FNB attacked for closing Palestine charity’s account

2013-01-02 00:00

CAPE TOWN — “Morally indefensible, unethical and completely Islamophobic.”

That was how pressure group the Media Review Network (MRN) described a decision by First National Bank to close the account of the Al Aqsa Foundation.

The foundation, which does charity work in Palestine, recently wrote to donors alleging that FNB had asked it to close its account, because of international pressure on the bank.

The Al Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem is a holy place and its name is used by several Muslim organisations. It appears that an organisation with the same name has been linked to Hamas. The foundation has been placed on a list of terrorist-linked groups by the U.S. Treasury.

MRN chairperson Iqbal Jassat said the Al Aqsa Foundation was one of South Africa’s leading Muslim charities with wide support in the community, and had an unblemished record.

He said that the MRN found FNB’s action very upsetting, especially in light of Al Aqsa’s much needed philanthropic work in the occupied Palestinan territories. He said it was worrying that FNB had allowed its dealings with a Muslim organisation to be dictated by a foreign entity.

MRN will call on the South African government to challenge the U.S. Treasury over its classification of Al Aqsa as a terrorist organisation.

“We remind FNB of the lessons from South Africa’s history during the struggle against apartheid when this country’s freedom fighters, including former president Nelson Mandela, were called terrorists,” the MRN said in a statement.

Sister paper Die Burger was unable to contact representatives of FNB yesterday for comment.

The head of the bank’s commercial division, Michael Vacy-Lyle, said last week in a statement carried by several radio stations that the bank found it “unfeasible” to accommodate the account of an organisation on an international sanctions list.

He said the bank was merely complying with strict prescriptions in the international financial community that regulate banks’ dealing with organisations on the U.S. Treasury’s list.

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