A Riyadh-based charity blacklisted by the Saudi Arabian and U.S. governments over suspicions it is funding al Qaeda is still operating normally in Bangladesh, its country director insisted on Friday.
Saudi Arabia on Wednesday said it was dissolving the Riyadh-based Al-Haramain organization and would fold its assets into a new group to channel all Saudi charitable contributions abroad.
In addition to winding down the charity, Saudi and U.S. officials said they would seek to block the assets of its local branches in Afghanistan, Albania, Bangladesh, Ethiopia and the Netherlands.
Al-Haramain’s Bangladesh director Hasan Adam told Reuters he had no knowledge about any moves to shut the charity down.
“The western world and its Muslim collaborators were hatching a deep-rooted conspiracy against Al-Haramain because of its growing popularity in different Muslim countries,” he said.
“But it is doing fine, no problem at all. The bank accounts of the charity and flow of funds are undisturbed,” he said.
On Friday, a Reuters journalist found the Al-Haramain office — with a signboard written in Arabic, Bengali and English — in a four-story building in Dhaka’s Uttara residential area. A guard said it was closed for the Friday Muslim holy day.
Adam was reached on a mobile phone while on a trip outside Dhaka.
“We are still in full operation in Bangladesh and running five madrassas (schools), including two in Dhaka district, four orphanages and vocational training centers and 60 mosques in the country,” he said.
“Nearly 1,000 students, orphans and trainees are enrolled in the institutions, while many others have been provided jobs across half of Bangladesh,” he said.
Adam said 14 foreigners, including Sudanese, Yemenis and Algerians were running the institutions in Bangladesh with the help of local charity workers.
Asked about the presence of Al-Haramain, a senior detective officer of Bangladesh police said: “I have no comment.”
Bangladesh Foreign Minister M. Morshed Khan said: “The main artery (of Al-Haramain) is in Saudi Arabia. If the main artery is closed, the small channels will be closed automatically.”
“The ownership (of Al-Haramain) rests with Saudi Arabia, we have nothing to worry about,” he told reporters.
In September 2002, Bangladesh police detained seven Al-Haramain workers from its Dhaka branch on suspicion of trafficking in women and children under the guise of imparting Islamic education.
They were released after police failed to unearth evidence against them.
Sudan-born Adam, 45, was one of the seven arrested.
Al-Haramain opened its Bangladesh branch in 1992 to help Muslim refugees from Myanmar, who fled to Bangladesh’s southeastern Cox’s Bazar district to escape what they said was military persecution at home.
Gradually the charity spread its activities to almost half the country, Adam said.