Offices of chaplain's charity raided
The Falls Church, Va., offices of the World Assembly of Muslim Youth, an international charity whose regional offices are headed by AU Muslim chaplain Fadel Soliman, were raided by federal agents late last month.
Soliman said the May 28 raid - which The Washington Post reported was conducted by FBI agents, the Joint Terrorism Task Force and U.S. Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement - took place because of a suspected immigration violation.
"A volunteer was charged with violating his student visa by allegedly working without authorization," Soliman said in an e-mail to The Eagle. "WAMY did not pay this volunteer any income."
A WAMY statement said agents arrested a volunteer board member on immigration charges and seized all files and computer hard drives from the Falls Church offices, The Post reported.
FBI spokesman Paul Bresson refused to comment on the raid.
"A lot of work we do in that area is very sensitive," Bresson said. "We would not be able to discuss that activity or even confirm whether it took place."
WAMY, which is based in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, is one of several charities that the Senate Finance Committee is investigating as part of a probe of groups suspected of financing terrorist activity, The Eagle reported the first week in March.
The Senate Finance Committee is using such documents as lists of donors and applications of tax-exempt status as part of its investigation.
Beth Levine, press secretary for Senate Finance Committee chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), said committee members are "just looking into all the documents they've received." She did not know what the investigation's next step would be or when it would take place.
Soliman, who previously told The Eagle that he first heard of the Senate investigation by reading the newspaper, said federal officials have not contacted him or WAMY during their investigations.
"If federal officials had requested our cooperation we would have provided complete cooperation," he said in an e-mail to The Eagle. "However no agency has ever taken up our offers to visit our office and look at our records."
Soliman did not reply to an e-mail requesting further comment.
Neither Soliman nor his records have been subpoenaed through the investigation, said Gail Hanson, vice president of Campus Life.
Hanson said that as far as she knows, last month's raid was not connected to the congressional probe.
In a 2002 letter to Attorney General John Ashcroft, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) called WAMY "a major conduit for Saudi Arabian financing" of the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas. Also, terrorism expert Jean-Charles Brisard implicated WAMY as an al-Qaeda financier in a 2002 report to the United Nations.
Soliman, who has been employed by WAMY since he came to the United States from Egypt three years ago, firmly denied that his organization has any ties to terrorist activity.
"Last year, WAMY built 44 schools, dug 921 wells in areas of the world that suffer from drought, sponsored 24,600 orphans - is this terrorism?" he said. "For 31 years of work with the youth and in charity, not one of our members or volunteers had any role in any violent action."
Soliman said he plans to stay on as AU's volunteer Muslim chaplain, a position he has held for two years.
"The Muslim community at AU is a great community," he said. "We learn together the true values of Islam, and we reach out to the other communities on campus through joint interfaith activities that [are] appreciated by Muslims and non-Muslims."
Except for University Chaplain Joe Eldridge, campus religious chaplains are chosen by the communities they serve and have access to office and worship space in the Kay Spiritual Life Center. Hanson said her office has been communicating with the Muslim Student Association, which initially chose Soliman as its chaplain.
"They selected him as their chaplain, and as long as we don't see any risk associated with that, he's welcome to remain a chaplain at Kay," she said.