Odds are that you haven't heard about UNICEF and the International Islamic Relief Organization.
The only American news service I found carrying this story uses a headline that's as attention-getting as mine:
"UNICEF Partners With Islamic Charity Linked to Terror Groups"
FOXNews (June 13, 2008)
"An Islamic charity with ties to Al Qaeda and the Taliban is now collaborating with an unlikely new partner: UNICEF, the United Nations' Children’s Fund.
"UNICEF has signed a 'memorandum of understanding' with the International Islamic Relief Organization (IIRO), a Saudi charity of massive scope that keeps branches in more than 20 countries and has over 100 offices worldwide....
"According to UNICEF, it will be teaming with the charity's domestic Saudi branch to 'promote children's rights, health, equality and education,' in the oil-rich kingdom — but the organization has been doing more than just charity work."
My first reaction was skepticism: why would Saudi Arabia, a nation known for anything but poverty, need help from UNICEF?
UNICEF gives a pretty good explanation, in "At a glance: Saudi Arabia ("External political interventions and the rise of the oil industry have permanently changed the traditional way of life in the Arab Gulf States in recent decades. The modernization process, which lasted for centuries in the West, has been compressed into decades, putting great stress on traditional societies....")
I've talked about the sort of culture shock that the Arab world has gone through, although I think UNICEF's timeline is off by a power of ten. ("To people still accustomed to burqas and Sharia, a world of Barbies and sports cars must be terrifying. It's no wonder that they go a little crazy, trying to adjust.")
The point is, Saudi Arabia probably can use help from UNICEF. Even if the House of Saud isn't exactly poverty-stricken.
Back to UNICEF and IIRO: The United Nations recognizes IRRO as an organization with links to terrorism. More specifically, it's the Indonesian and Philippine branches of IIRO that are tied to Al Qaeda and the Taliban. That puts UNICEF on the same page as the American Treasury Department.
The head office of IIRO, in Saudi Arabia, seems to be clean.
I suppose it's possible for the head office of an international organization to be corruption-free and doing good work, while at least two branches are closely connected with Al Qaeda and funding east Asian terrorist groups.
- Am I convinced that the IIRO head office is not helping its terrorist-linked branches kill people?
- Am I comfortable with UNICEF partnering with IIRO?
- Do I think that UNICEF's developing connection with the IIRO bears watching?
- Am I disappointed that American news services don't seem to like covering stories like this?
- "UNICEF Partners With Islamic Charity Linked to Terror Groups"
FOXNews (June 13, 2008)