By Lauren Evans

WASHINGTON - Running a Muslim faith-based nonprofit is sure to have its ups and downs, to say the least — and Anwar Khan had a front-row seat to all of them as head of Islamic Relief USA, which he co-founded back in 1993.

Now, over 30 years later, he’s stepping down as president of IRUSA after a tenure that saw him help raise more than $1.3 billion and recruit 34,000 volunteers as the organization provided everything from disaster relief to long-term development interventions such as job training.

In between, there was the post-9/11 surge of Islamophobia and Donald Trump’s “difficult” presidency, when Muslim humanitarian organizations — and their donors — were often targeted. And now, with the conflict in Gaza, “many Muslim organizations are feeling it’s getting very cold again,” Khan tells my colleague Lauren Evans.

“We’re feeling civil society space is restricting again,” he says, citing the arrests of protesters that took place at universities across the country.

The space could get even more claustrophobic under a second Trump presidency, something Khan is all too aware of.

“One of the reasons I was a little bit shy of leaving after 30 years was I thought this was going to be an incredibly important year,” he admits.

So why head for the exit now? “The options were I can stay here until I'm not wanted, or I can leave when I am wanted, which is now,” he says. “I didn't want to be that guy that stayed on too long.”

Cutting funding to Hamas has been a priority for Israel and its allies, including the United States. Israel claims to have found social media posts from leadership and staff of roughly two dozen organizations that express “implicit or explicit” support for Hamas, IRW among them. These claims have not been substantiated, though both IRUSA and IRW have previously grappled with staff making anti-Semitic social media posts, which dealt blows to the organizations’ reputations in the past.

Khan is unequivocal that the actions of individual staff do not reflect the view of the organization, and denounced anti-Semitism as antithetical to the work IRUSA does as a humanitarian organization. When it came to IRUSA’s handling of anti-Semitic sentiments, which occurred around a year before the more public instance at IRW, he said they immediately parted ways with the offending individual, and the entire staff spent an afternoon at the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C.

While it’s undoubtedly a difficult time to be a Muslim charity, there’s also an enormous need for their services. By some estimates, over 80% of the world’s population adheres to some form of faith. When disaster strikes, Khan pointed out, local houses of worship are the first ones to help — they’re there before Western-based organizations parachute in, and they’re there long after they’ve departed.