Wednesday 27th of March 2019

Spiritual leader of the Islamic Center of America responds to accusations in attack letters

Spiritual leader of the Islamic Center of America responds to accusations in attack letters

DEARBORN - Sayed Hassan Qazwini, the spiritual leader of the Islamic Center of America (ICA), responded for the first time to a series of anonymous letters attacking him and the center in an interview with The Arab American News.

The letters, sent via mail to homes across Dearborn, accuse Qazwini of corruption, among other wrongdoings. The sayed denied all the claims in the letters, describing them as attacks on the Muslim community.


One of the letters claim that Qazwini "illegally" sends Khums money to his father's institutions in Iraq and California. Khums is a form of mandated alms in Shi'a Islam.

Qazwini said the Khums money does not belong to the center, so he cannot keep it.

Khums amounts to 20 percent of the yearly surplus of a household income after all expenses are discounted. Qazwini explained that Khums are to be divided into two halves.

The Share of the Imam belongs to Imam Mahdi, whom Shi'a believe to be the living, absent Caliph who will return at the end of time to rescue the world.

According to Qazwini, the Share of the Imam is distributed to a grand ayatollah (Marja') who represents Imam Mahdi.

Marja's in Islam are religious scholars who attain a degree of knowledge and piety that allows them to make religious rulings according to their own interpretation of Sharia law.

"We look at Marja's as representatives of Imam Mahdi, since he is absent," said Qazwini. "Only the Marja is allowed to handle the Share of the Imam."

He added that some Marja's allow the center that collects the Khums to keep a portion or all of the Share of the Imam.

According to Qazwini, Grand Ayatollah Ali Husayni Sistani takes 50 percent of the Share of the Imam, while allowing the center that collected the alms to keep the other half. Whereas the late Sayed Mohamad Hussein Fadlallah allowed the collecting center to keep the entire amount.

The Share of the Imam is used to help the poor and run religious institutions.

Qazwini showed several money transfer invoices from the ICA to Sistani.

"Whoever is saying the Share of the Imam is not going to the center is lying," he said. "Not a single institution has raised money from the Share of the Imam as much as I have raised for the Islamic Center and I challenge anybody to prove otherwise. This is a great fallacy by the accusers."

Qazwini said the center has raised about $1 million from Khums money over the past 10 years.

The other half of Khums is the Share of the Hashemites (Sada). This half can only be donated to poor direct descendants of the Prophet Mohamad.

Qazwini said he gives the donors options for their Share of the Hashemites, including a charity, run by himself and his father, that operates an orphanage and a hospital in Iraq. The organization, Development and Relief Foundation, is a registered non-profit in the United States.

"I don't suggest the orphanage because it is in Iraq, but because my father and I are responsible for it," he said. "And Iraq has the largest number of orphans in the world, according to the UNICEF- 5 million orphans. But at the end of the day, the matter is in the hands of the donor. I don't dictate where the money goes. If somebody wants to send the money to poor descendants of the prophet in China, we don't tell him no."

Qazwini, who has been the imam of the center since 1997, said all donations are documented.

"Every donor gets a receipt to claim the donation on his taxes," he said. "The operation is regulated with extreme clarity and transparency."

He added that he has also received special donations for the orphanage that had nothing to do with the ICA.

"And that is not something I am trying to hide," he said.

Qazwini said he supports charitable efforts anywhere in the world and has no favoritism for Iraq, his country of origin. He cited his fundraising efforts to contribute to a project by a Lebanese American philanthropist to combat hunger in Africa.

"An orphan is an orphan anywhere," Qazwini said. "It is not acceptable that some people's racism has reached a level where they are saying ‘why are you helping orphans in Iraq?' And as for those who say ‘why are you sending the center's money to Iraq?', the Share of the Hashemites does not belong to the center."

Qazwini said he has raised about $4 million for the ICA over the past decade on his own.

"I am not talking about our regular fundraisers. And this is all documented. Every year in Ashura I speak to donors and raise $300,000 for the center, on average. If anybody is looking to pay the debts of the center, it is me. I have raised money for the Islamic Center more than any religious leader has done to any organization."

Sayed Qazwini defends Ron Amen

The letters attacked the chairman of the ICA's board, Ron Amen, accusing him of not praying or fasting; and they claimed that Qazwini was behind Amen's election.

Qazwini said Amen was elected democratically according to the center's bylaws and that he had no role whatsoever in the elections and did not even know Amen was running.

The sayed praised Amen and described him as an "ethical man" who has been active in the community for decades.

"Ron Amen has been a board member for years. He did not come from Mars," Qazwini said. "We are not the Sharia police in Saudi Arabia to go to people's homes and see who is praying and who is not. We were ordered by God to take people for their appearances. If somebody comes to the mosque and prays and says ‘I am Muslim', it is not our job to question his faith, especially when we don't have a proof."

Qazwini added that Amen is facing attacks because he is trying to implement reforms in the ICA.

The letters claim that Qazwini had engaged in adultery, entering in a temporary marriage with a married woman. Qazwini denied the accusation, describing it as one of series of lies to tarnish his image.

One of the letters said Qazwini owns a $400,000 home, while his predecessor, the late Imam Mohamad Jawad Cherri, lived in a $50,000 home.

The sayed said his home is the same value, if not less expensive, than that of Imam Cherri. He said he has paid off only a fraction of the price of the home.

Qazwini showed the bank documents that show the cost of his house at $307,000, but he still owes $276,000 on it.

Qazwini said the letters have not affected his reputation because of the community's awareness.

"But psychologically, I am not happy," he said. "I get hurt personally when I read a letter that insults me and my family. Anybody would be hurt by something like this."

He added that despite his pain, he does not make decisions based on anger. "This does not stop me from continuing my work," he said.

The sayed said his wife, who is now in Iran, had heard about the letters and asked him to share them with her.

"At first I refused to send her copies of the letters," he said. "I told her she would be upset. She insisted, and when I showed them to her, she was very sad. This is painful."

Who sent the letters?

Qazwini said he does not know the identity of the people behind the letters.

"But from analyzing these letters, I can conclude that their authors are a party that has animosity towards Islam. During my 18 years, here I have faced fierce attacks, mostly from the Zionist lobby."

Qazwini said the letters have an "ISIS-like" tone.

He did not rule the possibility that a compromised individual from within the center could be responsible for them.

"In these letters, I hear a tone that does not only have a problem with Hassan Qazwini, but with the religion of Islam," he said. "What these people are doing is definitely against the interests of the center and the interests of the community."

He added that attacking him only benefits enemies of Islam.

"If we look at the issue from a materialistic perspective, I raise the most money for the Islamic Center. Attacking me is an attack on the center," he said. "If we look at it from a symbolic perspective, Qazwini is a known Islamic figure. I have lectured in more than 400 universities and churches, so destroying my image is an attempt against a symbol for Muslims in America." γ

-This is the first of a two-part interview with Sayed Hassan Qazwini. The second part of the interview will feature Qazwini's views on the role of Islamic institutions, the relationship between Islamic centers, the new charitable programs at the ICA and changes he wants to implement at the center.


source : www.abna.ir
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