Former Houston Rockets All-Star center Hakeem Olajuwon emphasized again
Tuesday that his mosque was supporting humanitarian relief when it made
donations to groups later accused of having terrorist ties.
Olajuwon, who spoke to members of the media on a conference call from
Jordan, where he is studying Arabic, also said the Associated Press took
information out of context in its report.
“I find it upsetting when someone is doing honest work and someone can take
it and mislead the public,” Olajuwon said.
Shareef Akeel, an attorney for the Islamic American Relief Agency – known
as the Islamic African Relief Agency for 15 years before changing its name
in 2000 – says the donations went to the American-based group, not the
African-based group with ties to terrorism as was reported.
“There is confusion,” Akeel says. “Somehow the article is trying to link
the Dream (Olajuwon) to terror, which is misleading and inappropriate.
Someone’s character is basically being assassinated. He donated to
IARA-USA, the one in Columbia, Mo.”
The mosque that Olajuwon founded, the Islamic Da’Wah Center in Houston,
gave more than $60,000 in 2000 and $20,000 in 2002 to the Islamic African
Relief Agency for medical relief and more than $2,000 to the Holy Land
Foundation (HLF) in 2000 for an orphan program. The U.S. government shut
down IARA, based in the Sudan, in October, saying it supported Osama bin
Laden and al-Qaeda.
It also froze the assets of IARA-USA, contending the groups are connected.
IARA-USA has filed suit. The U.S. government shut down HLF in 2000,
accusing it of sending money to Hamas.
Olajuwon said the incident won’t make him hesitant to support various
“I just have to be more careful,” he said. “We were careful. We have to be
extra careful. As long as we know we can make a difference in people’s
lives (we will).