A man Hamas identifies as its leader in the United States helped raise $500,000 to build a new mosque in Baton Rouge, La., but channeled most of the money to the terrorist group overseas, federal authorities suspect.

Mohammed El-Mezain coordinates fund raising for an Ohio-based charity called KindHearts, which is under investigation by the U.S. Treasury Department for its potential links to terrorist activity.

The Treasury Department says most of the money raised in Louisiana may have been moved overseas to the Palestinian group, regarded by the U.S. as a terrorist organization, reports the Advocate newspaper of Baton Rouge.

El-Mezain was the keynote speaker at a dinner in October 2003 where Muslims in Baton Rouge donated funds to build a local mosque.

A Treasury Department announcement said, however, “only a small amount” of the money raised “was to be retained locally and the vast majority was to be sent to Hamas overseas.”

Hamas, responsible for more than 100 suicide bombings and scores of shooting and rocket attacks against Israelis, won overwhelmingly in the Jan. 25 Palestinian parliamentary elections and will form the next government.

El-Mezain was indicted in 2004 for his involvement in the Dallas-based Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development, which was charged with illegally sending $12.4 million to Hamas.

The president of the Islamic Center at the time of the speech, Imam Jehad Mahmoud, told the Baton Rouge paper the federal government’s accusation is “absolutely irresponsible. It’s an utter lie.”

Mahmoud claimed the money stayed in Baton Rouge, with the exception of $4,000 paid to El-Mezain for his expenses.

The imam said the center once made a donation to the Ohio group KindHearts designated for Pakistani earthquake victims and also received money from the group for Hurricane Katrina relief. But Mahmoud, and the finance director at the time – Zee Mohamed – never were contacted by federal authorities about the fund-raiser to confirm the suspicions.

Mohamed told the Advocate, “Not a single penny has been sent to any other organization.” El-Mezain, he said, spoke about the rewards of charity and building a mosque and made no mention of Hamas.

“We tried to bring in somebody who could go up there and give a speech that would touch emotions and make people want to give,” Mohamed said.

Mohamed, insisting the center was unaware of El-Mezain’s alleged ties to Hamas, said the local Islamic community tries to “stay away from any organization that has any link to terrorism or anything else, so that we can be transparent. We do not want anybody to come down on us. It might be totally innocent, but we don’t want to take the chances so our members are safe.”

But he called the Treasury Departments accusation a “deliberate attack on the Muslim minority in America.”

“It bolsters the belief for some people that we are targeted simply because we are Muslims,” he told the Baton Rouge newspaper.

El-Mezain reportedly was identified by the head of Hamas’ Political Bureau, Khaled Mashal, as the group’s leader in the U.S.

El-Mezain is the cousin of the deputy leader of Hamas’ Political Bureau, Musa Abu Marzouq, who affirmed last week to an Egyptian interviewer that the terrorist group believes the entire Jewish state must be eliminated.

Mashal recently reiterated Hamas’ view of the West and Israel in a visit to Sudan in which he was honored with a poetry reading in a meeting with local intellectuals. Abdallah Abu Qiqa’s poem declared: “We will unite the armies, and they will cry ‘Allah Akbar’ to Tony and to Bush.”

WorldNetDaily reported this week the terrorist wing of Hamas has placed on its website a graphic depicting Israel’s symbol, the Star of David, enveloped in a nuclear blast. Also, since its election victory, Hamas posted on its official website parting video messages from two suicide bombers, including one who vowed the terrorist group would drink the blood of Jews until they “leave the Muslim countries.”

The Hamas covenant declares that all of the Holy Land, including Israel is Islamic land that can never be surrendered to non-Muslims.

Its introduction quotes “martyr” Imam Hassan al-Banna, who said, “Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it, just as it obliterated others before it.”

The charter also makes no room for the kind of “peace process” engaged in by the ruling Palestinian Authority.

Article 13 says, “Initiatives, and so-called peaceful solutions and international conferences, are in contradiction to the principles of the Islamic Resistance Movement. … There is no solution for the Palestinian question except through Jihad.”

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