Suquor al-Sham. Both quit Tuesday and issued a declaration announcing their withdrawal from the body. Zaman Alawsl, an Internet newspaper focusing on the Syrian Civil War, reports that the declaration came hours after FSA Chief of Staff Gen. Salim Idris allegedly told a British newspaper that the FSA would fight Jabhat al-Nusra and other Islamic extremist groups should Assad fall.


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Fighters from Harakat Ahrar al-Sham have fought alongside Jabhat al-Nusra. The two groups coordinated the September attack against the ancient Christian town of Ma'aoula. Ahrar Al-Sham also has worked with the Free Syrian Army and with the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood.

Hassan Aboud, the head of Ahrar Al-Sham, told Al-Jazeera in a June 8 interview that his group had previously taken part in a number of joint operations with Jabhat al-Nusra.

He agreed with the al-Qaida affiliate that "Islam is the precept for actions," but his group's only differences with it al-Nusra came down to tactics and some provisions.

He expressed the same sort of opposition to democracy found in the Islamic Front's charter.

"Democracy is people governing people, according to rules they please," Aboud said. "We say that we have a divine system whose law is Allah's for his creatures and his slaves who he appointed as viceregents on this Earth."

Abu Muhammed al-Husseini, the head of al-Sham's political office in Raqqa, told Reuters in July that his group had no major disagreements with al-Nusra, but only differs with it when it comes to "operational details."

Suquor al-Sham signed a declaration with Jabhat al-Nusra in September defining their goal as obtaining "the rule of sharia and making it the sole source of legislation" and that those groups opposed to the Assad regime should operate within "an Islamic framework." It was also signed by Islamic Front members Ahrar al-Sham, the Tawhid Brigade and Jaish Al Islam.

Suquor al-Sham has been involved in beheadings, such as one of a Syrian civilian shown in a YouTube video from February.

Issa, like others in the Islamic Front, has a dim view of secular democracy. "We do not want people to be ruled by statutory laws cited by humans, whether right or wrong," he said in a June 15 interview with Al-Jazeera.

Al-Rifai and the Syrian Sunrise Foundation

Al-Rifai was involved in the Muslim Brotherhood's 1979-1982 uprising against dictator Hafez al-Assad. He lived in exile in Saudi Arabia for about 15 years before returning to Syria in 2000.

He previously held friendly relations with Bashar al-Assad, so much so that the Syrian president personally visited him in 2002 out of respect for his personal stature in Syria. That changed in August 2011, after Syrian security forces stormed al-Rifai's mosque in Damascus, which was one of the main locations for anti-Assad protesters in the early days of the uprising.

Al-Rifai leads the Zayd Movement, a Sufi faction with 20,000 followers and is said to control 450 mosques in Syria. Zayd runs charities around Damascus that provide food for needy families. The Syrian Muslim Brotherhood has actively sought to build an alliance with al-Rifai and Zayd in an effort to regain influence in Damascus.

Although Zayd is not part of the Muslim Brotherhood or connected with it, both share "the same school of thought," according to a member of the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood who spoke with the Carnegie Endowment.

Al-Rifai's recent endorsement of the Islamic Front and the blurry lines between the Sunni factions fighting to topple the Assad regime and the millions it has raised in the United States raises certain questions. That includes the millions raised by the Syrian Sunrise Foundation.

Once the money leaves the United States it becomes next to impossible to track. This is especially true of a warzone such as Syria.

The Holy Land Foundation example stands as a case and point. The charity claimed it merely routed aid to needy Palestinians, but evidence presented during the trial showed millions of dollars were sent to groups controlled by Hamas.

"The purpose of creating the Holy Land Foundation was as a fundraising arm for Hamas," U.S. District Judge Jorge Solis said during a 2009 sentencing hearing.

The Syrian Sunrise Foundation markets itself with a similar message of helping the needy.

But it raised millions of dollars with a Syrian cleric who now supports a jihadist coalition tied to al-Qaida, and someone whose anti-Semitic rantings were known years before his American tour. Syria's civil war created an enormous humanitarian crisis.

Al-Rifai's solution -- embracing brutal jihadists -- offers little hope of making things better.


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John Rossomando received the Pennsylvania Associated Press Managing Editors first-place award in 2008 for his reporting. He servered as senior managing editor of The Bulletin, a 100,000-circulation daily newspaper in Philadelphia.

© 2013, The Investigative Project on Terrorism

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