A board member of a Toledo-based Muslim charity said yesterday that a Senate panel's two-year investigation into possible terrorist links, which ended recently with no allegations of wrongdoing, was "reminiscent of the McCarthy era."
Jihad Smaili, a Toledo native and Cleveland lawyer, said at a news conference yesterday in KindHearts' West Toledo offices that the U.S. Senate Finance Committee made a public announcement in 2003 that it was investigating 25 U.S. Muslim groups, but never announced that it ended the inquiry two weeks ago with no evidence of wrongdoing.
In the meantime, some potential KindHearts donors were scared off by the investigation and the charity's reputation was hurt by "false allegations" and "guilt by association," Mr. Smaili said.
He likened KindHearts' predicament to that of innocent Americans accused of being communist sympathizers during the McCarthy era in the 1950s.
"To put it simply, KindHearts is not connected in any way with a terrorist group or individual," he said.
When the Senate committee announced its investigation in 2003, Mr. Smaili said he wrote to the chairman, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R., Iowa), and to each panel member inviting them to tour KindHearts' Toledo offices and to examine the charity's books. But he never received a response.
It would be helpful and fair to the groups investigated if Senator Grassley would announce that he found no connection to terrorists, Mr. Smaili said.
"We have been vindicated by our government, yet there are still those who want to accuse our organization of wrongdoing," he said.
KindHearts was formed in Toledo in 2002 after the U.S. government, following the 9/11 terrorist attacks, closed the three largest Muslim charities in the United States over alleged terrorist links.
Since the Toledo-based charity was founded in the immediate wake of 9/11, and because it is a Muslim organization helping people in the Middle East and other global hot spots, the charity's officers said they expect and welcome added scrutiny.
"We are not naive," Mr. Smaili said. "We understand the current political climate in this country and the need for our government to protect us from groups which advocate violence. All we are asking for is a fair shake."
The group provides clothing, food, school supplies, and other aid through branch offices established in Lebanon, Pakistan, and Palestine, with another office planned for Indonesia. It also has provided relief help for hurricane victims in the southeastern United States.
Mr. Smaili yesterday provided copies to the media of the charity's tax forms for 2002-2004, its first three years of operation. During that period, donations rose from $2.9 million in 2002 to $3.9 million in 2003 to $5 million in 2004.
Khaled Smaili, president and CEO of KindHearts and older brother of Jihad Smaili, was traveling yesterday and could not be reached for comment.
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